After gaining entry to the early access CoD beta on Xbox, I’ve put a good number of hours in over the last few days, trying each and every mode so far. The short of it, is that Modern Warfare doesn’t really feel like Call of Duty. The weapon feel, map design and general visual style are something totally different for the series, and that’s okay. After all, we’ve been asking for core changes to CoD for almost ten years now.
The first thing that stands out is how weapons handle this time around. Sure, we’ve seen incremental changes, especially with Black Ops 4’s predictable recoil system, but the tech behind CoD meant things always felt pretty similar. Each development team’s mechanics had their own quirks, but they still felt like Call of Duty. Modern Warfare makes moves towards Battlefield and Rainbow Six in this regard. Weapons feel more individual, where the model actually feels separate to the hands carrying it. On top of that, increased visual recoil and unpredictability make firefights feel more intense. Again, this falls in line with the way Rainbow Six: Siege feels when things get heated.
Now of course, outside of firefights CoD still brings its usual style. 6v6 respawn modes are the core of the experience, and the beta provided a few maps for this. In-match progression is all about building to killstreak rewards and getting the win, again, the norm for CoD. The beta maps didn’t leave the best impression, but I didn’t dislike any by the end of my playtime. However, Modern Warfare mixes things up in a major way with playercounts. For the first time in CoD, we have 32v32 matches with vehicles and squad mechanics. These play out on separate, specifically designed arenas, with Karst River Quarry being the one to try in the beta.
Where the gunplay leans towards Siege, this 64 player mode goes full Battlefield. We haven’t seen a modern time period for that franchise for a few years, and this certainly harkens back to Battlefield 3 and 4. Tanks, choppers and quad bikes a plenty, and the beta map gets pretty chaotic.
Not without its issues though. I saw some significant performance hits in the large scale battles, and in general things felt a little cluttered. There’s a lot going on in Karst River Quarry and for CoD, perhaps a little too much. At times, it felt like the middle section of the map housed all 64 players, and the outskirts left empty. This made the map feel imbalanced, and it seemed as though the interesting bits needed spreading out more. It did feel fresh for CoD though, and I’m intrigued to see how this one will play out when more maps are thrown into the mix.
On the other end of the scale comes Gunfight. A close quarters, 2v2 mode, Gunfight evokes yet more Rainbow Six. This time, in its map design and flow as well as the previously mentioned gunfights and weapon mechanics. Here, every two rounds both teams of two spawn with a randomly selected loadout. This rotates until the first team reaches six round wins. Players also don’t have regenerating health in this mode. The combination of small, up close maps and permanent damages makes rounds on Gunfight feel like they’ve been plucked from Siege. You’ll find yourself slowly edging around corners, picking people off, and being extremely careful with every move. The even playing field is a nice change of pace from more customized loadouts, and matches always feel fair in Gunfight.
Visually, the game doubles down on realistic environments and playable spaces. It’s not too far removed from the original Modern Warfare, but it does feel distinctly different to MW2 and 3. Where those two games took the Michael Bay comparisons and ran with them, this entry is more down to earth. The colour palette is muted, and the general aesthetic is more hard-edged. There’s a little bit of Ghosts in there, but once again Modern Warfare’s visual design gave off vibes of another series. The two modern Medal of Honor games took a more authentic approach to modern warfare, as does this CoD game. The Azhir Cave map would be right at home on Medal of Honor, and I can see why Infinity Ward didn’t call this entry Modern Warfare 4.
If it feels like I’m comparing Modern Warfare to other games a lot, that’s because I am. Modern Warfare may be a big change for CoD, but it’s certainly not a shooter revolution. Most of its ideas come from other big FPS franchises, if not from its own series. In my time played on the beta, the only truly unique experience was the Night-time mode. Here, players fight on an extremely dark variant of the Azhir Cave map, relying on Night vision, laser sights and their audio setup to gain the upper hand. Whilst this mode is a welcome addition, it feels like a short gimmick that I wouldn’t want to spend much time on, beyond the odd go here and there.
So, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy playing Modern Warfare during the beta period. Its scattershot approach to map styles and the scale of gamemodes provides welcome variety for Call of Duty. The additions do feel like a bit of a “greatest hits” of other modern shooters though, and some additions work better than others. Gunfight is good to go, alongside 6v6, but the 64 player mode needs performance optimization as well as work on map design. If you’re a strict CoD player who loves dominating on easily controllable maps, Modern Warfare might not be for you. If you’ve been waiting in the wings for Call of Duty to truly change, I recommend giving the Modern Warfare open beta a try this weekend.