When it was released in 2019, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was a polarizing game, to say the least. Still, according to Activision, it went on to become the biggest Call of Duty of all time and with its sequel on the horizon, the Modern Warfare 2 beta carries a huge weight on its shoulders.
Modern Warfare 2’s beta featured four standard 6v6 maps, along with two larger scale maps exclusive to the 20v20 Invasion mode and the 32v32 Ground War mode, which returns from Modern Warfare 2019. The player level was capped at 30, with a handful of weapons and equipment to unlock along the way. Overall, it was a small slice of the game, and it’s important to note that this review is based on a pre-release beta. But with only a few weeks to go until launch, in all likelihood the state of the Modern Warfare 2 beta will be fairly representative of the final product.
Visuals and Sound
Modern Warfare 2 is the best-looking Call of Duty title ever. Infinity Ward has taken an already impressive visual showcase and improved on it even further. The audio design is also superb. The weapons look and sound punchy, and the maps and character models all look fantastic. But of course, there’s one major issue with the sound design that we’ll get into later on.
Perhaps most importantly though, is that the style of the game is overall more vibrant. Gone are the gray and gritty maps found in its predecessor, making for a more visually pleasing game. Mercado Las Almas is set in a bustling marketplace in Mexico, with fruit stands and bright red houses. So far, Modern Warfare 2’s maps prove that you can have realism without sacrificing visual vibrance.
I’ll be honest – I wasn’t a fan of Modern Warfare 2019’s maps, and I wasn’t alone. This was one of the biggest complaints the COD community at large had about the game when it launched. Of course, many will still disagree and are fond of the 2019 title, but in my opinion, the launch maps were rough. This was remedied somewhat over the course of the game’s DLC cycle with maps like Shoothouse. But the fundamental design of those maps was completely antithetical to what I and other fans of a more fast-paced playstyle prefer in a Call of Duty game.
Going into MWII this was perhaps the number one thing I wanted to see changed – and thankfully Infinity Ward seems to have delivered. Breenergh Hotel and Valderas Museum could do with some refinement and a bigger player count, but Farm 18 and Mercado Las Almas were great.
While it’s a small sample size, Modern Warfare 2’s standard 6v6 maps so far are much more along the lines of Shoothouse. Rather than being full of hidey holes and power positions, they’re much more streamlined, with clearly defined lanes and a more asymmetrical design. This encourages movement and faster-paced gameplay which is exactly what I want in an arcade shooter like COD. There are certainly still some elements of 2019’s map design thrown in – but it feels like they’ve found a good balance so far. We’ll see how the final release fares, but so far I’m a fan of Modern Warfare 2’s maps.
Create a Class and Gunsmith
New in Modern Warfare 2 is the completely revamped create a class system, with an all-new Gunsmith and an overhauled perk system.
Let’s start with the gunsmith. The core elements are still there. Each weapon can hold up to 5 attachments, each of them with their own pros and cons. There are dozens of attachments to choose from for each weapon so there’s tons of customization. This time, however, Infinity Ward has taken this customization even further with the new Weapon Platform and Receiver system.
Receivers are a specific attachment slot for each weapon that can be swapped in and out, turning it into a different weapon. Each gun is part of a specific Weapon Platform which consists of a small family of similar weapons. As an example, swapping out the receiver on the M4 assault rifle can turn it into a three-round burst M16. There were at least 5 different variations of the M4 just in the beta. It’s an interesting mechanic and one that Infinity Ward says will cut down on the grinding since attachments unlocked for one variant can also be used for the others.
To be honest, the system itself is fine. Warzone players will certainly appreciate it since they won’t have to grind out 60-70 levels for each weapon individually now. The problem is the UI. This new Receiver system isn’t clearly explained anywhere in-game. When looking at your selection of assault rifles, hovering over a weapon you don’t have simply says it’s ‘locked’ while giving you no indication of how to actually unlock it. So figuring out what gun belongs with which receiver is a matter of manually going through each and every weapon family until you find the one you want.
This brings up a larger problem of MWII’s UI as a whole. The game’s UI has been reworked and it’s honestly pretty terrible. There’s just no other way to put it. Menus are unintuitive and confusing and don’t seem to control as they should. It’s difficult to find the options you want as they’re buried under several menus. It’s a far cry from the simple, clean UI found in the previous few Call of Duty titles. The UI is reminiscent of a mobile game, with large tiles that would be perfect for a touch screen. With Warzone Mobile on the horizon, it feels like Infinity Ward wanted to streamline the UIs between the two. As currently constructed though, it just doesn’t work on the big screen.
If you were a fan of Modern Warfare 2019, you’re probably going to love Modern Warfare 2. For those who weren’t the biggest fans, Infinity Ward has made some improvements, but it still has many of those qualities that made me dislike the reboot.
The fast time to kill is excessive and eliminates any semblance of a back-and-forth gunfight. Weapon handling feels sluggish, and the slide seems to have been significantly nerfed. While the stronger map design does make it so the overall pace of the game is faster, other gameplay decisions still keep it on the slow side.
There are two main issues affecting the overall pace of the game – the lack of red dots on the minimap, and the exclusion of a traditional Dead Silence or Ninja perk in favor of a temporary Field Upgrade. Let’s start with the latter.
Footsteps in MW2 are loud. Enemy players can be heard from a mile away even through buildings, and in most cases, you’re able to pinpoint their exact location simply by listening. Of course, the same goes for your own footsteps. This makes it so players are actively punished for moving around the map. With footsteps as they are now, there’s nothing stopping players from standing in one place, pre-aiming a corner, and picking people off as soon as they round the corner. Don’t get me wrong, Infinity Ward’s audio team has done a great job. But the footstep audio in multiplayer needs to be significantly toned down. As it is, you’re actively punished for moving around the map by giving away your exact location to nearby enemies – and actively rewarded for standing still.
The one counter to this used to be the inclusion of a Ninja perk. It’s a staple perk included in Black Ops Cold War, Vanguard, and nearly every other Call of Duty title before them. But just like in Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward has once again removed it in MW2, opting instead for a temporary field upgrade.
As if that wasn’t enough, the field upgrade itself has also seen a significant nerf. In a recent video, Youtuber TheXclusiveAce discovered that the Dead Silence field upgrade has now become far less effective. It now takes significantly longer to activate, and plays an audible, distinct noise when activated. So, in an effort to become stealthy your one option now gives away your location to enemies. Effectively, Infinity Ward has doubled down on one of the biggest pieces of criticism and feedback coming out of Modern Warfare 2019.
The other issue with the game is the removal of enemy red dots on the minimap. Once again, Infinity Ward has doubled down on this, citing their intention to “not punish players for firing their weapons.” It’s strange that they say this, however, while also actively punishing players for simply traversing the map.
COD has had red dots on the minimap for over a decade. It was a strong counter to players who liked to stay in one place firing their weapon. Without them, matches feel less competitive, spawns are harder to predict, and the overall pace of the game is significantly slower. The older minimap system was rarely (if ever) a complaint coming from the majority of the community. It feels like a change just for the sake of change – and one that is clearly geared towards a more casual player base.
And that’s pretty much my impression of the Modern Warfare 2 beta as a whole. While there are a few improvements, there are also some completely unnecessary changes that are somewhat bewildering.
The new perk system is overly complex for no reason. And the removal of the traditional minimap and Dead Silence perk negates any gameplay improvements that the new map design may have had. The COD community has made their feedback on Modern Warfare extremely clear over the past couple of years. Despite that though, it was one of the best-selling Call of Duty titles of all time. It seems like Infinity Ward is looking at the sales numbers over the community and doubling down on what the community thinks are poor decisions.
I hoped Modern Warfare 2 would be a faster-paced version of Modern Warfare 2019, with more streamlined maps and less of a focus on the “sentinel playstyle.” What I got instead was slightly better maps, but overall just more of the same.
For more on Modern Warfare 2, check out all the DMZ missions that have leaked online, giving us a huge insight into what the game has to offer.