Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Is Brimming with Potential but Lacking Tactical Refinement

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Is Brimming with Potential but Lacking Tactical Refinement

Infinity Ward's reimagining of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare offers the biggest shake-ups to the series in years.

The name Call of Duty: Modern Warfare undeniably carries a lot of weight when talking about the first-person shooter genre. Since the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the series has rooted itself in familiar gameplay systems that longtime fans and newcomers alike have come to know for years. It’s no easy task rebooting one of the most influential titles of all time. However, the studio behind that original title, Infinity Ward, is up to the challenge. With a handful of Call of Duty development veterans and newcomers, the rebooted Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a culmination of fresh new ideas that amount to one of the most promising multiplayer offerings from the series in over a decade.

With shooters like Rainbow Six Siege, Overwatch, and the flood of Battle Royale titles dominating the cultural zeitgeist of this console generation, Call of Duty has remained relatively stagnant in its innovations and relevancy amongst core players. Of course, its sales have been consistently solid year over year but the conversations surrounding these games have been bland and uninteresting compared to the aforementioned titles. The changes that have come to each Call of Duty since Call of Duty: Black Ops II have been a means to an end; trying to recreate what made the Modern Warfare series and a handful of its successors so popular.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Infinity Ward’s reimagining of Modern Warfare offers the most noticeable refinements to Call of Duty’s core multiplayer. There’s quite literally something for everyone here. Whether you’re a fan of large-scale or small-scale battles, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a title that’s fine-tuned to delivering on the wants of its own fanbase as well as fans who might be more at home with other shooters, most notably Battlefield. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is upping the ante with large-scale warfare for the first time. Players will now be able to jump into fights with upwards of 100 players as well as other modes with a healthier 64 or 40. A considerably risky endeavor when considering the series’ more tightly weaved arena-style combat. Going hands-on with the 40-player multiplayer battles, there’s still that hectic nature the series is known for. It’s fun, but it doesn’t always work in delivering a tactical warfare-like experience. Infinity Ward has been mindful of every map’s design in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The team is looking to create the lane-based maps longtime fans are accustomed to while incorporating more layers that allow for firefight advantages. In certain areas, these fights deliver. As for the even bigger modes, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Spawn points leave more to be desired. In large-scale Domination, players are limited to spawning at one of the five points their team has taken. There’s no option as to which point players will be placed at, which can make things feel a little random as your team of 20 hectically runs around the map trying to take points. It’s more like Battlefield’s Conquest mode as opposed to something more strategic like Rush. One might like to imagine that a mode like this would allow for cooperation between teammates, and that’s definitely there to an extent, but it doesn’t seem as refined as competitor titles.

Players will still find themselves getting killed from behind, and the map design overall comes across as aimless when you’re spawning all over the place. The game is selling itself on its realism and authenticity, but this lack of strategy muddles the overall vision. Nevertheless, the core gunplay is better than it’s ever been, and I don’t say that lightly.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Sound design plays a more pivotal role than ever before in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Guns have an inherent kick to them that makes each shot feel powerful and precise. Paired with the game’s new take on the Gunsmith, another component of fun can be found in simply finding the most comfortable loadout for combat. Call of Duty’s fluidity has always made it excel in this regard as it’s very easy to jump in and jump out with a weapon loadout that could completely change your outcomes in firefights.

One of the most glaring concerns I have with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer is in its marketing. Whereas the campaign has been sold as something that’s more gritty, looking to outdo the controversial “No Russian” mission in 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, this marketing doesn’t really carry over to the multiplayer component but Infinity Ward seems to want fans to believe that it does. It’s almost as if Call of Duty: Modern Warfare wants to be something like Insurgency: Sandstorm without the emotional weight that New World Interactive’s title brings to the table. The word “realism” was constantly used by Infinity Ward but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare still feels like anything but, and it makes me a little concerned that this mentality will make for a campaign that’s more pretentious and edgy as opposed to being meaningful and affecting.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

More conventional game modes are present in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Any cause for concern that these consistent offerings would be changed in any way can be put aside. Six versus six is still as fun as it always has been and is improved by the refinements that have been made. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also offers nighttime maps for the first time where night vision goggles are a necessity to victory in combat. There is a genuine fear that comes with fighting in the dark on these maps, and there were definitely some horror elements that shined through in this regard. My issues with the spawning were actually absent from this mode since each team has a set spawn point. Additionally, things like the HUD were also removed in an attempt to add to that realism that Infinity Ward is going for.

There are also modes that’ll be more akin to Valve’s Counter-Strike, and these are your standard Search and Destroy modes that require a more mindful approach. Some players will avoid these modes at all costs while others will definitely find some tactical fun in them. The specific mode I played actually allowed my teammates to pick one another up after they went down, so there’s definitely some strategy to be had here as you all move through the map. Oftentimes, the team that stuck together came out on top, utilizing numbers and the more compressed map design.

20-player battles don’t add much diversity to the Call of Duty that everyone already knows. I don’t have much to say on them because they didn’t strike me as more compelling than the six versus six modes. There’s definitely the opportunity for larger gunfights on the smaller maps, but I don’t think I was ever thinking about how grander the battle was with eight additional players involved.

Some small, yet noticeable, refinements to gameplay include the ability to breach and clear doorways. Players can be more methodical in their approach as they now have the ability to peak through doorways or simply blow them off with C4. While I didn’t personally utilize this ability to its full extent, I can only imagine that players who do will shake up the core run and gun audience. There are also some changes to movement like a sprinting ability that makes you move much faster but in return causes you to aim down the sights much slower. The faster you move in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the slower you’ll be when reacting to combat that could come at any moment. Of course, when I say slow I only mean mere milliseconds in reaction time as noticing the change requires some attentive focus.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

The return of Killstreaks will definitely be welcomed by some, but it leaves me with reservations towards how it’ll affect some of the large-scale game modes. One of the most excruciating experiences in the Modern Warfare series as a whole was being locked down by choppers and other Killstreaks that would completely break the balance and give the winning team an all the more likely victory. This opinion though is only really reserved to some of the more ridiculous Killstreaks that are rewarded to those with 10 or more kills in-game. There’s nothing inherently wrong with vehicles, armor buffs, airships, and the like, but it still feels odd to give the team that’s dominating an oftentimes one-sided advantage. As far as balance goes, we’ll simply have to see how it plays out when the full game releases.

It’s important to note, that again, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the shakeup that the series needs. The wide variety of multiplayer offerings is the most compelling from the series since it redefined first-person shooters back in 2007. With so many modes to jump into, the inclusion of crossplay, as well as the omission of a conventional season pass, I could definitely see a dedicated community that’s fully connected across all platforms. While many gamers and fans might’ve disregarded Call of Duty some time again, Infinity Ward is seeking to win back a large portion of the market. As far as I can see, they’ve got something very interesting on their hands.