CoD: Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer Review

When thinking of Call of Duty, one of the first words that comes to mind is ‘popular’. Tens of millions of people flock to retail outlets every year to pick up the latest installment, while hundreds of thousands (if not millions) queue on the eve of release to purchase and play the game at the first possible moment. While the vast majority of those gamers will play the campaign at some point, it’s Call of Duty’s multiplayer that drives each iteration’s sales into the tens of millions; a fact never more obvious than on November 7th, at just after 12am in North America, when well over a million people were already busy shooting each other in the face.

But as the old saying goes, “what’s popular is not always good and what’s good is not always popular.” Thankfully for Call of Duty fans, Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer is both popular and good. Very good, in fact.

[drop2]For us, what makes Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer so great is that gamers of all skill levels can have a good time, even if they’re not racking up 50 kills a game. Our first foray in to Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer was not a successful one. Although we’re no strangers to the franchise, the multiplayer moves a lot in faster than that of Black Ops, last year’s Call of Duty offering. But it was during this time of struggling that something became very noticeable. Even when we were only getting 5-8 kills per game (and dying a lot more than that), we were still consistently completing challenges, ranking up, and unlocking new toys to play with. It was enough to keep us moving forward, and move forward we did.

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We used those new perks, weapons, and attachments to craft classes that felt just right. In doing so, we became a lot more successful. Over time, 5-8 kills a game started turning in to 15-20 kills a game. We ratcheted up the kill streak rewards – which are now actually called ‘strike packages’ but more on that below – and before we knew it, we were dominating the battlefield with strafing runs, advanced UAV’s, and remote-controlled turrets. Sure, being able to use the rewards that are unlocked with larger amounts of kills is more fun but we never lost of sight of the fact that we were having a good time, no matter how successful we were in any given match.

That’s probably the thing that Modern Warfare 3 does best. It somehow manages to cater to both the hardcore crowd that play for several hours a day and the casual gamer that may only get to game once or twice a week. No matter what your skill or commitment level, there’s always a challenge or rank that’s only a handful of kills away from being unlocked.

Speaking of kills, one of the improvements Infinity Ward made in Modern Warfare 3 is how kill streaks work. As we mentioned above, they’re now called strike packages and they’re not just unlocked with kills. The developers rightfully realized that too much emphasis was being placed on kills. In games like Capture the Flag, Domination, and Headquarters, objectives were taking a backseat to how many enemies you could take down.

Now, you can keep your strike packages moving forward by completing the objectives and shooting down aerial kill streaks (except UAV’s). Still having a hard time doing these things consecutively? Modern Warfare 3 covers that area too by separating the strike packages into different groups, which allowed the developers to govern how they work.

There are three different types of strike packages to choose from – assault, support, and specialist. Assault packages are the streaks that you’re already familiar with, such as attack helicopters, AC-130’s, and so on. For the assault packages, your streak has to be completed in succession, with any death resulting in the streak starting over. For support packages, the streak doesn’t reset when you die. For the entire length of the game you can keep working towards the three awards you set aside. When you reach the top reward, the streak automatically starts over again, even if you don’t die.

[drop]To keep things balanced, the support packages are missing a lot of the rewards that can cause mass casualties to the opposition. Instead, they’re replaced with more options that will support your team, like ballistic vests that any teammate can pick up, multiple different kinds of UAV’s, and even a remote controlled helicopter than can be used to target enemies for your comrades. We really can’t speak highly enough about how welcome this change is and how differently the game plays when you’re not constantly worried about breaking your streak with a death.

The specialist strike package is a bit out of left field but brings a unique idea to the table. With the specialist packages, you can set a new perk to unlock every two kills, in addition to the three perks you already have for each class. When your kill/score count reaches eight, the pro version of every perk in the game unlocks, effectively turning you into a super soldier. While we didn’t find this class of package all that appealing, some of the higher skilled players out there will definitely find the benefit of having every perk in the game.

Outside of the strike packages, not much else has changed when it comes to how you select your load-outs and classes. There are a few new guns and perks but, for the most part, it all looks very similar with the one exception being ‘gun ranks’. Every gun in the game now has a rank associated with it and every time you hit the next rank, a new weapon-specific item unlocks. This actually isn’t as big of a change as it sounds, although having a visual representation of how much success you’ve had with each weapon while building a new class is nice.

Once you’ve constructed just the right setup for your solider, you’ll be sent out on to 1 of the 16 maps that ship with the game. The average map feels smaller than that of both Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, and that forces the game to move very quickly. While the design of the maps leaves little to complain about, we were disappointed to see so many small boards, with none of the maps really being all that big. It all but eliminates the option of sniping for players that haven’t mastered the furiously frustrating art of ‘quick scoping’.

The vast majority of the game modes found in Modern Warfare 3 are also familiar but there are a couple of new ones. Kill Confirmed is the first and it requires you to pick up the dog tags of anyone you kill in order for your team to get credit on the scoreboard. You can also pick up the tags of dead teammates, blocking the opposition from scoring any points. It makes for an interesting strategy to deathmatch because you can either rush in to grab the tags immediately, or you can camp on them and wait for another enemy to try and grab them back, in an effort to rack up an even higher count of tags.

[videoyoutube]There’s also Team Defender. Just like Kill Confirmed, this is simply another variation of the team deathmatch mode so many fans are comfortable with. In Team Defender, the first person that dies in every game drops a flag. The idea of the game is for your team to grab the flag and keep it in your possession for as long as possible. The overall objective is still to score more points via kills than the opposition, but when your team has the flag you get double points for every kill. Team Defender provided some fun and crazy games that moved faster than any other game mode out there but we didn’t like it quite as much as Kill Confirmed.

If you’re not the competitive type, there’s still fun to be found in Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer, it’s just not against other human opponents. Spec Ops makes a very welcome return but this time it has a few new tricks up its sleeve.

Spec Ops is broken down into two different categories: missions, and survival. The missions involve 16 different levels, most of them only taking a few minutes to get past on regular difficulty but potentially much longer on harder difficulties. Just like Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops offering you’re given a star rating of 1-3 depending on how fast you completed the mission, or which difficulty you completed it on.

The survival portion of Spec Ops pits you against increasingly difficult waves of enemies on each of the multiplayer maps. For every enemy you kill, you earn money. You can use that money to purchase new weapons, equipment, strike packages, and attachments. While you only start with a pistol, you can quickly gain enough cash to purchase a proper arsenal for defense. You can also pick up enemy weapons and ammo but we found that buying our own equipment was usually the way to go.

The reason Spec Ops works so well is not only because of how polished the missions/levels are but because it has its own ranking system that keeps you moving forward. Just like in competitive multiplayer, not everything is unlocked right off the bat. You have to keep ranking up to earn the really effective toys but there’s always something there to keep you striving forward. The only downside is that you can still only play with up to 2 players. Granted, you can go at it alone if you wish, or you can even find a random person to play with online via built-in matchmaking but we really wanted to see 4 player support. With Black Ops’ zombies mode supporting four players, taking Spec Ops to the same level seemed like a logical jump.

Pros:

  • Loads of depth in competitive multiplayer.
  • Changing kill streaks to strike packages is a huge improvement.
  • Accessible to gamers of just about every skill level.
  • Silky smooth online experience.
  • Spec Ops’ new ‘survival mode’ is very well done.

Cons:

  • The game still plays very similarly to that of previous Call of Duty titles.
  • Spec Ops still not supporting more than two players is a bit of a letdown.
  • We would’ve liked to see a couple of bigger maps.

When looking back at our time with Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer, the only complaint that seems worth dwelling on is that it’s still largely the same formula as the previous few titles. Sure, there have been an entire host of small changes and tweaks that do make a considerable difference in some areas but if you’re already tired of Call of Duty’s online formula, we can’t guarantee there’s enough here to keep you playing for weeks.

That said, Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer carries on the torch from previous Call of Duty titles and remains one of the smoothest and most accessible online experiences you can have. Those who have played all the previous games and have grown tired of Call of Duty are just about the only people we wouldn’t recommend Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer to. For everyone else, dive right in, the warfare has never been better.

Score: 9/10

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68 Comments

  1. I still don’t have this yet, though after this review I’m thinking I’ll be getting it as soon as, though I may hold on for Christmas. Bf3 + FIFA 12 are really keeping me going.

    • Tony, I’ve got the same game combo going and both games are sucking up all my gaming time.
      If you fancy hooking up PSN-Amphlett.

    • Same for me. BF3 & FIFA12. Next purchase will be Uncharted so MW is a long way off

  2. Loving the multiplayer in this.. Use specialist strike package with hardline an i 1st kill you get will get yiu another perk… Also 450xp…also have bf3 witch is great but im having more fun with this..

    • BTW – with that Specialist setup you should have 2 attachments on your primary weapon because…when you get all 7/8 kills all weapon Proficiencies are added as well the remaining Perks, excluding Breath and Attachments – hence you should start with them :)

      • I am im using heartbeat sensor with silencer… Love it…

      • Same, with M4A1 or ACR. A bit “noobie” but it’s the only way I can counter the SMGs!

      • I dnt mind being a noob. When i get better at the game maybe il try change it up alittle.. Add me if you wana game sometime im mainly on kill confirmed. Psn gybrocker

      • Ok, sounds good!

  3. Nice review – agree about the maps. I’m not a keen sniper but when you consider Derail and Wasteland form MW2, no maps are even close to this size or as open.

    Strike package per Custom Class is excellent, as is the Specialist Strike package. The Prestige Points is also great since I don’t have to Prestige 10 times to get more Custom Classes!

    Only draw back for me is the often terrible spawning, as was my gripe with BF3. Also some connection issues but it’s only been out a week.

    Plus, got an email this morning to say that I have 1-months further CoD Elite added due to the teething problems. Sony – take note – this is how to handle such a situation. They said the service has fallen short of their expectations but that they were working hard to resolve and are adding additional servers. To be fair I kind of expected their to be lots of initial problems what with the traffic and it’s only been a week and they have added a month, so can’t complain!

    • Think more open maps will come in the DLC, they have spoken out about being as anti-camper as they can be, probably to help differentiate further from Bf which can have a camping sniper reputation.

      • Yeah, I hope so just for variety. I use an Assault Rifle so because the maps are quite tight I am usually killed with the UMP45 (which everyone seems to use!!) so would welcome some more open maps.

      • Why, if they want to be “as anti-camper as they can be” do they make 25% of the available classes a SNIPER!

        Sniping is a bona fide part of the modern military (and even ancient military – Nelson was killed by a French sniper) so why the hate? You may as well say “We hate Helicopters” or “We hate land mines”… it’s stupid.

      • Most of the time I’m killed by a sniper he’s about 2 feet away from me, stupid quick-scoping.

      • A non camping CoD map? lol

        Only way that’s possible is if it was an open field with nothing in it.

      • Personally I find BF3 far worse for campers, people laying down with LMGs on bi-pods, CoD is much more run-and-gun in my experience.

    • “Sony – take note” What do you mean?

      • The way they handled the hacking/PSN downtime, shying away from any blame, information or apology. Although it wasn’t their fault exactly, Sony’s security was below par, they didn’t immediately mention people’s details were accessed, and there was little in the way of updates and appologies. Although the situations aren’t the same, from a PR perspective Activision have straight away admitted that they underpredicted the amount of users, said they’re working on it, told us they are adding more servers, and given more than enough compensation. Had they ignored the issues they wouldn’t have done themselves any favours since people have paid reasonable money for this service, and you could argue they knew there would be a lot of users given the sales of MW2 then Black Ops.

      • Wait… are you being serious? You’re comparing the overloading of servers and continued downtime of a stat tracking system for one of the biggest releases of the year, to the biggest hack our industry has seen?

        As you say, “the situations aren’t the same” so I’m not even sure why you commented on it.

        The fact that Elite STILL doesn’t work is poor and considering the amount of flak Battlelog got for one day of downtime, I’m surprised there’s not more of an uproar over it.

      • It was a tongue in cheek comment, get over it.

      • Anyhow, I was comparing the manner in which they were dealt, not comparing the disruption. So my comment was valid whether you dislike it or disagree with it. Don’t take everything so literally, perhaps I should have some kind of disclaimer for your benefit.

        Perhaps there isn’t the uproar you were hoping for since they have dealt with it pretty well, at least in my opinion, which again I am entitled to. I was happy with the email this morning that addressed issues and the months compensation. And I’ve managed to start a clan and change Custom Classes on Elite since yesterday so it’s working fine for me.

      • Oh for Pete’s sake.

        Firstly, the way that they were dealt is intrinsically linked to the event itself, so comparing how one company reacted to not having enough servers, to another getting hacked is indeed odd. Hence why I asked the original question.

        Secondly, I didn’t “hope” for any uproar, I’m just surprised at the lack of it. Essentially I just want the service to work, and am disappointed that, eight days since release, I’ve still not been able to even log in.

        Finally, you are indeed entirely entitled to your opinion, just as I am to claim that it’s reference to the PSN hack was an odd one.

        [Disclaimer: this comment takes things that are mentioned in a literal context literally]

      • To be honest, I don’t care if we’re comparing either situation to buying an out of date packet of crips from Tesco, I would expect an instant apology and suitable compensation. That said, if the manner of how these events are dealt, including compensation, is intrinsically linked to the event, then how come both PS+ and Elite users both got 1-months free subscription – the same level of compensation. By your comments this would suggest Sony should have given greater compensation, or Elite less compensation. I’m not sure why I get drawn into such pointless discussions with you. Is this because of the Black Ops to MW2 evolution thing that you didn’t understand? As I said, it was a throw-away comment and before that I said the events weren’t comparable, yet you wanted to compare them!?!

        It’s unfortunate the service doesn’t work for you, I’ve had no real problems.

        Thank you for letting me know you thought my comment was odd. In future I’ll be sure to only write something that doesn’t show any kind of sarcasm, or only compares exact situations so that there is no confusion.

      • My mum got her car robbed a few years ago and was very cool, calm and collected in response. I stubbed my toe yesterday and screamed uncontrollably for several minutes. Quite different responses hey?

    • Lol the Sony take notice point was a fail.
      Sony don’t owe you anything as you don’t pay for PSN and its advertised as free add on to PS3 but you pay for Elite so technically Acti HAD to give something.

      • I pay for PS+ and I couldn’t use the service nor could I access PSN to download games I paid for and own. And it was more about Sony not saying anything whereas Acti have, immediately.

        Did I not write that the events aren’t comparable? Oh yes, I did! Hence I was refering to the communication.

      • MATT DAMON

      • With regards to “compensation”, Sony offered two months of PS+, not one. They offered a free month to everyone, as well as two free PSN games.

        As for “communication” that is where the argument falls down as there is a huge difference between communicating saying “our service isn’t working very well right now” and “our service was hacked”.

      • That’s a fair point, Sony’s compensation was more for some people, however I already had the games on offer.

        Actually your argument falls down – what you’ve referred to isn’t the communication, it’s the content – a Hack vs Poor Service. The communication from Sony was poor, you only have to read people’s comments on the TSA articles at the time to see people were annoyed with Sony and their lack of communication, regardless of it being a hack. My comment was merely to apply praise on Acti’s promptness to deliver an update swiftly, with a throw away reference to Sony’s poor communication during PSN downtime, in no way comparing the reasons behind either service not being provided. If you want to keep ignoring that fact, then that’s up to you.

  4. Point Streaks was a change that needed to happen, it will take time for parts of the online community to adapt & play more towards objectives which naturally promote teamplay, but once they do the dynamic of the game will change from a load of lone wolves running & gunning.

    CoD Elite (once working) will be a huge win in the long term, it has apparently been very popular selling meaning lots of people will be receiving the DLC monthly helping to retain interest (not that CoD needs help as BlOps & even MW2 are still the 2 most popular games online) it will also further help change the dynamic of the online promoting greater layer of tactics & of course teamplay through Clans.

    I think over the coming months the game will evolve from what we see today, which I have to admit I didn’t like very much, it was far too fast for me, quite a bit of the time unlike the campaign the graphics looked old, and I just much prefered BlOps (so far).

  5. I think they need to do away with the current hosting system, makes it unplayable sometimes from what i’ve heard. I’ve got my platinum for this now so will give the MP a go but i don’t have high hopes as CoD to me has always been a run an gunner and i prefer a more tactical game.

    • I was going to say – no mention of any lag or how servers run.
      Anyone?

      • I have a 2mb connection and have experienced very little lag. Occasionally you join a stuttering game, but it is rare. A slightly bigger problem is the matchmaking, as I get dropped from games I am joining a reasonable amount, but not enough for it to be a noticeable annoyance.

  6. I’m liking the changes that make it feel much more like MW1 than MW2 – changes to certain perks & removal of others which means no more infinite grenade/rpg spamming; no more marathon/lightweight/commando class; making shotguns primary weapons again like Blops/MW1.

    I also agree about the maps. I used to hate the likes of Wasteland in MW2 at first because you couldn’t move 2 yards without being sniped but I grew to like it as I got better at sniping myself.

    Overall though, really enjoying it. I’d just prefer a couple more big/open maps.

    PS……still loving BF3 as well!

    • This. I love both. Depending on my mood I’ll jump into one or the other.

      Isn’t it nice to just be a gamer that likes games?
      :)

  7. I really want to love this game, as I have loved MW, MW2 & BLOPs, however I’m struggling to and I’m not sure why.

    I’ve played nothing but the multiplayer for the last week and I’m close to prestiging but I just don’t have the ‘oh just one more game before I go to bed’ feeling that I had with BLOPs. I want to prestige, as I have done with the last 4 CODs but it feels like a chore more than anything.

    It could be because of the maps (I’m struggling to pick a favourite) but I think it may be down to the common criticism mentioned in the summary of this review. At first I thought it was strange people were moaning MW3 was just more of the same, after all, what did you really expect? But after a week and nearly 18hrs of game time I get it. I’ve spent the last 4 years playing Call of Duty so maybe I’m just a bit bored of it now.

    I’ve signed up for Elite so I’ll continue to play and hopefully the new maps will add some excitement. But for now, FIFA will be getting a bigger share of my time than usual.

    • I felt the same – I couldn’t figure out what I didn’t like but it’s the maps. They basically only cater for run-and-gun with everyone using Slight-of-Hand and the UMP45. Having to adjust my style of play so I don’t get battered as I use an assault rifle which loses to an SMG easily on most of these close-quarters maps.

  8. The first COD game I have ever got into online. Finding it really addictive at the moment, especially the Spec Ops and Kill Confirmed modes :)

  9. Ill be picking it up in a week or so, but only for some split screen spec ops action :-D

  10. 9/10? Probably for the 360 version. Even then the MP is crap. Boring maps, too many people camp as they’re afraid of dying every 20 seconds.
    The maps are too open with hallways. The spawn system sucks. I spawn and before I can even move my analogue I’m on red.
    The PS3 version has frame rate issues and host lag. Theres no way this deserves 9/10, more like a 6/10.
    Even with OMA and Danger Close abusers in MW2, I didn’t die as much as I do in this game.
    Now I have to camp like every other person in the lobby to get a decent score and that’s not how I played MW-Blops.
    Gaming is about fun. MW3 is a chore to play. 2 years on I still love MW2.
    COD+PS3=Fail, I’m sure MS pay millions to give PS3 users a lame port.
    When I looked at MW2 files on my hacked PS3, it still had files from the Xbox version left in.

    • wow, you’re quite an angry person, aren’t you?
      Chill dude, if you’re crap at MW3 then either enjoy getting better or just play MW2 if you were better at that. No reason to get so worked up about it.

      • Yeh I am when I paid £130 for it. £80 for HE(unopened yet) and £50 deal from Tesco.
        Some games are fine and some have pathetic hit detection, stupid spawns, why spawn me 2 feet from a guy?!?
        The worst of all is the frame rate drop to 0fps then back to 60fps and then back to 0fps. It’s impossible to get a decent game. I was on the verge of throwing my controller at the wall.
        It’s unfair Xbox users get a smooth experience and PS3 users get a sh*tty experience and we pay the same amount for a lame port that isn’t even HD.

      • Neither version is in HD, both are upscaled.

        And I’ve had no problems after 16 hours of play. However the spawning is pretty terrible at times.

    • to be fair the only point you raised that could actually be different from the ps3 and Xbox versions is the frame rate, which since I’ve also had frame rate issues on my ps3 copy of the game I’d guess it’s most likely better on the 360.

      i agree with you that it really feels like a chore to play and just plain isn’t fun, I’m no cod fan but i enjoyed playing blops multiplayer and single player. both of which are crap in modern warfare 3 (in my opinion) the only thing good about the game is spec ops which infact is excellent, especially the new survival mode

    • I have to agree with you Awayze. I’ve had nothing but problems with it – constant spawning issues being my biggest gripe. My mate has both ps3 and Xbox versions and has got the ps3 version on eBay already as he has a so much trouble with getting into games, lag, hit detection etc, but no issues with the Xbox version. He says it like a completely different game.

    • Sorry dude, been getting 30-ish kills with about 5 deaths in TDM most games, if you’re any good, you’ll get the good scores. If you’re no good, just run support and shoot down air support, at least that way you help your team and you don’t die so much from choppers. :)

      • Unfortunately it’s not just about being good. I’ve even resorted to spamming the shotgun round corners and pumping a couple of shots in the face (snigger) :/ but only to drop dead seemingly without being hit, however the replay tells a completely different story. :( I am, however, soldiering on (pun intended) in the hope that it gets better.

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