The sixteen gladiatorial arenas which will house your personal campaign of streaks, sulks, and stories are all different shapes and sizes, but all are linked by a common design philosophy catering towards tight infantry combat. Dense contrasts between interiors and exteriors - forever a staple of the series - are more pronounced than ever, though instances of sprawling multi-storey warzones have been greatly reduced since last year's Black Ops. My favourite map, Dome, recalls fond memories of Call of Duty 4's Vacant, striking the right balance between claustrophobic right-angles, useful points of cover and manic warzones.
There's a heavy focus on assault rifles and submachine guns, and stalwart inclusions of the MP5 and M4A1 will mean almost everyone will immediately have access to a gun they instinctively know how to handle. The overall focus weaponry has been widened with some devastating shotguns (now a primary weapon once again) and brutal sniper rifles, though proficient usage of the latter will be reserved solely for those who can master the art of frequent movement and effective quick scoping.
Weapons now earn their own levels and experience points, unlocking attachments and proficiencies as you reach certain requirements. These essentially act as an additional perk (alongside the game's existing three-perk system, of course) that you can bolt onto your weapon, with the earliest available reducing weapon recoil and later options giving you things like increased range or extra bullet penetration.
As Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games work to give you more loadout customisation, the sheer bombardment of booming unlocks is so overwhelming during your first few hours that the notifications have to be tucked into the top right of the screen. The escalation of the game's reward structure ensures that daily, weekly and overall challenges are constantly dropping wads of XP alongside the resonant declarations of a rapidly increasing weapon rank and player level.
New to Modern Warfare 3 are the Kill Confirmed and Team Defender gametypes. The former is an entertaining extension to traditional Team Deathmatch play, requiring you to pick up a set of dogtags from each downed player to claim the score. You can also pick up allied tags to block the enemy team, giving the chaos of TDM a rigid backbone and tense moments as players use tags as bait. Team Defender, on the other hand, is a twist on Capture the Flag; there is one flag, and your team scores double when one of their players is holding it.
Neither mode is a particularly revolutionary or complex addition, but each offers a new spin on the familiar and gives more flexibility to online playlists. A few of Black Ops' entertaining Wager Match diversions - One in the Chamber and Gun Game - now find themselves shunted into Private Match alongside traditional King of the Hill and Infected gametypes, and Modern Warfare 3 now provides reams of modifiers and sharing options to let you fiddle with Private Match modes to your heart's content.
Whatever the mode, Modern Warfare 3 is a multiplayer game where it is not uncommon to kill four or five people in less than ten seconds when you hit a combined moment of luck, skill and Zen. Teamwork is often encouraged, and it would be impossible to do well as a lone wolf in modes such as Search & Destroy, but on the whole the tactical options are less diverse than in other shooters; killing and not being killed is almost always your best bet for overall success. This will essentially boil down to a matter of personal preference, but there's a raw and instinctive simplicity - shoot first and shoot fast - to Modern Warfare 3's portrayal of online encounters.