Hands-on / Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer, Spec Ops

By my own admission I have absolutely loved the single player portion of every Call of Duty installment, but haven’t been what I would call a fan of the game’s multiplayer for quite some time now, mainly because my traitorous hands and thumbs conspire to make me horrid at that style of FPS multiplayer gameplay. In fact, it’s quite possible that Modern Warfare was the last CoD game that I somewhat enjoyed playing with others, but even that might be a stretch. That being said, as I sat down at a console to wage war inside the huge aircraft hanger turned Call of Duty fan Disneyland at Activision’s Call of Duty XP event, I sensed what I was getting myself into and was not looking forward to it. Being on the bottom of the scoreboard in my own house is one thing; in front of thousands of others is another. In the end, I was totally correct and completely wrong, all at the same time.

Dropping into the first game’s lobby, the typical loadout selection screen was shown, allowing me to create five different classes of my choosing, with pre-populated equipment displaying in case I just wanted to get to the killing. I didn’t. I wanted to check out the weapons and perks and grenades and throwy thingys and – oh, the match started. Since the first round of play was TDM, I went with the path of least resistance and selected the class with an sub machine gun, thinking I could just spray and pray my way through the session. Exactly the right choice. I ran and shot and ran some more, noting that the controls felt tighter than I had recalled from before. Movements were more precise, aiming was a breeze, yet I still couldn’t hit anything. I was aiming right at that guys head! Thankfully, this lack of hit detection was something I heard grumbles about later on in the evening from other people who had also played the game and was assured the issue was under development and would be fixed before launch on November 8.

As I wandered the map – a jungle village type setting, – being shot in the head multiple times, I couldn’t help but notice the graphics were improved and prettier than before, but not by much. The leaves and huts looked as you would expect them to, I mean they were obviously leaves and huts, but I had expected more, probably based on the amount of marketing and sheer number of dollars spent on the game as a whole. This same feeling permeated my time with Modern Warfare 3, as the game modes and maps cycled through an abandoned military installation and a city setting: they are nice, but something’s missing.

Throughout the differing game modes I experienced – CTF, TDM, and Kill Confirmed – all my previous statements rang true. Modern Warfare 3 is a wonderful looking, but not eye melting, multiplayer experience. The gameplay is tight and more feels more welcoming to someone without “l33t skillz,” especially with the redesigned perks and kill streak system, but even with the short time I spent in multiplayer there were people gaming the system and racking up kills, sending most others to respawn purgatory. A sure turn-off to those wanting to get back on the Call of Duty multiplayer bandwagon.

The next stop after my struggles inside Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer was a station to demo the new Spec Ops mode. I knew nothing of the gameplay within the new mode but, needless to say, I was not thrilled with the prospect of another lackluster performance in front of total strangers. When I was seated next to one other person and saw numerous pairs of players grouped together, I realized this was a completely different experience and perked up a bit. After playing for an extended amount of time, Spec Ops is, in my opinion, Modern Warfare 3’s saving grace when it comes to multiplayer.

Paired up with another player, I chose a load out with a submachine gun and entered Spec Ops, playing this time on the abandoned military installation from multiplayer. Similar to terrorist hunt in Rainbow Six or horde mode in Gears of War 2, Spec Ops challenged us to last as long as we could against wave after wave of randomly spawned baddies, with each kill earning us cash which can be used to buy weapons, grenades, and perks during play. Starting off with the basic, easy to kill targets, the difficulty quickly escalated by sending more and more hardened enemies in increasingly challenging numbers. At one point, my partner and I had to fight off an attack helicopter, two juggernauts, and a couple of men carrying riot shields. Oh, and several dogs with C-4 strapped to them which explode, even after being the pooch is killed.

Shortly into the fifth wave of enemies in Spec Ops, I got taken out by a shotgun to the face and started bleeding out. Thankfully, I was near my partner – whom I never left again – and was revived in short order. The round ended and, with 30 seconds before the next started, I realized my choice of submachine wasn’t cutting it anymore. I went and grabbed a gun from a fallen bad guy, then headed to a weapons crate to refill my ammo. Just in time, as the next wave was starting. Bang, bang, bang; the next round was over and I ran off to grab some grenades while my partner went to buy a perk. And no, we couldn’t run and get grenades and perks and reload ammo at the same time. The stations for each are intentionally spaced apart so that we had to be tactical about what we bought and when. This kept on until, sadly, we both died battling three juggernauts and C-4 packing suicide bombers. It was a valiant effort.

Modern Warfare 3 hits shelves November 8th worldwide on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.