Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Beta Impressions

The dust has settled on last weekends Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Open Crossplay beta, so it’s time to reflect on our time with the game and give our impressions ahead of the full release in a months time.

Having spent numerous hours with the game over the weekend, I come away from it all feeling somewhat…well…confused. Is it really good? Is it bad? Is it average? I honestly still don’t really know, I have some positive things to say about it, I have some negative things to say about it, and I have some mixed feelings about other parts of it. It’s probably the first time that I’ve been truly unsure over what my overall opinion of a Call of Duty title is after spending a good number of hours with it.

Let me start by talking about the standout feature of this beta, which was that it would let us experience crossplay for the first time, that being the ability for Xbox One, PS4, and PC players to play with each other regardless of platform. On that note, I am pleased to report that crossplay works seamlessly and without issue, and is a massive win for gamers moving forward. It’s a huge step for Call of Duty to break down that boundary and it’s a decision that I’m sure will benefit their sales numbers; a buddy of mine who plays on PS4 (I’m Xbox One) and usually dodges Call of Duty has already decided that he’s going to get it, purely based on the fact that we can squad up and play together. I envisage that scenario being similar for a lot of others, and I’m delighted that it works so well.

As for the actual gameplay, Modern Warfare opts for a much more ‘back to basics’ approach, doing away with all the futuristic nonsense of recent titles and going for a much more gritty and realistic approach. The result of that is a selection of weapons that feel distinct and satisfying to use; each weapon packs it’s own unique punch, and weapon attachments now display both a ‘pro’ and a ‘con’, and you can only equip five at a time, meaning sticking an attachment on to a particular slot is now a considered decision rather than a no-brainer. Modern Warfare favours a slower approach rather than charging around like a mad man, which is a welcome change of pace for the series, and engaging in a gunfight and dropping an enemy feels incredibly sharp and satisfying, thanks in part to the games relatively tight hit box. That being said, I can’t help but feel that the time-to-kill (TTK) is too low, and you’ll die in a split second if somebody gets the jump on you. The game would definitely benefit from raising the TTK slightly to allow skill to take precedence over reaction time, and I hope that Infinity Ward address this before the game hits the shelves.

Weapon attachments now display both a ‘pro’ and a ‘con’, and you can only equip five at a time, meaning sticking an attachment on to a particular slot is now a considered decision rather than a no-brainer

Black Op 4’s Specialist system is gone (we’re now all a number of generic ‘Operators’ that can be selected for cosmetic purposes only) and with it overpowered ultimate abilities are also gone, but you still have a piece of Field Equipment that charges up over time. These are fair and unobtrusive, such as the munitions box which can be dropped to restock both your own and your teammates ammo. Healing yourself with a Stim Pack is also a thing of the past, meaning you’ll now have to revert to taking cover and allowing your health to regenerate over time. This is something that caught me out numerous times during the beta; I was so used to quickly popping my Stim Pack on Black Ops 4 that I kept trying to do it on Modern Warfare, the result of which was my injured self being blinded by my own flashbang grenade and condemning myself to a certain death. It was quite embarrassing, but old habits die hard I guess.

We’re also back on Killstreaks now that Infinity Ward are in control rather than Treyarch’s favoured Scorestreaks which are always present in the Black Ops series. While I always like the fact that the Scorestreak system encourages people to play the objective, I also think that Killstreaks are harder to get, and I’ve found them to be much rarer on Modern Warfare, which can only be a good thing. That being said, the fact that I’ve found Killstreaks to be much rarer could just be down to the map design which allows you to get attacked from all angles or the dreadful spawn system which can quite easily spawn you right in front of an enemy. That’s something else that Infinity Ward need to urgently address before release, so fingers crossed that they do.

Speaking of the maps, of the few available during the beta—Azhir Cave, Hackney Yard, and Grazna Raid—they were all okay without being anything to write home about. The traditional three lane design is largely forgotten, meaning the maps feel like much more realistic environments, but they do also offer multiple places for you get shot from at all times which can be quite frustrating, so a more cautious approach is likely to bring you more success than sprinting around and going on the aggressive. I’ve also found the maps to be a bit of a strange size; Modern Warfare offers game modes such as Domination in a 6v6 or 10v10 mode, but each size of match is played on the same maps. The result of that, in my experience, is that the maps can feel a bit empty in 6v6 but overcrowded in 10v10. They’re in a strange place where Infinity Ward have clearly tried to make the maps suitable for both 12 or 20 players but have ended up making them perfect for neither. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re aren’t particularly good either.

In terms of game modes, the usual suspects are here and play as they always have, and there’s also the addition of the 2v2 Gunfight mode (all players start with the same loadout which changes with each round), Cyber Attack (which is basically Search & Destroy but with the ability to revive teammates), and NVG (the map is covered in darkness, making the use of night vision goggles vital). All three are good fun but none of them are going to reinvent the wheel, and the night vision goggle mode in particular just feels a bit gimmicky to me.

Modern Warfare offers game modes such as Domination in a 6v6 or 10v10 mode, but each size of match is played on the same maps. The result of that, in my experience, is that the maps can feel a bit empty in 6v6 but overcrowded in 10v10

Then there’s what I would consider the major talking point from the beta – Ground War. In Modern Warfare, Ground War is no longer just a larger, 9v9 game of Domination or Team Deathmatch, it’s been amped all the way up to 32v32 on massive, dedicated maps with vehicles. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that it is literally a near-identical clone of a game of Conquest on Battlefield. It’s so nearly identical that I basically don’t need to tell you anything more about it for you to understand what it plays like, even the one map that was available to play, Karst River Quarry, looked like something pulled straight from Battlefield 4. I almost have to admire the audacity of such shameless plagiarism, but the reality is that it’s incredibly lazy development to just straight up steal somebodies signature game mode and try to make it your own.

It’s loud, fast, chaotic, and great fun, but it still doesn’t do it as well as Battlefield. It’s a mode that will satisfy Call of Duty fans who also want to experience the large-scale warfare of DICE’s series, but it won’t make any Battlefield players jump ship by any stretch of the imagination. The spawning and TTK issues are even more prevalent here; there’s nothing more frustrating than running a long way across half of the map only to be dropped in a nano second, then be spawned straight back into the middle of a firefight. It needs work before release.

Modern Warfare is a step in the right direction for the series in my opinion, but it has its issues to deal with before release. The slower, more realistic approach is a welcome change, the guns are the most satisfying to use in years, the relative rarity of Killstreaks compared to Black Ops 4 is a god send, but the problem is that for all of my points of praise there can be a point of criticism – the spawn system is awful, the time-to-kill is too low, the maps I’ve been able to experience so far are just ‘okay’. It filters through every aspect of the game; using Ground War to introduce a new, massive-scale mode to Call of Duty gives players a new way to play the game, but it’s also a complete rip off of Battlefield which just isn’t as good as it’s source material.

All of that being said, Modern Warfare could end up being the best entry in years if the right issues are addressed. The time-to-kill and the spawn system can easily be tweaked before launch if Infinity Ward feel the need to do so, and if they do and the other maps are better than those on offer then this could easily be my favourite Call of Duty since Modern Warfare 2. Ground War will be great fun to play whether it’s a Battlefield rip off or not, but it’s success will also come down to those tweaks and the selection of maps available.

There’s great potential here, but the overall result is that we simply won’t know just how good Modern Warfare will be until it’s released and we get to see what Infinity Ward has learned from the beta. That has been the whole purpose of the last couple of weekends after all, and hopefully they can use their findings to make Modern Warfare a new dawn for the series rather than “just another COD”. One thing that I do know for sure is that I have come away from this weekend looking forward to playing more of it.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches for Xbox One, PS4, and PC on Friday 25th October.

Did you play the beta this weekend? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments below.

Chris is our resident FPS-obsessed football fanatic who, when not playing an FPS or FIFA, can probably be found spending the odd 100 hours or so building his perfect farm on Stardew Valley. Chris comes to you with a hint of cynicism and plenty of sarcasm.

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