Many will be looking forward to Modern Warfare 3's single player campaign, but it's the franchise's multiplayer component which has helped Call of Duty become the biggest game series in the world over the past few years. A mainstream cultural phenomenon with a 30 million strong online player base, it's also what will keep the game locked in disc trays many months after players have completed the title's globe-trotting single player war on terror.
With such great success in recent times, you'd understand if developer Infinity Ward was hesitant to mess with a winning formula, but with a new competitor on the horizon in the shape of Battlefield 3, the game maker is showing no signs of resting on its laurels. At the heart of Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer experience is a reworked rewards system. Killstreaks, which grant players access to increasingly devastating power-ups for completing consecutive kills, have been redesigned to encourage a variety of different play styles by rewarding not only kills but other team-based actions like bomb disposal and objective capture.
Players can choose from three ladders of power-ups, which are known as Strike Packages. The Assault Strike Package offers access to weapons designed for direct enemy damage like sentry guns, predator missiles and chopper support. The Support Strike Package gives bonuses designed to help your entire team like unmanned aerial vehicles that pinpoint enemy locations, ballistic vests to divvy out between players and surface to air missiles that target enemy aircraft. Meanwhile, the Specialist Strike Package, which is designed for expert players, offers rewards in the form of perks, special character boosting attributes such as increased speed and aiming, silent footsteps, better resistance to explosives and the ability to pick up ammo from downed enemies..
Modern Warfare 3 also introduces a new weapon progression system that sees your chosen tool of destruction level up the more you use it, enabling you to attach enhancements like scopes and reticules to your gun, and to limit recoil when firing or reduce flinch when taking hits.
The game will release with 16 multiplayer maps, each playable across a range of game types, from returning fan-favourites such as Deathmatch (solo and team), Capture the Flag and Domination to new modes like Kill Confirmed and Survival Spec Ops. Kill Confirmed plays out like a regular Team Deathmatch, although there is one key difference: defeated players leave behind shiny dog tags on the battlefield. If you grab them you net extra points for onfirming' the kill, while you can also pick up a fallen teammate's to gain points for enying' the opposing team a kill.
Spec Ops Survival is Modern Warfare 3's answer to Gears of War's Horde mode or Call of Duty: Black Ops' Zombies mode. It tasks you and a friend with defending the map against increasingly tough waves of enemies, beginning with low-level militia armed with weak weapons to better-equipped soldiers, dogs, attack choppers, explosive enemies and more. You start with a pistol but earn cash for each kill which can be used to unlock weapons and equipment including grenades, sentry turrets, cruise missiles, and temporary back up from riot shield wielding troops. As well as being a great game type in its own right, it's a good way for new players to practice and improve a bit before they take their game online.
Many more game types have been announced but have yet to be shown off in action. These include Infection (the infected kills enemies to recruit them to the infected team), Juggernaut (kill the juggernaut to become the new juggernaut), Gun Game (be the first to dominate with every gun) and One in the Chamber (gain ammo by eliminating enemies, be the last to survive).
King of the hill
Modern Warfare 3's multiplayer component looks and feels largely as we've come to expect, only with more on offer than ever before and a greater level of polish too. The new Strike Package system and the large number of online game modes should ensure there's something on offer for all types of players, from attack-minded lone wolves to support-minded team players, and for veterans of the series to newcomers alike.
The quality of what we've played so far suggests the Call of Duty series isn't going to be relinquishing its multiplayer crown any time soon, and it has left us itching to get back on the battlefield come the game's November release.