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Modern Warfare: Same Old Call of Duty?

Modern Warfare multiplayer feels like a mix of old and new ideas.

by William Schwartz

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is just a few months away and while we haven’t seen much of the game up to this point, we recently got a chance to go hands-on with Modern Warfare multiplayer.  Is it more of the same?  Or a COD revolution?  The truth is, it’s probably somewhere in the middle.  With big new changes to the game’s engine, brand new modes and new game mechanics, as well as tweaks to the existing multiplayer customization options — Modern Warfare feels like a game that has enough sense not to stray too far from its roots without being restricted by them.

The goal here appears to be a Call of Duty game designed around realism and authenticity.  As close as most players of the game will get to actually war zone combat, there’s been an incredible attention to the little details in Modern Warfare that pay big dividends on the screen.  It’s instantly noticeable when you fire up a multiplayer match for the first time.  You know you’re in a Call of Duty game by the smoothness of the game play, the quick time to kill, and the general graphical style, but there’s a level of detail found in different areas of the game that continually reinforce this realism to fully immerse you in the world.  From small things like seeing the smoke bellow out of your weapon after you’ve emptied a clip into someone or the sounds of shell casings bouncing off the cement below you, you’re constantly being bombarded with stimuli to keep the fantasy going.

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Regardless of which multiplayer mode you choose, returning favorites like Team Deathmatch, Domination — or Infinity Ward’s spin on modes like Search and Destroy in a new game type called “Cyber Attack” —  it was pretty easy to fall back into Call of Duty if you’ve ever played one before this.  There was a little bit of getting used to here, especially when it comes to the feel of the game as it does play differently than other Call of Duty games, but it was equal parts familiar and equal parts new and fresh.  There were new gameplay ideas and mechanics that completely change the way that you think about Call of Duty.  There were old tricks that still worked.  If Infinity Ward’s task at hand was to give Call of Duty a fresh feel without making it “not Call of Duty, ” they certainly did their job.

They did it by adding things to the game without subtracting too much.  Most of what’s been added adds to the realism of the game.  Doors have been littered across multiplayer maps that can be interacted with.  They can be closed to add a layer of strategy for an opposing team to breach an area or assault and objective.  You can blow them open with explosives or breach and clear it in multiple contextual ways.  Perhaps there’s someone inside, perhaps not.  There are some new interesting battle scenarios going on in each Modern Warfare map.  You can shoot through walls with Bullet Penetration.  You can see enemy laser sights giving away their position and their target.  You can see in the dark with Night Vision Goggles.  You can move around the map and get to unique vantage points by doing some exploration using the parkour and mantle systems.  While each of these things could have a lengthy explanation of how it changes Call of Duty multiplayer in drastic ways, they are all pieces of the puzzle that make up Modern Warfare and give it a unique feel to other Call of Duty games.

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While some of what we played felt very familiar to a traditional Call of Duty map, there were some outliers as well.   There were your traditional maps with three lanes and varying sight lines, but there were others with a focus being on structures that were key control points on a map instead of choke point being a primary point of contention.  Multiplayer in Modern Warfare runs the gamut of map sizes from the tiny 2v2 Gunfight maps which pits two players versus two in a first to six match of LMS, to a massive 100 player battle in the revamped Ground War mode.  Modern Warfare will have the biggest competitive multiplayer maps that the franchise has ever seen and the most players in competitive multiplayer that we’ve ever seen in a Call of Duty game.  While massive player counts are certainly welcome, it’s still something that we’ll need to take a look at more closely as what we played did feel like it had a little bit too much downtime in between gunfights to feel like a Call of Duty game which are usually good at getting you right back into the action.

Things very well may still be in flux when it comes to create your class, but from what we can tell you’re going to create your traditional Call of Duty loadouts in Modern Warfare.  You’ll pick a primary and secondary weapon, you can pick three perks in three different subclasses, and you can pick your Lethal and Tactical grenades.  Things then deviate further when it comes to your specific loadout as the Gunsmith has been added as your primary differentiator for your specific character.  The Gunsmith allows you to add things like scopes, stocks, gun barrels, grips and magazines to your weapon.  It lets you pick five of these things to add to your gun (or a gun perk) and then head out onto the battlefield.  What you choose can drastically impact your play, giving you faster aim down sights times, or fast sprint to ADS, or longer range, silenced weapons, or other combinations of buffs or nerfs to your abilities.

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Alongside the gunsmith, another customization options is in your Killstreaks.  Yep, Killstreaks are back and I’m not quite sure what I think about it.  On one hand, Killstreaks have the potential to turn Modern Warfare into a campers paradise where everyone is hiding in a corner trying to earn their rewards.  On the other, it is something that has worked for the series in the past.  Specialists from Black Ops 4 are gone. Instead, players will still have rechargeable abilities in the Field Upgrades section of the create-a-class.  These upgrades have differing timer lengths and then can be deployed onto the battlefield during a match once charged.  They most certainly DO NOT have the same impact on a game that the devastating weapons of the Black Ops 4 specialists had.

There are Operators in the game, but I couldn’t quite suss out what they were there for other than pure cosmetic options for you to use as character avatars.  There were multiple factions of Operators that you could choose as your character, but they didn’t seem to have any abilities, weapons, or items attached to them.  It could be a signal of where the monetization efforts are heading with Modern Warfare.  It was announced that there wouldn’t be a Season Pass for Modern Warfare this year.  Instead, all of the DLC released for the game would be free.  It’s hard to tell what types of systems will be in place at this stage of the game, but these Operators could definitely be a sign of things to come or ways that the game will be monetized.

There are still three months to the release of Modern Warfare and while things don’t seem like they will change too much, they could.  What we played was something that felt new yet familiar.  Something that was taking a different approach and layering some new ideas onto some old ones.  For the shooter fan that may be looking for a more realistic experience or a more authentic combat simulation… go play ARMA.  For those that want something that pushes slightly in that direction while retaining the fast fun that the franchise is know for, Modern Warfare just might be it.  You’ll be able to try Call of Duty: Modern Warfare when it heads to beta in September on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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