Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019 is a special game for me, because it reignited my love for the franchise. I’ve been one to buy each game every year (and the Prestige editions at that), play the campaign, jump in a few multiplayer matches with my dad and brother, and move onto something else. As many know, I started playing Call Of Duty again because of COVID; it was a great way to stay in touch with my family and friends. But what began as recreation turned into a passion, and I found myself playing the game not only for fun, but to compete and learn the systems inside and out. While the other iterations of Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard have certainly engaged me, the Modern Warfare name holds a different weight for me. As soon as I saw the logo I was anxiously waiting, and after seeing some of the campaign this week along with some details on the multiplayer, my fervor is only growing as we await the inevitable betas and the game launch on October 28th.
First off, the trailer you just saw. It’s true to Call Of Duty fashion, with a taste of the set pieces, plenty of bullets and explosions, all backed by a killer track in J Balvin’s Wherever I May Roam mashup with Metallica. It feels like tradition to get some sort of heavy metal/rock or rap song with a new Call Of Duty trailer, and this one hits both. Tangled in everything you’ll see is actual gameplay footage, which shows plenty of different locales we’ll be headed to. There is also a line mentioning Task Force 141 working with the Mexican Special Forces. It wouldn’t be a Call Of Duty trailer without a note on pre-ordering the game, which as per usual will allow the player early access to the beta that we don’t have a date for… yet. We do know the game is headed to PS4 and 5, Xbox One and Series consoles, and PC, and along with Battle.net you’ll also be able to play via Steam, a platform the franchise hasn’t been available on for in a long time.
Moving on to the presentations, Pat Kelly, Studio Head at Infinity Ward, took the stage to give us an overview of how they created what we were about to see. I know plenty of the buzzwords we heard here are a mark of the industry, but it’s always great to see the passion the teams have for what they’re building. In the Modern Warfare 2019 reboot, he pointed out how they’ve moved away from Michael Bay moments, by making sure these insane campaign moments we’ll experience are more than just an explosion. They want the adventure to be there, but they also want to ensure that it’s real and alive, recognizing that these characters are heroes, but also human. It’s all fiction in the end, but there is an inspiration of real life events behind it.
One of the coolest things this team was able to do is move forward from the reboot and build a new world inhabited by the characters we all remember. Jeff Negus (Narrative Director) and Brian Bloom (Head Writer) took us through some of these, showing us the headshots for Gaz, Ghost, Soap, and more. We got some additional backstory on these reimagined characters, along with intel on the new ones, but I don’t want to ruin too much of that for you. What they would like you to know is the story is going to build upon the thought of “Where do you draw the line?” that Modern Warfare 2019 introduced. This will be by going after the idea that you are the company you keep, leading me to imagine that not everyone is going to be who they seem to be as Task Force 141 makes its way across the globe to face whatever comes its way. Keeping in the mold of many previous Call Of Duty’s, an attack will kill a hostile foreign general, which always leads to a revenge plot we have to stop.
It’s the journey that makes everything interesting though, and everything I saw in the campaign footage looked fantastic. It was largely pre-alpha, so there were some rough edges, but everything is shaping up to be one heck of a campaign. It had everything, the night missions, the stealth gameplay, the incursions, the breachings, and it continued to build in a way I haven’t felt since Modern Warfare 2019. There’s an intensity Call Of Duty campaigns have, and while both Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard did well in theirs, it’s on another level here. While there was some background music in certain segments of the game to build that gravity you get in the games, it was largely absent, allowing the realism to bleed through and keep you on your toes. Another thing to point out; if you thought Modern Warfare 2019 looked good, just wait until you see the levels of detail here, even at night. There’s plenty of promises coming out of Infinity Ward about their new engine, and with 4K HDR and world volumetric lighting available via a physically based material system I’m looking forward to what’s in store.
I’m sure there are plenty of levels that will occur in regular lighting, but I’m curious if there’s a particular onus on doing a lot of these at night to increase your options. The opening mission we saw, Night War, had you behind the barrel of Soap’s gun in a group captained by Simon “Ghost” Riley. This one somewhat reminds me of “Clean House”, the mission in Modern Warfare 2019 where Price and company have to clear an Al-Qatala terrorist cell from a small home near London. This one’s a bit more straightforward, without as much of the hesitancy you had there in trying to keep from killing innocents, but taking on a small terrorist compound to go and help your other squad whose helicopter crashed is just as intense a premise. One moment you walk into a house, only to have an enemy combatant fling a trap door open from the floor, requiring you to engage. Another time one of your squadmates is surprised by gunfire as you go up the stairs, with him falling and dragging himself to cover while you take out the one who hit him. After that you finally reach the downed helicopter, only to find a ton of Al-Qatala moving at you from the tree-line. It looks like it’s going to be a fight for your life, but the team allows the mission to fade away before we know the outcome.
From there, Zied Rieke, the director of gameplay, had some more cool campaign footage to show us, and this time it involved a swimming mission. This is something Infinity Ward has gone hard on, and it leads you into something that feels somewhat unique compared to the normal Call Of Duty formula. Gaz is with Price, both in wetsuits, swimming around the canals of Amsterdam in search of smugglers. This is more than just a little swim up to the dock and getting out, the water is the playground you use to take out these baddies. You can certainly get up on the docks and do as you please, but the ability to dive underwater to get to more preferable positions is a much more useful application of stealth mechanics.
Something else we found out listening to Game Director Jack O’Hara is that the team really focused on utilizing water in their gameplay spaces, especially since they haven’t given it a fair space in previous games. One thing is for sure, Infinity Ward has outdone themselves in tackling this feature. Watching the way light refracts, how the water moves, the foam from waves and how vehicles react to the water, all shows the attention to detail the devs employed. Even leaves sit on top of the water and move in accordance to the waves. It will also affect the gameplay with bullets in a pistol fireable underwater, but given the weapon ballistics in water you’ll have to hit a few extra shots to get a kill, which we saw in action in the level, both in Gaz escaping and fighting back. This will even be making its way into the multiplayer, and while we haven’t seen the maps in particular the promise is that we’ll be using it to add an additional layer to our strategies.
Beyond this were some little campaign tidbits where we saw rappelling, with having to intentionally position yourself on the wire to identify your foes and possibly take them out. There’s also a use of huge spaces, with ghillied snipers taking 500 yard shots where you have to account for bullet drop. Rieke mentioned that Warzone has really helped the team get experience in those kinds of spaces, thus allowing them to go bigger than they have before. Bigger includes vehicle combat, where we saw the character leaping from vehicle to vehicle with you having to drive them in order to progress, meaning it isn’t as on-rails as you might think. You’ll not only have to drive, but keep an eye on your vehicle’s health, with the possibility of you needing to jump to another, or fight by popping out of the window to shoot back. It also goes further than just what you currently see in Warzone, with the ability to knock doors off or blow out tires, with the plans of the husk of a vehicle staying on the map after it’s dead and gone. I want to get my hands on this gameplay to tell you if it really works in theory as well as it looks like it does, but either way I’m excited to see the variety Infinity Ward is injecting into the campaign.
As some will ask, we did see some of the systems of Gunsmith in action, along with some multiplayer details. Something interesting that O’Hara mentioned is how the unlocking is changing, with families of guns you’ll move through. I still see levels on the slide itself, so I’m not sure how this change works, or if it’s as drastic as it sounds, but it’ll be interesting to see how it develops. As per usual, you’ll have plenty of attachments, and looking at the slide I think we won’t be going back into the 10 attachment system. This is a big win in my mind, with less overpowered guns and more required of the player in determining what they want to do with it. This concept also shows in the tuning area, where you’ll see where your gun leans in terms of things like recoil control or damage. I like it a lot, and I’m ready to mess around with it to find the best combinations. As for what guns you’ll be using, I can at least name a few I picked up on and saw, the ISO, the LACH-9, 16, and 56, K-Bloc, M4, M16, .458 SOCOM, LMG FIGHTLITE, and LASER, along with a few shotguns (like the Bryson 500) and the 1911. I think I saw the Fennec at the beginning if I’m not mistaken as well. They all sound like you want them to, and I’m willing to bet they’ll feel just as good as Call Of Duty weapons typically do.
There’s also a lot of neat new equipment Infinity Ward has in the works for you to use, with Multiplayer Design Director Joe Cecot taking us through them. The tactical camera sounds intriguing, being able to work like the drone in tagging enemies, but also having the passive capability to notify the player via a sound cue that a foe has entered its sight. Countering it on something like Search and Destroy will be important, and having the DDOS field upgrade is exactly that, a portable EMP you can use to knock out equipment and even stall vehicles. I hope to see plenty of direct counters in play here, and at the moment there seems to be. The drill charge is another thing I’ve seen before, but could be really cool in use in Call Of Duty. Throw this bad boy on a wall and it will drill through and drop a grenade, perfect for clearing out a bunch of campers hiding from you. Probably the thing I’m most excited about, even if it’s more funny than anything, is the inflatable decoy. It’s literally what it sounds like, an inflatable soldier in a nice proximity mine-like contraption that springs out like an air-bag if the player triggers it or an enemy walks too close. The first thing I thought of was dropping it close to a bomb on Search and Destroy and taking advantage of it to locate an enemy player who will hopefully be surprised enough to reveal their position by shooting at it.
Movement of course is paramount to the Call Of Duty experience, and we’re getting even more options in Modern Warfare II. Sliding will still be around (although I couldn’t tell you yet if slide canceling will still be a thing), along with mounting your weapon, but back from the dead is the dive. Again, not sure on what it looks like, or if it’s as ridiculous looking as the dolphin dive, but with so many windows and doors around it’ll add a new level of strategy in taking on opponents. Included in this is swimming, which we’ve already discussed a bit, but also ledge hanging. I assume this will probably function similar to ladders, where you’ll be close to the edge and be able to peak like you do currently as well as engage with a pistol. I’m curious as to if it may invite a bit too many peekers in, destroying high ground advantages, but as long as the ledges aren’t all over the place on a map it will hopefully be just fine. There wasn’t any talk about tactical sprint in our session, so whether or not it will disappear is a conundrum awaiting us in the beta.
As for the maps you’ll be using these guns and movement skills on, the team has divided things into two distinct categories, Battle Maps for large scale combat, and core maps, which are your classic 6v6 ones. Battle Maps are where you’ll see a lot more of the climbing coming in handy, with tons of buildings around you can enter and exit, while the smaller core maps lean into the tighter experiences. Geoffery Smith, Multiplayer Design Director, mentioned that Verdansk really assisted them in building these larger scale maps with the experience they gained from it. The Battle Maps they brought up, which we’ll probably see in beta, were Sa’id, an “intense urban combat” map with tons of buildings to explore and set up in, and Sarrif Bay, a tourist fishing village where you’ll see plenty of water coming into play in your battles. The smaller maps were Museum which is set in Spain, Grand Prix, a racetrack in Asia at night where a race is actually still ongoing, and Farm 18, an undisclosed training facility that Infinity Ward says will look really unique. It’s cool to see all of these already in play, and hopefully there are many more to follow. As for the prospects of any remakes, we don’t know yet, so we’ll have to wait for further information.
When it comes to game modes, you can rest assured you’ll have things like Team Deathmatch and Search and Destroy, but the devs are hoping to hook you on new ones. The two mentioned were Knockout and Prisoner Rescue. Knockout is similar to Gunfight, although 6v6, and with a loop referred to as “playing the kid’s game, steal the bacon”. It’s one life rounds with revives, with a bag spawning in one of three different locations. The objective is simple, kill everyone, or be the last person with the bag when the timer runs out. The only problem, if you have the bag you’re revealed to the enemy team, so either having your squad defend you or having incredible gunskill will be key to making it through this fast-paced mode. With Prisoner Rescue, you’ll be reminded somewhat of another game, with a team defending a prisoner and the other squad trying to rescue them by bringing the prisoner to an extraction point. This mode will make it into the Battle Maps, so it’ll keep things fresh and of course require you to come up with more tactics for these lower engagement maps.
Much of what Infinity Ward showed us is planned to be integrated into Warzone II, or whatever they decide to name it (they’re not sure as of yet). This even includes new AI behaviors the team has worked on in order to bring more lifelike NPCs to the battlefield. What that means for us in Warzone II or the rumored DMZ mode is another thing, but I like the thought of making PVPVE as exciting as possible. There’s also the next version of Ricochet, the anti-cheat that debuted with Caldera and Vanguard, which will hopefully continue in combating the scum of the earth who enjoy cheating in video games.
I could go on for quite a bit more, with plenty of other tidbits to be found in what was revealed. But there’s a simple key here; Modern Warfare looks like Modern Warfare. That’s enough to make me super excited. You can pre-order Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare soon, and it will release on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC via Battle.net and Steam starting October 28th, 2022. For more information and the latest intel check out: https://www.callofduty.com/, https://www.youtube.com/callofduty, and follow @InfinityWard and @CallofDuty on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.