Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Beta thoughts

The original Modern Warfare, by which I mean Call of Duty 4, practically invented the modern FPS as we know it.  Twelve years on, and after a tumultuous mix of success and failure, 2019 will see the release of a reboot of the franchise that made Call of Duty a household name.

For me, that brings quite an excitement.  I’ve fallen in and out of love with Call of Duty in recent years – the last CoD that I really played was Black Ops III, and the last game I looked upon with intrigue was WWII – and that turned out to be less than good.  But having a refreshed Infinity Ward back at the reins, and a look back to the simpler times of early CoDs brings a sense of catharsis, and that the series can go full circle.

This past weekend, and over the next two, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, is being played in beta, and gives a first look at what will hit the shelves come late October.  From first reactions, it provides what most fans will have been looking for: a good old-fashioned gun-based shooter, with the frills and fast-pace gameplay that made CoD what it is, but with the modcons that are expected of a game in 2019.  From this first sneak peek, it seems to deliver, but there’s some polish required before it hits the highs of the series’ heyday.

For the first part, it’s probably a great idea that the game is having such a wide-scale beta.  Infinity Ward releases since CoD4 have always had some problems in the way their games have been balanced.  While some of those have been successful in spite of these errors, some of them have fallen flat because of the lack of thorough fan feedback in the game’s creation.  It stands to reason that when a game is being played by millions of people, if you don’t have that many people kicking the tyres before the game’s release that there’s bound to be some issues.

 

The game feels like a mix of some of previous games’ best features.  The weight and feel of weapons seems to be quite similar to the original Black Ops, as does the map design.  Killstreaks are back to their best as they were in Modern Warfare 2, with many of those available drawing direct parallels.

Modern Warfare features several new or refreshed game modes which are fun to play.  Cyber Attack brings together the two-way gameplay of “Sabotage” with the limited-lives of “Search & Destroy”, but with the interesting twist of being able to revive teammates.  This makes for a very tactical change-up and what looks to be a very promising game type.

Domination also goes back to being a one-round game, with no half-time side switch, which greatly improves the momentum-based play that made the mode so popular.

One thing that the game also plays with is the game sizes, with the normal 6 v 6 being augmented with 10 v 10 gameplay, a 2 v 2 gamemode “Gunfight” and a re-imagined “Ground War” – pitting 32 v 32 for the largest Call of Duty mode ever.  This adds a nice variety, even to the same game modes.

 

In general, the gunplay is satisfying and exactly what you’d want from a Call of Duty game.  The time-to-kill is almost perfect, giving the advantage to whoever gets the first shot but still allowing for an escape from harm’s way.  Weapons are also distinctive and have their own feel, which has been a major problem for me particularly with Black Ops games.

Customisation of weapons also has been improved, with more visual representations and a return to the old-fashioned system of ranking up individual weapons and being allowed to choose one from each available slot.

 

Being a beta, there’s always some things that need to be ironed out.  There have been some minor glitches with killstreaks, matchmaking and other elements of the gameplay – but for a beta that’s to be expected.  One of the major gripes that many have had is that the minimap, a staple of navigating Call of Duty maps, was removed to begin with for the beta – but has now been reinstated.  Enemy fire still does not show up on the minimap, but may be included later on by popular demand.

The major issues tend to be with spawning, as it’s quite often the case that you’re immediately thrown into danger, and in the “Gunfight” game mode – where often you may not spawn into a round properly.  These do tend to detract from the game quite a bit and will need some work before the main release.

 

On the whole though it gives a lot to look forward to for the main game.  I’ve been hurt by betas before, but the level of response to beta feedback so far and the general feel of the game gives reason for hope.

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