Call of Duty XP 2011: Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer hands-on
One of the highlights of my E3 2011 was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3‘s revamped cooperative Spec Ops mode. The mode rewards teamwork in a way that I’ve never experienced before in a Call of Duty multiplayer match. I’ve always felt that teamwork was for Battlefield and Call of Duty was for the lone wolves, an impression forged by my long history with the former and my admitted unfamiliarity with the latter’s mutliplayer suite. Now that I’ve had more time to sit down and play more at the Call of Duty XP, I’d say that the developers must have the same impression, as two new game modes revealed at the show strive to bring players together. The emphasis from everyone I’ve spoken or listened to has been on bringing players closer together – through new social media services like Call of Duty Elite – and also two new game modes, Kill Confirmed and Team Defender.
Outside of trying to best my record at Spec Ops (I got to round 19 in a brutal 40 minute session last night), I’ve spent most of my other time playing Kill Confirmed. KC operates a lot like normal team deathmatch, but with one important twist – players not only have to kill their opponents, but also collect their dog tags off the battlefield to confirm the kill. It doesn’t sound like much of a change, but it adds a great new dimension of strategy to the game and the best players will be those who work together.
The mode plays best when players squad up and move through the levels in packs. As players drop foes, their dogtags spin over their corpse much like a gold coin on one of Mario Kart’s tracks. Collecting the tag scores your team a point that works toward the final score, but there’s more to it than simply running up and grabbing it. The best players so far have been using tags as decoys to draw others out for easy pickings. Early on, I was rushing straight to the tags, desperate to secure my team some points to make up for my terrible kill-to-death ratio. After getting mowed down several times by well-positioned campers, I learned to go a little more slowly – and to travel in packs. My KDR started to improve and I was less of a blight on my team from then on.
One of the cool twists to KC is that not only can you collect your enemies’ tags, but you can also collect your own fallen allies’ tags. This denies the other team the point from the kill and also earns the player points for their personal stats. This inclusion encourages players to stick together, to use team strategies to draw out opponents and to flank enemies. I faced one team of three players using an extremely effective tactic. They took up a position in the middle of the shanty town map called Village. One player on the team used a tactical shield and did very little direct fighting. His job was to engage and draw out enemies, taking very little damage from their direct fire thanks to his defensive equipment. When players moved in closer or tried to flank him, his concealed squad mates would make quick work of them.
Of course, my squad adjusted and we started working together better. We threw two flashbangs into the center of their group while two of my own teammates approached him from behind. They took down the shielded foe while he was blinded, though we weren’t fast enough to successfully grab his tags since his teammates, who apparently looked away, had closed in and collected it themselves. Outnumbered and exposed, they both went down, but their sacrifice prevented us from earning a point we would have otherwise gotten had they not risked their own deaths in gathering up the tags. It was a smart move by the designers to give points for collecting team tags because players won’t feel like their jeopardizing their own success in helping their team. The 45 minutes or so that I played of the game was littered with little battles like these.
Team Defender wasn’t on display during our early-access media day at the event, but details were revealed and it sounds very promising. In this mode, two teams compete for control of a single flag on the map. One player serves as the flag carrier and it is then up to the other players on the team to defend him or her. It’s a twist on classic CTF, but without a base to return to, and it opens up lots of tactical options. Some teams may choose to stay on the move to prevent direct, coordinated assaults, though potentially exposing themselves as they move and spreading themselves too thin. Others may try to hold particular positions, eliminating certain strategies attackers may use to recover the flag, but risking backing themselves into a corner should the battle turn against them. I was disappointed that I couldn’t try this out at the show and will be certain to load this up first when the final copy is put into my system.
Just a few months before release, I’ve had the opportunity to play close to five hours of MW3’s multiplayer and I have to say, I’m extremely impressed. As someone who doesn’t have the fastest reflexes in the world, I appreciate that several of the new game modes will reward me and allow me to progress just as easily as the guys that can headshot six guys in six seconds. I envision myself and the faithful legion of Call of Duty fans embracing both of these game modes, though I’ll admit that I’m more personally excited by Kill Confirmed and Survival more than any of the others announced thus far. The only real complaint that I have is that, after this weekend, I’m going to have to wait two more months before I can hop back in and play.