“Modern Warfare 3” debuted to record-breaking sales, critical acclaim and no small amount of technical flaws. Even the free and premium Call of Duty: Elite service suffered spotty service at launch thanks to overwhelming demand.
Chalk it up to the title’s development by multiple studios, several Infinity Ward employees quitting after the unceremonious 2010 firing of studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, both or neither, but one thing is certain: playing the game online is a frustrating experience.
A new patch has done little to correct constant lag and connection issues. Many players are pointing the finger of blame at a controversial lag compensation system which, in theory, should keep those with weak connections on a level playing field with players brandishing stronger ones. In practice, it’s a little more complicated.
To put it in layman’s terms, lag compensation is the online gaming equivalent of pitting a 125 lb. featherweight against Mohammed Ali, but seconds before the bell is rung the referee inexplicably throws sand in the People’s Champion’s eyes.
In “Modern Warfare 3,” this rears its ugly head in several ways. Your enemy may see you one second before you see them. Within the title’s fast-paced, chaotic online multiplayer arenas where gunfights are typically decided in milliseconds, that single second may as well be 60.
The easiest way to identify the problem is by watching your death on an enemy’s killcam after a lost gunfight. Were you firing your weapon, but on their screen didn’t even raise your weapon? That’s lag compensation, not crummy reflexes. Or check the in-game connection during a match. A solid four-bar connection may sway to three and back for no discernible reason.
A helpful YouTube video posted by a dedicated “Call of Duty” player provides visual evidence of the phenomenon.
The user showed three different perspectives: one where he was negatively affected by lag compensation, another where a different player enjoyed its benefits and the last a game where he purposely added 250MS of delay to his connection and watched his killing ability improve dramatically.
One topic at the official “Modern Warfare 3” forum called out the problem. It quickly earned 35,000 views and over 600 replies.
“Why make such a competitive game and have such a major flaw,” asked one commenter. Another frustrated player said, “If lag compensation this bullcrap that I’ve been experiencing where people kill me before I hit the corner or kill me before I even see them hit the corner, then YES I’m suffering from this bullcrap!”
Infinity Ward Creative Strategist Robert Bowling confirmed via Twitter that the studio is well aware of the problem. A message from Bowling on Monday promised a pre-Thanksgiving patch would address the issue. It’s unclear if this week’s update was the one he was referring to, but following its release fans claimed nothing had changed.