The first chance to play the 2023 iteration of Call Of Duty is already here but what can be learnt from the beta and how much has changed?
The biggest question hanging over Modern Warfare 3 is not whether it’s any good but whether or not it’s secretly repurposed DLC. The long-standing rumour about this year’s Call Of Duty is that originally there was going to be no game at all, because development had fallen behind and there wasn’t enough time. It’s then suggested that Activision decided against that idea and took premium story DLC, that was originally going to be released for Modern Warfare 2, and turned it into Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Activision is highly unlikely to comment on any of that publicly and the only clue when it comes to the story campaign is if it mysteriously doesn’t resolve the story in the expected Modern Warfare trilogy. With the multiplayer though it should be easier to tell, if it has even less substantial change than usual.
It’s already suspicious that all the maps are remasters of those from the original 2009 Modern Warfare 2 – which seems very strange for a full price title that’s meant to be a reboot of Modern Warfare 3 – but Activision is apparently unconcerned about any backlash, as this weekend they started a beta for the game and… it was exactly what you’d expect.
For what will almost certainly be the last time, the beta was initially only available on PlayStation 4 and 5. It’s still complicated exactly how things work, but from Thursday, October 12 to Friday, October 13, PlayStation owners and anyone on Xbox or PC that pre-ordered can play the beta again. Then from Saturday, October 14 to Monday, October 16 anyone can play on any format.
The beta features four multiplayer maps (Favela, Estate, Skidrow, and Rust), with Highrise set to become a fifth option in the second weekend. There’re also two Ground War maps: Popov Power Plant and Orlov Military Base.
It might seem a random choice but the multiplayer maps for the original Modern Warfare 2 were widely considered the high point of Call Of Duty’s golden age. However, as fondly remembered as they are, the first thing you realise on playing their remastered form is that they did far less to discourage camping than modern maps.
As a result, the pacing is a lot slower than usual in the modern game, as everyone plays a lot more cautiously and the usual run ‘n’ gun attitude is quickly abandoned in favour of tactics that will not instantly get you killed. The TTK (time to kill) is also slower than last year’s game, although the difference is not so much that it takes a long time to adjust, especially for anyone that knew these maps from the first time round.
It’s a generous beta, with seven separate modes available: Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, Search and Destroy, Hardpoint, Ground War, and the new 3v3v3 mode Cutthroat. The skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) took a while to right itself, which is exactly what you’d expect when it’s only got a few days’ worth of data to work with, but nothing seemed broken or an obviously bad idea (well, maybe one thing).
The new perk system, that revolves around clothing with different attributes, feels gimmicky but you’ll no doubt get used to it, and at least the perks are switched on from the start. The much-missed slide cancel move is also back in the game, which should please the majority of fans, as it allows you to slide around a corner and potentially take out a camper before they get a bead on you. However, using the move no longer resets your Tactical Sprint stamina, which is probably what most hardcore fans wanted it back for the most.
There’s inevitability going to be a lot of arguing over balancing when it comes to both mechanics and equipment, and even just over the weekend, developer Sledgehammer Games had to nerf the Battle Rage item which regenerates health more quickly and can be kept going by getting kills, but that’s already been acknowledged as a mistake and changed.
There’s also been a lot of complaining, amongst some fans, about the lack of recoil on guns, not just the visual effect of it but mechanically as well, which tends to make the gunplay feel more flat than usual. It’s similar to how things worked in Vanguard, which seems an odd decision, given that game was set during the Second World War and, more importantly, everyone hated it.
There are lots of minor controversies but they’re likely to be just as interminable as the central issue of whether or not this is just DLC being sold at full price. We’ll probably never know for sure, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a brand new game. But then there’s relatively few Call Of Duties where you could say that of the multiplayer.
It’s perfectly entertaining and it is different to Modern Warfare 2, which are two important things to get right. However, if it was genuinely conceived as an entirely separate sequel then Activision needs to buck up their ideas for next year’s game, because whatever’s going on here is not going to work twice in a row.
Although by that point Microsoft will likely own Activision Blizzard, along with Call Of Duty and everything they’ve ever published, so we’ll see whether that inspires any more vigorous a shake-up…
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will launch on November 10 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and PC. Campaign early access will be available up to a week early for all digital pre-orders.
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