Call of Duty fans are fighting over the soul of the series. In the first days of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer beta (currently open to PlayStation players only), conversation has been dominated by details—minimaps are less useful, boots are louder, and some perks now have to be earned mid-match. Modern Warfare 2 is Infinity Ward’s latest attempt to slow down CoD (for the better, I think), but it’s not going down well with the loudest corners of the community.
Numerous popular posts on the official MW2 subreddit and Twitter make it clear that some players aren’t happy with the ways that Infinity Ward is breaking with CoD’s run ‘n gun tradition. If you ask me, those players are wrong.
I’m having a great time in the Modern Warfare 2 beta (though I’m most excited to try the PC version this weekend). Infinity Ward is once again demonstrating why its turn on the CoD development carousel is worth waiting for—this is already the best CoD has played recently in terms of sound, feel, movement, and feedback. Modern Warfare 2 has that extra sprinkle of tacticool magic that was sorely missed in CoD’s last two years of Cold War fan fiction and bland WW2 rehashes. It’s exactly what I’ve been craving out of CoD for a while now, so much so that the things that usually annoy me, like punishing aerial killstreaks that blow me up without warning, are more tolerable.
Infinity Ward is rethinking how 6v6 CoD is played while still sticking, sometimes stubbornly, to its roots. If you’ve Called a lot of Duties over the last 15 years, you should be aware of these key changes:
You can have up to four perks equipped at once, but two of them (a Bonus perk and Ultimate perk) only activate once you’ve gained enough points each matchPlayers are not highlighted on the minimap when they shoot or sprintName tags do not appear above enemies when aiming at themSlide canceling is mostly gone—Infinity Ward is cracking down on this funky, unintentional movement tech (though players are already figuring out ways around this)
The most radical change is by far in the minimap. Previously, sprinting or shooting an unsilenced gun would reveal your position on the minimap for the entire enemy team. I’ve always hated this and I’m glad it’s gone—getting punished with a map ping for getting a kill feels as backwards in 2022 as it did in 2007. Instead, enemy shots will now appear as a ping on the compass at the top of the screen, pointing to the direction of the action without broadcasting exact 2D coordinates.
Getting punished with a map ping for getting a kill feels as backwards in 2022 as it did in 2007.
Honestly, I haven’t used the compass much either, because Modern Warfare 2’s sound has been all I need for situational awareness. There is a downright ludicrous level of fidelity in sound FX this time around. Following in the literal footsteps of games like Hunt: Showdown and Rainbow Six Siege, seemingly every action you can see has an associated noise that keeps me firmly glued to the action—bullets believably explode and reverberate through indoor spaces, scratchy camo pants “thwip” as your legs collide mid-run, empty casings rattle on the ground, and stomping boots echo down hallways to warn of incoming danger. Positional audio is accurate enough that, playing with my nice pair of headphones, I’ve been able to hear less careful enemies before they hear me.
The somewhat ironic result is that, despite sprinting no longer being punished on the minimap, my matches have been noticeably slower and more methodical than years past. It’s hard to hear what’s going on when you’re the loudest one in the lobby.
Maybe my 2,000 hours of Rainbow Six Siege are doing the talking, but I’m a fan of slower CoD. If I’m going to get shot in the back, I’d much rather it be the result of them hunting me down with sound than following a red dot on a map. It’s nice to run around without feeling the constant need to stare at the upper left corner of the screen. Modern Warfare 2’s radar change is taking me back to the last time Infinity Ward tried something radical with 6v6: The first beta for Modern Warfare 2019 didn’t have a minimap at all. The compass was originally meant to replace the map entirely. I celebrated the death of the minimap at the time, but pressure from fans pushed Infinity Ward to add it back in with a pre-launch patch.
(Image credit: Activision)
Another smart change is Modern Warfare 2’s new method of picking perks. You can now make “perk packages,” which are essentially a loadout of perks independent of your gun loadouts. As someone who usually wants to equip the same set of perks on every class and occasionally swap to try others, the ability to batch-equip has already saved me a years’ worth of Create-a-Class tedium.
I’m not as convinced by the Bonus and Ultimate perk slots that have to be earned throughout a match. The idea of building up to a powerful perk over time is cool, but most of the “ultimate” perks on offer are more about countering annoying killstreaks than empowering yourself. Ghost, a perk that I insta-lock on every class because of the constant annoyance of UAV scans (which are still an easy 3-kill reward), is an Ultimate perk. It now takes most of a match to achieve the base level of positional privacy that makes Call of Duty tolerable—Infinity Ward could address this by making Ghost a basic perk, or it could attack the source of the problem and finally get rid of killstreaks.
Are we really still rewarding the best players in the lobby with overpowered super weapons? That’s like if the top fragger in every Valorant round was rewarded with a free Operator rifle. I know, I know: it’s blasphemy to call for an end to one of CoD’s most iconic systems, just imagine a world in which you can run across an open field without the risk of a VTOL jet dropping a $2 million payload of explosives on your face.
Modern Warfare 2 is Infinity Ward’s first at-bat since it kicked off a new Call of Duty era with MW2019 and the free-to-play juggernaut that would eventually engulf the entire franchise, Warzone. As the series prepares to go on hiatus for standalone releases in 2023, Activision is placing its full faith in the studio that put CoD on the map twice. I like where it’s going so far, but CoD can be even better when its fans are open to incremental change. Today, it’s red dots on minimaps. Later this year, it’s Warzone 2.0’s long-awaited extraction mode, DMZ.