Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s Multiplayer is Gritty, and More Tactical Despite Pacing Concerns

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Preview

This year feels like a different year for the Call of Duty franchise. Whether it’s Infinity Ward’s new Call of Duty engine or the much talked about return of the single-player campaign, Modern Warfare isn’t shaping into that same old Call of Duty game we’ve come to expect. For years, Call of Duty has been running off the same engine and the core multiplayer aspects have largely remained unchanged. Snap controls, 60 frames per second, frantic gun battles and that symmetrical 3-lane map design is something we’ve come to expect year in and year out. Even the DLC has followed the exact same formula for more COD games than I can count. This year; however, there is no question we are getting a different Call of Duty game. One that feels more grounded and real. It’s a multiplayer experience that feels fresh and, for me, not as familiar as I expected.

While at the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer preview event in Los Angeles, I had a chance to go hands-on with a ‘not quite ready for retail’ build. We played some 10v10 Team Deathmatch, 6v6 Domination, Headquarters, a 2v2 mode and a new mode called Cyber Attack. Granted, most of those modes will be familiar to fans but the core gameplay that has been tinkered with to make these traditional modes feel different and new.

Right away, I noticed the pacing was slower. Sure you can run and gun, but with that strategy comes with consequences. Being able to lift your weapon to the ready position while sprinting eats valuable seconds. More so than if you were strategically walking around the map. It makes for a multiplayer experience that plays a tad slower than the previous Call of Duty games. It’s clearly intentional as this Call of Duty aims to be more realistic. You don’t see Navy Seal teams sprint at top speed to raid an enemy compound. At least in the movies, you don’t. Everything is deliberate and well-thought-out.


Rest assured, the Call of Duty DNA is still alive and well, but it plays at a different pace; it’s more strategic and I’ll admit, I struggled. At the event, we had the choice of playing on PS4 or PC. Being primarily an Xbox Call of Duty player, I knew I would struggle out of the gate on the PS4. As you can see in the gameplay videos on our YouTube page I didn’t exactly dominate on the maps, like at all. Nevertheless, the videos do give you a good look at the new maps, including all my deaths and how you respawn back into the game, over and over and over…

Another thing I noticed right away is that the weapons feel ‘meaty’. That concussive blast when you fire a weapon is felt and replicated to near perfection. You feel the weight of the weapons a little more and that is reflected in some of the pacing issues I identified earlier. It was an adjustment for me, but again, I understand it is all about that realism.

You Filthy Animal

The maps we played didn’t seem to have that traditional symmetrical 3-lane design. They feel much more open and slightly disorienting at times. They also seem to have certain points of advantage where teams can hunker down and rack up some kills. There were a lot of filthy campers in the games I played. There are many of these power points in each map. While on the move I never felt safe knowing I could get picked-off at any moment and in any direction. I am a run and gunner type player, so I often felt at a disadvantage from those who were camped out at those power points and from those who worked as a team. This Call of Duty, unlike many Call of Duty’s, encourages you to work as a team.

Modern Warfare Screen

Some other things I noticed while playing was the improved bullet penetration system, doors can slam open loudly and weapons will fling in the air after you kill them. Killstreaks also return featuring devastating kills, including the nuke. Yes, the nuke returns. I didn’t get to see it in action but we are told it will be back and given my skill level, I will never be able to unlock it.

Also worth mentioning is the weapons sound incredible. The development team spent a considerable amount of time working on the audio of each weapon and it shows. They all have distinct sounds and pack a punch. You’ll even hear an echo when firing a weapon in a large outdoor open space. Likewise, shooting a shotgun indoors can be deafening. Hands-down, the weapons sound the best they ever have.

I Wear My Sunglasses at Night

In addition to killer weapon sounds, some of the game’s animations are stunning. We played a map at night and the night vision effects looked sharp. We were told the development team researched the history of night vision and did everything they could to reproduce it. It makes for amazingly realistic night vision effects, possibly the best night vision effects I’ve ever seen in a shooter. It also added a layer of strategy. When your night goggles are equipped your gun shines a laser in the ready position. So you need to be selective when aiming your weapon. I definitely recommend lowering your weapon when moving around the map at night as the laser sight gives your position away.

Modern Warfare Screen 3

Weapon loadouts also received an overhaul.  Your weapon now rests on a virtual table called the Gunsmith. Selecting your perks, attachments and everything you need for your gun is accomplished on the table. It is a robust weapon customization system where each weapon has around 30-60 attachments. I’ll admit, during our hands-on it all felt overwhelming as everything was unlocked for us. It generally takes me quite some time to find the right loadout. With all the options available, I never found that sweet spot. That being said, I am looking forward to experimenting with all the attachments on full release.

Character-wise, you’ll play with Operators this time around and each one is authentically detailed. They all have their own executions and voice packs, which are cosmetic in nature. Each seems believable and don’t look too cartooney or over-the-top. They all fit within the theme of the game. Previous Call of Duty game featured these ridiculous zany characters. You won’t get that in Modern Warfare.

Unified progression is the name of the game in Modern Warfare. If you unlock a gun in the single-player campaign, that gun will be available to you in the multiplayer. Likewise, attachments, XP and other unlockables will carry over. Previous Call of Duty games have attempted to do this but there has never truly been a unified progression like the one Infinity Ward is planning.

Bye Bye Season Pass

Another announcement everyone seemed thrilled about is the fact Activision is ditching the season pass in Modern Warfare. No longer do you have to worry if your buddy bought the season pass in order to get placed into a map with him. Instead, everyone will be able to play with their friends, regardless of the map. This is pretty cool, but it remains to be seen how Activision will make up for this loss in revenue. I imagine we’ll see some kind of microtransactions but no details were revealed in that regard. But I fully expect them to reveal their ugly head at some point.

At the event, I only played with other PS4 players, which seemed a bit odd. I was very curious to see how I would stack up against a PC player but sadly we didn’t get that opportunity. Most PC players I have spoken to are convinced they could crush console players in a Call of Duty game. The developers don’t feel that way. They appear committed to ensuring there is no advantage for PC players and ultimately they say it will come down to your skill level. We’ll just have to see about that.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer is far more than a remake or reboot. It gives the franchise a fresh, more gritty and realistic feel. There is more strategy involved and teamwork will be rewarded. The maps are punishing while the weapons have a more realistic feel and sound. Modern Warfare’s pacing is slower than what I have been accustomed to but the addition of crossplay and ditching the season pass seems like a nice trade-off. I’m confident Infinity Ward will do what they’ve always done and that is, deliver an unforgettable Call of Duty experience fans will absolutely love. I’m looking forward to it’s October 25th release.