So long time readers of this blog will know that I’m somewhat of a fan of the Call of Duty series of games but I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the multiplayer in it. If I’m honest I was intimidated by the multiplayer scene because I thought it would be swamped with ex-Counter Strike pros who would eat a relative noob like myself for breakfast making the game boring and unsatisfying. I was proved wrong however and as of writing I’ve sunk a good 22+ hours into just the multiplayer, 3 times of that of the single player campaign. I’ll admit that what got me hooked was the levelling system but I also found myself rapidly improving as I progressed through the levels, always wanting to unlock that next bit of kit.
You can then imagine my surprise when Activision contacted me out of the blue and asked if I’d like to come up to Sydney for the day to play a beta of their upcoming release Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Of course I said yes and I dragged myself out of bed yesterday morning at the ungodly time of 5:45AM so I could catch my flight up and arrive there before the event started. 4 hours later I found myself sitting in the Parkview room of Doltone House here in Sydney, the same place that houses the Australian branch of the mighty search engine Google.
The room we were in was quite intimate and there were numerous other writers, web masters and clan members filling out the ranks. The man in the picture is none other than Robert Bowling of Infinity Ward, creative strategist and all round nice guy. After showing us a promotional video showcasing many of the games new features he then opened up the floor to some Q & A, and boy was it ever telling about their current market.
To put it in perspective out of the ~16 or so people that were there on the day (and the day previous I was told) I was the only one who’s preferred platform was the PC and 95% of the questions asked related to the Xbox or PS3 version of Modern Warfare 3. Thankfully though it looks like PC players won’t be second class citizens in any regards as we’ll still be getting dedicated servers in addition to the matching system that the console platforms have. Bowling wasn’t able to confirm if the PC would be getting a hardened edition however as he said it was something that the where still looking into (it’s not currently available for pre-order anywhere either).
Modern Warfare 3 has been designed from the ground up to be more appealing to a wider audience of gamers with a reworking of many core multi-player mechanics. For instance they have removed all multi-player achievements with the only ones available being in the single player game. They’ve also reworked the kill streak system into what’s now called the Strike Package system which varies depending on your choice from three options:
There’s also the return of death streak perks which give you some interesting abilities should you get your ass handed to you round after round. Guns now also have their own ranking system allowing you to specialize in a particular weapon, making it far more effective. This includes unlocking things like attachments, reticules, camos and Weapon Proficiencies (new attributes, some unique to particular weapon classes).
Prestige mode has also seen some reworking with a new Prestige Shop that allows you to buy rewards for your prestige levels. The currency of this shop is the Prestige Point which you get upon prestiging or you can also acquire through challenges in both single and multiplayer. Additionally you can now take one weapon along with you when you prestige which is great since sometimes your weapon of choice might be far down the level tree, far enough that prestiging feels like a grind.
Modern Warfare 3 brings with it 2 new game modes as well: Kill confirmed and Team Defender. Kill confirmed is much like team deathmatch except that when you kill an opponent they’ll drop a dog tag which anyone can collect. If you collect it you gain points for your team, however the opposition can also collect them, denying you those points. Team Defender is like capture the flag except that there’s no capture point, instead you must defend your flag carrier as long as you can to gain points.
Bowling also mentioned that he’d been working closely with the crew at Major League Gaming in order to cater to the local tournament and greater eSports communities.
With all that in mind they let us loose on the 16 Xbox consoles they had set up there with some gorgeous LED TV sets. After setting up a custom class we played through a couple matches of Kill Confirmed. Whilst I struggled to get my bearings initially (FPS’s without a mouse or keyboard is inane IMHO) I did manage to find my stride towards the end. I was playing the support strike package as I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a kill streak any other way and found it to be quite enjoyable, especially as it meant I could get some decent streak rewards without having to play conservatively. The maps we played on were also quite good with many different paths and choke points available ensuring that camping wasn’t a viable tactic.
Graphically the game is definitely a step up from both its predecessor and Black Ops, even when viewed on the Xbox360. Even in the most heavy action scenes I didn’t notice any slowdown so Modern Warfare 3 appears to be heavily optimized. Bowling also mentioned that every platform was given the same amount of development time so that the experience should be nearly identical across platforms. With that in mind I’m sure it will look amazing on my PC, whether it will be Battfield 3 level of amazing though remains to be seen.
Overall though I feel like Modern Warfare 3 has all the same traits that got me addicted to Black Ops in the first place, with enough new material to keep the game interesting for both long time fans and new comers a like. With both Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 releasing at very similar times it’s going to be interesting to see how this showdown plays off as they both have their strengths and weaknesses. Needless to say I’m looking forward to playing both of them but I can only say for sure now that Modern Warfare 3 definitely hits the mark on the multiplayer aspect. The rest will have to wait until release day.
The last day of any holiday is always filled with a wide gamut of emotions. We woke up naturally a good 3 hours before we needed to check out and spent that time lazily packing our bags for the day ahead. Our flight wasn’t until 10pm that night so we would have a good 10 hours before the time we had to leave the hotel and the time we had to catch the plane back home. Whilst we still had tickets to the San Diego Zoo I wasn’t too keen to drive the 2 hours there to see it, nor was I too confident that the drive back would be less than 2 hours. Instead we decided to spend the day shopping in downtown Los Angeles for gifts and generally lazing about before the 14 hour flight home.
After checking out and grabbing our car from the valet we headed towards a mall I had managed to find through Yelp. It was a traditional American outlet mall with everything being outdoors and the only indoor area being the food court on one of the upper levels. We spent many hours perusing through the various shops, picking up gifts for our family members that we hadn’t yet accounted for. Time was passing slowly and after what seemed like forever we collapsed in Barnes and Noble for some coffee and free wifi. It was only 4pm around that time meaning that going to San Diego was out of the question so we decided to hit up a movie to pass the last few hours before we’d charge over to LAX.
Arriving at one of the local theatres we discovered that the movie we had decided to see, Skyline which had been endlessly hyped during our entire trip, wasn’t available at this cinema. Undeterred we decided that we’d check the others to see if they were showing it. Strangely none of the theatres near us were showing it meaning we’d have to choose something else. Not really enticed by any of the options we went for Due Date since it was a comedy, figuring some light hearted fun would be the ticket. We bought our tickets but the show wasn’t on for another 45 mins, so we went into the attached mall.
Just as we entered the mall we spotted a puppy store (yes just puppies) and like any young couple we decided to go and ogle those cute little things. Really it wasn’t unlike any other pet store apart from the fact they had 3 “play rooms” set up at the back where you could pick a puppy and then take it there to play with it. I saw 2 families in separate rooms falling for this ploy, knowing full well that they’d be hard pressed to leave without their children’s new found playmate. Afterwards we spotted a Disney store and went in to grab a couple things that Rebecca wanted to get but hadn’t had the chance to last time we were there. We made our way back to the cinema which had the smallest rooms I’ve ever been in. It was really nice though as all the seats were comfy leather couches and the front most rows were giant futons you could lie back on.
After the movie was done we started the drive back to the rental car place to return our ride of the past week. I always remember these kinds of trips distinctly as that’s usually when it starts to sink in that the holiday is really coming to a close and all the memories start to flood in. I remembered so many things: the blazing Florida sun on my skin, the roar of the Corvette, the bitter cold kiss of Montreal, the sleepless city of New York and the child like wonder I rediscovered in Los Angeles’ theme parks. All of this was running through my head as we dropped off the car and took the shuttle to LAX where we checked in for our flight home.
The flight home went by much quicker than the flight there with the working entertainment system making sure many of those hours passed with ease. As we landed in Australia I felt those mixed feelings that any traveller has when they return home. Relief at the familiarity yet a sense of mourning that the trip is over, not wanting to let go of it. The feelings continued all the way back home and stayed with me until I fell asleep that night.
And now here I sit 3 days later recalling those experiences and the emotions come flooding back as if I was just boarding the plane back in Los Angeles. They will not soon be forgotten as the month Rebecca and I spent in the Unite States of America was more than just a holiday to us, it was our first true escape from our everyday lives that either of us have had. Sure we’ve both travelled before but never independently for this amount of time and because of that our perspective has changed radically. Time will tell if these feelings stay with us, but I feel this is tantamount to what happened to me almost 12 months ago which resulted in The Plan. One thing is for certain though, my heart now yearns for more experiences like these and my determination to make them happen has never been stronger.