With reports suggesting that Activision is skipping its annual Call of Duty release in 2023, a lot of us are expecting to be playing Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2 for at least two years before Treyarch’s next main series CoD game comes out. I’m not impressed at all by the thought of this. In fact, two years of an Infinity Ward Call of Duty game, Modern Warfare sequel or otherwise, sounds like hell.
Now, I don’t hate any of the Call of Duty games from Infinity Ward – in fact, 2019’s Modern Warfare was one of the better FPS games I had played in a while when it launched. But, when you compare them to the titles made by Treyarch, there’s a clear difference – and Treyarch comes out on top in my opinion.
After a lockdown’s worth of Modern Warfare – and a healthy amount of Warzone – I was ready to throw in the towel. Not just for Modern Warfare, but Call of Duty as a whole. Months of sluggish gameplay and drab visuals had soured me, killing my love for the series, and I couldn’t work out why. Well, that was until I played Black Ops Cold War.
Modern Warfare was built on Infinity Ward’s IW 8.0 engine, an updated version of the engine used for Sledgehammer Games’ WWII a couple of years before. Enjoying the series’ return to the Second World War, I had high hopes. However, what I was met with when playing Modern Warfare was the worst experience with Call of Duty since Advanced Warfare, and I don’t say that lightly.
Modern Warfare was painfully slow, for a Call of Duty game. It was always going to feel that way, coming after Black Ops 4, but it wasn’t until I played Black Ops Cold War that I realised just how slow Modern Warfare was. You don’t need exo-suits and jet packs to create a fast-paced Call of Duty experience and Black Ops Cold War shows that.
To make matters worse, the new gameplay mechanics introduced by Infinity Ward – things like weapon mounting and those damned doors – all suggest that this slower pace was intentional. It may have been minor, but Call of Duty was borrowing from series like Battlefield and Rainbow Six and was starting to lose itself in the process.
Call of Duty games are best when they’re fast-paced, with implausible amounts of running and gunning. Modern Warfare went in the other direction, and after a return to this disappointing experience with Sledgehammer Games’ Vanguard – that runs on an updated version of the IW 8.0 engine used by Modern Warfare – it feels like doubling down on this with two years of a Modern Warfare sequel could be a misstep for the series at a crucial time.
This potential misstep follows on from one that a Modern Warfare sequel will have a tough time remedying – the failures of Vanguard’s Zombies mode.
The Call of Duty series has a varied history when it comes to offering a third core experience onto the usual campaign and multiplayer. Sometimes these modes are revered and sometimes they’re ridiculed. The universal truth all Call of Duty fans have come to accept is that Treyarch’s Call of Duty Zombies modes are the best ‘third modes’ of the bunch, even when Vanguard’s rather dismal offering is taken into account. Whenever a Call of Duty game opts to introduce a new mode that isn’t Zombies (or make drastic changes to an existing one), it feels like a gamble. Infinity Ward’s gamble on Warzone admittedly paid off big time, but there have been a few flops over the years too. Yes, I’m talking about Ghosts’ Extinction.
Modern Warfare games don’t do Zombies and we’re not expecting Infinity Ward to break that trend going into its next release. There are rumours that an Escape From Tarkov-inspired mode is coming to the Modern Warfare sequel, but after Battlefield 2042’s lacklustre Hazard Zone, should Infinity Ward even chance it? Introducing a new mode based on a concept that has famously fallen flat when it has been recreated feels like an unnecessary risk – a risk that could see the next Call of Duty game launch with little more to offer than its multiplayer and campaign, which would not be ideal for a two-year stint.
Then, you have Modern Warfare’s graphics – a stylistic choice that’s most likely going to be carried forwards into the upcoming sequel from Infinity Ward.
Modern Warfare sucks to look at – there, I said it. I’m not talking about the UI design or the graphic fidelity of operators, but the colour palette. It’s dull, drab, and decidedly boring. This might be in-keeping with the grounded approach to gameplay, but it doesn’t make Modern Warfare the nicest Call of Duty game to look at.
I know this enters the realms of speculation, discussing the graphics of a game that hasn’t even been given an official title yet, but looking at Vanguard is a telling sign of what’s to come. The Sledgehammer Games team has done excellent work with how Vanguard looks, but it’s still a dull display when compared to Treyarch’s Black Ops Cold War.
Two years of a slow, drab Call of Duty game with a potentially lacklustre third mode sounds like hell – it doesn’t matter if I prefer Captain Price to Frank Woods.