"We are so back" was the rallying cry of Call of Duty Next, Activision's annual event to debut the next Call of Duty's multiplayer. The four-hour stream saw dozens of invited streamers playing Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer live while developers chatted with hosts.
While the return of classic Modern Warfare 2 (2009) maps remastered for MW3 drew the eyes of many viewers, the biggest talk of the town was movement. Lead studio Sledgehammer Games is making changes to locomotion for MW3, or more precisely, undoing changes Infinity Ward made in its last two Modern Warfare reboots. This year players are faster, have more health, red dots are back on the minimap, and Sledgehammer is fully embracing controversial movement techniques like slide canceling and bunny hopping.
"Movement is BACK, and so am I," tweeted popular CoD streamer Faze Swagg.
"The Movement King is BACK," declared Warzone streamer JoeWoe.
"Call of Duty somehow got everyone believing again," tweeted commentator Jake Luckey over a roundup of encouraging reactions to gameplay.
The Movement King is BACK 👑 pic.twitter.com/gl9RIiGs1AOctober 5, 2023
To the highly-visible creators making a living off their ability to show impressive Call of Duty plays, Modern Warfare 3 offers the unshackled freedom they've been waiting for. But for the average player, I'm not confident slippery movement is a positive change.
I watched with considerably less enthusiasm as the sea of content creators played Call of Duty in exactly the opposite way that I consider fun: skating across gaps, dropshotting in every engagement, and bouncing around corners like teenagers slamming Prime Energy. Encountering players who obsessively slide every three seconds is usually how I know I've pushed Call of Duty's invisible matchmaking too far and I try less hard until they're gone.
Players who use these slippery moves will tell you it raises Call of Duty's skill ceiling, and they're technically right. FPSes have a long tradition of adopting community-developed movement techniques until they're unofficial canon, and CoD is no different, except that I find this example of it extremely annoying. Sliding or jumping into gunfights doesn't doesn't really carry any downsides when most players are aided by heavy aim assist, so it can create an environment where the wiggliest worm wins over players who prefer to run-and-gun. A lobby full of jumping beans distorts the horizontal, boots-on-the-ground rhythm of CoD into discount Apex Legends. It also, as I really must emphasize, looks very stupid.
Movement is BACK, and so am I 😍 #MW3 pic.twitter.com/tC1Yi0m4O1October 5, 2023
That's why I had no problem when Infinity Ward decided to slow things down in Modern Warfare 2: sprinting was slightly slower than past years, you couldn't cancel slides back into sprinting, and most notably, enemies weren't revealed on the minimap when shooting.
That last one had a particularly noticeable effect on MW2's pacing: for the first time in who knows how many CoD iterations, players had to use their ears to anticipate threats, and those running haphazardly across the map were easily detected. The changes didn't go down well with the loudest corners of the community, but to no personal surprise, MW2 was the longest I've stuck with CoD multiplayer in years.
I'm not writing off MW3 multiplayer yet, though. I haven't played it yet, for one, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see the most iconic multiplayer maps of my teenhood recreated in 2023. I'm also hopeful that, just like past years, most lobbies won't resemble the absurd gymnastics of a roomful of streamers, even if the option exists. We'll be publishing thoughts on this weekend's multiplayer beta early next week.