Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Multiplayer Reviewby Adam Dileva
Having played the multiplayer beta for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, I did a fairly in-depth article about my thoughts before its official release (which you can read HERE). Long story short, I was more than impressed and I had a feeling that this year’s Modern Warfare II would be the entry to bring me back to Call of Duty online multiplayer full time. It seems my hunch was correct, as I’ve been logging on nearly every night, even well after this review was written, an honor not many games get as I generally move onto the next game quite quickly.
Given that I’ve already done a full review for its Campaign separately (which you can read HERE), this review is going to solely be focused on the multiplayer aspect of Modern Warfare II. Also, parts of this review will mirror what’s in my Beta Impressions article, as not much has changed, yet, for better and worse. So let’s dive in and see if there has been some big changes from the most recent beta up to this full launch.
If Modern Warfare sounds like an older Call of Duty title, you would be correct. Don’t get confused though, as this latest release is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022), a direct sequel to Modern Warfare (2019) but not a remaster or remake of Modern Warfare 2 (2009) either. This 19th main installment of the series may have a confusing title and timeline of where it fits in, but once I got my feet wet and started to get the hang of my favorite weapons and loadouts, I had a hard time putting it down each night before forcing myself to get to bed on work nights.
As mentioned above, I’ve fallen out of love with Call of Duty for the last few years. Sure I dabble in each, but it’s been quite some time since I’ve stuck with one for a long term relationship. It seems like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (referred to as MWII from here on) may just be the one to reel me and my group of friends back in to its addictive multiplayer. This entry feels slower paced in general, but has a quicker TTK (Time-To-Kill). With upgraded graphics, audio, Gunsmith 2.0 and a few other surprises, I get that urge each day after I get home to log on and get a few matches in, usually extending for many hours well passed what I was initially planning.
Like other Call of Duty releases, you’ll be able to choose the operator you want to appear as during matches. These are visual aesthetic only and don’t act as Classes or give any bonus perks or abilities, simply choose who you like the look of. Some are unlocked by completing specific modes, levels in Spec Ops, or fulfilling specific objectives. Next you can jump into one of the handful of multiplayer modes, and while you can filter on or off specific modes, the menu system is a bit of a mess to navigate.
For modes, you have a wide selection based on your preferences. I tend to stick with the classic TDM (Team Deathmatch), there’s also Free-For-All (first to 30 kills wins), Domination (A, B and C zones to capture and hold), Hardpoint (a location that moves every minute), Headquarters (Respawns are disabled for the team that holds the HQ), Control, Prisoner Rescue (No respawns but team revives are enabled), Knock Out (Fight for a bag of cash, also with no respawns but team revives are enabled), Search and Destroy, Ground War (32 vs 32 with plenty of vehicles, much like a Battlefield style of gameplay), Ground War Invasion, and even a Third-Person Mode for something a bit unique, not seen in a Call of Duty for quite some time. Sadly Hardcore is missing, being titled Tier 1, but is said to come once Season 1 launches mid-November.
Knockout mode is interesting, having both teams try and control a bag of money for a minute, but whomever is carrying the cash is shown on the map for everyone to see, so you need defenders if you want any chance of survival. To make things more interesting, there are no respawns, but teammates can revive you though. Playing with randoms I rarely got revived, but I could see this being quite tactical and have a lot of strategy with a good team of friends.
Prisoner Rescue is another new mode, pitting a kidnapper versus rescuer team of hostages. The ‘bad’ guys have to protect the prisoners from being captured and taken away, whereas the rescuers are trying to do just that, extracting them. Sure it’s a slight deviation of classic CTF, but this mode also has no respawns other than team revivals as well.
While it’s generally much better that previous entries, especially in Team Deathmatch, certain modes like Domination still have terrible spawn flips, resulting in some spawn killing or basically instant deaths as you respawn. While it does seem better than previous years’, it’s by no means perfect yet, so the frustration is still there when it happens to you.
Gameplay in general feels much slower both with movement and tactical wise, yet the TTK seems incredibly quick. With the handful of maps included to learn, there didn’t seem to be as many corridor bottlenecks that many of the other Call of Duty’s relied on, now opting for more triple-laned pathways. This means you don’t have to funnel your team down the meat grinder just to try and make headway, almost always having another way around to flank the enemy team. Because of this design, I found running around as fast as possible like in previous entries ended up usually getting me killed, slowing the gameplay down a notch in general.
As for the TTK (Time-To-Kill), like some other Call of Duty’s, it’s almost always a matter of who shoots first as to who’s going to get the kill. While I like a quick TTK as I generally play Hardcore mode, even in Core modes it seems quite quick. The downfall to this is that you sometimes get more people ‘camping’, as they want to initiate the firefight to win the encounter. An unforeseen issue with this is that there’s seemingly an inactivity timer that will kick you out if you’re stationary for too long. I’ve had a friend playing alongside me one match only to get kicked out of the game for inactivity. Thing is, he was sniping and getting kills, but because he wasn’t moving his body around much, the game assumed he was inactive and booted him. Clearly this needs to be addressed.
Then there’s the change to the minimap, seemingly a hot debate with longtime fans currently. In previous Call of Duty titles you had to be very mindful of when you shot an unsuppressed gun, as it would give a red ping on the enemy team’s radar pointing out exactly where that shot came from. In turn, this made the gameplay somewhat devolve into staring at the map to find the enemy rather than actually searching.
The big change with this year’s MWII is that the red dot on the minimap is gone, instead putting a red dot on the compass bar at the top. This makes it much more generalized as to an enemy location and not simply running to where that red dot on the minimap showed up. This in turn plays a part of the slower paced gameplay, though I’m all for it. A downside though is that there’s very little reason now to use a suppressor, as the minimap ping was the main reason you opted to equip said attachment.
A subsequent result of this as well is how you choose what perks to use, which has also drastically changed from the norm. Instead of choosing the normal three perks, you instead have different tiers. You choose your two Base perks, a Bonus perk and then an Ultimate perk. Your two Basic perks are passives you get from the beginning of the match like normal, the Bonus and Ultimate though are where the big change is this year. After a few minutes in the match your Bonus perk unlocks, then later the Ultimate one does lastly. This multi-tiered approach to the Perks does change the matches and flow, as eventually you’ll have more passive perks, unlocking quicker with the more kills you get and the better you do.
The way weapon and attachment unlocks have also drastically changed this year. Like most Call of Duty’s, the more you use a weapon the more proficient you become with it, which is how you unlock more going forward. An odd design choice though is that some are unlocked at specific levels, and others you have to grind certain weapons to then get the new base for the gun, changing it. For example, level up your M4 enough and at specific levels you’ll unlock being able to convert it to a FTAC Recon or a 556 Icarus LMG. Level up the FTAC Recon and it unlocks the FSS Hurricane, or level the 556 Icarus to unlock the M16.
The main issue I had with this is that it’s buried in the terrible menu layout and not explained at all. I accidently figured it out by seeing the Progression tab which shows the flow of unlocks given the base weapon you’ve chosen. So while you can see certain guns in the categories, it doesn’t explain easily or how you actually obtain the gun. The same goes for attachments. I’m of the old school thinking that getting a certain amount of kills with my iron sights unlocked my first scope, then subsequent kills with that scope unlocks more scopes. Nope, not here.
Instead, scopes unlock for the class of guns once unlocked, but the problem is that certain attachments are only along the level unlocks on specific guns. For example, if I want to use the 556 Icarus as my main weapon since I like my LMG, but I need to grind out the FTAC Recon and then the FSS Hurricane just to unlock a specific scope for the gun I actually want to use. You can see where this can be frustrating. This is how MWII gets you to use other guns, well, forces, because you can specialize in one gun like many do, but to get all the attachments you’ll need to grind out a handful of others that you may not particularly enjoy or be as proficient with.
Also, you’re only able to put 5 attachments on a weapon at a time which is where the latest Gunsmith 2.0 comes in, so there’s a heavy balance of what suits your playstyle best. Do you opt for a specific scope instead of a muzzle of barrel attachment, or vice versa? You’ll have to do a lot of experimenting to see what works best for you and each gun. That said, once I got some of the attachments for my LMG and got used to its recoil and ADS time, I was completely hooked, it’s just a shame that the unlock paths are confusing and convoluted, forcing you to use guns for a brief time that you may not want to.
The Beta was fun but did have a lot of connectivity issues, something I was hoping would be fixed for the launch. The first few days of launch were so frustrating due to connection drops, crashes to dashboard, rogue patches that wanted to update as I got into a lobby and more. I almost was going to give up as it used to take a good 10 or 20 minutes before I could get into a match without crashing. I let it be though, and a few patches later it seems much more stable. I’m rarely crashing or having issues when starting matches and the last few days have been relatively problem free, which is when I decided to start writing this to be fair. Issues aren't completely eliminated, but it's more on the infrequent side.
With a handful of decent maps, there was really only one or two that I sighed and rolled my eyes when I see it loading. Is there any maps as memorable and iconic as a Nuketown, Crash, Hijacked, Rust, Summit, Highrise, Raid or Terminal? Not in my opinion, but those are also the cream of the crop when it comes to multiplayer maps over numerous Call of Duty titles. I’ve started to find my favorite spots in the new maps, figuring out where the ‘hot’ spots are and playing accordingly.
Given the budget for one of the largest franchise out there, it’s of course without a doubt that the visual fidelity is absolutely top notch. Animations are smooth as is the framerate, and I never had any graphical issues or glitches along the way. Each Operator looks quite unique and of course the weapon variety is plentiful with how you can customize each with numerous attachments that change the physical looks of each. The audio for each gun is quite distinct as well, and I wouldn’t have any doubt that gun enthusiasts would be able to tell the auditory differences between each of the Assault Rifles, SMG, LMG, Snipers and more. I’ve gotten many kills from the fantastic directional audio, so those with a good sound setup or a great pair of headsets will certainly have a distinct advantage over the competition.
Some will be drawn towards the cooperative Spec Ops missions, though with currently only three to play, there’s not much replayability here aside from trying to raise your earned stars rank. You’ll gain experience for your overall level and each weapon as you use them in matches, but there’s currently no Prestige system in place, that is due to come when Season One launches mid-November, just like the Hardcore playlist that I’m eagerly anticipating.
Once I figured out the confusing Gunsmith and attachment unlocks, I finally figured out what weapon(s) I wanted to mainly use, and now that I’ve maxed them out and unlocked the attachments I’ve wanted, I’m having a fantastic time slaying enemies down each match.
It’s a shame that the first Season, Prestige, Warzone 2.0 and Hardcore Mode didn’t coincide with the launch as well, but the multiplayer component is basically what you’ve come to expect with a yearly Call of Duty; a fun experience that you and your friends can squad up and play for hours. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a good handful of friends all purchase the game, but we’ve been making purposeful plans to log on every night since launch for plenty of matches well into the wee hours of the morning.
**Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (Multiplayer) was provided by the publisher and previewed on an Xbox Series X**