Modern Warfare 3's all-important multiplayer component is beginning to coalesce, but the key changes may annoy as many returning players as they please. Speaking to Kotaku, Infinity Ward's creative strategist Robert Bowling has revealed that the new game's competitive maps will be simpler than those of the previous Modern Warfare, giving greener players more of a fighting chance against those who know the layout back to front.
Expect fewer camping spots, fewer lines of sight and fewer elevated areas across the board, though individual maps will focus on one or other aspect of Call of Duty combat.
"There are core design philosophies in map design that stay the same [from one Modern Warfare to the next]," Bowling explained. "And what that is, is really analyzing every aspect of how we want you to play out the map; how a team should play out a map; and how a lone wolf should play out the map.
"We're looking at things like: how many hot spots do you have when you're coming around the corner? How many angles and locations do you have to check that you need to worry about engaging an enemy from? It's allowing you to easily envision a map in your head as you're playing through it. So you're looking at, 'Ok, this map is going to be played in X amount of ways.'"
Bowling feels Modern Warfare 2's battlezones inculcated more of a "camper mentality" than the relatively flat and digestible maps of Call of Duty 4. Modern Warfare 3's offering will feel closer to the latter.
"How you play team deathmatch is all about your sightlines, your viewpoints - like I said, the hotspots. I'm coming around the corner. I don't want to have to worry about being shot from 50 different angles. I want to be able to know, 'OK, I cleared the top floor, I cleared the second floor, I cleared the base, I'm good in this area. OK, now I'm coming through this doorway, I have to watch this doorway, this alleyway and this spot.'
"And then, when you're playing objective [matches], you need to be able to know the routes and break them down in your head as you play the areas. Like Search and Destroy... I know I've cleared this area. There's no way this guy can get there. And then going in an adding the fun secret stuff that people find three months into playing, like 'Did you know if you run up the tail of the plane in Afghan you can leap to the top of the mountain instead of circling around to the route that everyone is covering?'
"Call of Duty 4 was much more simplistic in its map design," Bowling went on. "You have the sight points, you have the routes players will take. It was very flat in terms of where you could go. Modern Warfare 2 had a major focus on vertical combat, increasing the multi-floor levels, increasing the number of buildings you go into. There were a lot more places you could go than just the main routes and buildings where you were meant to go."
Bowling offered a defence of Modern Warfare 2's greater complexity - "that encourages and discourages a lot of types of gameplay" - but admitted that it was too easy for experienced players to exploit the lay of the land. "With Modern Warfare 3, it's much, much more on allowing you to focus on what's necessary; it's making vertical combat when it makes sense but it's not a blanket rule across every map.
"You will have some maps that focus on verticality and that are focused on multiple things. And then you have other maps that are very limited on the hotspots. The hotspots are a key thing on Modern Warfare 3. We went into each map wanting you to be able to turn a corner and know very easily that these are the three - no more than five - places I need to check.
Pre-empting the suggestion that Activision is out to grow its audience at the expense of proven design principles, Bowling insisted that the dialling-down would "speak volumes" to hardcore players. "The map design, the return to focus on gun-on-gun, all that stuff - that stuff is for the most dedicated Modern Warfare fans. I like to always make sure the hardcore players know we're building it up for them."
What do you make of all this? We're still waiting to go hands on with Modern Warfare 3's competitive multiplayer. Catch a video of the upgraded Spec Ops co-op modes here. Oh, and don't forget our single player preview.