"Welcome to the new era of Call of Duty," the Modern Warfare 2 beta very proudly proclaims on the PS5 home screen. Is it, though? Infinity Ward's latest looks a lot like the other 18 mainline instalments before it, but with Warzone 2 alongside the main game, we could be about to enter another generation of Call of Duty dominance. Bringing back the general feel and mechanics of 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, this is a strong showing in the lead-up to release next month.
Somewhat of a reboot three years ago, the development cycle lands on Infinity Ward for it to make the same sort of leap as the PS3's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Confusing naming decisions aside, this is a bigger and better version of the blockbuster FPS series. The fluid movement system returns with new features, and so too does the ability to mount your weapon in order to improve its accuracy and better control recoil. It was in Call of Duty: Vanguard too, but so many skipped the game that the feature almost feels new again. Either way, we're happy to have it back.
To be honest, we're chuffed to have Call of Duty back too with an entry that appears to be a return to form. We've only been able to spend a handful of hours with the beta which only covers a small selection of maps and modes, of course. But for a franchise with a fanbase that consistently moans and groans about changes during the beta phase, we have hardly anything to complain about.
It's vital to not get carried away: the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 beta isn't going to turn non-believers into supporters all of a sudden. This is still very much a Call of Duty title with blisteringly paced action that rewards quick reactions and those that go in all guns blazing. From the outside looking in, it's just another $70 investment to gain access to new maps, guns, and mechanics. While that's probably a correct assumption, there are some changes to the multiplayer formula that are going to take some time to properly figure out.
The first is removing red dots from the map. To our knowledge, in every single previous Call of Duty game, whenever you've shot your gun without a silencer, you'd appear on the mini-map as a red dot for a short period of time. It's one of the most standard
features workings of the experience. It's difficult to even call it a feature; it's an expectation. It's very surprising then that Modern Warfare 2 does away with it.
What even is the point of the silencer attachments at this point? They muffle the sound of your shots somewhat, but enemies nearby can still hear them. Now you'll never be able to take a peak at the mini-map to learn where the action is in Team Deathmatch, or be alerted to another player nearby. Is this a change that will positively or negatively affect online matches, though? It's tough to say at this point. There's definitely some initial whiplash present: we're still ogling that mini-map in the top-right corner for any scent of an enemy, so it's impacting our play when you don't need to be looking there so much anymore.
More testing — especially in the full game — is required to see how this change plays out. In theory, you no longer need to commit an attachment slot to a silencer anymore, allowing you to customise loadouts further. But it's impossible to get away from the strangeness of there being no more red dots on that mini-map! Come back to us in a few months and maybe we'll have a definitive answer on the tweak.
Something else that'll take some time to work out is the perk system, which no longer gives you all those benefits at the start of the match. Instead, they'll unlock over time, with your final "ultimate perk" activating in the latter stages of an online bout. Why? Only Infinity Ward knows. It's not necessarily a bad change since all the players in the match should theoretically unlock their last benefit at the same time. But, like, why? It feels like a change that's been made purely so the developer can point to something it's done that does actually affect the gameplay flow. Much like stripping the mini-map of red dots, the jury's out on whether this makes the title better. We can't really think of a positive to this change so let's talk about what we do like.
That's the new Invasion mode. In a 20 v 20 faceoff, both teams are joined on the map by AI. This makes matches even more chaotic because while they don't pose as much of a threat as a real-life player, they can control territory and gang up on teammates. It's a really enjoyable mode that captures the scale of a Battle Royale match, but matches it up with constant respawns so you don't have to worry about dying so much. This one will most certainly become a popular option during friendly get-togethers alongside Domination, Search and Destroy, and Hardpoint.
Many of the changes made in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will take time to judge properly, but one we hope is sent straight back to the drawing board is the menus you must navigate before starting a match. From the main menu right the way through to customising loadouts, they all look like they're ripped straight out of Netflix. It's tiles upon tiles, and they're a chore to navigate. You'll need to scroll through all of them to find the mode you actually want to play, and with only a few taking up the entire screen at any one time, you could be buttoning through for a lot longer than you'd like.
This may work if you're using a mouse and keyboard. However, on a controller, the tiles only lengthen the time it takes to get from the menu to actual gameplay. They can be quite confusing too: it took maybe four attempts before our custom loadout actually saved because it's not made obvious what the game wants you to do once you've locked in your selections. It's very unlikely Infinity Ward will completely overhaul its menu system at this point in development, though, so we're just going to have to put up with it. That's along with the disbanding lobbies and clunky party system. The joy.
For a beta we're generally quite high on, this Hands On article probably comes across fairly negatively. That wasn't our intention, but when what's making Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 so good is already so familiar, we have to focus on what's different. The shooting once again feels excellent. The movement is responsive, light, and fast-paced. The maps this time around seem better, with some fun shootouts already taking place and various flanking points to seek out. The audio is top notch and firing your weapon sounds incredible.
Building upon what made Call of Duty: Modern Warfare so excellent three years ago, and with Warzone 2 to follow a few weeks later, the sequel is primed to recapture the heights of Activision's FPS heavyweight. Consider us signed up for the full release on 28th October 2022. We just wish we wouldn't have to scroll through so many tiles to get to the action.
Have you been playing the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 beta? What are your first impressions? Share them all in the comments below.