Each of the primary weapons has additional proficiencies that can be unlocked as well as attachments to earn (secondary weapons only have attachments). Weapon experience is earned through use and is tracked separately from player experience. Additional perks and various tactical options are unlocked through the same process. There's no penalty for tweaking item / weapon loadouts in a custom class, but killstreak unlocks are earned by leveling and can't be reassigned. Players can, however, switch from 'Assault' to 'Support' killstreaks without penalty.
One of Modern Warfare 3's strong points is that the game's customization options are very much optional; the five preset classes are more than sufficient for jumping into a quick game. The game's maps are designed for smaller skirmishes, with most games supporting 8-12 players. There are 12-18 player options, but these often feel overcrowded.
The included maps are visually rich, well detailed, and mostly boring. This last isn't obvious until you've played enough of the game to be at least passingly familiar with the most popular options—but once you are, they begin to blur together. MW3's maps are, nearly without exception, a series of interconnected small-to-medium spaces, broken by the occasional hallway. In theory, that's fine—but in practice, it's deadly dull.
As you can see, the flag is securely placed in...the middle of the street. Maps are well-detailed, but something of a study in the color brown
The maps in MW3 generally lack choke points, defendable positions, sniper nests, blind alleys, or any other form of distinguishing feature. Accessible buildings, rooftops, and basements are virtually guaranteed to have at least two separate points of entry, invariably positioned such as to make covering both impossible for a single person.
It's one thing to design a map to discourage camping and something else entirely to build maps that feel like they were rubber-stamped by a committee. There's no need for strategy or tactics when it comes to assaulting an enemy position; everything is literally connected to everything else. Similarly, there's precious little reason to try a coherent defensive strategy. Control points and deathmatches are decided by who has the quickest trigger finger, and little else besides. Again, there's something to be said for this sort of quick, easy gameplay. If all you're looking for is a fast, uncomplicated game of shooting other folks, Modern Warfare 3 delivers. Leveling up and unlocking items is enjoyable and the customization options are first rate.
Is it fun? Yes. Is it $59.99 worth of fun? No.
Modern Warfare 3 has spent the last week smashing sales records; dwarfing even Battlefield 3's impressive debut. Clearly there's an enormous appetite for this sort of game, and we can scarcely blame Activision for being unwilling to make many changes to their cash cow. MW3 is a fabulous CoD-style game (after seven previous titles, it darn well should be), and if you're a player that wants more CoD gameplay, this game delivers.
Being popular, however, isn't quite the same as being good. We've enjoyed the time we spent with the game, but there's nothing hear to make us want to play again. That's clearly not a problem for Activision, but we can't help noting that the game's much-ballyhooed Elite Service, originally promised for the PC platform, has now been pushed back into the indefinite future, likely to address the way game hackers can distort results.
We only saw three instances of blatant hacking in our time with the game, but even one hacker is sufficient to ruin an 18-player map. The combination of aimbotting and wall hacking turns them into nearly unstoppable death machines; it's not unusual to see someone rack up well over 100 kills a round while only dying 3-4x.
Series fans will find plenty to like here. Others--particularly those with limited funds--may wish to consider other options. On that note, flip the page for our comparison on how Modern Warfare 3 stacks up against Battlefield 3.