A set of new perks make up the shortfall of those that have been removed following fan feedback from the previous game. 'Recon' paints the target on the player's mini-map with explosive damage, while 'Blind Eye' makes you undetectable by air support or sentries. 'Assassin' is a counter measure that renders your character invisible to UAVs. 'Quickdraw' provides faster aiming and 'Stalker' lets you move faster while aiming. Finally, 'Marksman' allows you to identify targets on the map at a longer range.
A great deal of focus has been placed back on the gunplay for MW3, something that producer Rubin believes fell by the wayside on Infinity Ward's previous title. "The weapons feel in your hands as you are running around a map is incredibly important," he explained. "We lost focus on this in MW2. COD4 had this - the guns felt right and unique and different to one another. We want people to be using all weapons, that every option fits and have its place."
That said, whereas Black Ops awarded players for specialising in different weapons with challenges, penalising those who specialised in a certain gun from an early stage, MW3 rewards those players who just want to stick with their favourite option for the duration of their multiplayer career.
Each of the game's 40+ weapons gains experience and unlocks new attachments (e.g. red dot sights, silencers, dual scopes and various camouflages etc.) in step with that progress as per the previous games. But also guns come with a host of Proficiencies, weapon-style perks that reduce recoil when firing, allow the use of twin attachments, reduce your flinch when shot or reduce the sway of your weapon while running.
Alongside your primary and secondary guns - which include the XM25 20mm grenade launcher, which allows you to set your targeting distance before exploding the round in the air near the target, and the Armsel Striker, a shotgun with a 12-round rotary cylinder - a host of lethal and tactical options must be selected to supplement your loadout. Lethal frags and Semtex are joined by claymores, C4 and bounding betties, while tactical options include concussion, scrambler and EMP grenades.
Activision chose to show off a handful of the 16 multiplayer maps at the COD XP event. Two in particular stood out, one set in a London tube station, post bombing, that allows players to fight on two vertical levels - the station concourse around two burned out tube trains, and on the walkways overhead, a series of choke points on stairs and through ticket barriers providing focal points for drama.
The other, a Parisian stage, meanwhile, is the perfect locale for Domination, its tall houses providing a network of alleys that open into small communal fountain areas with benches and shrubs to crawl behind when trying to take command of an area.
Of the two new game modes revealed at COD XP, Kill Confirmed was the standout rule-set, also a clear favourite of the UK teams competing in the event, who fared better here than in the objective-based matches. In Kill Confirmed a kill is only logged when you collect the dogtags dropped by the other player. The opposing team has a chance to deny the kill by collecting the dogtags first, forcing players to consider the safety of an area before rushing forward to collect a point for their team.
Finally, Spec Ops mode was playable at the event. This is broken into two modes: Survival, with Robotron/Horde-esque waves of enemies rushing the players, who aggregate their cash rewards to spend on weapons, equipment and airstrikes. Meanwhile, mission mode makes a return from MW2, allowing players to team up with a friend locally or over Xbox Live for 16 different time trial and objective-based missions.
For fans of the competitive aspect to what remains contemporary gaming's biggest-hitting series, the huge list of amends and new features offers a significant step on from MW2 and Black Ops. More casual onlookers, however, will probably be underwhelmed with what - for all the Elite social features and bulking up - initially feels in the hands like an incremental step forward.
But the devil is in the detail, more specifically the balancing, and with some smart amends to the fundamental design of Killstreaks and Weapon proficiencies, the playing field across the game has been subtly levelled.
As always, time will tell whether the balancing stands up in the weeks and months that follow release, but few would argue Infinity Ward and its numerous development partners on the MW3 project have their focus in the wrong place when it comes to perfecting Call of Duty multiplayer. Iterating it is no doubt difficult, alone or in public, but their success to date suggests there's a strong chance Modern Warfare 3's will remain one of the most popular and sustainable competitive online playpens when it launches in two months' time.