March 20th heralded the much anticipated release of Content Drop 1 for Modern Warfare 3. The first DLC to be available across the board to all players and a chance for non-Elite members to claw back some ground on the new maps.
In this first slice of DLC goodness alongside an impressive four new multiplayer maps gamers have also been gifted two brand new Spec Ops missions, namely Black Ice and Negotiator. This is a first for Call of Duty and makes the overall 1200MS point package very desirable indeed.
But we’ll come back to the Spec Ops side of things in a little while. Our first point of call is the real meat of this DLC, the new maps.
Liberation, Piazza, Overwatch and Black Box are the four new maps on offer and the quality instantly shines through.
Comfortably on a par with the best of the original maps these four newcomers are worth the price of admission on their own.
We’ll kick off with the autumnal beauty of New York’s Central Park and the map titled Liberation.
The first thing that will almost undoubtedly hit you about Liberation is it’s scale. It’s big. Probably one of the biggest maps yet seen in a CoD game but, thankfully that doesn’t mean you spend hours searching for the enemy. The map has a dry river bed spanned by two stone bridges at it’s centre and this, in my experience at least, seemed to be a focal point for players to head for before unleashing a hail of gunfire.
Although full of wide open spaces the map still offers plenty of scope to play the more cagey game. Trees, bushes and buildings provide ample cover and with the ground awash with fallen red and amber leaves, spotting enemy soldiers is doubly difficult.
I did have a worry about how such a big map would lend itself to my personal fave game mode – free-for-all – but I needn’t have worried. Surprisingly during the handful of games I experienced the action was still fast paced and frantic. Sure it’s a snipers paradise but for run and gunners like myself it’s still a blast.
I imagine due to it’s scope, tactical options and devilish good looks Liberation will become a firm fan favourite.
Now to Piazza, a map that is like the Yin to Liberation’s Yang.
Piazza offers up a claustrophobic experience full of narrow corridors, sharp corners and tight spaces, it also works like a dream.
The map is set in a classic little seaside fishing village and looks-wise is exactly as you’d expect. It’s full of charming rustic buildings, circling gulls and cobbled roads, just don’t admire the view too long or you’re likely to get an RPG upside your head.
Piazza is also one of the most vertical I’ve yet seen with the town climbing up the cliffside into a cloudless blue sky. What this means for the player is that along with being alert to danger from the four compass points of your view, death could also come from above…..or below…or, in my case, anywhere and everywhere….often.
It’s a superb map for an adrenaline charged and extremely edgy experience. I found almost no time to catch a breather here, I searched for a happy place, I didn’t find one but, if truth be known, I didn’t really want one. It’s great to play on a map that doesn’t allow you to let down your guard, the added tension is more than welcome and it makes Piazza a joy to play.
To Overwatch then and in all honesty this is the only map I’m not yet enjoying.
Set amid a construction site atop a skyscraper Overwatch isn’t much of a feast for the eyes. Largely wood and steel the map initially lacks any visual vibrancy but of course we’re not here as sightsee’ers we’re here as bloodthirsty, gun-toting gamers and this is a map that will tick those boxes.
The map is a tight affair with plenty of close quarters shoot-outs. There are a number of strategically sound locations but you’ll have to be quick on the triggger to maintain them as each area has multiple ways in and out.
Overwatch lends itself best to team games as playing free-for-all leads time and again to the frustration of being shot in the back or spawing on the toes of another player. The games of Domination I experienced here were far more entertaining and I expect Search and Destroy would be superb on a map such as this.
For me Overwatch is the weakest of the four but by no means is this a weak map. It just doesn’t have the wow factor of the others. Despite that, for many this will probably be the pick of the bunch as it’s a relatively small map and keeps a high tempo throughout.
The final map, the most recently released for Elite members, goes by the name of Black Box and it’s a cracker!
Set in the hills amid part built houses with a downed Airforce One as it’s centrepiece Black Box is pretty spectacular. The map is also a decent size, not as big as Liberation but still big enough that fans of a strategic approach or a sniper rifle will find plenty to smile about.
I sampled free-for-all, team deathmatch, domination and kill confirmed and each was a joy to play on the map.
The crashed Airforce One looks superb and it’s different sections play out some great battles, the surrounding buildings and backgrounds are equally well done and as maps go this one really does put a cherry on this opening DLC cake.
So there’s the maps covered and to be honest they’re worth 1200 MS points on their own, but Activision have delivered a truly bumper filled care package of content to us wanton gamers this time round as they’ve thrown in two achievment packed slices of Spec Ops action as well!
Black Ice involves getting into an underground mine, retrieving data, rigging the mine to blow and gettting the hell out of there.
It’s a welcome addition to the Spec Ops lineup and, although not particularly difficult still serves as a nice break from the multiplayer.
As with most, the mission works best and is most fun when approached in a co-op situation but either way it’s a lot of fun.
Now to Negotiator and of the two this one was the stand out for me.
The Op opens with you held captive in a small hut with other hostages, but you’re loose. So you move forward, snatch the guards gun from it’s holster and the mssion is on. The object is to move forward, dispatching bad guys and rescuing hostages but, said bad guys don’t hang about. If you dawdle or stop to admire the scenery, the message ‘Hostage Killed’ flashes up as another one bites the dust at their captors hand.
This adds beautifully to the tension and instills a real desire to rescue each and every one of them, something I have so far failed miserably to do. The guards do stick to a premeditated pattern so it’s a mission that becomes gradually easier but it still holds a weighty challenge, thankfully though because it’s so much fun trying again and again never becomes a chore.
Overall Content Drop 1 is the fullest piece of DLC yet seen in a Call of Duty game. Praise ought to be given for the fact that the price has remained at 1200 MS points and to the high quality on offer.
This high quality will almost certainly convince some players to take up an Elite membership and I can only hope that this wasn’t a part of the long term plan, to release a mixed bag of maps in the original game and then dazzle with the first batch of Elite content and so on.
I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say I don’t believe there’s some kind of evil genius overseeing the content releases and what went in the game itself but that’s just as I’m too nice.
So on that bombshell, if you own MW3 then you need to also own this, it’s full of life, packs in added hours, days, weeks and months of entertainment and is of stellar quality. Nice work.