Having recently topped out at 80, prestiged, and made a dent in our second run through the XP levels, I feel like we've put enough time in to give a first-pass assessment of MW3 multiplayer.
# What I like
Support strike package - This thing rocks, and I think it's probably my favorite change in the game so far. There's really an advantage to being able to carry your streak through the whole match. It also means when you're having an off round, you can still contribute to the team. The tactical options that it provides are interesting and varied. They bill it as being more "good for your team" instead of "bad for the enemy team" but in my opinion, they're both pretty much the same. I've come to rely on the EMP, which is a streak that I generally thought was worthless in other CoD games.
The Striker - This is a shotgun that means business. It's got range like an AR if you add the right proficiency, and it does damage like nobody's business. I win at ranges that are frankly unfair to other people. The fast fire rate is nice, and the clip is so large that I rarely run out in even the most lopsided encounter.
Kill Confirmed - This is a nice variant on the TDM that generally fills our playlists. Many of the objective modes are difficult for one reason or another, mainly because the CoD experience hinges on instant respawn. This is one mode that dovetails nicely with instant respawn and the fast run-and-gun action of the CoD series.
Prestige Tokens - This really takes a large chunk of the bite out of a prestige - there's no need to wait until level 70-something if that's where your favorite weapon or perk unlocks. I feel quite a bit more comfortable restarting, since I know I won't be stuck with "noob" weapons for very long.
Party Chat - The party chat restrictions have been relaxed, and now I can TDM or Kill Confirmed in Party chat instead of in Game Chat. EB always had hope that we'd gain some sort of insight by collaborating with our team members via game chat, but all I tended to gain was a deep appreciation for the "Mute" function.
Great New Killstreaks - The recon drone is really quite useful. The reaper drone gives you sort of a "mini-AC130" to play with, and I think the Juggernaut armor is an excellent reward for getting high on the killstreak chains. It would be nice if there was more documentation and it was easier to understand the benefits of each one, but that's more a learning curve thing than anything else.
I have to agree that there is a lot of good "newness" in this game. Because the gameplay is so familiar it is easy to short change the fact that Infinity Ward has done it again. Kill Confirmed is a huge hit with our group, but I still see promise in the Team Defender gametype as well. Enabling party chat, Prestige tokens, and the Support package are obvious adds for the casual gamer - and amen to that. Something agent86 forgot to mention is that fact that killstreaks are now point based - a huge improvement. That means there is actually almost a competition in some games to see who can shoot down air support first, and with the Hardline Pro perk your assists count towards your streak as well. This promotes teamwork by design in ways I have argued in support of for quite some time.
# What I Hate
Balance - The same 'ol, same 'ol. The CoD model seems to be "throw a ton of guns at it and see what sticks" and it's just as bad in this iteration as any other. The striker, for example, is ridiculously overpowered compared to the other shotguns. Similarly, the Type 95 is super-powered compared to most AR's. Why have 20 guns when there's either no difference between them, or there's clearly a superior option among them, regardless of your play style?
Quickscoping - I hate this every time it happens to me. Sniper rifles don't work this way, and it severely unbalances the range at which different weapons are effective. I'm not asking for realism, but I would like sniper rifles to be a weapon that is best at range, and not in close quarters.
Recycling - There is a lot of overlap between this game and MW2, and Black Ops to an extent too. Many of the weapons are the same, and environmental objects and scenarios are reused liberally. If you're sick of the old, there's really not that much here that's going to change your mind or make the game feel "fresh."
Lag - This is a game decided in quarters of a second. There's no room for lag in this game, period. Yet still, 1/3 of the matches I play are plagued with it. Please, please, please, this year, let's finally make it possible to play this game over the internet without resorting to blind luck or favoring the host?
Crappy New Killstreaks - Remote sentry gun. It's like a helicopter, except it doesn't move and it's easy to take out regardless of your class. Ugh. Ballistic Vests give you perhaps one more bullet (at long range) from an assault rifle, which extends your life less than a tenth of a second in most cases.
Perhaps it is my more "cheery" view of the world, but I find many of agent's gripes tolerable to non-existent. Lag can be an issue, and I do believe it is something that can be improved. Despite a lot of good ideas, and good old fashioned fun, the game clearly lacks polish. Just check out the YouTube glitch channels and you'll see a laundry list of bugs that testers should have caught. This being my fourth CoD game I tend to disagree with agent86 that this is a problem. Crappy killstreaks exist for you to scoff at. Recycled content makes you reminisce about the best times playing the previous games. Above all, the lack of balance is something I count on. MW2 was one of my all time favorite FPSs because I had the option of either a never ending supply of tubes and claymores, or running around like a maniac and matrix knifing opponents that could do nothing but watch in terror as I parkoured my way towards them. Were there other weapons in MW2? I guess so. Did I like the weapon variety? Yes, because it gave my opponents more potential to choose bad options and give me an advantage. I truly miss the "OMA" and "Witchblade" classes - but with Type 95 and Striker ownage, and some interesting new perk combinations I'm working my way towards honing the new abusively overpowered combinations.... and I love it.
# What I'm Meh About
Maps - The maps feel smaller - whereas in previous games we'd get maybe one "Rust" or "Nuketown" sized map, I feel like that's become the standard map size in MW3. Even the larger maps feel more like "medium" sized maps in previous iterations. On the one hand, this feels lazy. But on the other hand, the larger maps had more "spawn run" time and less "action" time than the smaller ones did, so maybe this isn't such a bad thing.
Elite - It feels like it has promise, but there's just so much missing or broken. I want to like it, and I think it's the next step from something like Bungie.Net, but it's just hard to be excited about something that was delivered so broken. This is clearly where the documentation is supposed to be - the game itself lists barely a sentence about each gun, and it's generally the same sentence for all the guns in a particular class. Why is this so hard? It's a website. It should have some detailed documentation and the ability to track my stats and challenges. This is a solved problem.
Specialist Strike Package - I understand that getting more perks is a good thing, but I find myself using it mainly to farm XP and not because it gives me a distinct advantage in combat. I generally pick perks based on the class I'm playing as, and it's usually pretty easy to separate the "appropriate" perks from the "worthless" perks on a given class. Having access to more is nice, but I don't know that it's worth it when I could be earning a stealth bomber strike instead, for instance.
The maps don't knock my socks off, but that's why I bought the subscription. Before long I'll be playing new maps almost monthly, and if they throw enough darts at the board something has to hit the bullseye. I think I generally like the small maps better anyway once I adjust to the play style. One thing I do tend to miss are the great camping spots of Black Ops - however, I think it is possible we've just yet to find them. As for the Elite service, well I've said my piece about that already. I actually see signs of life in the last few days - maybe in a year the initial "FAIL" of the service will all be forgiven. I'm not holding my breath... but anything is possible.