These unlocks are used in the new Survival mode, the major addition I alluded to above. It’s not too different from other “horde” modes that you find in other games — you and a buddy (just two of you, unfortunately) take on wave after wave of increasingly difficult groups of enemies. Completing waves earns you cash, which you use to purchase better weapons, attachments, explosives, and air support. These skirmishes take place in the game’s multiplayer maps, of which there are plenty. As you’re constantly leveling and and unlocking weapons across nearly 20 maps, Survival ends up stealing the Spec Ops spotlight, offering something that players can easily lose themselves in for hours.
If you’re not playing the game’s core multiplayer component, that is.
For the most part, Modern Warfare 3‘s multiplayer is what you’ve come to expect, which is either exactly what you do or don’t want to hear. If you’re one of those that chides Call of Duty for the style of play that it presents then you may as well stop reading now, as nothing I can write will change your mind. If you’re genuinely interested in what the game has to offer, then know that the game continues to provide the kind of excitement that millions of people flock to every year.
The leveling system introduced in Call of Duty 4 is of course still here, addictive as ever. Every level you gain unlocks either a weapon, perk, new equipment, killstreaks, or deathstreaks, and a number of different contextual challenges makes sure that there’s always an opportunity to earn more XP for even the most novice player. The system has also been tweaked a bit so that there are now 80 levels to play through and ten levels of Prestige. Prestige is for the hardest of core CoD players, allowing them to reset their ranks and unlocks once they reach the level cap and start over from scratch, and there are 10 Prestige levels in all. Each Prestige you enter also gives you a point to spend in the Prestige Shop, which unlocks rewards for those sinking the most time into the game.
The wealth of weapons available allows for the creation of custom classes, allowing you to to outfit your soldier for whatever best suits your style of play. For example, I’m terrible at shooting, which kind of sucks in a game in which a gun is always being fired somewhere. Yet I was able to turn my bullet-sponge tendencies into a strength by equipping myself with a bulletproof riot shield, distracting enemies by absorbing their fire while teammates took the easy kill. It’s also pretty funny to bash someone’s skull in with it when they’re panicking themselves into a corner, which is another plus.
Game modes are abundant, and many old favorites from past Call of Duty games return. You’ve got your standard deathmatch modes, as well as familiar objective games like Capture the Flag, Domination, Sabotage, Search and Destroy, and Headquarters. Much like previous installments, I found myself a little annoyed with the way teammates tended to play objective games by treating it like a deathmatch, choosing instead to run off for personal glory while neglecting the objective. That’s not to say those modes can’t be fun, but they’re best enjoyed either with people you know or those that use their headsets for discussing strategy rather than spouting hateful epithets.
There are a couple of new modes to play in MW3, the most noteworthy being Kill Confirmed. It boils down to Team Deathmatch, but the kicker is that kills don’t count unless you collect the dog tags from dead enemies. You can also deny the opposing team a kill by retrieving your fallen teammates’ tags before they do. It’s a refreshing change to an old mode and ended up being where I spent most of my time online. The developers also managed to roll several game modes into one with Team Defender, in which kills count for double for the team holding the sole flag on the map. Gone, though, is Black Ops’ currency system — no more unlocking items with CoD Points earned through contracts and wager matches.
Despite its age, Mw3‘s engine still manages to impress. While it never quite reaches the graphical highs that games such as Uncharted 3 reaches, it’s much more consistent than the neutered console Frostbite 2 engine. Sound has never been the series’ strong point, and that doesn’t change here. Some of the guns sound like muffled potato guns, and pale in comparison to what you hear in Battlefield 3.
Modern Warfare 3‘s multiplayer isn’t as dynamic as Battlefield 3‘s, and while it’s not too different from what’s been done in past CoD games it’s still pretty damn good. MW3 also has a couple of aces up its sleeve, with one of the most exciting single-player campaigns of the year and a co-op mode worth playing in the form of Spec Ops.
There’s nothing here that will sway staunch haters of the series into its camp, but those that are willing to give Modern Warfare 3 a chance will find themselves having a hell of a time.
FINAL GRADE: A