Hitbox First Impressions – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare continues the return to boots-on-the-ground gameplay from Call of Duty: WWII. Modern Warfare’s gameplay is slower-paced compared to its jetpack-boosting predecessors. Call of Duty veterans familiar with the Modern Warfare series will feel at home. 

Developer: Infinity Ward

Publisher: Activision

Platforms: PC [played], Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Release Date: Oct. 25, 2019

Price: $59.99

The Hitbox First Impressions series is not a review. It’s a summary of my brief experience with the game and whether I think it’s worth putting more time into. 

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Infinity Ward’s next entry into the Call of Duty series is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, not to be confused with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which was released in 2007. 

Modern Warfare (2019) is a rebooted version of the three Modern Warfare games. The same characters that appeared in the previous single-player campaigns will make an appearance in this year’s game. Some of the same weapons will also be in the multiplayer. 

An open beta test on PC for the multiplayer portion of Modern Warfare took place two weeks ago, which I took part in. This test allowed gamers to play the game before it was released and provide feedback to the developers. I haven’t played multiplayer in a Call of Duty game since 2015, so it took some time to get back into the swing of things. Some of the new features surprised me, while returning ones felt familiar. 

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer, which is set to release on Oct. 25, players now enter the map at the beginning of a match contextually instead of immediately loading in. Screenshot by John Novotny.

The most notable change from the previous Modern Warfare games are enemies no longer appear on the minimap when they fire their gun. Instead, red diamonds pop up on the compass at the top of the screen. Sprinting has been upgraded to be infinite. Previously, players could only sprint for a few seconds at a time. An additional type of sprinting called “tactical sprint” has also been added, which performs as sprint did in the previous Call of Duty games. Tactical sprinting increases the time it takes to return the player’s gun to a firing position. Players can also slide after sprinting.

Modern Warfare streaks (lower right) return to requiring kills to call in attacks like a remote-controlled cruise missile, a UAV, which identifies enemies on the minimap, and an airstrike. Screenshot by John Novotny.

Other new features in the game include being able to mount the player’s weapon on a surface to reduce recoil, switching fire modes on weapons and interacting with doors, the latter of which I found a little out of place in Modern Warfare’s twitch-reaction based gameplay. 

Crossplay between the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC was also implemented. This means that players on all platforms can now play with each other. This is a massive change. In the previous Call of Duty games, players were restricted to only playing with other people on the same platform. Only a handful of games have allowed gamers to play with others on different platforms. 

The audio in the beta was very loud and oddly mixed. I could hear my teammates’ footsteps halfway across the map. Enemies, on the other hand, were like silent ninjas. The slamming sound effect when opening doors was extremely abrupt. Several times I startled myself by shoving open doors as I ran into them because of how loud it was. 

Firing weapons was also deafening. It reminded me of the time I forgot to put on earmuffs at the gun range and my ears rang for minutes after I fired. Turning down the master volume setting wouldn’t help in this situation because the issue is how loud the effects are relative to each other. This is something Infinity Ward would have to fix on their end. 

When viewing the KillCam, players can see their killer’s loadout, including the other player’s weapon and perks, and can choose to copy the loadout for use when they respawn. Screenshot by John Novotny.

I went through something of a quarter-life crisis playing during the beta. When I died, I would look at the KillCam, which shows the perspective of the enemy player who killed me and marvel at how fast their reaction times were. I knew that I couldn’t match their speed. 

In almost every match, I felt I had to play to the best of my ability to have any semblance of success. While intense matches are nice once and awhile, I always appreciated the casual and relaxed matches of the previous Call of Duty games. It was a relief when I found numerous forum posts describing my exact experience. Note that the pejorative term “sweaty” in the forum posts is used to describe players who are playing to the best of their abilities. 

Several game modes are returning in the newest game, such as Team Deathmatch, where the first team to get a set amount of kills wins. Previously, Ground War simply increased the player count. Search and Destroy has also been renamed to Cyber Attack. It is a mode where each team takes turns trying to plant a bomb at one of two points on the map, while the opposing team defends the points. 

Ground War has undergone a slight revamp. The total player count has been increased to 64, as opposed to the previous 18. Ground War is played on large maps, especially for a Call of Duty game. Tanks, helicopters and ATVs have also been thrown into the mix for added chaos, which is the word that best describes how it feels to play. With so many players running around at the same time, it was easy to feel lost and not know where the action is. 

Gunfight and Realism are the new modes in Modern Warfare. Gunfight is the exact opposite of Ground War. It’s a small, intense battle between two teams of two fighting with the same sets of randomized weapons. Realism drops the user interface for increased immersion. Players in this mode have no crosshair, no hitmarkers and no radar.

Now comes the obligatory microtransactions disclaimer. Microtransactions are small purchases for video games you already own. This term has become synonymous with loot boxes that offer randomized in-game rewards for real-world money. Recent Call of Duty games have experimented with including gameplay-affecting weapons in randomized loot boxes, which are only purchasable for real money. I fully expect Modern Warfare to continue this trend.

In addition, Call of Duty games wait until after release to add loot boxes to possibly avoid negative press coverage. That’s the only reason I can think of, anyway. Like clockwork, a few months after release, loot boxes magically appear in the in-game store. 

Infinity Ward recently revealed that an entire mode called Special Ops will be exclusive to the PlayStation 4 for an entire year. Call of Duty is no stranger to platform exclusives. However, they have  never been this egregious. Previously, only a few maps would be exclusive to a platform for a few months. The maps would be released on other platforms after the exclusivity period ended. 

Even with all the negative aspects of Call of Duty’s business model, I still want to play more. The short matches of a Call of Duty game fit in well with my busy schedule. I could complete a few matches of Team Deathmatch in half an hour, level up and feel like I made meaningful progress. Maybe I unlocked a cool assault rifle or an attachment for my favorite gun and I have something to look forward to the next time I play. It’s also a lot less intimidating than diving into a 100-hour, role-playing game that I would usually be interested in. 

Want to suggest a video game for review? Contact John Novotny at [email protected].