I have a love/hate relationship with the Call of Duty franchise. On one hand, I find the single player campaigns to be too short and too repetitive. On the other, I absolutely love the multiplayer modes, which I feel appeal to players of all types.
At GamesCom, I was able to get to my hands on the new title from Activision, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, Modern Warfare 3. I didn’t get to see if the single player has changed, but I was lucky enough to experience the new Survivor mode and Spec-ops missions.
Just let me shoot something!
Picture the scenario. You have a buddy on the roof covering you with a sniper rifle. He can call in UAVs and other important military technology to save your ass in a disastrous scenario. You are the elite soldier sent to the ground to disarm all of the IEDs lying around the city walls. But that isn’t all - with waves of enemies tactically advancing on you, it will take some smart team-work to survive and get the job done. This was the spec-ops mission I managed to mess up by getting killed straight away, to the humour of other press around me. But once I changed the control settings from inverted camera, I began again.
The first thing I noticed was the rather large difference in gun response and kick. The Call of Duty titles have always strived to give you awful guns first and then slowly reward you up to using guns that have less recoil and are more accurate. But no matter what gun I picked up within the spec-ops mode, whether it be from an ammo cache or an enemy, each weapon was responsive and I could aim with ease and little recoil. Whether this was because of the mission I was currently involved in I couldn’t tell, but after playing survivor mode later on, the guns were the same in characteristics. This wasn’t a bad thing though, and because of the tightness of the weapons I was a lot more comfortable straight away, and truly felt like an elite soldier as I made headshot after headshot.
Playing with someone else was key to the fun I had in the spec-ops mission. Shouting “cover me!” and having “5 to the left!” shouted back made for a thrilling experience. This mode is ideal for people who want to play together but don’t want to go through the gruelling initiation of being slaughtered online first. The tactics behind the spec-ops modes are forgotten by many of Modern Warfare’s critics. The complexity of getting a mission done well requires some thought and team-work; the run-and-gun attitude that works well in most cases just doesn’t in some of the spec-ops missions.
SURVIVE! Okay, that’s easy
Survivor mode is the new Modern Warfare 3 equivalent of zombie mode from Call of Duty: Black Ops. You and a friend or an A.I can take up the task of taking down waves of enemies while gaining money for taking out enemies in a variety of different ways. Your gained capital can then be used to buy new weapons, weapon upgrades, grenades and special bonuses like air strikes.
The enemy A.I is “supposedly” cleverer this time round, with the enemies making tactical decisions about where they respawn. Depending on the performance of the player and where they are positioned, enemy A.I will change the position of where the spawn in real time. In zombie horde mode, the zombies respawned at set points continually and Infinity Ward wanted to change this. But as this was explained to me during the survivor mode I was engaged in, I kept running to the same corner of the map and the enemies seemed to always come from this one spot. It seems like it can be somewhat circumvented. Still, the AI’s flanking abilities were quite good.
Between each wave players get the chance to upgrade items and weapons. It became apparent that a big part of survivor mode was making sure that at the end of a wave you were near enough to the load-outs to have enough time to change up items. Although once set on a weapon that you feel comfortable with there isn’t much reason to waste money on upgrades. Instead, spending money on awards and items from what is essentially the “killstreak” load-out is a better idea. Many of the items available in this load-out are the same from the killstreaks featured in the game and online. My personal favourite award was “Delta squad.” Delta squad is a team of back-up A.I that helps you fight against the enemy, and the Delta squad A.I seemed to be very strong. While you can’t give them commands, they certainly help even the odds.
I was pretty awful at zombie horde mode in Black Ops, and I am pretty much awful at any horde mode in general. But survivor mode’s weapon upgrades made it was rather easy, and I found my way through the first 9 waves without any hassle. Still, I’m sure later levels will knock me out and require some real trigger skills.
Finding a new identity
Everyone knows that Modern Warfare 3 will no doubt be the same as the past titles in spirit and in gameplay. But every series needs to change to survive. It is easy for Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Studios to cater to the millions who are already fans of the series by slapping a new skin on Modern Warfare 2. But with Battlefield 3 shaping up to take the reins as the FPS king, Modern Warfare 3 has a lot to prove and to show us why it hasn’t sold millions of copies for no reason. Could it potentially find a new identity and branch away from its predecessors as the same run-and-gun, dull single-player action game, while keeping its stellar multiplayer? Only this November will tell.