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What do you make of a beta? I'm still scarred from over-investing in the incredibly impressive audio of last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 beta, audio which completely disappeared at launch, so I'm more cautious for Modern Warfare 3's.

Still, that hasn't stopped me from sinking a few hours into the first beta weekend of a few to see how MW3 is shaping up around a month from its launch.

Vertical slice

The first weekend of Modern Warfare 3's beta was open to pre-orderers on PlayStation only, but wider access is coming in the next couple of weekends, and the slice of MW3's multiplayer that I've been able to play feels pretty representative.

Four of the 16 remastered maps that the game will launch with have been playable - Favela, Skidrow, Rust and Estate, each differently sized and with a different emphasis.

The beta also offers quite a few weapons to try out, although, unlike last year, progression feels pretty slow, so you'll have to seriously crunch if you want to unlock attachments and try more kitted-out guns.

There's a mosh pit playlist of team objective modes to try out alongside a single Ground War offering on a large map called Popov Power - a slice of the new Warzone map that will launch after MW3 lands.

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Activision/ Pocket-lint

This is a pretty decent amount of content to sink into for a beta, and there are rewards for those who reach the maximum available level in the form of skins and cosmetics that will work in MW3 when it comes out.

Of course, there's no glimpse of the campaign to be had since this beta is very much about multiplayer tuning.

No revolution

From what I've been able to play, Modern Warfare 3 presents about the most imperceptible update of any annual COD in ages - it's extremely recognisably built on the same bones as MW2.

Some changes are major to someone who plays as much as I do, but more casual players might not even notice some of them. Take slide-cancelling, which is back after a decent absence - you can once again use the sliding mechanic to get a more optimised sprint recharge and move a little faster, and it's once again going to make for more chaotic gunfights full of knee slides.

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Activision/ Pocket-lint

One of the most obvious brand-new additions comes in the form of Tactical Stance, a halfway-house between aiming down your sights and firing from the hip, which tightens your gun's spread but still leaves you moving more freely. It's an interesting option, although you'll need to experiment with button bindings to find a seamless way to enable it.

There are also new equipment options - lots of them. A new throwable drown seems like a homing grenade and is surely a meta pick already, while the new Guardian killstreak puts down a large cone of stun-effect noise on the map and can be great for holding down a point.

The ACS system is a field upgrade that you can drop on a point to get a capture without needing to actually be on it yourself, which also feels like an interesting switch-up, but it'll take time to see how these feel in balance terms at release.

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Activision/ Pocket-lint

No COD nowadays seems to be able to leave perks alone, and while we thankfully don't have to earn them during matches like in MW2 any more, things are still pretty complicated in Modern Warfare 3.

Perks are now represented by actual pieces of equipment - rather than just logos, you'll now be choosing between types of glove, boot and vest to get benefits, and while the aim of realism is laudable, it feels like another overcomplicated menu compared to the older simple ways.

Still, the core shooting experience here is as excellent as ever, with the bounce and muzzle smoke of MW2 toned down significantly to make for a more friendly experience and the time-to-kill slightly lengthened for additional approachability.

Marginal gains

When it comes to visuals, differences between MW3 and MW2 are just as thin on the ground as elsewhere - this game feels like a tiny step-change on that front.

That lack of muzzle smoke and faster movement overall makes the game feel differently presented, but in screenshots, the reality is that it looks almost identical.

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Activision/ Pocket-lint
COD Modern warfare 3 logo
Activision/ Pocket-lint
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
First impressions

Small update

This is a solid beta showing for MW3, but we won't know how truly representative it is until we can sink our teeth into the final release in early November.

  • Remastered maps are great
  • Gunplay feels smoother
  • Some interesting changes
  • Visuals are identical
  • Too early to tell

At least the menus are way better - but that's not saying much, given MW2's UI remains a stunning failure even after some post-launch changes.

The remastered maps we've been able to play have been pretty lovely updates to well-known locales, though, and Favela, in particular, is now a riot of colour that stands out way more than the washed-out original from the late 2000s.

Rust is still my favourite 1v1 map of all time, even if that format isn't on the cards in this beta, and it's now more detailed than ever, which is basically the template for the remasters.

With map voting back, though, be prepared to see a lot more of some maps than others, as less-favoured options get ruthlessly shunted aside by sassy lobbies.

First impressions

This is a solid beta showing so far from Modern Warfare 3, but as last year demonstrated, there's only so much you can take from a COD beta - the volume of players will tell the developers a lot, though, and it'll all inform the final build.

For now, MW3 looks like it refines MW2's formula nicely, although questions might linger about whether this was indeed planned as a smaller DLC option rather than a full-fledged release.