Early this May, Activision announced that the next project in the Call of Duty franchise would be Modern Warfare 3. Coming off the heels of Black Ops, the best-selling game of the series to date, Infinity Ward’s new game has a lot to live up to. The teasers and recently released trailer have me booting up my copy of Black Ops to remind me what makes the Call of Duty franchise so prominent nowadays. After re-familiarizing myself with the latest title, I brainstormed a wish list of things I would want to see out of the multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3, the premier first-person shooter of the modern age.
Learn from Black Ops
With the Call of Duty series passing back and forth between Treyarch and Infinity Ward on an annual basis, the products can feel too disparate. Some may say it feels as though there are two mini-franchises within the overarching CoD franchise. With the fallout at Infinity Ward after the release of Modern Warfare 2 and Treyarch stepping up their game with Black Ops, Infinity Ward has a lot to learn from its partner’s release. It would be a shame to lose some of the innovations that Black Ops brought to the multiplayer experience.
First off, I believe Modern Warfare 3 should expand on the idea of the wager matches. One of the trailers that got me hugely hyped for Black Ops was the wager match trailer. It introduced a series of game types that felt new and were a blast to play. Unfortunately, the lack of experience gain made this concept dead on arrival. The developers tried to legitimize the mode with a heavy emphasis on betting, but with few high-cost prizes to shoot for, the currency of Black Ops wound up feeling completely meaningless. If they bring back wager matches, they’ll need to tweak the structure to give players a way to enjoy them without making it feel like they’re missing an opportunity for progress. Allowing experience gain or offering a strong alternative reward for wager match play is key to keeping this mode relevant.
Infinity Ward should also look at the kill streak design in Black Ops. Not to say that the kill streaks in Treyarch’s last title were perfect, but they were the best they’ve been so far. Modern Warfare 2 was plagued with “7-11-25 syndrome,” where a player would reach their first kill streak (usually a harrier), leading to their next killstreak (a chopper gunner) and then finally the end of the match via tactical nuke. Black Ops was able to avoid this situation not only by removing the nuke entirely, but also by not counting kill streak frags toward the next reward. This made higher end streaks much more difficult to achieve and much more exciting once unleashed upon unsuspecting victims. It was an important balancing act that kept Black Ops from having extremely one-sided matches all the time, and it should be brought into future titles.
Lastly, Modern Warfare 3 should borrow the idea of emblems from Black Ops and make it more presentable. The freedom and personalization that the emblems introduced to the online community should not be taken for granted. They have become a den of depraved, vulgar content not fitting of anything short of an Adults Only rating. Infinity Ward should be strict on the crackdown of offensive content in emblems, or perhaps provide the ability to self-censor a player’s emblem. It’s an issue that doesn’t call for the entire system to be removed from the series, but it could use some extra empowerment for the end-user.
Give Us Something New (and Good)
A common fear with the Call of Duty series is stagnation. With the recent hiatus of the Guitar Hero franchise and the continuing disappointment of the Tony Hawk franchise, those fears aren’t entirely unfounded. Modern Warfare 3 needs to bring something new to the multiplayer table to set it apart from its predecessors. Something akin to the wager matches in Black Ops that feels original and unique. This is where Guitar Hero failed and a big reason it’s on hiatus right now. It stopped innovating, and people were tired of the same formula.
Which is not to say that innovation is the deus ex machina of game design. If there’s one thing you can say about the latest Tony Hawk games, it’s that they were very innovative. Modern Warfare 3 needs to show us something new and worthwhile. Blind innovation for the sake of appearances isn’t going to work in the long run. Neither is sticking to your guns and playing it safe. Infinity Ward has a lot to prove with their latest release.
Make It Perfect
Which brings me to my last point: Modern Warfare 3 needs to be perfect. Now I know that’s unrealistic, but hear me out. It seems the release of every Call of Duty title guarantees two results: incredible sales and incredible amounts of criticism. With this title being Infinity Ward’s first major release since the Modern Warfare 2 exodus, the gaming public will be looking for an excuse to kick dirt on it. Last year, Treyarch faced a similar situation. Before the end of that year, there was doubt in many people’s minds of whether the “B-team” developer of Call of Duty could meet its ambitions. As we know now, Black Ops was able to surpass even the sales of Modern Warfare 2. It was definitive proof that Treyarch could produce A-level content on par with all other top developers. Infinity Ward needs to make Modern Warfare 3 perfect to put any uncertainties to rest about whether they can lead the series without the members who departed to form Respawn.
The recent Modern Warfare 3 trailer showcases the upcoming game’s single-player aspirations, but I’m far more interested in what their multiplayer looks like. If they learn from past mistakes, surprise their audience, and create a flawless experience, then Infinity Ward could continue the trend of nonstop success for the franchise. Many people believe yearly releases for game franchises don’t work. Modern Warfare 3 has to prove those people wrong. I look forward to seeing what they come up with when Modern Warfare 3 launches this November.