Call of Duty XP 2011 – Multiplayer Impressions

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Following Activision’s press briefing last night, we were led into the main hangar and unleashed upon two different staging areas with different Modern Warfare 3 game types running. I had the opportunity to play both extensively and Call of Duty fans are in for a huge treat come November.

Immediately upon entering the main show floor, a Call of Duty XP staff member led me over to the Spec Ops area of the show. Here, I was partnered up with a guide who led me through the ins and outs of the first of the new game modes: Spec Ops Survival. This mode blends horde mode sensibilities while bringing over some elements of Treyarch’s zombie mode. The result is something that is infinitely replayable and entirely enjoyable.

Each of the 16 maps included on the Modern Warfare 3 disk is playable in this mode. As in the zombie mode, you’ll begin with only a pistol. The first few waves of enemies are fairly easy to overcome, allowing you to capture their fallen weapons and rack up money to use in one of three stations that unlock as the rounds progress. The first station available allows you to purchase standard weapons in a variety of types. You can upgrade the weapons with attachments including sights and underslung grenade launchers.

The second station unlocks your explosives and support equipment, including sentry turrets. Each of the stations is located in a different part of the map, so you’ll need to either move quickly between rounds or strategize closely with your partner. Finally, you’ll get access to a station that unlocks perks including airstrikes and an overwatch attack chopper and more.

Occasional rounds will throw attack choppers, dogs or the daunting Juggernaut at you. The Juggernaut will lumber towards you, soaking up damage, until you can finally defeat him. This mode is a great alternative to the overused zombie theme without feeling exactly like other horde type game modes.

The second new game type is called Kill Confirm and completely changes the way you will play Team Deathmatch. This game is the anti-camping mode. You will score absolutely no points for making a kill. Instead, each slain ally and enemy drops dogtags. Only by collecting these tags will you rack up points toward victory. You can even pick up the tags of fallen allies, denying the kill to your opponents and racking up points for your team. Because you need to move out of safety to confirm your kills, games of cat and mouse emerge as players try to move around the fallen dogtags, as opponents know that they will become hot zones. I greatly enjoyed this mode and see myself spending a lot of time with it come November.

Finally, I had the chance to play a couple of different maps featuring Domination and Team Deathmatch. These modes have seen little by way of change with the exception of the overhaul to kill streaks.

During the press briefing, Robert Bowling explained that the development team realized that Kill Streaks were really only tuned for one game mode: team deathmatch and, to make them more suited to a wider range of game types and play styles, the old system is being replaced by strike packages. The team studied the way people play and determined that they wanted to severely tone down the “one man army” phenomenon. As a result, there is no Nuke Kill Streak, shotguns cannot be slotted as a secondary weapon, the Last Stand perk is gone, as is the Commando perk.

Additionally, strike packages have been diversified into three core sets: assault, support and specialist. These will help address the concern that developers noted in skill gaps. In Modern Warfare 2, they were unhappy with the discrepancy between newer players and veterans. The support class, in particular, is perfect for people like me that tend to die a lot. That class earns points for completing objectives and aiding teammates, and the tally carries through respawns. The assault class is most similar to the way people currently play Call of Duty multiplayer. The specialist retains the last bit of “one man army” mentality with streak bonuses coming in the form of extra perks. After 8 kills, every single perk becomes active on the player. However, a single death resets the counter.

With regard to progression, now each weapon has its own proficiencies that allow players to become more adept just by using them. This also allows players to unlock perks in a different ways. Additionally, the hardest of the hard core will be pleased to know that there are new Prestige rewards that can be unlocked.

We now know that 16 maps will be available on the disk, with 20 different streak rewards available. We also know that there will be four content packs that include new maps, game modes, and Spec Ops missions. For Call of Duty Elite premium members, this content will be dripped out monthly. Those gamers will have something fresh more often than those utilizing the free service.

For people that expect to be playing MW3 for sixth months or more after release, you shouldn’t be wasting your time with the standard edition; it will cost you more in the long run. For $99.99 (a $40 premium over the standard edition), you get all of the DLC, more regular updates and the extra goodies that come with the premium version of Call of Duty Elite. The inclusion of Elite is bumping the price of the Hardened Edition this year by $20, but those that were already taking the plunge have every reason to embrace the change. Sure, you’re spending an extra $20 up front, but you’ll be spending less on all the content you were likely to purchase anyway, and it will be delivered more regularly.

I’ll have more from Call of Duty XP 2011 throughout the weekend. As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@mmmfutter) with any questions.

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Mike is the Reviews Editor and former Community Manager for this fine, digital establishment. You can find him crawling through dungeons, cruising the galaxy in the Normandy, and geeking it out around a gaming table.