Modern Warfare 3

Modern Warfare 3 Beta Hands-On Preview: Leverages Nostalgia and Plays it Safe

Modern Warfare 3 is finally ready to show itself to the world. At least, it’s ready to give the world a taste of this year’s multiplayer iteration of the annualized shooter. The beta for Sledgehammer’s 2023 Call of Duty opened up to all platforms this past weekend, allowing for everyone to partake in a bit of sweaty PvP. We dove into the infamous trash-talking lobbies to glean the direction of Modern Warfare 3 following the divisive changes affixed to last year’s Modern Warfare 2.

I’d describe the overall experience as net positive, but it’s hard to tell just yet how Modern Warfare 3 will shake out over its year lifespan before the next installment takes over the playerbase. The uncertainty is largely borne from the fact that, while Sledgehammer has rolled back some unpopular mechanics, this iteration feels like it has one foot loosely set in the series’ past and the other planted in the framework of Modern Warfare (2022). It’s unsurprising that Modern Warfare 3 would be built on the bones of its predecessor, but the end result is a Call of Duty that wants to trend closer to its pre-reboot self without actually betting on that direction fully.

During the beta, I tried my hand at a few multiplayer modes, bouncing between the smaller scale core maps housing team deathmatch and the larger scale Ground War mode. It was immediately apparent that Modern Warfare 3 moves faster than Infinity Ward’s counterpart, pulling away from the tactical focus and shifting to its classic arcade self. Again, it doesn’t go all-in on this transition and still maintains much of what we have seen this past year, but dedicated Modern Warfare 2 players are sure to feel the changes more noticeably than someone who switched off the current multiplayer offerings months ago.

Modern Warfare 3

The faster movement bundles in the return of slide cancelling, a long-requested feature during Modern Warfare 2‘s period in the spotlight, and much quicker mantling. Both go a fair way to shake up the flow of combat, whether you’re repositioning, flanking or simply trying to get to the next objective. And then there’s the Tactical Stance, which is akin to the canted laser aiming seen previously when wearing NVGs, except it has forgone the prerequisite of wearing said NVGs. It’s hard to say if the mid-ground between ADS and hipfire will truly be viable or if it’ll be a forgettable gimmick after release. I believe the movement piece is likely to be the most well-received aspect of the newest installment as it gives back a feature the community has been clamoring for over the past year. It’s certainly not the most “arcade-y” vibe we have seen from the franchise, but I would place it somewhere between Modern Warfare 2 (2022) and Black Ops Cold War.

The tweaks continue in the form of scaled back visual recoil and a higher time-to-kill. Those who played Modern Warfare 2 will undoubtedly be familiar with the aggressive visual recoil and abundant muzzle smoke that accompanied firefights. Both have been heavily reduced, making it easier to stay on target. Unfortunately, while the guns no longer stand in the way of target acquisition, the same cannot be said of the game’s ability to quickly and clearly identify friendlies and hostiles. The transparency of player names has been dialed up and can take a second to pop up as people bolt into view. As players are aware, split-second decisions can mean life or death. Being unable to differentiate between friend and foe will either result in opening fire on an ally at best or failing to engage an enemy at worst. That said, improving player designation shouldn’t be a terribly large order for Sledgehammer to deliver by next month’s launch.

Diving further into the mechanics, the beta let us explore the new gear system replacing the long-standing Perks system. Now, players will select from four different gear categories — Vest, Gloves, Boots, and Gear — to obtain those prior Perk abilities. For example, the Scavenger Gloves allow the player to resupply ammo from dead players, much like the Perk of the same name. The EOD Padding gear piece reduces the damage from fire and non-Killstreak explosions, which aligns with MW2‘s Bomb Squad perk. The idea of mixing and matching different gear for specific loadouts is enticing, but we’ll need more time to make a definitive decision on the feature. It is worth noting that the perks associated with all gear is now available immediately upon entering a match instead of having to wait for each ability to be drip-fed (oh, and Dead Silence is back to acting like a full-time perk again!).

Modern Warfare 3

The lethal and tactical equipment options remained mostly standard, with the exception of the Breacher Drone which was way too much fun to close out engagements. The Field Equipment area is where I found more interesting additions. Sure, you still have your tried-and-true options like the Trophy System, but I found myself intrigued by the A.C.S. when playing Ground War. This Automated Computer Spike not only hacks nearby enemy devices, it can capture points whether you’re on objective or not. Capping a Ground War zone with the aid of the A.C.S. made for some fun plays. As enemies weaved in and out of an objective trying to hunt me, I would occasionally have to leave the capture zone to reposition. But the A.C.S. ensured that at least part of my presence never left the zone, either continuing the capture or contesting the space. We’ll see how useful that particular Field Equipment is as everyone adjusts to its functionality after launch.

All of these features came together in the beta to mostly positive effect, but it is clear that Sledgehammer isn’t operating on Infinity Ward’s level when it comes to the visuals. The Modern Warfare 3 looked washed out and failed to achieve the crisp graphics of the 2022 entry. Since this is a beta, I won’t judge the graphics too harshly as they may change upon release. Regarding the visuals outside of graphical fidelity, there is a lot of familiarity bombarding player eyes. Longtime fans are sure to recognize the plethora of former maps remastered for this year’s Call of Duty game. All 16 maps from Modern Warfare 2 (2009) have been brought back, allowing players to relive their glory days on Highrise, Rust and Favela. Fan service is fine and all, but Modern Warfare 3 seems heavily reliant on nostalgia to sell itself as if it feels unable to stand on its own. Even the kill pop-ups have returned to bright yellow text reminiscent of the original 2007 and 2009 Modern Warfare titles! Needless to say, it’s a feeling that ran throughout the beta.

We still have a few weeks to go before Modern Warfare 3 drops and that gives Sledgehammer a bit of time to implement player feedback from the beta. Check back closer to November 10th to read our thoughts on the newest Call of Duty.

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