Call of Duty: Modern Warfare deserves a next-gen update and a full-blown second year

I wasn’t so keen on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer at launch. Most of the maps available to play at the back end of October 2019 were too big for their own good, resulting in boring play. Some of the maps were downright dirty. Piccadilly remains a blot on the Call of Duty multiplayer landscape, and I still have nightmares over sniper rifle glints peeking out from the safety of Euphrates Bridge. Add to this cluttered map design, a largely useless mini-map and upper-level windows all over the shop, and you got a camper’s paradise right there.

A year later, I am craving more Modern Warfare, and I feel bitterly disappointed that the game feels like it’s being left behind as Activision shifts focus to Warzone and Black Ops Cold War.

It’s interesting to look back at Modern Warfare’s first year of life. As new maps were added to the game, I found myself playing it more and more. I had a blast with the chaotic Shipment. I love the flow of Rust. And Shoot House is one of the best FPS maps around. Modern Warfare’s close quarters maps are brilliant, and it remains my favourite 6v6 game installed on my console hard-drive. Yep, I think Modern Warfare is a better 6v6 game right now than Black Ops Cold War.

Modern Warfare’s gunplay remains outstanding. The animation work on drawing and reloading weapons is world class. The detail on the weapons is impressive. And the movement, the weight of the guns and the sound and feel of firing them is all super satisfying. It is safe to say, a year later, that Infinity Ward pushed Call of Duty forward. The game feels more next-gen than Black Ops Cold War.

Modern Warfare’s six seasons and battle passes added much, too. The battle pass model replaced the sale of premium maps and weapons for the series, and it was all the better for it. Eye-catching operator skins, some silly weapon skins and other entirely unrealistic effects sparked debate within the Call of Duty community, but there was always something new to chase, some new gun to get to grips with.

And now, a year later, the future of Modern Warfare feels sparse. The game has linked up with Black Ops Cold War and Warzone’s new Season One, and progression is now tied to a new sort of Prestige system, but Modern Warfare has lost much in the joining. it feels like Black Ops Cold War and Warzone are dragging a friend to a party they have no interest in going to. Modern Warfare’s perfectly happy staying in tonight, thank you, playing Shoot the Ship 24/7 until their fingers bleed.

Without a season seven of its own, Modern Warfare now feels deprioritised. And it also finds itself in the curious situation of selling a battle pass from which no new content can be used in the game. This is a season pass with operators and weapon skins and other gubbins for use in Black Ops Cold War and Warzone only. You can level up the battle pass by playing Modern Warfare multiplayer, but if you’re only into Modern Warfare multiplayer, what’s the point?

Things change, of course. Warzone’s explosive popularity probably took the suits at Activision by surprise. As the millions of players queued up to play and the millions of dollars rolled into the company’s coffers, Uncle Bobby no doubt realised Warzone was the new hot Call of Duty thing, and everything else – including new games in the series – would have to tie into it, and even reveal themselves within it. With Warzone hitting the headlines, Modern Warfare’s ever-improving competitive multiplayer took a back seat. Multiplayer was the lucky one. Spare a thought for the neglected Special Operations mode, a four-player co-op experience that never stood a chance and has barely been improved or added to in Modern Warfare’s first year of life – despite being the initial home of the Modern Warfare story post-campaign.

And what of Survival mode? That timed PlayStation exclusive mode fell flat on its face. It was telling that when Sony’s timed-exclusivity for the mode expired and Survival launched on PC and Xbox in October this year, hardly anyone noticed.

Multiplayer, then, kept Modern Warfare alive even as millions migrated over to Warzone. And it really is a superb experience. Playing it now, there is so much fun to be had. And so much potential! While it looks like new weapons and operators are coming to Modern Warfare multiplayer soon, the long-term future feels bleak. You can understand why Modern Warfare’s aggressive in-game ads for Black Ops Cold War are rubbing players up the wrong way.