After last week's info blowout, the open beta for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 went live over the weekend, allowing us to get intimate with all the new mechanics and systems for the follow-up to Infinity Ward's 2019 reboot (and not to be confused with 2009's Modern Warfare 2, of course). Things were kept intimate when it comes to game modes, too, with a focus on 6v6 stalwarts - as well as a cameo from the returning third-person playlist - which helped underline how different it feels. Does it work? Well opinion is split, so here's two takes from two very different kinds of Call of Duty players.
Martin: So let's get this out the way first - I'm a filthy casual when it comes to CoD. I pick up every game on launch, blast through the campaign (or as has been the case in recent years, get bored of it after an hour or two and never pick it up again) then spend a couple of dozen hours or so in the multiplayer, dipping in and out over the year. So I'm not exactly the one to be drilling down into the details. I will say this, though - having blown cold on the series since Infinity Ward's 2019 brilliant reboot, this has properly sucked me back in, and I was shocked how different it feels to the first Modern Warfare. Or the second one - the one that came out in 2019, that is. Anyway, it's an amazingly slow take on the Call of Duty formula, and the tense pacing has really caught me by surprise.
Wes: It definitely plays slower, and I think that's by Infinity Ward's design. Everything from the slide cancelling nerf to the blisteringly fast time to kill forces you to play more cautious. The mini map isn't much help at all, and having to wait four or eight minutes into a match to unlock certain perks that make you quieter adds a tactical element to what has been a traditionally fast-paced, run-and-gun 6v6 Call of Duty multiplayer. The footsteps are so loud!
Do I like it? I'm not sure I'm feeling MW2's multiplayer right now, but I suspect I will get used to it over time, and it will start to feel faster as players work out the right counters and the ins and outs of the maps. Speaking of the maps, those I've played in the beta are good. 2019's Modern Warfare launched with some catastrophically bad multiplayer maps (I still have PTSD from Piccadilly). These new maps flow a lot better, at least.The open beta was PlayStation-exclusive for its first weekend - next weekend the floodgates open, with PC and Xbox players joining the fray.
Martin: You definitely play a load more Call of Duty than I do over the course of a year so it's interesting to hear your take on it. It feels like quite a drastic change, to an outsider like me, to have this slower-paced more tactical play - it feels more like playing a game of Rainbow Six: Siege at points, as you've got to be so careful and precise (the gadgetry you have at your disposal also seems to reward more tactical play). Conversely, though, playing the objective-based modes like Prisoner Rescue and Search and Destroy and it feels like playing a match of R6: Siege with everyone's arse set alight. It also highlights how chunky the gunplay feels - I'm really impressed with just how great it feels in the hand.
Wes: Infinity Ward is a master of video game gunplay. The weapons really bang, and the audio is fantastic. Some of the new animations are great, too. Have you seen the swap to a handgun animation? I love how you draw the gun while still having your primary on-screen. And there are some tasty new executions, too.
Martin: The animations are fantastic - I spent an hour or so with the returning third-person playlist last night where you can see them in all their glory. I think what's impressed me as well over the weekend is the general technical chops of Infinity Ward (and the dozens of support studios that help bring Call of Duty to life). When it comes to attention to detail or straight-up triple-A spectacle I think they're up there with Naughty Dog now. This really feels like a big budget blockbuster, and after a fairly quiet year on that front it's been nice to spend time with a game that delivers spectacle on that scale.
Wes: I really liked the third-person playlist! Although it has some frustrating issues. When you aim down sights in third-person, you switch into first-person, which can be jarring. It's like Infinity Ward pulled the camera back for this but didn't do anything else. It could be great!
One of the interesting debates I've seen online around MW2 is about its graphics, and whether or not they're even as good as MW1's. One of the interesting things about MW2 is how people compare it to MW1 and not the Call of Duty games that were sandwiched in between. MW1, for all its flaws, was a significant step-up for Call of Duty. It really did move the series forward, not just from a technical point of view, but from an impression point of view. It was an incredible spectacle - one of the best-looking games ever, I think.
MW2 has this problem in that Infinity Ward made that jump three years ago, and MW2 is not that kind of jump forward again. For all the feel changes, MW2 will have a hard time wowing fans like MW1 did. MW1 was such a catalyst for change (and spawned Warzone). I do wonder if certain changes have been made because Infinity Ward felt it had to do something to drive the conversation, as opposed to the changes being the best ideas.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh! I am sure I am going to play MW2 for hundreds of hours...
Martin: I mean, after Black Ops and Vanguard this does feel like a major step forward again - but only really to where the series was back in 2019 with the first Modern Warfare reboot. It was always a bit odd how that one felt like an outlier and then the series regressed again, though obviously that's got a lot to do with internal politics and the weird way that Call of Duty works with rotating teams.Warzone 2.0 - which feels like the main event this time out - is still a little ways off, with the release coming in November.
This feels more an effort to get Call of Duty on a stable foundation for the future as it is to reboot it as Infinity Ward did back in 2019, and on that front it's hard to say how successful it is until we get to play Warzone 2.0 for ourselves. For someone observing from the sidelines, though, there's enough there to make me take notice, whereas the last couple of Call of Duty games have felt like non-events.
Wes: That's certainly true. The hype for MW2 is through the roof, and we effectively get two new Call of Duty games within a month of each other, with Warzone 2.0 coming out in November.
I've got one last question for you: where do you stand on Last Stand?
Martin: [Quickly goes to Google to find out what you're talking about]. Oh that! As someone who gets downed more often than not I think it's fun, though I also really savour the slapstick of Call of Duty and that's something this Modern Warfare 2 open beta has delivered in spades. Roll on the second weekend - I can't wait.