Modern Warfare 3's Perks, Pointstreaks and multiplayer game modes
Say what you want about Activision, but at least it's prepared to put the money where its mouth is. In previous years the publisher has unveiled the multiplayer side of Call of Duty to a select group of press, but Modern Warfare 3's has gone all-out to parade itself in front of the series' most scrupulous and knowledgeable experts; the fans.
And what do the fans think? Optimism, mostly - there's a near universal agreement from the people I spoke to at the Call of Duty XP event in Los Angeles that Modern Warfare 3 is making changes to the ingrained formula that needed to happen.
Modern Warfare 3's core, however, is still eminently recognisable, and it's the perfect playground for close-quarters infantry battles running at a blistering fast pace. With over 20 million active players, even the most seemingly minor of tweaks and additions can have huge ramifications on the end result - just look at what the 1887's and the nuke did to Modern Warfare 2.
The game's latest suite of changes and differences are far reaching and significant, although they won't be able to change the mind of any of the game's detractors. The whole idea is to find a balance between the endearing chaos of Modern Warfare 2 and the tight gunplay of Call of Duty 4.
Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games are also working to promote team play. Former Call of Duty titles have modelled themselves around Killstreaks, bonus caches of potential destruction dished out to players for unbroken chains of kills. But Killstreaks, Infinity Ward regrettably admits, were only really perfect for one type of game: Team Deathmatch. Why bother keeping points captured in Domination, or guarding the bomb in Search & Destroy, when you could see everyone else running around with all the cool gear?
With Modern Warfare 3 the idea is to change Killstreaks to Pointstreaks and reward players for assists and captures alongside their straight kills. While the rebrand will likely outrage anyone who works in website SEO, the subtle difference might just make a lot of sense for the rest of us.
This now works in tandem with new Strike Packages, which allow for further specialisation and of which three are available - you choose one as part of your Modern Warfare 3 loadout, and your Pointstreaks will feed into these in different ways. The Assault Strike Package works identically to Modern Warfare 2 (including the fact streaks count towards further streaks) and is focused on destructive rewards such as predator missiles (for 5 kills), attack helicopters (for 7 kills), and the new osprey gunner (for 17 kills).
Meanwhile, the new Support Strike Package offers a defensive slant. Your Pointstreak survives even after your death, and rewards are focused around assisting your team and countering the toys Assault classes will be throwing at you. You'll be able to do things like dish out ballistic vests for the whole team, alongside recon drones, sentry guns, and the advanced UAV.
Then there's the Specialist Strike Package, which can unlock an additional perk with every second kill. You can unlock a maximum of three perks, giving you a total of six perks running at any one time, but your extras reset upon death. I didn't really understand the whole point of Specialist (I'm too used to UAVs and sentry guns) but Infinity Ward assures me that expert players can create devastating perk cocktails. Which is probably why I was a bit duff, thinking about it.