I can't believe this worked: There's a Task Manager trick to get into Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer hours before launch on Steam

modern warfare 3 campaign ghost makarov
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

People say a lot of things on the internet: They say they have screenshots of Half-Life 3. They say it was actually their little brother who said all those terrible things in Fortnite. They say there's a magic Task Manager ritual you can perform to play Modern Warfare 3 early. You don't expect them to be true, but now and then, it does happen.

In this case, it turns out you really can get into Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer hours before its PC launch tonight by performing a easy multi-step process involving a Steam copy of the game and the Windows Task Manager. I just played a round of Hardpoint on Invasion.

The trick only works with the Steam version of Modern Warfare 3 as far as we can tell—we tried it with the Battle.net version, and no dice—and you have to also own Modern Warfare 2. The steps are as follows:

  1. Launch Call of Duty HQ (it's just called "Call of Duty" in your Steam library now)
  2. From the main menu, launch Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer
  3. While it's loading, Alt-Tab back to your desktop and hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete to open the Task Manager
  4. End the cod.exe task
  5. Wait for Steam to recognize that Call of Duty is no longer running, and then hit "Play" again
  6. If the trick worked, it'll launch into the Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer menu

I have no idea why this works, but I can confirm that it does: I did it on the first try. The method came to us from Evan Fox on X, who demonstrates it in the post below.

Call of Duty's console versions release time zone by time zone, so it's already out in other parts of the world. The PC version of MW3's multiplayer, however, isn't supposed to be available until 9 pm Pacific tonight, in all regions. This One Weird Trick gets around that, somehow.

I don't know if Activision will look unkindly upon players who sneak into Modern Warfare 3's PC release early. It's hardly the most devious bit of mischief a gamer can get up to, so I'm not too worried about getting banned for life. Follow the steps above at your own risk, though.

The Modern Warfare 3 campaign has already been available for a few days, and has not gotten a very warm reception—its brevity really seems to confirm that Modern Warfare 3 was originally conceived as an expansion, or at least that Activision's vision for what new CoDs will look like has changed quite a bit. No surprise here: I was thrown off by the longer time-to-kill and some other timing changes, but MW3 multiplayer feels very much like MW2 multiplayer. 

I'm not really bothered, because I enjoy MW2 multiplayer and MW3 adds some of my favorite maps in the series (remakes of maps from the original Modern Warfare 2, confusingly), and I do like that my MW2 guns carry over. I feels like Activision is really starting to stretch what people will accept from a $70 game, though. Or a $60 game, for that matter, since that was the normal price not very long ago.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.