I normally don’t do posts like these, but in this case, it needs to be said. If you’re an avid Steam follower, you may have noticed that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is having another free weekend on Steam, where the entire multiplayer component is free to play from now ’til Monday morning. I’m gonna make a public service announcement about this: DO NOT BUY CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3. At least, not on PC, anyhow. I don’t care if you play it through the free weekend, but do not add it to your Steam collection, your $30 is best spent elsewhere.

I should back up a bit. I’m not one of those pretentious jerkasses who bemoan that “Call of Duty is killing video gaming” while jerking off to the newest pixel art indie game that some person made in a week with the littlest of effort. (Okay, I’ll give an exception: McPixel looks pretty awesome.) In fact, until a few years ago, I was a Call of Duty nut. I owned practically every game in the series. I played the multiplayer a lot — perhaps not as much as the maximum level Prestige 10 level 70 players, but enough to have a blast playing it — and enjoyed the campaigns of each. Hell, I even made this dumb video when Modern Warfare 2 came out, which I sat in a mall GameStop after college classes to get:

Man, I was so excited for this back then.

But when I played Modern Warfare 2, I came to a realization. It wasn’t as great as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was. Treyarch’s World at War was better. The story made no god damn sense. It was more on explosive set pieces. The multiplayer was not very well balanced and prone to bizarre bugs like the “Javelin glitch” — where you could prime a Semtex grenade, cancel it by switching to the javelin, and cause a massive explosion when you died — and even accidentally joining hacked lobbies of 16-player Rust where the only winning outcome was the game-winning Tactical Nuke. Coupled with the heavy balance issues, meant that Infinity Ward didn’t seem to care as much as they did. Then that thing happened in 2010 where about half the team left, and then it all makes sense. That was when I started losing interest in Call of Duty: I didn’t pick up Black Ops until earlier this year, and I still don’t own Modern Warfare 3. After replaying the multiplayer again — this is the third “free weekend” the game has had since launch — I realized why.

I loved Black Ops mechanics on how it handled multiplayer: You had to buy guns with in-game credits, which you’d get for completing objectives, contracts and generally during play. You could customize the ever-loving hell out of everything, from gun skins to your in-game emblem. You could dive to prone. It just feels better. Modern Warfare 3‘s answer to that? “Screw all that, let’s keep what was in Modern Warfare 2 except with MORE RIDICULOUSNESS AND EXPLOSIONS!” Terry Crews would be proud.

While there are a few new things, such as the small skirmish Face-Off mode and Kill Confirmed — grabbing tags off of dead players — it’s the same multiplayer stuff that’s been in past games. This time the maximum level goes from 70 in Modern Warfare 2 to 80, and now has a whopping 20 prestige levels! Wow! There’s new guns, new killstreaks, the whole nine yards. Just what you expect from a Call of Duty multiplayer experience. There’s a big problem, though: Much like Modern Warfare 2 had balance issues, MW3 has those same problems. Wanna kick ass and take names easily? Once you acquire the FMG9 machine pistol in multiplayer, equip it on a loadout. Level it up ’til you unlock the akimbo attachment. Combine it with Steady Aim and you have a bullet-spewing death machine. If you wanna slog further through the experience system, add an MP7 as your primary weapon to further annoy your enemies. Granted, they eventually balanced them… on the 360 and PS3. That’s right, Modern Warfare 3 never got those hotfixes on the PC, meaning these guns are still broken like they were at launch. Not surprising that I saw dozens of players use that.

It gets worse: It uses matchmaking instead of dedicated servers, uses host migration, has no mod or custom map support, and if you wanna play the goofy special modes like Gun Game, you need to go to an unranked server browser to play them, for no XP or rewards whatsoever. Coupled with the awful networking code — when I played this back, it gave my NAT level as “poor” when it’s usually excellent in every other game I’ve played that wasn’t a Call of Duty game — and the abundance of hackers with no way to report them, makes it feel like they phoned this port in.

Compare to the experience I briefly had playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on a different Steam free weekend: Server browser, dedicated servers, no host migration BS, a “report player” feature and all the customization features as its console brethren. Granted, the PC Black Ops felt chuggy compared to MW2/MW3, but my PC is old as dirt anyhow.

I can’t vouch if the console versions of Modern Warfare 3 are any better, but if it’s any indication, it’s probably the same stuff as it is here. In fact, it feels like Modern Warfare 2 with more stuff. It’s more than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, it’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Plus! (Hooray for obscure game show references.)

Expect something less full of bile in the coming days.

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