[Editor’s Note: This review zeroes in exclusively on the multiplayer modes for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. For our thoughts on the single-player campaign, check out this in-depth review. We’ll have the overall review coming up soon.]
Giving the latest Call of Duty effectively the same name as one of the most revered multiplayer shooters of all time is a bold move. Right out of the gate, it creates sky-high expectations that are challenging to actually fulfill. And while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
does look excellent and has some good new and improved features, like the enhanced weapon customization, the disappointing selection of maps encourages bad behavior and it’s missing some things I’d expected to see in a 2019 Call of Duty. I’m having fun with Modern Warfare multiplayer, but it doesn’t quite live up to its recent predecessors.
Every IGN Call of Duty Review
How do you feel about camping? Your opinion of crouching in a hiding spot and waiting for someone to wander into your trap or dealing with people laying the same trap will probably play a big role in shaping your opinion of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s modes right now. In my 15 in-match hours (not just in-game, mind you, but my time actually playing and shooting) I’ve seen how the community has adapted to this new warzone, and camping is certainly a big part of it. The 10 core maps are paired with what feels like slightly slower movement, fast time-to-kill, killstreaks over scorestreaks (unless you’ve unlocked the level 49 perk for that allows you to play for scorestreaks), and generally tight corners and abundance of hidey holes make it easy to set up shop and wait for kills. I personally don’t partake in that sort of thing or love dealing with campers, but so long as you’re making use of the anti-camper equipment provided in Modern Warfare’s arsenal they shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
You can pinpoint stationary enemies through personal radars, team UAVs, snapshot grenades, and heartbeat sensors. Vision has always been important in Call of Duty multiplayer, and it’s even more so in Modern Warfare thanks to all these maze-like maps. I like that a few of those gadgets are early unlocks and are also easy to destroy, but what I like even more are Field Upgrades, which can be equipped before and during a match and charge over time. They’re incredibly useful, especially if you’re taking the time to strategize with them rather than just picking the basic Munitions Box. For instance, the remote-controlled Recon Drone allows you to mark enemies for a short time, which is especially useful for finding enemy hiding spots in more objective-oriented modes. Then something like Dead Silence (my favorite upgrade) will even let you temporarily quiet your footsteps and move a tiny bit faster to sneak around and get the kill you’re looking for.
For all the tools Modern Warfare gives for a variety of situations, however, there isn’t much for breaking a siege on your team’s spawn point when it has limited exits. Spawn camping is the most dastardly of tactics, one that punishes an already losing team but – strictly for the sake of this review, of course I did a little myself to test how it’s handled, and I was not pleased with my winning results. The problem is that some maps essentially make breaking out of this awful situation even more difficult than it should be. St. Petrograd, for example, has a far-back spawn on the east side of the map that has three exists. The long back road spawn on Picadilly has the same issue. The enemy team can sit a little further down the street, not trigger the spawn flip, and prosper as they swat your soldiers like flies as they blink into existence. I was stuck on that St. Petrograd spawn with a team, and it felt like being trapped in a barrel with a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. We’d maybe get one or two kills by bravely charging ahead, but that didn’t make up for all the other enemies sitting right around the corner. What we needed was coordination.
One of the things that I’ve always loved about Call of Duty multiplayer is its player independence, and how a single kill leader can easily make up for dead weight at the bottom of the team’s list. The problem is that in instances where a team needs coordination to break out of an enemy team’s tight grasp, there aren’t a whole lot of tools available. In a better version of this game with better maps, though, this wouldn’t be an issue nor is it something players should be scrambling to solve or exploit.
But, as it is, I think something like a ping system could go a long way in situations like this, and it baffles me that a shooter has come out in a post-Apex Legends world without one. Especially with games such as Call of Duty, which are supposed to be at the forefront of multiplayer gaming, it’s a huge omission. And not only is it a great tool for coordination, it could solve one of this series’ most-griped (and memed) about problems: annoying players ruining the voice chat for everybody by spewing hate and generally irritating noises into everybody’s headsets. Enabling team communication while limiting the vocabulary to only game-relevant terms would go a long way in making me want to care about helping random teammates.
Searching for a Better Map
I let out an audible groan whenever the Euphrates Bridge map pops up, no matter the game mode. It’s an awful map with huge bridge running through the middle and heavily favors any team that camps the bridge. I’m also not much of a fan of St. Petrograd, which is also primed for camping and annoying spawn camping tactics. Some of its passageways are difficult to use and its points of engagement are limited in a tiring way. In fact, while they’re generally fine, I’ve grown more disappointed with the 10 maps and four nighttime variants the longer I’ve played.
There’s no way to avoid the maps you dislike, either, since the long-standing feature that lets everyone in a match vote which map appears next is absent in Modern Warfare. I’m assuming this is because all normal modes are lumped into a quick queue feature that lets you select which modes you want to play rather than just queuing for one by default. But while I liked this at first, I’d much rather have the option to vote for maps and not have everybody drop out when a dud appears.
I’m also sad that, in over 100 matches played, I’ve only seen a night mode map once. Once! According to the custom maps list, there are four whole night map variants in there. Infinity Ward didn’t post anything in particular about them being turned off or inaccessible, so I have to wonder why they’re not showing up in the rotation. It’s especially aggravating because they’re by far one of the most interesting parts of Modern Warfare’s multiplayer, even if your teammates don’t understand that their lasers reveal everyone’s position.
To be fair, there are some maps I do like: Arklov Peak and Rammaza are at the top of my list. The former has a good number of encounter spots for both long and close-range weapons. Rammaza is a dense map that feels a little more traditional in its three-lane design. It’s on the smaller side, but I like how it offers a lot of points for flanking.
Cyber Attack, Gunfight, and Realism are all-new modes in Modern Warfare, and the returning Ground War got a significant growth spurt that makes it feel revived as well. Cyber Attack is the least interesting of these as a variation of Search and Destroy; it’s the same mode, but with teammate revives. Gunfight is a 2v2 round-based skirmish featuring rotating weapons and very, very short matches. It’s a fun one if you’ve got a good friend, and a decent palate cleanser if you’re playing with a random teammate.
Realism is by far my favorite of the new modes, though. It’s quiet, a bit slower, and beautiful version of Team Deathmatch with an even quicker TTK. Much of Modern Warfare’s UI and menu interfaces look a little simple and outdated, so I’m all for having them stripped away and forgotten for a bit in favor of showcasing the maps. They may not all be consistently good, but they’re gorgeous. They’re littered with little details; Picadilly’s destroyed arcade has interesting games, and the ads around the map are fun to read too if you’ve got the time. (In one game where my team was busy spawn camping I stepped back to take in the London view after getting my fair share of kills.)The name Ground War isn’t new to the Call of Duty franchise, but Modern Warfare’s version is big. Not exactly Blackout big, at least not at the moment, where it’s capped at about 64 players. Each team is divided into four-person squads and equipped with helicopters, tanks, ATVs, and other vehicles to fight for control of five points. The squad-spawning mechanic, where you can jump in with your team if they’re not in combat, is needed to strategically move around the two special maps available for this mode. It also lets you think of the enemy as some sort of infestation; if you find one in an area they shouldn’t be, there are likely more.
The two maps are large and chaotic, but that’s part of the charm of Ground War. It’s like a toned-down Battlefield 5 where I felt like I could finally get a spot to practice sniping. That said, these are longer time commitments than most CoD game types at about 20 minutes a match, so I usually don’t play more than one or two in a row before going back to something quicker, but they’ve always been a good time. I’m looking forward to seeing when/if Infinity Ward chooses to increase the player count and add a few more maps.
Little Details Go a Long Way
One of the few things I’ve loved about Modern Warfare is a small but impactful feature. When you’re watching the kill cam to see how someone got the better of you, there’s a button available that automatically copies your killer’s loadout and lets you take it out for a one-life spin. Modern Warfare has a great customization system for each of its weapons, so seeing exactly what gear brought my demise and learning how it was used was enlightening. I got to use perks I was far from unlocking, like a neat one that showed enemy footsteps for a short period of time. I also tried weapons I didn’t think I’d care for and found some keepers, like the AUG. (Those weapons, though, usually had a few attachments.) Using enemy weapons still seems to count toward your own weapon level, so I am making slow progress with weapons I’m not choosing to use all that often.
Unmodified weapons reasonably don’t quite stack up well against those that are equipped with scopes and stocks, but they’re still viable. I kind of saw leveling my weapons as a careful training period. No one weapon felt like it was dominating over the rest, so as long as I was using a smart loadout for the map and mode, getting a feel for each gun wasn’t too arduous.
The one downside to unlocking a bunch of attachments for my favorite weapons was slowly testing new variations to figure out what feels best. For whatever reason, Infinity Ward didn’t include a gun range or any sort of easy way to test weapons and gear. Instead, there’s a fancy way to view each weapon model, which is nice but doesn’t teach you much about using it.
In the Co-op menu, you’ll find the three versions of Spec Ops, which is a set of multiplayer PvE modes that all involve lots and lots of enemies.Operations, Classic Special Ops, and Survival all feature some sort of wave-based challenge that tests your squad’s proficiency with Modern Warfare’s arsenal. These modes can be a bit difficult, especially if you’re not going in with a friend, but that’s the point. Even still, I pressed my luck with the Public Matches.
Operations have four different objective-based challenges that lightly play along with Modern Warfare’s story. These missions are fun enough, but definitely something I’d rather play with people I enjoy talking to. In them you’ll hack terminals, hunt down enemy leaders and weapon stockpiles, and more, all while fending off enemies that come at your squad from all sides. Enemies get better gear over time too, so there’s the mildest bit of strategy involved in making sure that everyone is surviving and avoiding dangerous areas. You’ll go into each mission with the role of your choosing that variably help depending on the situation with a passive ability and a specific Field Upgrade. Some, like the Recon role, don’t feel as helpful as they could be when an onslaught of enemies means you’ll never really have a chance to sit in a corner and pilot the drone. Players who equip the Medic role and use their team revive ability are the true MVPs.
Survival, a weird nearly year-long PS4 exclusive, is a wave-based mode where players earn money with every kill then can spend that money between each wave. It’s a serviceable horde mode that feels like it suffers from sudden difficulty spikes. In Wave 9 I was pleasantly listening to a podcast and hunting down final enemies when suddenly in Wave 10 we were overrun by helicopters, Juggernauts, and a ton of grunts. Modern Warfare enemies themselves aren’t varied enough to be an interesting challenging on their own, and being crushed by overwhelming numbers isn’t really all that fun. There’s a strategy to it, sure, but I’m not interested enough in what it has to offer to bother coordinating it. Classic Special Ops is an extension of this in that you’re posted up on a position and doing your best to survive as long as possible, but this has its own custom maps and you don’t have to specifically buy weapons. It’s also challenging but doesn’t offer much back since its rewards don’t even unlock until November.