Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer beta is officially live, and this weekend gives PlayStation users first crack at Infinity Ward’s continuation of the rebooted Modern Warfare series. Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer beta offers a pretty familiar offering, but there are some solid maps and a completely overhauled Gunsmith feature worth checking out.
Better map designs than Modern Warfare 2019
One of Modern Warfare 2019’s biggest shortcomings was the over-abundance of massive and cluttered map designs used across multiplayer for matches of various player counts, so it’s nice to see the developer scale back Modern Warfare 2’s standard maps to better fit Call of Duty’s traditional 6v6 combat. We only get to sample three standard maps in the current beta, but as previously announced, all of Modern Warfare 2’s standard maps were designed for traditional 6v6 matches. This gives hope that Modern Warfare will have an overall stronger map pool at launch.
The beta 6v6 maps include:
Valderas Museum is a museum located in Spain. The map feels like the largest of the three, with plenty of space to fight in and around the museum. This map works well for Domination, and looks to be a solid map for other objective modes at launch.
Farm 18 is a military facility set inside an abandoned cement factory. This is a map the developer said was inspired partly by the small Shoot House map from Modern Warfare 2019, and it definitely feels reminiscent of that or even Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s Vacant map.
Mercado Las Almas is a small marketplace with fast-paced routes. The matches play quickly and chaotically, especially near the marketplace center. I also appreciate the vibrancy of this map. Modern Warfare featured mostly drab-looking maps with washed-out color palettes, so it does feel nice to see a bit more color to the environment.
Modern Warfare 2 still features interactable doors, but it’s not like Modern Warfare 2019’s abundance of loud and clunky ones. There are far fewer doors that can be opened and closed on the beta maps, so it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming amount of extra pathways and camping spots to stress over.
Although not showcased in the beta yet, Infinity Ward says Ground War has separate maps designed specifically for the large-scale modes. One Ground War map called Sarrif Bay will be available sometimes during the open beta. An additional map looks to also be available later in the beta, with the large-scale Invasion mode being added in the coming days. More impressions to come with Ground War’s integration into the beta.
Mostly familiar MP with a few new objective-based modes
Modern Warfare 2’s beta includes two classic Call of Duty modes: Team Deathmatch and Domination. Additionally, the beta lets players test out new modes called Prisoner Rescue and Knockout.
Prisoner Rescue is a 6v6 mode that requires players to take turns either trying to defend or rescue two prisoners on the map. Rounds of Prisoner Rescue can also work like Call of Duty’s Search and Destroy objective mode, ending if one team is completely wiped out. Of course, players can revive their fallen teammates to get them back in the match to avoid a full team wipe.
Knockout is a mode Infinity Ward described as Gunfight meets core multiplayer. This mode features fast rounds in a best-of-five match, where both teams fight to hold a bag of cash. A team can choose to either hold the bag for 60 seconds or eliminate the entire enemy team to win the round. While Gunfight is traditionally a 2v2 or 3v3 small-scale mode with one life per round, Knockout is a 6v6 mode with the ability to revive teammates.
Unfortunately, both new 6v6 modes are a bit underwhelming based on our limited time so far, especially when Knockout is said to be inspired by Modern Warfare’s popular Gunfight mode. There are few differences between how the two modes play, so I’m not sure why Modern Warfare 2 would even need both options, as Knockout and Prison Rescue are both round-based modes that usually devolve into rounds of Team Deathmatch with very few people ever bothering to play the objective. It typically comes down to whether you want to pick the mode with the cash bag or the hostages. Between the 6v6 player count and the ability to revive, neither add the intensity or satisfaction that comes from winning a fast round of 2v2 Gunfight, where the stakes feel much higher and rounds are usually won from intense 1v1 or 2v1 situations.
I’d love to see Knockout or Prisoner Rescue modified to add more interesting layers of complexity, perhaps with elements of Black Ops 4’s Heist mode, which was a no-respawn, round-based, tactical mode that required teams to steal a bag of cash and reach an extraction point. Heist also allowed teams to win simply by eliminating the enemies and not playing the objective, but doing so wasn’t easy in the earlier rounds, as Heist eliminated custom player loadouts in favor of a Counter-Strike-style “Buy” system to earn better guns and gear for later rounds. You had to really play your life and earn better gear to be successful. Heist and Gunfight 2v2 were much more interesting and more satisfying to play, so hopefully we see more inspiring modes later down the line for Modern Warfare 2.
Mostly similar movement feel, but new movement mechanics
Overall, the player movement feels mostly the same this year, though sliding doesn’t quite feel as fast and fluid as before. A second movement option has also been added with Modern Warfare 2 with the ability to “dolphin dive.” Dolphin diving involves diving into a forward prone position, which was a movement originally made popular in Treyarch’s older Black Ops titles.
In addition to choosing to dive headfirst into battle or slide towards or away from the action, players can also hang from ledges. Players have the option to fire their pistol while hanging from ledges, but I didn’t find myself in many of these situations in the standard map playlist. This is definitely something that will be better utilized in the large-scale Ground War modes and even Warzone 2.0.
Weapons and Gunsmith overhaul
Overall, the guns look and sound great, with the reload animations and gunfire audio similar to Modern Warfare 2019. Longtime fans will recognize assault rifles like the M4 and M16 and there are three submachine guns to choose from, with one being the return of Modern Warfare’s Fennec. The only sniper made available in the beta is the Signal 50, which is a beefy-looking .50 cal anti-material rifle, but it doesn’t unlock until level 20. Week one of the beta is level capped at 15, but players can get hands-on with this sniper during week two, which has a level cap of 30.
While Vanguard gave players 10 attachments to include in their custom gun build, Modern Warfare 2 is dialing the customization back with a limit of five attachments. However, it also adds a whole new layer of complexity with the Gunsmith’s new Platform system, which is designed to eliminate the grind of unlocking the same attachment over and over for different guns. Check out our full explanation of Modern Warfare 2’s overhaul of the Gunsmith 2.0, but while it does sound a bit overwhelming at first, it should help unlock attachments a bit faster than the last two Call of Duty games. When you unlock a gun in the same shared family, you also have the same attachments unlocked and ready for the new weapon.
Changes to perks and killstreaks
Modern Warfare 2 features a familiar list of multiplayer perks, but they do work a bit differently this time around. Perks now come in “packs” of four. Players can customize which perks they want within their pack, but they’ll only have two “base” perks active at the start of the match, while a bonus and an ultimate perk are both earned during the course of a match. The bonus perk is earned four minutes into the match, while the ultimate is earned eight minutes into the match. Players may not like the idea of earning some of their perks, but this might be a good change to possibly incentivize players to play the objective more, as the perk timers are sped up by earning score via kills, assists, objective play, and such. Maybe more teammates will help capture the B flag in Domination if it helps them earn their last two perks.
The beta includes typical Call of Duty perks like Overkill for carrying two primary weapons and Scavenger to resupply ammo and throwing knives from dead players. One of the brand-new perks introduced in the beta is Pitcher, which is a perk that lets players throw equipment farther and see a preview of the item’s trajectory. The Ghost perk is back to keep players off enemy UAVs, but unfortunately, the popular perk is now set to the fourth slot as an ultimate perk. So players may view this as a negative change, as it means no one will be able to stay off UAVs early in a match, and Ghost will need to be earned in-match now.
As for getting hands-on with Modern Warfare 2’s killstreaks, the beta doesn’t include much that Call of Duty players haven’t used before. Streaks include the usuals like the UAV, Counter-UAV, Care Package, Sentry Gun, Chopper Gunner, and more. However, one great change this year is the option for players to choose if they want their streaks to be scorestreaks or killstreaks. The choice isn’t tied to a perk or any disadvantage; players can simply pick how they want to earn their streaks. For example, a UAV requires a four killstreak to use, or it can be earned with a score of 500 points.
Just like Modern Warfare 2019 and Vanguard, multiplayer will not feature Call of Duty’s traditional minimap with red dots appearing from enemies firing non-silenced weapons. However, Modern Warfare 2 does include a perk called Bird’s Eye, which pings enemies on the map, reveals their direction, and zooms out the minimap. Players will just have to determine if having the intel of a traditional minimap is worth taking up a perk slot in their customized pack.
New equipment and field upgrades
The beta also lets players get acquainted with some of Modern Warfare 2’s new equipment and field upgrades, which includes a Rainbow Six Siege-type lethal device and an unusual decoy item.
Tactical equipment in the beta is mostly the same as Modern Warfare 2019, with the return of smoke grenades, flashbangs, medical syringe, and snapshot grenades, but there is a new shock stick tactical item. The shock stick is thrown to stick on surfaces or players, temporarily disabling players or vehicles with a zap. You can use this in standard multiplayer, but it seems much more useful in Ground War due to the presence of vehicles.
Lethal equipment is also familiar with the frag grenade, claymores, and semtex, but the beta does include Modern Warfare 2’s new Drill Charge equipment, which attaches to surfaces to drill a hole and shoot a grenade into the area, which can penetrate walls and even vehicles to damage enemies or flush them out. This works much like the Cluster Charge that Fuze uses in Rainbow Six Siege, but Modern Warfare 2’s version is a throwable item that players can toss at vehicles or nearby buildings. So far, this is something I don’t find myself using in standard multiplayer, but could come in handy in Ground War with bigger situations and pesky tanks to clear out.
Field Upgrades return with staple options like Munitions and Dead Silence. And, yes, Dead Silence returning as a Field Upgrade means that Modern Warfare 2 lacks a Dead Silence or Ninja-type option as a perk to silence footsteps. Footstep audio is loud, but it does sound slightly quieter than Modern Warfare’s. One teammate running past doesn’t sound like an entire herd of elephants, so hopefully this will stay the same or further improve for the launch of the game.
There’s also a new Inflatable Decoy used as a Field Upgrade. This lets players deploy an inflatable soldier meant to confuse the enemy team. Tossing out an inflatable soldier feels a bit silly to use, but it does provide cues to player locations, much like Alibi’s decoys in Rainbow Six Siege. I’m sure players will find ways to have fun and troll with the decoys, and at least they do deploy with the environment in mind. The inflatable soldiers will have poses depending on where they are deployed, with a swimming pose used for those deployed in water.
As far as the gunplay and the fast time-to-kill, this all feels very much the same as Modern Warfare 2019. However, the multiplayer beta does provide the sense that Infinity Ward is mostly improving on what worked and didn’t work in Modern Warfare 2019. The scaled-back maps definitely make for better pacing, and it’s nice not having so many doors to worry about. The new 6v6 modes included with the beta leave much to be desired for round-based objective play, so I hope it adds modes like Kill Confirmed, Hardpoint, or Search and Destroy to the latter portions of the beta.
Overall, fans of the previous Modern Warfare will likely enjoy jumping into the beta, and there might be just enough changes to appeal to those who didn’t like the feel of the reboot’s multiplayer. I think it’s worth jumping into the beta to find out.
I’m playing the beta on PlayStation 5 and the performance has been great so far. I haven’t noticed any graphical issues or lag problems, but CharlieIntel tweeted that some players on PlayStation 4 consoles are reporting crashes, so your mileage may vary.
This first week is a PlayStation-exclusive beta, but the second beta weekend for Modern Warfare 2 will allow the other platforms to jump into the mix. Xbox and PC players can join in starting September 22 for those who have preordered, and then Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer beta will be open to all players for the final days from September 24-26.
For those who missed all the news from Call of Duty Next, here are all the biggest announcements for Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0.
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