Update – November 10, 2023:
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 officially launched yesterday, and it isn’t surprising that not a lot has changed about its multiplayer since the last beta (which you can read my previous impressions of down below). While I still have a lot more to see since I’ve only been able to play a few hours on the live servers, so far I’m not impressed by a sequel that basically feels like little more than Modern Warfare 2 with new maps.
The biggest improvement I noticed from the beta was the sharper graphics, as the environments no longer look blurred and washed out. Once I was able to turn off motion blur and remove the film grain filter, my previous complaints about everything looking soft and out of focus were suddenly completely solved. However, I’m still not a fan of how oddly dated the UI looks – the XP pop ups, objective markers, and alerts are all very retro Modern Warfare, with only slight changes from Modern Warfare 2. That part in particular may be nitpicking, but I expected at least some changes given this is a full sequel (though it was reportedly meant to be an expansion initially), and instead everything just looks the same.
What we said about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the most fun I’ve had in CoD multiplayer in a good long while. It’s taken what was already a mechanically solid multiplayer game and improved on it with a weapon customization system that’s almost limitless in its possibilities, and its new focus on bigger maps with tons of players has paid off bigtime. The giant Groundwar and Invasion maps have struck a fantastic balance between hectic and manageable, giving them a feeling of controlled chaos, and the cooperative Spec Ops missions are a treat to play through. That’s on top of the usual load of modes, and they all let the excellent, weighty gunplay shine. That said, performance issues on PC and even some across consoles put a damper on the fun, and at launch there are a lot more issues than I would have expected – including temporarily turning off that awesome weapon customization. But aside from those hiccups it’s been great, and the constant stream of unlocks are a really effective carrot on a stick that keep me interested moving forward. – Seth Macy, November 1, 2022
Read the full Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer review.
All your weapons carry over from Modern Warfare 2 as well, and you can even use your older weapon blueprints, though a message will warn you that weapons specific to Modern Warfare 3 are recommended. I did try out some older weapons, like my beloved Fennec SMG, and unfortunately that warning is justified as the older weapons just can’t keep up with the newer one in terms of power.
The classic playlists with all the expected game modes are here, along with a new game mode called Cutthroat that I actually really enjoyed. I love any sort of competitive mode, and this one puts three squads of three on one map against each other with the goal to simply eliminate all other enemies, similar to Gunfight. Cutthroat is a very pleasant surprise that I really enjoyed thanks to the pressure only having one life in each round put on me and my team. It feels like there’s real threat, and having to move around more carefully so we didn’t get merked by two other squads was thrilling. Strategy in a Call of Duty multiplayer mode? I’m in for that, and right now it means I want to play Cutthroat more than any other mode.
The Ground War mode could not be more boring if it tried.
The classic modes like Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Kill Confirmed hold up just as well as they did last year, but I genuinely could not stomach more than one match every hour or so of Ground War. The huge 32v32 game mode could not be more boring if it tried. It’s definitely attempting to pull in Battlefield players who want large-scale fights in a Call of Duty game, but it fails to bring the variety of chaos that Battlefield can. It’s entirely too open, too few vehicles spawn in, the spawn points are awful, and it’s just so dull without any interesting events happening throughout the match to keep it engaging. Ground War isn’t the main draw of Multiplayer, but the attempts to expand Call of Duty’s player counts have not gone well here.
Another thing that is definitely not going well is the awful menus in the recent Modern Warfare games. It’s not an issue unique to Modern Warfare 3, but the update to make all Call of Duty games live in a single launcher was an awful decision. The playlists for Multiplayer constantly shift so that the latest one you clicked on is at the front of the list, so if you try to back out and quickly click an option you just saw, it may have frustratingly shifted somewhere else. And every time you do click out to the menu, you’ll get a pop-up notifying you that you can purchase the battle pass. Post-match reports also show you what you could have unlocked with each level up if you did own the battle pass, and that constant, forceful pushing of it is extremely obnoxious.
Beyond that my impressions from the beta further down largely hold up, which means the only thing holding Modern Warfare 3 together is that it’s still Call of Duty. Its FPS mechanics are impressively tight as usual, and the moment-to-moment action of its more successful modes is entertaining – but none of what makes it fun feels new, and there are so few changes from its predecessor that it hardly feels like the full-blown sequel it’s supposed to be.
I even went back to play Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer for comparison, and they look and feel exactly the same, just on different maps. And while those new maps are fine, they’re also missing a layer or two within their environments. I have my graphics settings at either high or ultra across the board on a very good PC that can definitely handle it, but Modern Warfare 3 looks bland regardless. Compare that to the jump between 2019’s Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War, which had graphics-pushing maps and vibrant, varied locales, and the lack of evolution here is seriously disappointing.
I get the appeal of wanting to recreate old maps for nostalgia’s sake, but this sequel’s multiplayer comes off more like a glorified DLC pack when they’ve been touched up as little as they have here. Modern Warfare 2 brought back nostalgic stages of its own, but those at least looked shiny and new – like Shipment suddenly being an incredibly rainy and wet map that looked gorgeous during all the chaos of a firefight. Meanwhile Modern Warfare 3’s returning maps are pretty much just how I remembered them, leaving them still fun to run around but far less impressive overall.
That’s what’s so tricky about Modern Warfare 3: Modern Warfare 2 was a good game, but if the admittedly entertaining new Cutthroat mode and a few extra maps had simply been added to that instead, it would be essentially the same as what we have here. I’ll be playing a lot more through the weekend, and I’ll have a more thorough final review next week once I’ve really dug in – so far I’m still enjoying my time with Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer, but I also find myself wondering why this sequel exists at all.
Original Open Beta Impressions – October 11, 2023:
Call of Duty is a known quantity in many ways at this point. The era, specific weapons, and flavor-of-the-year gimmicks might change, but as we round out two decades of annual iterations, it’s not hard to guess what the next one will bring. So it’s no surprise that after playing in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer open beta on PlayStation 5 for a good chunk of the weekend, the feeling I came away with was largely, “oh yeah, this is just more Call of Duty.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun, and I still have a whole lot more left to see in the final version, but so far it feels modern in name alone.
The first thing I noticed when booting up Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer was how washed out everything looked. I thought maybe it was my monitor settings, but the actual game colors are just dull in a way that’s glaring compared to the vibrant styles of so many of its FPS rivals nowadays. Everything seemed to have an extremely soft and grey filter over it, which became a real problem mid-match. I was often unable to spot enemies as well as I normally can since they blend into the environment, at least on the four beta maps (Skidrow, Favela, Estate, and Rust).
Look, I get that these are supposed to be soldiers wearing camo in the middle of a battlefield, but I’m pretty sure my opponents and allies shouldn’t be roughly the same color as the graffitied wall behind them, too. If that contrast between environment and enemy isn’t balanced out, or if players aren’t highlighted or represented through HUD markings in a clearer way, then that’s a problem beyond style alone.
On top of that, with Call of Duty implementing so many different skins now that wildly vary in their colors and designs, Modern Warfare 3 could strangely end up favoring the people in drab, default clothing. Skins weren’t available in the beta, but if someone wants to use their Nicki Minaj skin transferred over from Modern Warfare 2 at launch, it seems like it would be a huge disadvantage since you’d stick out prominently on the maps we’ve seen so far.
TTK can range from incredibly fast to a few seconds too long.
The gunplay at least felt good, with an assortment of different guns that were largely fun to use – though the time-to-kill (TTK) felt a bit off and inconsistent between them, going back and forth from being incredibly fast to a few seconds too long. The SMGs in particular seemed very strong in this first beta round, since my assault rifles could take a few bullets longer to down an enemy, making them my go-to right now.
The TTK definitely rewards the person who shoots first overall, which isn’t a shock given Call of Duty’s traditionally fast action, but I’ve run into situations where I would shoot first while using an assault rifle only to be out damaged by an enemy SMG even though I had put three bullets into them before they even started shooting. That inconsistent TTK wasn’t so terrible that it outright ruined any of the matches I played, but it could sometimes be incredibly frustrating. Sniping, on the other hand, felt great on Estate and Skidrow, but all four of this weekend’s maps had such a quick flow to them that I’d often just want an automatic weapon out while running around. Matches seemed to go very fast on the whole, with a classic Call of Duty breakneck pace as you kill, aid the objective, die, respawn, repeat.
It was pretty fun to take on Modern Warfare 3’s objective-based modes with a team, especially when playing Domination on Skidrow or Hardpoint on Favela since those smaller maps would increase the amount of chaos in a given fight. A lot of fights would turn into grenade barrages followed by frantic gunfire around corners, which was really fun to rush into the middle of.
But while I loved the central game modes, the Ground War mode just isn’t doing anything for me so far. Ground War is Call of Duty’s big team mode where two 32-player groups face off against each other on an expansive map. While this mode may be a draw to anyone coming from something like the larger encounters of the Battlefield series, it just felt like too many players on one map for me to enjoy it. And although sniping can be entertaining, it’s often paradoxically hard to find any of those players out in the open because the map is just so big.
Gunfights in Ground War feel extremely sparse.
Ground War matches can also be particularly frustrating since 32 players are incredibly difficult to try and coordinate, making it extremely hard to focus on one objective over another. The layout of the map operates like Battlefield with different zones to capture and the ability to spawn either on them or fellow teammates. But when you’re on the losing end of a match, you often have no choice but to spawn all the way on your team’s base and run a long distance to any action.
The gunfights you actually have during Ground War feel extremely sparse, too, since a lot of the time you’re trying to run to different points to see if there are even enemies there as you reclaim a zone. Most times you end up running somewhere and getting taken out by enemies simply camping in the zone – then you have to spawn back and do the whole dance again.
While this beta doesn’t give a full picture of what the final game will be like, it has already solidified to me that Modern Warfare 3 is certainly more Call of Duty, with all the good and the bad that entails. I had fun with its multiplayer this weekend, but it seems to lack anything to make this new iteration special or unique. The graphics of the maps and UI seem relatively unchanged from Modern Warfare 2 last year, leaving them fairly unimpressive as a result. And while the gunplay feels as solid as you’d expect from Call of Duty, I’m not finding myself wow-ed by any specific guns or additions this time.
We’ll be back with a full review of Call Duty’s multiplayer closer to launch, but until then I did still enjoy my time with the beta. That said, it also left me curious if there’s anything new hiding in the full version, as well as anxious to see how Modern Warfare 3 feels on PC and if there are any graphical updates there.