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Modern Warfare 3 Preview

As summer turns to fall and the video game landscape begins its annual deluge of Triple-A titles, the reigning 800-pound gorilla continues to cast a long shadow. Activation juggernaut franchise Call of Duty is set to release Modern Warfare 3, which is expected to break sales records the series' previous iterations set. But as the franchise has morphed into a yearly release schedule, will Modern Warfare 3 bring enough innovation to fuel the series to new heights?

The developers raised the curtain on its wildly popular competitive multiplayer during the Call of Duty XP event -- a two-day extravaganza that fans could attend to get a sneak peek at Modern Warfare 3. The development team introduced all of the multiplayer gameplay tweaks and additions for this year's game.

The kill streak system -- which grants players bonuses such as air strikes and attack dogs among other things for killing a certain number of opponents without dying -- has undergone arguably the biggest adjustment. The developers have scrapped kill streaks in place of point streaks, which dole out these rewards for killing opponents as well as accomplishing team goals such as capturing a strategic position. This change should foster a little more team play in a series that has fast become an every-man-for-himself experience.

Another key addition to multiplayer is strike packages. In previous games, every player chose from the same set number of kill streaks. Strike packages cater more to your play style. Players will choose from three packages -- Assault, Support and Specialist. The Assault package is similar to years past, providing offensive rewards like calling in a stealth bomber to decimate the opposing team. The Support class is more team-based, receiving bonuses such a bag full of Ballistic Vests that will provide you and your teammates with more health once worn.The Specialist will not receive any of these streak rewards, instead unlocking perks -- such as increased aim or faster reloading -- every two kills until you reach eight and then all the perks become available to you. Another key difference between the three packages is that the Assault and Specialist point streaks reset once you die, but the Support doesn't.

The customization doesn't stop there. Like in years past, there are three groups of perks to choose from that will aid your on-field performance. Players who are more aggressive might opt for faster reloading speeds while others who want to stay hidden might opt for the perk that doesn't allow them to be seen on radar. The developers made some key alterations in this area too, eliminating some perks that fans deemed overpowered in an effort to better balance the online experience.

As you gain points for killing opponents and completing objectives, you will unlock more weapons and equipment. Modern Warfare 3 will provide a great deal of variety in firepower to allow players to create a loadout that suits their play style. This year you can level up your weapons and add proficiencies, which can increase a gun's effectiveness such as lessening gun sway or reducing recoil among other aspects. The more you use a specific weapon the more of these options become available along with attachments.

New game modes also add a fresh feel to this year's offering. Staples to the series -- Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Domination and others -- will be returning. But the developers showed off a new mode dubbed Kill Confirmed. In this team-based mode, each player who dies will drop a dog tag. In order for your team to gain a point for each kill, someone from your team needs to pick up the dropped dog tag to confirm the kill. If a teammate dies, you can try to get to that player's dog tag before the enemy does to deny the kill, negating the opposition's point. This mode seems to be trying to limit camping -- players hiding in one spot while racking up kills. But will these campers blow their cover to help the team?

If competitive multiplayer isn't your main objective, Spec Ops might be more intriguing. This mode pits you and a partner against wave after wave of AI enemies that increase in difficulty. Spec Ops will now have all of the level progression and weapon and equipment unlocks that competitive multiplayer has, which should up the replay value. Sepc Ops is also a perfect way for inexperienced Call of Duty players to get a handle on all of the perks and firearms while not having to face off against experienced players.

There are some interesting tweaks in Modern Warfare 3 -- changes that will help players whose sole goal is not racking up kills. But will the developers' attempts to make the game more team-based alter the way players attack objective-orientated game modes? It will be interesting to see when the game is scheduled to be released Nov. 8 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.