Call of Duty’s IW engine is holding back the franchise and it’s Warzone’s fault

Joseph Pascoulis
mw3 operator on highrise

The IW engine in Call of Duty has been holding back the franchise for years, as new titles used to feel unique and bring innovation, but now Warzone is the primary focus, and Call of Duty 2024 may suffer because of that.

Since Modern Warfare 2019‘s release, Call of Duty has been under the influence of the IW 8.0 engine developed by Infinity Ward, and it’s becoming tiresome.

Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games, and Infinity Ward previously developed Call of Duty titles with their own unique engines, allowing annual Call of Duty titles to feel like a new experience. But, everything changed with MW2019 and Warzone, as their influence extends to CoD 2024.

MW2019 was a massive hit for Call of Duty, as not only was it a huge success in terms of its multiplayer, but it also introduced players to Warzone. So, it’s no surprise to see the developers clinging onto this engine, especially as it makes integration with the battle royale that much easier.

However, adapting releases to fit Warzone and the IW engine is sapping the innovation from annual Call of Duty titles, as each new installment feels like MW2019 in disguise.

Black Ops Cold War was on the BO3 engine but used tools from MW19’s IW 8.0, distancing itself from the Black Ops engine while aligning itself more with Warzone. Starting with MW2 2022, all Call of Duty games will be developed on IW 9.0, an upgraded version of Modern Warfare 2019’s engine, and it’s led to MW2, MW3, and Warzone all feeling extremely similar.

With Call of Duty 2024 waiting in the wings, one thing is clear, the game is being developed on the IW 9.0 engine, as confirmed by ex-General Manager for Call of Duty Johanna Faries in an interview with the Washington Post.

Treyarch are reportedly developing the next Call of Duty game, and although unconfirmed, it’s expected to be another Black Ops title. If this is true, CoD 2024 will be the first Black Ops in the franchise’s history without the Black Ops engine, which is a cause for concern, especially as a fan of the Treyarch-developed titles.

Faries also stated that Black Ops titles will still feel different from Modern Warfare despite Call of Duty being consolidated under one game engine, so perhaps Treyarch can expand on the engine and make it their own.

CoD 2024 won’t be innovative

Despite Faries’ comments, I am skeptical about CoD 2024, as Black Ops Cold War was on a modified version of the Black Ops 4 engine, only using tools from IW 8.0, but to me, it felt like BOCW was more similar to MW2019 than any previous BOPS title.

This is mainly because it didn’t feature any of the innovative mechanics Treyarch had been providing over the years. Black Ops Cold War didn’t feature Specialists, boosted movement, or the health system change seen in Black Ops 4. This made it feel less innovative and more like it was trying its best to fit into the Warzone model, and I fear the same may happen with Call of Duty 2024.

It’s disheartening to think about since one of my loves for Call of Duty derives from the fact that each year brings something new, and many players resonate with that sentiment.

Every annual release brought change and innovation. One year we had exo suits and Specialists, the next we were spun back in time with WWII’s boots-on-the-ground gameplay. But now, we’re stuck with an engine that has homogenized the franchise, and Warzone certainly has a huge part to play in that.

Why Warzone is to blame

It seems like the franchise’s inherent tie to Warzone completely prevents innovation from truly happening, as each title has to integrate with the battle royale, and different engines cause a mess.

This is exactly what we saw with the original Warzone and its Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard integrations. Bugs and problems were popping up all over the place, not to mention major balancing problems with weapons from three different Call of Duty games.

This is also likely why we may never see any drastically new and innovative features in CoD multiplayer, as the battle royale emphasizes realism so movement enhancements such as the exo suits and even Specialists don’t fit Warzone’s style, especially as the latter is also Apex Legends USP.

On the other hand, there’s a chance that each studio makes the engine their own by upgrading and enhancing it to their style, offering innovative and drastic new mechanics to multiplayer, while Warzone maintains its identity.

However, this would require the two titles to be completely separate, and with how much success the franchise has seen by making everything more universal, including the engine (IW 9.0), it doesn’t seem like they want to split the player base for Warzone and multiplayer, but only time will tell.