Infinity Ward Doubling Down on Modern Warfare 2's Design Shouldn't Surprise Anyone

Infinity Ward Doubling Down on Modern Warfare 2’s Design Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone

Infinity Ward is sticking its guns with Modern Warfare 2's gameplay design, to little shock.

We’re a little over a month before Modern Warfare 2 arrives, and as usual with Call of Duty, fans are deeply immersed in the multiplayer beta. Weekend one has just wrapped up, and to little surprise, Infinity Ward has kept the core formula of 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare alive while adding new changes to the already divisive core.

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To summarize, most of these changes aren’t good and are indicative of an identity crisis that Infinity Ward will gladly throw the series into for the sake of “innovation.” Before I go forward and share my thoughts and the recent developer feedback, I want to take a step back and share my POV of how the series has progressed over time.

I started playing CoD in 2008, with Call of Duty: World at War being my first title. I fell in love with the story Treyarch created, which would later lead to a cinematic universe. I fell in love with the simplistic gameplay of one attachment, three perks, three killstreaks, and some equipment. It was very barebones, but it worked. 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 came and revolutionized the core gameplay by going bigger, and since then, the series has been enthralled with the idea of “bigger and better.”

While that’s fine, it became apparent that yearly releases by two, and then three, different studios would not fit that mantra. The problem escalated as each studio shared their unique take on what Call of Duty should be, in their eyes, versus what has worked in the previous entries. Let me be clear; innovation is never a problem. However, innovation becomes an issue when we’re innovating for the sake of claiming innovation versus innovating out of love and care. Not to mention, neither of the three studios shared one core vision which created a disconnect on what the perfect CoD should be.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2019

Years passed, and Modern Warfare was set to be the saving grace for the series. It was marked to be a glorious return to a modern setting after years of jetpacks, advanced movement, World War 2 for the fiftieth time, and Specialists that could melt your team in a matter of seconds. Fan hype was at an all-time high until it became apparent that Infinity Ward was going completely off-rails with this next entry. Some of the complaints at the time were:

  • The lack of a classic mini-map as previous entries would show the enemy’s position if they fired a weapon without a suppressor. This game did not essentially removing the need for a suppressor attachment.
  • The lack of a dedicated “Ninja” or “Dead Silent” Perk. Normally, it wouldn’t have been an issue, but your character sounded like they had cinder blocks on their feet at all times.
  • Visibility was some of the worst Call of Duty had ever seen in its storied history. I’m not old, I don’t have the best eyes, but I had to squint to see someone in the darkest corners of maps.
  • Map design was also just as horrendous as the visibility issues.
  • Time to kill was absurdly quick. If you weren’t paying attention or were caught by someone hiding, you stood zero chance of winning an engagement.
  • The punishing arrival of skill-based matchmaking.

Now I could go on about how much the game divided the community, but instead, I want to focus on how Infinity Ward handled the game during and after launch. Multiplayer design director Joe Cecot spoke very openly about his desire to create a game that catered to the next generation of gamers, often mentioning that maps and weapons were created with this core philosophy in mind. Everything mentioned in the list above was developed in that particular way to create a “level” playing field for all types of players.

It became clear that Modern Warfare was a walking contradiction: a game made to cater to all types of players yet punish those who played the way Call of Duty has played for the past ten-plus years. IW did not budge on its stance, and the team is doubling down on its mindset with Modern Warfare 2.

The first week of the beta has wrapped up, and ahead of week two, Infinity Ward has shared responses on features that fans are up in arms over. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the changes MW 2019 introduced are very much alive in Modern Warfare 2. I’d even argue Infinity Ward went a step further and gutted things that didn’t need changing, such as the debacle that is the new Perk system, visibility still being a problem, the mini-map “negatively affecting certain players,” and even brought back Last Stand for reasons unknown. Yet, Infinity Ward is sticking with what they’ve created.

I’m fine with the change, as change is a natural part of life and gaming. What I’m not okay with is innovation and innovation without a proper explanation. The problems surfacing in Modern Warfare 2 Infinity Ward has no coherent answer for. For example, when speaking on how the mini-map works and Dead Silence as a Field Upgrade, the team had this to say:

“Currently in the MW2 Beta, we only show enemy player dots when a UAV is active. The design reason for this is that we do not want to punish players for firing their weapons. We also want players to actively search out the origin of a gunshot versus just traveling directly to where the dot is on the mini-map.”

“We believe it is important to game health that rushers are not able to move at high speeds without consequence. Dead Silence as a Field Upgrade creates a balance between freedom of movement and predictability of combat.”

I’m fine with searching for a player location, that’s pretty realistic, and it gets me moving around the map. However, with the footstep audio being as loud as it is, I’ll get punished for actively looking for enemies by a player holding a corner or an angle because he can hear myself and my cinder block footsteps. If the above statements aren’t the most contradictive examples of game design I’ve ever seen, then I must be missing something.

How to unlock and call in a care package in MW2 beta

I could go on about how this is awful yet not surprising. I didn’t even mention the competitive scene that Activision is slowly squeezing the life out of, whether it be the professional players’ fault for being so picky or not. I think the bigger issue here is the identity crisis Call of Duty faces as Infinity Ward is converting it into a military simulator. Call of Duty, at its core, is an arcade-style shooter, and Infinity Ward has no answer for why it’s changing what the formula has been besides the parental “because we can.” We don’t need another military simulator unless SOCOM comes back. We need a good CoD title that blends the best of everything the franchise has been known for or at least coherent answers as to why we’re moving in a direction.

However, none of this should surprise us. Modern Warfare was the highest-selling CoD game in recent years, and Call of Duty: Warzone is the ship this franchise is hanging on to. If this post ages like milk, I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong. However, in its current state, it’s rather disappointing that this is what we will be stuck with until Treyarch’s title in 2024.

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John Esposito
I love almost every type of video game, and when I'm not playing them, I'm writing about them... a lot. I have too many favorites to list so feel free to ask about them! Long live Ugly Sonic and the Resident Evil 3 Remake (this is a meme btw).