REVIEW – Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer

We judge the multiplayer side of Modern Warfare 3, and slap a score on the overall product.

Erik Norris & Joey Davidsonby Erik Norris & Joey Davidson


So, you've read our review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s single player campaign, right? Well, we suggest you do that before you read our thoughts on the game’s multiplayer component below. For those who are all caught up, welcome to the second half of our review for Modern Warfare 3, where Joey Davidson and myself, Erik Norris, intend to break down the game’s more substantial mode and slap a final score on the overall product that Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have created.

Much like with previous Call of Duty efforts, the multiplayer mode of Modern Warfare 3 is broken into two standalone parts — competitive multiplayer and Spec Ops.

Now that the formalities are over. Onward!

joeyJoey: You know, all week long I’ve found myself mulling over the same analogy for Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 again and again. People ask me about both games, and my gut reaction keeps bringing me back to the same exact comparisons. And, Erik, I know I’ve mentioned it to you before, but I’m dragging it out to start this discussion.

In the land of multiplayer, Modern Warfare 3 is to Miller Lite as Battlefield 3 is to a local microbrew. They’re both arguably beer, but one tastes more refined, rewarding and patiently made than the other. Modern Warfare 3 will get you drunk with empty calories. If you’re looking for a longer lasting, richer experience, you’ll turn to the Battlefield 3 microbrew.

But the analogy also works for preference. Sometimes people just want a light and easy beer. Sometimes people want to sit down for a full night of the same rich, heavy microbrew. The decision is up to the drinker. Or, in this case, the player.

erikErik: I think that’s a great way to intro this multiplayer review, and I back up your analogy 100%. While I find myself going for the more fulfilling microbrew more often than not, something I just can’t pass up a fundamentally sound, cheap beer. I think we were both initially turned off by Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer because it felt like more of the same, whereas Battlefield 3’s multiplayer felt epic, engaging and downright scary to participate in. It was exhilarating.

With that said, I found myself warming up to MW3’s offering the more and more I played it. It’s not entirely new, and it definitely has its drawbacks, but the satisfaction gained from earning new equipment, upgrades, emblems, tags and perks remains. And there is plenty to unlock and achieve in MW3’s multiplayer, just like in previous Call of Duty titles.

joeyJoey: While I totally agree with the wealth of stuff to unlock and earn here, I do want to hit on something I was bothered by consistently during my time with the multiplayer side of MW3 this past week, and I think it’s something that definitely hurts the replayability of this package…

The maps… they suck. They’re all basically the same. There are no big, open spaces meant to be played at long distances. They’re all the same windy courses with choke points and confrontation heads in tight areas. That results in games that feel extremely, extremely forced. You’re right on top of your opponents at all times, making any strategy other than run and gun almost pointless.

I’m all for flushing out campers, but MW3’s maps take that concept to a new extreme. There’s practically nowhere to stake a claim in this game’s multiplayer offering. You’re running and gunning or you’re getting blasted from all sides at once. The result is that every game, regardless of the map, feels exactly the same.

Run, shoot, run, shoot, run, shoot, etc.

erikErik: Correct. I think the lack of imagination for the maps of this game sticks out a bit more when compared against last year’s Treyarch effort, Black Ops. Not only were the maps in Black Ops less claustrophobic, but they were also a more memorable display of Treyarch’s personality as a developer. You won’t find any maps in MW3 like “Nuketown,” for instance. Everything in MW3 feels drab and dull in comparison.

But while the maps are nothing to write home about, I do like some of the changes Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer have made to multiplayer’s structure. For instance, the introduction of three distinct “Strike Packages” (“Assault,” “Support,” “Specialist”) is a nice touch. The Call of Duty games have long been filled with Lone Wolf types of players, but at least Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer are making strides to reintroduce teamwork into the equation.

joeyJoey: I dig the new Killstreak system as well. Players that may want to focus on objectives or assisting teammates can actually do that with their killing rewards rather than only worrying about calling in that next wave of choppers or an AC-130.

However, the points and reward system is still in place in a big way. And, no matter how you slice it, Modern Warfare 3 is still a very narcissistic playing experience. You’re out for numero uno, and the game, despite these new strike packages, reinforces that concept consistently.

While in Battlefield 3 you’ll be rewarded for reviving people or giving people health and ammo, Modern Warfare 3 gives you rewards for rewarding yourself. I can really only think of one or two streaks that pay to help others…everything else, helping others is just a side-effect of helping yourself.

Which is, I suppose, the core of my problems with MW3 and the Call of Duty recipe as a whole… It’s a great game to sit and play when I’m looking to veg out and worry about nothing but kills and rewards. However, the moment I want to strategize and take my time is the moment I have to walk away. This game, no matter what the developers suggest, is way too arcadey for strategy. That’s good sometimes, not so good other times.

erikErik: Well put, good sir. So let’s move away from the competitive mode of MW3 to instead focus on Spec Ops, which features two game-types within. The first is “Mission,” which Modern Warfare 2 fans should be familiar with. These missions parallel the campaign of MW3 and can be played cooperatively.

The second game-type, and the one that’s more interesting in my opinion, is “Survival,” which is very similar to something like Gears of War’s Horde Mode. You and your buddies must fend off waves of increasingly more difficult enemies, while also buying new weapons, upgrades, perks and stronghold fortifications in between rounds with the money you earn from shooting lots of dudes. Survival might not be a fresh concept, but Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer do a pretty bang-up job with it here.

joeyJoey: I actually don’t have much to harp on in the Spec Ops arena. There’s a whole separate system of leveling to enjoy here, and the rewarding concept of points-per-kill is out in full force. Spec Ops can be addictive, as was the case in MW2. The new Survival mode works well in the game, but, like Erik said, it’s old hat for the medium.

Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t blow the lid off of the console FPS genre. The multiplayer and single player components are good, but they don’t work too hard to reinvent this franchise or the gaming industry as a whole. What was fresh so many years ago has worn thin, as far as I’m concerned, and Activision needs to rework the way they make this brand a bit if they want to see it enjoy crazy levels of success.

Commercially, we’re sure this one will be a titan. But for me, and I guess I’m speaking for Erik here now as well, this isn’t the critical darling this series has the potential to deliver. There’s a lot more to be done in the FPS multiplayer category, simply slapping the same old stuff in a new box with a few tweaks doesn’t make it a brilliant, must-have product.

For die-hard fans? Sure, MW3 will do the trick. For those looking for something fresh, new, challenging and unique? This will miss the mark.


CraveOnline received 1 copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on launch day for the Xbox 360 from Activision. We then bought a second copy with our own money to make this joint review possible. Before starting our review, we completed the entire campaign on normal difficulty, as well as logged roughly eight hours into the multiplayer modes after the game was made available to the public.

To understand how we score games, see our officially defined review guidelines.