The first weekend for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II beta has come and gone, offering an early look at the game’s multiplayer mode. After spending some time with the beta, it’s clear Activision has ambitious plans for the upcoming sequel, particularly in its sound and visual design. Still, not every new addition or mechanic works well in this build, and considering how Call of Duty games don’t usually change much from their betas, I’m left a little worried about Modern Warfare II.
Though, given the sheer amount of feedback from the community, I’m hopeful Activision implements at least some suggestions to make Modern Warfare II the best game possible at launch. Many of my critiques were addressed by Infinity Ward as part of a community update, though it does seem like most of my specific issues will remain in the final build. That’s a shame, because I really like the framework of Modern Warfare II currently; it just needs a little detail work to get it firing on all cylinders.
Modern Warfare II’s key strengths lie in the way it looks, feels, and sounds. Its general audio design — at least when it comes to authenticity — is immersive, making each battle feel more engaging. Gunfire, specifically, sounds punchy, with lots of weight, making you feel like you’re really in the midst of a firefight. Likewise, explosions and even ambient sounds are top-notch in this game, giving it an expensive, cinematic sheen. I recommend using headphones while playing so you get the most out of the bombastic audio design.
Visually speaking, Modern Warfare II is a step up from 2019’s Modern Warfare, particularly in the color palette. In 2019’s entry, it was sometimes hard to tell enemies from their surroundings due to the monotone and drab colors across the board. Thankfully, Modern Warfare II still looks like a realistic military shooter while remaining visually interesting. Players seem to pop from the screen, making it easier to tell where your foes are.
Activision and its teams have slowly iterated on how Call of Duty games feel over the years, and Modern Warfare II might just be the best of the bunch in this regard. Sure, zipping around maps by “slide-canceling” (an exploit that allows players to move faster in Call of Duty: Warzone) has effectively been removed, but this new installment still feels satisfying — with enough responsiveness and fluidity to preserve the game’s blisteringly fast pace, while incorporating realistic animations that add to the immersion.
While Modern Warfare II certainly looks better than the series ever has, it also features a number of gameplay mechanics that hinder the overall pacing of a match.
One of the main issues is that the game’s time to kill (TTK) is way too fast. In essence, if an enemy spots you first, there’s very little you can do to survive. This encourages players to sit in one spot while pre-aiming down a hallway so as to not get taken out themselves. It’s a strategy that makes sense given the game’s design, but one that severely changes the pacing of a match. A slower TTK can allow players to run around much more, as you aren’t penalized as much when they’re caught off guard. With a slower TTK, even if you encounter an enemy pre-aiming down a hallway, you might still have a chance to react.
In Modern Warfare II, the TTK feels so fast that players are discouraged from running around the map, which takes away from the fun. Infinity Ward did not address this issue in its community update blog post, so don’t expect that to change come October.
Speaking of pacing, the game’s footstep audio could use an overhaul, as it severely impacts the way players engage in firefights. Since footstep audio is so loud — and the only counter is Dead Silence, which is a limited-use Field Upgrade — players are almost always alerted of their enemy’s presence well in advance. In previous Call of Duty games, a perk called Ninja or Dead Silence was available to mask the sound of your footsteps, allowing you to sneak up on your foes without them hearing you.
A thread from Redditor Redfern23 shows all the average TTKs across Call of Duty games through the years, and surprisingly, they fluctuate heavily from entry to entry. For instance, 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War had an average TTK of around 313ms, while 2019’s Modern Warfare sits at around 184ms. It’s unclear what Modern Warfare II’s average TTK is, but it definitely feels more in line with its 2019 predecessor, Modern Warfare.
Once again, the lack of a proper counter to the loud footstep audio hurts the pacing, as players are penalized for simply moving around the map. Just like the issue with the game’s fast TTK, you’re better off sitting in one spot, waiting for enemies to come into your line of sight, which slows the game down to a crawl.
Thankfully, Infinity Ward will adjust the footstep audio for the beta’s second weekend, which goes live on September 22. “We are reducing the range of footstep audio for the various player movement states (jog, sprint, and tactical sprint). This will help soften the cost of moving around the map.” It’s unclear to what degree the audio will change, but hopefully, it’s enough to not penalize frequent movement around maps.
In previous Call of Duty games, firing an unsuppressed weapon would cause you to appear as a red dot on your enemy’s mini-map. This was changed in Modern Warfare 2019, leading to many complaints from the community. Firing an unsuppressed weapon only reveals your location on the compass, which is far less precise. Sadly, this feature remains unchanged in Modern Warfare II, despite the backlash from the last installment.
Combined with the rest of the issues I mentioned, this mini-map further impacts the pacing of a match. Previously, chasing red dots was a way to keep the flow moving at a constant rate. Players would shoot and show up on the map, revealing their location and putting a target on their back. It encouraged players to unlock and apply suppressors to their weapons to remain undetected. As it stands, it’s often unclear where your enemies are, leading to much more aimless wandering and less action.
Interestingly, the Bird’s Eye Perk actually reverts to the older mini-map style, revealing enemies who fire unsuppressed weapons. The problem is that you have to waste a precious Perk to do so. Given how Perks work in this game — some of which generate over time, rather than being active right away — and since Bird’s Eye falls into the tier three category, you can’t even revert to the old mini-map style right away. Instead, you have to wait until Bird’s Eye fully charges and becomes available to use, likely hindering your performance at the start of a match.
While Activision did say it will “drastically” accelerate the rate at which Perks generate, the company doesn’t seem keen on reverting back to the old mini-map style. “Currently in the MW2 Beta, we only show enemy player dots when a UAV is active. The design reason for this is that we do not want to punish players for firing their weapons,” Infinity Ward said. Many players took issue with this statement, as it undermines the use of a silencer, which would prevent players from appearing on the mini-map.
The beta’s pacing issues are at odds with Modern Warfare II’s fluid movement, making it even more frustrating.
Ultimately, the Modern Warfare II beta shows promise but is marred with issues that impact the moment-to-moment gameplay. It’s unclear if Activision and Infinity Ward will address any of these problems, but I remain hopeful the developers will listen to feedback. To Activision, the most important thing is to generate revenue, so the company is mostly concerned with protecting casual players, who make up a substantial portion of the community. So long as the casual player is engaged, Activision is less motivated to make any gameplay changes, even after receiving backlash from expert players.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II launches on October 28 for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5.
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