Call of Duty 4 Multiplayer Beta Hands-On

Look out, Halo 3. Infinity Ward has its own beefy online offering coming for shooter fans this November, and we got to try out a test version.

Call of Duty 4 was one of the most talked-about games coming out of this year's E3, and it's not hard to see why. Developer Infinity Ward--who conceived of the franchise and last worked on the breakout Xbox 360 launch title Call of Duty 2--has gone back to reinvent the series with its fourth iteration, which will take place in a modern-day military context and will contain the deepest story and most cinematic narrative elements yet seen in a Call of Duty game. It will also contain a robust multiplayer offering, of which Infinity Ward plans to release a subset exclusively on Xbox Live in the coming weeks. We went hands-on with the multiplayer beta and came away extremely impressed with the latest technical and design improvements and changes.

Of course, the COD4 beta will contain the usual competitive shooter trappings you're used to. We got to play all three of the maps that you'll find when you download the beta, such as Overgrown, an abandoned Russian town with bombed-out buildings and lots of doorways to hide in; Vacant, a lot with some old warehouses and destroyed office spaces (complete with old computer equipment you can shoot up); and Crash, a Middle Eastern town with a helicopter that has crash-landed in the middle of the map. We also checked out a smattering of multiplayer modes, like domination, with three flags scattered around the map that your team will gain points by capturing and holding, and search and destroy, which has a specific player on the offensive team delivering a bomb to one of two preset locations to gain a win for the team. Old standbys like team deathmatch will also be in there, and luckily, any game mode will work on any map.

Clichés aside, Infinity Ward really is taking Call of Duty to the next level with this game.

However, the most exciting aspects of Call of Duty 4's multiplayer mode are its ranking and custom-class systems. We'll start with the ranking. You'll gain experience throughout each multiplayer match that you complete, primarily by making kills, but also through all manner of peripheral actions as well. You could earn, say, 10 points for making a standard kill, but if you manage to wound someone before a teammate finishes them off, you could still reap a fraction of the standard 10 for an assist. You can even earn points for doing things like killing someone through thin walls, or dying by falling from a set height. You'll see a meter at the bottom of the screen during each match showing how close you are to achieving your next rank, and ranking up will unlock access to new weapons, player classes, and other goodies that will make multiplayer more varied and engrossing.

The second part of this equation is the create-a-class system, which becomes available to you when you reach the rank of private. This interface lets you individually tweak pretty much every aspect of your character's weapons loadout and abilities, which is a lot more interesting than it might sound. You'll get to choose a primary weapon from traditional categories like assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles, and then access a whole slew of add-ons for each one (more on those in a moment). Then there's a sidearm--one of several pistols, in other words--and a grenade type, like flash, stun, or smoke. Then you get to the three "perk" slots, which are what let you get really creative with your virtual soldier. The first perk slot is weapons-based, so you'll get to add things like C4, claymore mines, or a rocket-propelled grenade weapon. Interestingly, there are checks and balances in place to keep you from becoming too powerful. For instance, if you add an under-mounted grenade launcher to your primary rifle, you'll lose access to the first perks slot. You can't be toting too many explosives around with you at one time, after all.

The create-a-class option will let you outfit and customize a soldier to your exact specifications.

It's the last two perks slots that confer the most intriguing and often RPG-like bonuses, though. You can give yourself more health or cause your bullets to simply do more damage, for instance. But you can also make your bullets penetrate through walls more easily, or improve your accuracy when shooting from the hip (that is, without raising your sights to eye level). Then there are the truly offbeat perks like last stand, which causes you to bleed out slowly when killed, allowing you to get off one well-placed shot with your pistol before you die. The idea is that you might just take your killer down with you. Then there's martyrdom--or anti-teabagging technology, as Infinity Ward studio head Vince Zampella affectionately calls it--which makes you pull the pin on a grenade as soon as you die, such that anyone who happens to be, say, squatting obscenely on your corpse will get a nasty, explosive surprise a few seconds later.

Naturally, you'll be able to save and name your custom classes for quick access in multiplayer matches. Most of the new weapons and perks that you can use to outfit your custom class will be unlocked as you gain experience ranks, but there are also a separate number of challenges associated with each weapon that will subsequently open up new add-on gear as you complete them. For example, as you complete challenges with the AK-47, you'll gain access to a silencer, a red-dot laser sight, an ACOG scope, or even a grenade launcher (which, again, will block your access to the first perk slot). Overall, it seems like someone who's put a lot of time into this game online will be able to assemble a custom character with a truly imposing array of weaponry and innate character buffs. We do hope those checks and balances will keep the playing field relatively level, though.

As we played COD4's multiplayer beta, we felt an appreciable amount of progress over just a few matches, because we could see our progress bar inching forward pretty rapidly at the bottom of the screen, and also because you can see the exact amount of experience you've gained from each kill (represented with a floating "+10," for example). We also liked the more immediate kill-based rewards you can reap within each mission. If you can achieve a three-kill streak without dying, you'll gain access to an aerial drone (the UAV) that will reveal the current locations of your enemies on you and your teammates' minimaps as soon as you use it. Five kills will net you an aerial strike that you can target by calling up an overhead map. Finally, seven kills (which we never even got close to reaching during our time with the game) will bring in a helicopter that will circle around the battlefield and pick off enemies indiscriminately, until one of those enemies manages to level their RPG and shoot it down.

There's little we can say about this game's visuals that hasn't already been conveyed in trailer footage so far, other than to confirm that yes, the game does look as good and play as smoothly as those trailers. The leap in visual fidelity between Call of Duty 2 and this game is profound, and yet it runs just as smoothly--at a consistent 60 frames per second--as its predecessor. We're especially pleased to see a developer so successfully walking the line between impressive visual fidelity and a rock-steady performance level, especially in the online shooter category, where a high frame rate and precision aiming are so important.

This is easily one of the most impressive-looking games we've seen yet on the Xbox 360.

Infinity Ward has set up a playlist system for Call of Duty 4 similar to that seen in Halo 2 and 3, which lets the designers control everything from the number of players to the game modes and types of weapons you'll see in multiplayer matches. So while we played in a series of games that maxed out at 12 players, producer Mark Rubin mentioned that the developer has the ability to roll out 100-player matches, if the network infrastructure could support it and such a mass of players would actually be fun on the game's maps. The point is, Infinity Ward will be able to tweak the sizes and styles of matches based on feedback during the beta and then after the retail release.

The release is in November, but when is that beta hitting? The answer is: August. Sure, it's August now, but Infinity Ward says we should realistically expect the release toward the end of the month, and notes optimistically that the beta just passed certification with Microsoft. Keep your eyes on Xbox Live for the chance to play all this madness for yourself, and we'll bring you more on Call of Duty 4 as soon as humanly possible.

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Discussion

580 comments
TheRealUser101
TheRealUser101

MW3 will be the third installment in the Modern Warfare series, and the eighth Call of Duty installment. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will be released on November 8, 2011, while the Modern Warfare 3 pre-production started on April 9, 2010.

jeterman23ny
jeterman23ny

No $hit, why do you think betas are free. Its called a test for a reason dude.

tonymatt225
tonymatt225

Betas Suck. Full length games are way better than betas

vahid_xbox_360
vahid_xbox_360

this is real graphic. a game which lookes great but also can played by next gen console not like freaky crysis

C-u-NO-more
C-u-NO-more

The beta is is one of the best games out there at the moment, and its only a beta. the full game is gonna be wicked.

Shishio817
Shishio817

It looks so cool. I'm trying to convince more than just a couple of my friends to get when it comes out. But seriously, what an awesome game.

jeterman23ny
jeterman23ny

Go Here: http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=82896 and sign up for a free eurogamer account. Then you click on the thing that says get a free beta code and they will give you a code which they will tell you what to do with. About a day later, you will have a code that you can use on xbox live martketplace to get your free multiplayer demo. Hurry, I just did this yesterday and there was only like 5000 spots left. I couldn't believe it actually worked, but it does!

Hunter410
Hunter410

Amazin game best in the series! can't go on call of duty 2 anymore!

wikkiwild1
wikkiwild1

This game ROCKS!! The visuals are incredible and as it the sound. The ability to customize your character is a great feature. There nothing bad about this game, like the previous CoD releases it rocks!

solja116
solja116

The game is cool as hell and im trying to get a friend on this game. Can anyone hook me up with a beta key?

dinodog37
dinodog37

Best multiplayer game ive ever played , love it. Cant wait for november 11th

shadow9669
shadow9669

anyone got any spare beta keys can you email it to me animefan57@hotmail.com

ironhead572
ironhead572

The Beta is awesome, the full version is going be the best multiplayer in it's genre. Can't wait.

surpriseguy
surpriseguy

I was iffy about this game, but after playing the multi-player beta I am definately sold. I've never bought a shooter strictly for multiplayer, but this will definately be one of those purchases. The multiplayer is dynamic and interesting and it rewards you for playing. Believe me, this will be a GREAT game

sneaky_castro
sneaky_castro

who ever wants a beta key im me at yahoo messanger lp_mastermind i have an extra one first come first give

o3skout
o3skout

it is awsome, only issue I have is servers go down often and sometimes we have com problems other than these minor issues the game is pretty fun...

ginuwine_for_u
ginuwine_for_u

To me the game would be better if it had a cover system in it like rainbow six las vegas..... i think i wil pass on this game when it come... becuz of that reason

StainleSteelRat
StainleSteelRat

One word sums it up for me, WoW ! ok two words Wow and Intense. This is one addicting game, The best thing is if you want something you have to work for it to earn it. From rank to weapon upgrades and even perks, some really nice stuff. Great Beta can't wait for November !! Counting Down the Days..

Zuul13
Zuul13

Beta is awesome. Kudos IF!

wikkiwild1
wikkiwild1

It's more then one could expect!!. Awesome graphics, plays, very stable and very fast paced. This game is a definite major hit!! I like that you need to do well and earn experience to get promotions and new weapons and weapon upgrades. This makes the game very addicting as you want to get everything you can. The only down fall (at least for some) is that you have to earn these upgrades and new weapons.

darknessviper
darknessviper

its everything i expected it to be and more, its like they incorporated some of the single player aspects into the multiplayer and balanced all the wepons and combination possibilities with a punch of originality

NYviking
NYviking

The mp is so intense I love it

Jdawgin101
Jdawgin101

the beta has to be some of the most intense death match ive ever played, p.s. do your ranks and points in the beta travle over to the actuall game

HolteEnder4Life
HolteEnder4Life

the mp is mayhem, in a good way. its one of the most fun mp experiences yet

matthus8888
matthus8888

The multiplayer is very very fun and satifying thus far. It's awesome to go up to the second floor, look through your red-dot scope and snipe a few people, then run downstairs, die, go into last stand mode, and take your killers to hell with you.

omegakie
omegakie

Just got my code downloading it tommorow

smoothshocker
smoothshocker

One of the best multiplayers I have ever played! Love it, love it, love it.

12345678909964
12345678909964

YESSS!!! I got UK code!! Im downloading it now!!!!

cejay0813
cejay0813

"Mark Rubin mentioned that the developer has the ability to roll out 100-player matches" - - that would be sick if they could pull it off. Wouldn't really work on the small maps from the beta though. Hell 16 player matches would be fine with me, but 24 player matches would probably be my cap. Also hopefully it takes a little longer to lvl up, which would make sense, in the real game. Went from 1-15 in like 3 hrs.

garymurphy
garymurphy

Beta Rocks, bring on November!!!

AdrianWMoss
AdrianWMoss

Can't wait for work to be over with! I'm ready to PLAY!

renknram
renknram

If the Beta is this good!!! then what is the final release going to be like :-)?, This Game is Calling out for a 32 player online, we seen it in COD3 24 player, I have played many, it is mayhem carnage all out war, but most of all the fun is hearing all the noise around. I've invested in some 7.1's bought me a new home theatre system but hey monies not everything it's what you do with, as long as your sensible. Well if the best games are coming out to enjoy your gaming to the max, one must have the equipment, Roll on COD4 & H3, I can't wait......

twisted_outlaw
twisted_outlaw

cashplaya, play this game for about a day ingame time and tell me its better than halo3. the spawn system is jacked up, somethin i pray to god they fix and the knife lunge is incredibly annoying bc it dosnt always contact with people. it would be better if it just slashed everytime. CoD4 is great but it wont beat out halo3 simply bc modern shooters dont appeal to as many people as halo does. CoD4 in my opinion so far is on track for one of the best games of the year but i know nothing of the campaign not to mention there wont be online co-op or as many extra goodies as halo3. halo3 will win game of the year simply bc its been nearly perfected. but incase u arent understanding what im sayin, CoD4 is just as good as halo3 to me. they're two totally different games, but they're equally good in their own way.

Apollyon_xK_OSx
Apollyon_xK_OSx

As a Halo fan, I feel guilty for feeling as though I'm looking forward to this more than Halo 3 :/

Darknight5506
Darknight5506

There are very few games that seem to be worth shelling out $60 (ie games like oblivion and GoW) and it sounds like CoD4 is one of the few. Halo can't hold a candle to the CoD franchise. There is really no comparison. Halo=Jump like retard CoD=Tactics like soldier

valttu
valttu

This game will be one the best fps games ever, easily. The singleplayer caimpaign will be awesome. And when you add superb multiplayer and über graphics and sounds to it, it'll be something that will rock hard, and for long.

sonovagod
sonovagod

god damn it someone freeze me and thaw me out in november!!

fdlazarte
fdlazarte

simply the best... i played the multi-player beta and it's just great! love it! can't wait for the actual game...

cashplaya_2009
cashplaya_2009

twisted_outlaw doesnt know what hes saying CoD 4 iz on a whole other level than Halo 3 although the halo series is great it has no comparison to CoD 4 on gameplay terms. Unless Bungie has some trickz left up itz sleevez im banking on CoD 4 az game of the year....and yeah i do have the CoD 4 beta and i also had halo 3's beta but i understand its come a long way from that crap.

twisted_outlaw
twisted_outlaw

from what i've seen and played in the beta (and i've played it for over 24 hours) this is the greatest modern combat game ever made. its multiplayer is on par with halo3 in my opinion, although its not the same. its about as good as halo3 MP but it has a different feel which is great. halo3 and call of duty 4 are the must haves of the year.

kamukeize
kamukeize

im willing to give some1 an UNUSED 1600 microsoft point key for an UNUSED Call of duty 4 Beta token. email me at adio321@hotmail.com if your intrested.

acekicka
acekicka

I only have one word for the BETA...niiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!!!!!!

firo999
firo999

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Artolemu13
Artolemu13

beat gears of war? of course it will...

DoWGamer
DoWGamer

I think CoD4 multiplayer just mite be a bit better than halo 3 multiplayer. I dont know if it will be able to beat gears of war 2 tho.