Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer was released a couple of weeks ago and I gave it a few days to see how the launch experience holds up. Given the massive casual appeal and success of 2019’s Modern Warfare remake, there’s a lot riding on this year’s Call of Duty.
Coming after last year’s much-lambasted Call of Duty: Vanguard, Modern Warfare 2 was being looked at as the next big thing—being advertised as the start of the franchise’s new two-year lifecycle for each entry, a new hub for Warzone 2.0, a Tarkov-style mode with DMZ, and a much-refined version of the excellent IW 8.0 engine.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer features the best gunplay in the entirety of the franchise with excellent animations and a much better-looking visual style. I even stated in my campaign review how great MW2’s gameplay loop is. It’s everything that ties it all together that ultimately falls flat.
A questionable progression system, problematic map designs, and a myriad of technical bugs hold back MW2’s multiplayer launch. The fact that it relies heavily on being a “live-service” product in order to excuse all the issues now because “they’ll be fixed later on” drags down an otherwise fun multiplayer experience.
You know what you’ll get in a Call of Duty game. However, it feels like MW2 is sometimes letting players bite off more than they can chew.
Needs some fine-tuning
A staple feature from Modern Warfare 2019 was the gunsmith system which brings a whole new level of customization for each of your weapons in a way that has never been so extensive in the Call of Duty franchise.
Iterations of the system have been made in the previous titles namely Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard but they’ve always felt more like an afterthought, possibly due to the unexpected success of Warzone and how the gunsmith system is heavily integrated into that.
Modern Warfare 2’s gunsmith is the most extensive the system has ever been. At launch, there are 55 weapons with each one having countless attachments. This means that the number of unique combinations that can be made is an unimaginable amount. For the casual audience, this is great. There are more options to play around with and trying to discover the best build for each gun adds a layer of depth to the typical class system Call of Duty has had for nearly two decades already.
There’s also a brand new tuning system where you can slightly change the effects of each attachment. Do you want a grip to lean more toward movement speed rather than recoil control? Maybe you want a gun barrel to focus more on bullet velocity rather than damage range? You can play around with it as you see fit. It’s worth noting that for the first few days, the tuning system would not work at all and would even cause some crashes and in-game problems. More on that later.
For the competitive scene, it only serves to unnecessarily pollute the combat system which can also lead to a number of cheesy classes that give an unfair advantage. There are so many things to keep track of. At certain times, too many things. Sometimes, I question a gunfight I was just in because I thought maybe the enemy had a different grip that slightly reduces visual recoil compared to mine. Or that the enemy’s movement is slightly faster because of a different stock. There is a lot of that going on.
It comes to a point where I think that maybe the system would’ve benefited from a “less is more” approach. I can already tell that there are certain attachments that nearly no one will even think of using. From a developer’s perspective, it’s a balancing nightmare. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to sustain this system in future updates as new guns are introduced.
Having something worth fighting for
Modern Warfare 2’s progression system is a bit of a mixed bag. At launch, there’s virtually nothing to talk about as the player can only go up to level 55, you can’t see any of your battle statistics such as K.D. ratio, win/loss rates, the battle pass isn’t live yet, and no prestige system.
The only thing I’ve been keeping myself busy with is leveling up guns and camo challenges. Both of which have their own ups and downs.
Let’s talk about the positives first. The grind for the different weapon camos is infinitely more bearable in Modern Warfare 2 compared to previous titles. Gone are the days when you’re required to do absurd challenges such as perform 150 long shots with a pistol or 50 double kills with a launcher. The problem with camo grinding in recent Call of Duties is not that they’re challenging, but they’re more on the tedious side that are blatant attempts at increasing individual playtimes.
Modern Warfare 2’s camo challenges are much more forgiving, easy to execute, and can easily be passively done while playing the game normally. 50 kills, ADS kills, crouch kills, etc. Not only is the number requirement significantly reduced, they also toned down on gameplay-specific changes in order to progress. No more encouraging camping and a complete change in playstyles like previous camo challenges.
There’s also the fact that once you unlock a certain camo for one guy, it unlocks for everything else. Except for the completionist camos of course, which have their own specific set of challenges. All of them look great by the way. I’ve been noticing how much more enjoyable camo grinding is with MW2 alongside my friends.
However, leveling up guns is an entirely different beast. There is a family tree system integrated with all of the 55 weapons in MW2. For example, in order to get a certain SMG, you have to level up a certain assault rifle, but sometimes in order to get the assault rifle, you have to level up an LMG. There’s a lot of that confusing progression going on and it extends further to attachments as well. Certain attachments can only be unlocked if a specific weapon is leveled up. I complained about this in my first impressions and there are virtually no changes/improvements to be seen in the full release.
A Call of Duty game’s map design can make or break the entire experience. The franchise-staple three-lane structure has proven to produce the best and most iconic combat arenas that fans love. However, this design philosophy has been increasingly ignored in recent titles.
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer, some of the best maps are at risk of being pulled out of the game due to copyright issues. This is because a number of them are based on real-life locations with an almost one-to-one reimagining. Where does that leave us? The originally designed maps—a lot of which aren’t all that fun to play with.
Visually speaking, the combat arenas look great. There are much more colors to be found with each one having distinct themes and personalities. Coming from the countless browns of WW2 with Vanguard, Modern Warfare 2’s, for lack of a better term, modern settings are a nice change of pace.
Functionally speaking, a lot of the maps need work in terms of balancing. There are still a number of areas that encourage camping, hard-to-see hiding spots, and promoting cheesy gameplay styles that are difficult to counter.
One map, in particular, deserves a mention for possibly being one of the franchise’s worst. The Santa Seña Border Crossing is just one highway laced with a bunch of explodable vehicles. There is little to no opportunity for flanking, unique areas to fight in, and a fun geometry to explore. It’s just one straight road. There’s always the one map in every Call of Duty game that makes me back out as soon as it is shown to be the next one. Santa Seña Border Crossing is easily the one for MW2.
It’s a problem when I’m mostly excited about future DLC maps coming in which are already existing ones from the previous Call of Duty titles.
The not-so-good side of combat
As much as I sound like I’m hating on it, the core multiplayer experience is still a lot of fun. Footstep audio being increasingly loud with the lack of a proper dead silence perk is still causing a few problems, especially in the Search and Destroy mode, but other than that, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer is a fun time, especially with friends.
What needs a lot of work is ground war and the spec-ops coop mode. Both of which are tedious and unexciting to load into. Ground war is just domination game mode in a mundane large open space where you mostly encounter bots rather than real players. Spec-ops coop levels feel like scrapped campaign missions that are just thrown in a blender.
What is concerning is that Infinity Ward already had the perfect template for spec-ops in the original Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3. Modern renditions of tightly designed levels which includes different challenges to play for alongside a wave-based combat arena would be an amazing thing to see in the IW 9.0 engine and yet, it feels like the developers insist on a formula that has proven to be a failure already from Modern Warfare 2019.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer’s launch is a buggy mess. Constant crashes, game freezing, and framerate drops are just a number of the red flags that oddly enough, weren’t noticeable in the beta build.
It’s also worth mentioning how problematic the UI system is. It resembles a media streaming website more than anything else. It may work well for those but it is especially cumbersome to navigate in a video game. Again, this is an area where Call of Duty games have already figured out years ago and yet, changes are made for seemingly no reason and with much more worst results.
Aside from aesthetics, the game constantly freezes when navigating the menus. Push enough buttons and the app will completely crash. This is especially more prevalent when you have friends in your party. It’s like Modern Warfare 2 is actively trying to discourage you from playing with friends.
In a few days, season one will launch bringing in the DMZ mode, Warzone 2.0, new maps, the raid game mode, and so much more. While these are exciting additions, I can’t help but feel like they all should’ve been with the day-one release of the game already. It’s increasingly more worrying now that the base game still hosts a number of technical issues that have yet to be addressed.
Conclusion – 7/10
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer has a fantastic foundation with satisfying gameplay, improved camo progression, and a much more appealing visual identity.
It’s the number of missing features, broken systems, and technical issues that plague MW2’s launch. I can easily see this being one of the most played Call of Duties ever made. I can even go as far as to say it has the potential to be one of the best in the franchise. If only the developers would closely follow player feedback, especially ones that the community has been passionately saying all these years, in order to meet the game’s full potential.
If you’re a Call of Duty fan, you’ve already bought this game. If you’re just looking to see if it’s worth it, maybe wait for a couple more updates in order to clean up the mess that is MW2’s launch.
This review was made via a PS5 game code provided by the publisher.