Modern Warfare 2 beta review: Fun despite the changes, not because of them
Modern Warfare 2’s beta has finally arrived, and we’ve experienced all the game has to offer so far. Despite being a major improvement over Infinity Ward’s 2019 offering, there are some design choices that hold it back from true Call of Duty greatness.
Knowing how well-crafted an Infinity Ward Call of Duty can be, but disagreeing with some of Modern Warfare 2019’s core design choices left me in an odd situation ahead of Modern Warfare 2’s beta.
Everything looked great, but having heard mention of 2019’s minimap returning and their extremely detailed footstep audio, I was as apprehensive as I was excited. It’s good news though, as Modern Warfare 2’s beta has set the stage for a Call of Duty game that’s even better than Modern Warfare 2019 — but a few major design choices are really holding it back from its true potential.
Modern Warfare 2 feels and looks fantastic
We’ll start with the positives — Modern Warfare 2’s beta looked and felt fantastic. Infinity Ward have a track record of making guns feel unique and weighty, and they’ve gone above and beyond with Modern Warfare 2.
Bringing back five attachments and letting progression go across weapons are welcome decisions and even though the Platforming system can be confusing at first, it’s improved Gunsmith for the better. Our choices in the beta didn’t allow for anything that was too much of a laser beam, so if they can just dial back the visual effects a tad more, weapons look to be in a great place.
Map design was a major issue in Modern Warfare 2019, but Modern Warfare 2 has corrected many of these faults. Bringing back three lanes, removing a ton of the doors, and having the maps be bright and vibrant makes a huge difference. Map design alone has already set Modern Warfare 2 above 2019, and I can see myself playing more than just Search and Destroy throughout the year.
Movement also received a major shakeup, where slide canceling is essentially non-existent and players can now Dolphin Dive. I’ll admit I fully used slide canceling to my advantage in previous years but I’m glad to see it gone. Instead, jump-shotting and bunny hopping appear to be the meta, which isn’t perfect but is much more friendly to your controller’s longevity.
Infinity Ward’s quirks hold back great gameplay
Unfortunately, while being well-built and actually fun to play, Modern Warfare 2’s beta suffered from many of Infinity Ward’s quirks that held Modern Warfare 2019 back from being a truly great Call of Duty game.
I’ll get skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) out of the way first. Personally, I’m done with begrudging SBMM and disbanding lobbies. It’s clear that there are statistics somewhere at Activision that prove that strict skill-based matchmaking helps with player retention, so don’t expect anything to change anytime soon.
I’m also confident that the clunky UI and menus will be sorted ahead of launch, but it’ll be a real shame if they stick with it.
Good luck playing run n’ gun
While Infinity Ward wanted to cater to all playstyles, it feels like the ‘Sentinel’ style (camping) has received the most love. Moving around the map was a major risk thanks to the extremely loud footstep noise and fast time to kill, meaning that the player holding a corner while ADSing has every advantage possible.
The classic, arcadey, run n’ gun playstyle was extremely hard to pull off in Modern Warfare 2’s beta because of the loud footstep audio that essentially acted as a wallhack. My best games were those that I played tactically, pre-aiming every corner and making sure not to Tactical Sprint, but that playstyle got boring extremely quickly.
I hoped that Dead Silence would alleviate some of the troubles but its major nerfs meant that I was still getting pre-fired before turning a corner. Instead, I often found myself in a stalemate where I knew the enemy was round the corner and they knew I was there too, but neither of us wanted to swing it as whoever held the angle was almost guaranteed to win the fight.
Map flow is almost non-existent
This brings us to the issue of map flow. Despite the maps being colorful and well-designed with few doors or obvious power positions, players just don’t want to move and it feels like the minimap change is as much to blame as footstep audio.
In the same vein as MW2019, players firing their weapons never show up on the minimap. While Infinity Ward said they “want players to actively search out the origin of a gunshot versus just traveling directly to where the dot is on the mini-map,” it feels like it’s had the opposite effect.
Red dots on the minimap show exactly where the action’s taking place, allowing players to plan their push accordingly. Just the audio, however, doesn’t give players enough information to encourage movement. Instead, most would rather wait for the source of the gunshots to come to them rather than loudly stomp their way into the unknown.
Although I’ve listed a bunch of negatives, Modern Warfare 2 is fun to play. Weapons feel great, the maps are designed well, and Infinity Ward have nailed the small details that set them apart from the other Call of Duty studios.
However, Modern Warfare 2 is fun despite the unnecessary changes, not because of them. It’s hard to overstate how much lowering footstep audio, bringing back a classic minimap, and raising the TTK would improve the experience.
It feels like Modern Warfare 2’s mechanics were designed with Warzone 2 and DMZ in mind, so we just have to hope that Infinity Ward are as dedicated to supporting traditional multiplayer as they are to their battle royale and extraction modes.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 and PC
Image Credit: Activision / Infinity Ward