Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II - Multiplayer Review
Following giving our thoughts on the campaign, we've now spent a bunch of time with Infinity Ward's latest multiplayer offering.
It didn't take long before yours truly realised I had been a bit too kind to Call of Duty: Vanguard in my review. Sure, the single-player campaign, multiplayer and zombies were good, but I gave some shortcoming the benefit of the doubt due to the promise of continuous updates and more content through the year. Many of those things didn't go as planned, while a couple of changes lessened the experience. I was once again reminded that reviewing Call of Duty games doesn't really make sense these days because so much gets tweaked and added pretty quick and often. Still, I feel confident in saying that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is and will continue to be a fun experience for a long time.
One of the reasons for this is that I'm getting old, which is why MWII's somewhat slower pace suits me better. Don't get me wrong. Those of you who prefer fast-paced twitch-shooting will definitely have a lot of fun, but the general feel, traversal, sliding and such are all a tad slower than we've seen in the last couple of entries. A change that gives a tiny bit of extra room for tactics and evaluating your options. Even the new modes and maps highlight this to some extent.
Take the new Ground War mode called Invasion as an example. While the core concept is still a 32vs32 team deathmatch, adding AI-controlled bots into the mix both makes the experience more intense and gives you more options. Despite being fairly smart, those poor soldiers are easy cannon-fodder making it easier to rack up some killstreaks or just feel good about yourself. It works in Warzone, and it works here. Especially when most of the maps are so good.
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Where many standard maps in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare are closed-off versions of bigger ones - leading to some weird designs at times - the 10 standard 6vs6 maps available at launch here are either made from the ground up for this format or at least seem better suited for it. The result is in most cases far more natural and well-balanced battlegrounds where both snipers, shotgunners and everything in between can find ways of getting an advantage on the enemy, whether it's first-person or the returning third-person perspective in these very diverse and colourful areas across the globe.
There are a couple of exceptions, and the biggest one for me is without a doubt Santa Sena Border Crossing. Having a shootout on a long highway chock-full of vehicles that can blow up and kill you out of nowhere when there's very few places to hide is both monotonous and random - even if it's a nice way to show off the game's extremely impressive visuals and sound when the explosions vibrate through your body and both debris and dust fill the previously calm place. Not a big problem when the other standard and battle maps are far better designed and diverse, but it also shows how CoD isn't quite sure what to do when it tries to move away from the classic three-lane formula.
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The lack of some features are more worrisome. Not having any Hardcore modes, the absence of the beta's Valderas Museum map and no Gunfight or other 2vs2 modes are just three examples of things I expect are being saved for future seasons to keep us coming back for more. Maybe a weird complaint when these will be free, but missing Hardcore at launch is really disappointing. Just think about how much cooler these "realistic" fights will be thanks to the new maneuverability options.
Because there's a reason why Infinity Ward and crew have been touting the swimming, mantling, shooting out of vehicles and/or climbing on top of them. All of them have already lead to some funny Hollywood-like moments for me. Most of them are best utilised in Ground War due to the bigger and more open areas though. Sticking your head over the ledge of a roof and seeing a camping sniper you then can easily kill by firing your gun while the rest of your body is still in cover is great when it works. Players either sneaking up on their enemies by diving under water or pretending to be Rambo as they lay on the roof of a SUV while emptying their clip are also sure to be included in gameplay footage on YouTube moving forward. Chances are most of us will continue to be play very traditional, however, but it's nice to know these abilities are there if the opportunity arises.
That can also be said about the new Gunsmith system. As the video below shows, the general idea is to lower the need of grinding for weapon attachments. A nice idea. It might get a bit more complicated in practice judging by my experience though. Where you'd be able to get even better stuff for your favourite weapon by just using it all the time before, MWII's could potentially force you to choose another weapon to unlock an attachment you want. This became obvious to me when I wanted a long range scope for my M4 and the best ones required me to spend a lot of time with a sniper rifle. Kind of makes sense, but it also leads to another weird kind of grind for those of us who prefer some unconventional combinations. Everyone will probably find this version superior to the old one.
Long story short: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II's multiplayer is the same kind of fun we all know and want with its astounding presentation, feel and control topped with the best maps we've received in a while and neat maneuverability options. There's no hiding that it still feels like the same old Call of Duty, however, and it's starting to get very stale. Especially when there's obviously such a big focus on future content and Warzone 2, so I question the need for this when the latter will offer much of the same stuff for free starting in November...
7 / 10
Amazing graphics and sound. Best in class controls and weapons feel. New maneuverability options spice things up. Quite a few great maps.
But one or two really bad ones. Some missing features at launch. Still the same old Call of Duty.