To begin this article, I feel I must provide my previous Call Of Duty experience, as I know this article will hinge a lot on just how different Modern Warfare II is from previous entries in the series.
I began playing COD from Ghosts (a controversial one, I know), but since then I’ve played every previous Call Of Duty game stretching back to Black Ops, mainly multiplayer, but also diving into campaigns as well. After Ghosts I’ve played every single mainline entry to the series, even the more disliked ones (although I barely played any Infinite Warfare, even a Ghost fan disapproved of that one).
Of the Call Of Duty games on the new engine, I’ve racked up a considerable amount of hours on Modern Warfare, and of course Warzone, as well as a fair amount on Black Ops Cold War, but a lot fewer on Vanguard.
I, as many other Call Of Duty gamers have also been pleading for, was begging for a change in the formula after Vanguard brought the most stale, generic Call Of Duty game in years in its most familiar setting. Now, this change was never going to arrive without significant protest, as with all big franchises. As expected, the beta period of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II has been absolutely slammed by many fans of the series for the changes it brought to the table. I for one, however, think that these changes actually make for the most tactical, tight, focused Call Of Duty experience we’ve had since maybe even the glory days of Black Ops II.
My MWII Experience
I played Modern Warfare II at both EGX London, and on my own Xbox Series X. I played for around fifteen hours on my Xbox (difficult to track, as the stats page was disabled for the beta), both alone and with friends. During this time, I maxed out the levels of six guns, reached level twenty-five, and played nearly every mode that was on offer.
My experience wasn’t bug free, but neither was it unplayable. It made me slightly nervous that bugs such as UI glitches and crashes were present, as the game launches in less than a month, but overall I was impressed with the technical state of the game. At times the netcode seemed to be a little patchy, but as the game reached a player count of 170,000 players on Steam alone, it doesn’t surprise me that servers were a little strained.
I experienced five crashes, and was kicked out of my party four times over my hours of play, which I think isn’t too shabby for a game in “beta”. I see these betas as less “betas” than server stress tests and last minute bug ironing, as well as to receive feedback for full release. I came away from MWII mostly happy, and optimistic for its technical state upon release.
Graphics And Performance
2019’s Modern Warfare was renowned for its step up in both gameplay feel and its graphics. Call Of Duty, while no slouch in the graphics department, was finally looking like a truly next gen game. It was a huge step up from 2018’s Black Ops 4, and even that game looked good for the year it was released.
With this in mind, Modern Warfare II may disappoint those that have returned to the franchise expecting a massive jump in graphical performance. It is an incredible looking game, but it’s not the absolute powerhouse of a jump over Vanguard that Modern Warfare 2019 was over Black Ops 4.
I do think it is a truly next generation looking game with the best graphics of any Call Of Duty game to date, but it isn’t the jump that we’d gotten the impression it would be. It does perform beautifully though, with a silky smooth 60fps running on my 4k monitor. It’s for this reason that I feel like Modern Warfare II is the most immersive Call Of Duty game yet, as well as a few other reasons I’ll mention later.
Menus And UI
The menus and UI from Modern Warfare II have changed a lot from the last three COD games, especially the menus. I found them a little cumbersome at first, but actually they aren’t as bad as I’d originally thought. They do the job, even if they overcomplicate the process of getting into a game.
Still, they could do with improvement, as I backed out of a lobby by mistake too many times for my liking. The UI in game, however, I found refreshing and modern, giving me all the information I needed in a way that didn’t disrupt my game.
In the MWII beta there was a decent selection of modes, much better in fact, than the last couple of betas that were available. There were options to play Team Deathmatch, Domination, the new Invasion mode, Hardpoint, Elimination, Search and Destroy, and the new 3rd Person mode.
I found it difficult to play each mode enough to get a sense of every one of them given the four day time constraint, so I stuck to the old TDM, Domination, Search and Destroy, and I tried out the 3rd Person modes as well.
The confirmation of Gunfight returning to the full game, as well as the addition of several other game modes including large team battle modes, bodes well for MWII being accessible to more people than ever before.
One thing I have unequivocal praise for is the feel and sound of the guns Infinity Ward have built for us. It’s astounding, that even after playing Call Of Duty, Battlefield, Apex Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, and roughly every major FPS of the last eight years or so, that these guns are the best I’ve ever fired.
The sound design that went into the design of these weapons was immense, as each weapon sounds totally unique in subtle but noticeable ways. The reload sounds crunch exactly as you’d expect they would, and each bullet can be heard rattling out of the chamber, empty shells cascading to the floor. There’s realistic gun smoke, incredibly detailed animations, and everything else an fps enthusiast could ask for.
Every gun just feels weighty, in a way that doesn’t make the feel slow at all, as every gun snaps to aim and fire in a seemingly perfect amount of time. I can’t praise the work that’s gone into these enough, as every gun in the game just feels incredible to fire, and you can really feel the years of perfecting and tweaking that’s gone into the creation of these weapons.
A controversial topic, but I really do believe that Infinity Ward has absolutely nailed the map design this year.
Every map I played in the beta felt tight, focused, and varied, with multiple points of engagement and chokepoints for the more close combat preferring players. In every map, there were areas of medium, long, and close range engagement, with almost every area feeling totally tailored to a certain playstyle.
This isn’t to say that every area had multiple options for engagement, but there are definite areas for certain combat types, which I think works well.
Domination, a game mode that can feel insufferable on maps with a bad sense of flow, was the best it’s ever felt. Every game felt like a tense, exciting tug of war, with some games lasting right until the final moment of the war where one player would bravely take out the entire enemy team before sprinting into their zone to capture those last essential few points for our team.
Unlike Vanguard, which had its maps constantly feel like they were infested with campers, the maps in Modern Warfare II didn’t feel like they rewarded camping anything like as much, although I will admit that it will always be a problem. This is still Call Of Duty, of course.
New again is the class creation system. It’s now much, much easier to unlock new weapons than ever before. The way it works in MWII, is rather than each weapon simply belonging to a level, each one has a platform that it shares with other weapons. On each platform, there’s a progression path that leads from gun to gun, as now you can change the receiver of weapons, once you’ve maxed out their levels, and make the old gun into an entirely new weapon.
Guns also share attachments, meaning that some attachments only unlock with certain receivers, and therefore guns are quicker to unlock, in a much more player involved process. To cut a long story short, it feels much more fun to unlock new weapons. It feels like weapon unlocking is tailored to how you like to play, so if you enjoy playing with an assault rifle, you’ll unlock more assault rifles, rather than being stuck on the same gun for hours.
A New Perk System
The new Modern Warfare II perk system is under heavy debate in the Call Of Duty community.
There are now two basic perks that you unlock at the beginning of a round, a mid tier perk that you unlock towards the middle of a round, and an ultimate that you unlock towards the final part of your game. Personally I don’t mind the new system, but I see why people really hate it. It’s a huge change, and locking the most powerful perks to the last section of a game means they’ll be made available after the turning point in the tug of war of a round is generally over.
One thing I cannot fathom is why on earth they brought back the Last Stand perk from Modern Warfare 2019. It’s a perk so insufferably irritating that it actually becomes more of a chore to shoot the injured opposing player again than it would have been in the first place. It just feels like a waste of time, as the injured player is never allowed enough time to revive themselves, so it just becomes an irritation to both people, as it takes longer to kill them and longer for them to die and respawn.
Sounds, Steps, and Minimaps
Another massive change to the way Modern Warfare II plays is its sound system.
In previous Call Of Duty games, strong sound design was part of the experience, but it was never something you had to keep a particular eye on. That was because as people fired at each other, you’d see the red blip pop up on your minimap and know their exact location.
Well, no more.
Minimaps no longer show the location of enemy players unless a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is active. This means that the pace of every game is considerably slower than what it used to be. Match this with a blisteringly fast time-to-kill, and this is the slowest playing, most tactical Call Of Duty in years.
But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that this system rewards skill over blind bullet spraying, and that it gives newer players a chance to get some kills before they learn the layouts of the maps. If you can see the precise location of an enemy player on a minimap, you only have to know the quickest route to them to be able to sneak up on them. If there’s no blip, and loud movement, you’ll only be able to track the location of an enemy player via the sound of their movements. This means it gives shrewd new players a chance to kill their stalkers before they’re caught in a trap.
I personally like the way the game plays a lot, even if there’s been a lot of toxicity in the community towards the developers and complaints about this being Call Of Duty, not Rainbow Six Siege. This feels nothing like Rainbow Six Siege in reality, it simply rewards smarter play.
Conclusion And Final Thoughts
The theme for this year’s Call Of Duty is change. It’s after all, the only Call Of Duty we’re going to see until 2024, as Activision take a (much needed) year off from the franchise. With that in mind, I think Infinity Ward have succeeded in their goal.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II feels like a brand new start for a series that was getting seriously stale. As people figure out the new ways to slide-cancel and play effectively, the community complaints will fade. What won’t fade will be how the maps and gameplay feel, and that’s the best that Call Of Duty has felt in years.
To give a true assessment on if this holds up, we’ll need to wait until Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II launches on October 28th, but for now I think that there’s extremely solid ground here. With the new gameplay features and modes Infinity Ward has promised, there’s much that could go wrong, but as it stands from the beta, I’m extremely hopeful for the future of this franchise.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II is shaping up to be extremely good, and I can’t wait to jump back in.
You’ll be able to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. The Xbox Store will let you pre-order the game right now, with the Digital Cross Gen Edition for £69.99 and the Vault Edition for £99.99.
If you’ve been playing MWII, let us know your thoughts by dropping into the comments.