Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 beta impressions: Multiplayer is a thrill

There’s a lot riding on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. As developers Infinity Ward have stated, this is the “new era of Call of Duty,” with state-of-the-art gameplay, an advanced AI system, and a host of fresh multiplayer modes to expand the scope of its gameplay. Wait, haven’t I heard this somewhere before? Oh, that’s right — in every other annual entry in the Call of Duty franchise.

If you’re like me, what this actually means is a return to form to the days of, well, the original Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. Escape the cookie-cutter format found in Call of Duty: Vanguard, please — give us something beyond the fun-yet-ludicrous combat we’ve come to loathe. But Modern Warfare is a different kettle of fish. The 2019 reboot was met with praise for its realistic-looking graphics engine, exciting single-player campaign, and satisfying-yet-flawed multiplayer. In MW2, Infinity Ward seems to have its sights locked in progressing that last one.

It feels more tactical. When I played Vanguard, there were grenades going off every second, players getting shot and immediately respawning, and just all around chaos. With Modern Warfare 2, movement feels satisfyingly weighty, gunshots are more pronounced, and there’s a general sense of being patient. Don’t get me wrong; this is still the fast-paced CoD we’ve come to know, with time-to-kill (TTK) speeds revving up past the speed dial, but Vanguard’s fast-food multiplayer mayhem is a thing of the past. .

Is the “new era” of CoD beckoning? Based on my time in the Modern Warfare 2 beta on PS5, not quite, but it’s the refresh I’ve been looking for — for now.  

Refreshing tactics

To many, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is going to feel identical to the numerous experiences they had with path entries, but more specifically with 2019’s MW. It reached the height of exhilaration in multiplayer when the original Modern Warfare came out, so each subsequent entry has been in a weird middle ground of “give us something new” and “don’t mess with the formula.” 

(Image credit: Infinity Ward)

So far, Modern Warfare 2 proclaims: “we’ve made a few adjustments you might like, but don’t worry, we’ve kept things just the way you like it.” Many are suspicious that gameplay looks sped up, and while it can be incredibly fast-paced, it can only feel like this in short sprints. I was peering around tight corridors, listening for enemy footsteps, throwing flash grenades or tear gas to flush an enemy out of cover, and figuring out the best way to catch players off guard (especially the usual campers). All this led up to a thrilling exchange of bullets, with the first to pull the trigger (usually) being the one running swiftly past the other’s corpse.

There’s more of a tactical approach at play, which is perfect for the new game modes available in the Beta: Prisoner Rescue and Knockout. Despite the fast-paced nature of Knockout, where teams rush frantically to steal a bag of cash, going in head-on means certain death. Booting it up the first time, it was more of a scramble, but players quickly learned that picking off the opposing team will guarantee a victory. This wasn’t my favorite game mode, as it was more of a mobile Search and Destroy, but it was nonetheless fun to play.

(Image credit: Infinity Ward)

Prisoner Rescue was far more gripping, even though it’s just another version of Capture the Flag. Teams take turns protecting or capturing hostages with attackers getting extra points for extracting prisoners compared to defenders making sure they get stolen. Your squad can be revived when downed, which results in some quick-fire decisions. Do you need that teammate back or should you continue on protecting or attacking? Sure, you can wipe out the opposing team, but you won’t get as many points compared to extracting a prisoner. Tactics are rewarded, and you’ll have the arsenal to display this on the battlefield, too.

(Image credit: Infinity Ward)

Of course, the most largely played modes are the classic Team Deathmatch and Domination. These are the modes I played the most as there was always a new angle to approach in each match. Should I be the general trooper that goes in guns blazing to see how many I can pick off or stick to the tight corners with a shotgun at the ready? Each play style has its rewards, and every death (or well-placed shot) felt fair in terms of the weapon you’re using and how good your aim is. Importantly, players who like to camp are going to get the boot because there are several ways to quickly eliminate a static player, whether it’s throwing a useful tactical grenade or using the many routes on a map to flank them.

I also jumped into the new third-person mode that brings a new perspective to the player, but it didn’t make too much of a difference seeing how as soon as you aim down your sight, you’ll switch back to first-person mode. I never thought of Call of Duty as a third-person shooter, so I feel this is more of a gimmick for players to mess around in. 

(Image credit: Infinity Ward)

During the Beta, it took me no time to jump straight into a game, and I couldn’t blame lag for racking up the most deaths at the end of a match. Speaking of deaths, Infinity Ward must have put more time into respawn locations, as I wasn’t getting shot in the face by an opposing player as soon as I jumped in. It’s been a problem in recent entries, but now I felt like I had a fighting chance each time I respawned.

Infinity Ward wasn’t joking about its “improved 3D directionality.” Making my way through a building only to hear someone sprinting towards me from outside, with no blue arrows on the minimap to mark allies in sight, is both terrifying and gratifying. Sometimes I’d fumble my controller and get easily taken out, but other times I’d lay quiet and wait for the right time to deliver a full face of lead to the enemy player. Despite the relentless explosions of a fiery S.A.E Killstreak, or the beautifully petrifying sound of a Cruise Missile Killstreak landing close by, you can still hear the controlled breath of your character as you crouch to stay silent. Even the reload of a weapon is immersive. It’s the small details like these that matter. 

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