This weekend’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare Beta included all consoles finally and gave us an idea of how cross-play will work in the franchise. I had previously played the PS4 only alpha and beta and also gave this weekends new Ground Wars mode a spin to see how it feels.
I should start off by saying while I’ve always enjoyed Call of Duty games, I’ve never been a huge fan myself. I did buy last years Black Ops 4, but apart from the free games offered on PS Plus (Black Ops 3 and MW Remastered) I’ve never really played that much apart from at friends’ houses. Still, COD multiplayer has always been fun and frantic even for a rookie such as myself.
During the alpha and both betas I’ve played mostly Gun Fight, a 2v2 mode where every 2 rounds each team is given a new gun with random mods. Usually this means a standard gun with maybe a new scope or extended mag, but sometimes results in monstrosities like a shotgun with a sniper scope. Every round is timed and every person has one life. If one team isn’t dead by the end of the round, a flag is planted in the middle that each side can try and capture to win.
This mode is fast, tense, and honestly my favorite mode. It’s refreshing to play on even ground with everyone else in the match. Obviously someone who is more skilled has an advantage, but even a someone like me who doesn’t have much of a background in COD games can pull off a win. Forcing everyone to have the same loadout allows newer players to know what they’re up against while still letting pro players flex their FPS muscles.
Just this weekend Infinity Ward added a new mode called Ground War to the rotation. It’s a 32v32 mode with a huge map and vehicles including ATV’s, tanks, and helicopters. The objective is to capture several points scattered throughout the map and hold them to rack up points while fending off the opposing team.
Unfortunately this is my least favorite mode. The idea is neat and at least isn’t another tacked-on battle royale mode, but it’s mostly a mess. Spawning is horrible. Whether I spawned on someone in my squad or one of our controlled points, I was often immediately murdered without even getting to look around. I also found it difficult to tell friend from foe and other players knew that. Someone would sneak into our base and stand at the back shooting everyone while we all frantically searched for where the attacker was.
Also the map is a waste. Apart from well defined zones, it’s environment is forgettable and mostly unused. At least 90% of the fighting occurs in the central buildings and 3 main control points, essentially making it a standard COD match, just with too many players. The vehicles handle well but apart from the tank only offer a quicker way to get to the centralized fighting. Getting caught in the open is a guaranteed death sentence because snipers (already far to prevalent in COD multiplayer in my opinion) are rampant.
In its more standard modes Modern Warfare excels though. For years the franchise has been the gold standard for online multiplayer and this re-imagining looks to keep that reputation. Granted I ran into an issue where I could only play one match and then had to restart the game to get into another, the few matches of Domination I played felt good.
The only significant change is in how the game feels. You can hear and feel every action with the gun whether it’s firing, switching, or just reloading thanks to top notch sound design and animation. It’s hard to describe but the guns feel heavy, meaty even. Reloading is harsh and maybe even violent but serves to make the guns feel different from past titles. I think it’s part of why Gun Fight feels so good to me. It showcases how versatile the guns are in modification, and how tactile the moment to moment game-play is.
To get even more technical, cross-play is active for the last few days of the beta now. While I seemed to mostly be paired with other PS4 players I did participate in a party of both Xbox and PS4 players and it still played well. We couldn’t make a chat party though which is unfortunate but understandable. You can opt out of cross-play but not controller types which I’m not a fan of. That might be available in the full game, but playing against mouse and keyboard was not an experience I recommend.
To finish up, I do wish the beta was available longer so I could play more, which is really what’s important. There are amazing parts of it that I love, like Gun Fight, but the addition of Ground War is a waste I think. That being said, I do think the mode will have it’s fans. It’s not completely broken and there is fun to be had. At one point I got into a turret on the tank and when the driver parked up on a hill I was able to rain fire down on unsuspecting players from a distance. The I got taken out by a sniper and my fun was over before it ever really began.
Still, if you’re a fan of Call of Duty and especially the Modern Warfare series I think this game will be perfect for you. They’ve kept what’s great about COD while adding the right amount of new things and details to keep the series relevant and exciting. Hopefully you’ve had the chance to play the beta before it ends on September 23, but if not you can pick up the game on October 25.