Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer Hands-On PreviewBy Brian Leahy - Posted Sep 16, 2009
Last night, Infinity Ward and Activision invited members of the press out to a sound stage in Hollywood to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer for the first time. The developers are adding so much to the game that it’s initially staggering, but after a few rounds, you realize that this is a totally different theater of war than Call of Duty 4 and it’s time to figure out the differences.
There are some major game changers in effect for MW2 and Infinity Ward seems to have taken player feedback to heart. Secondary weapons now include pistols, machine pistols, shotguns, and launchers. No longer will players have to give up their precious primary weapon slot to field a shotgun or lose a perk to grab a rocket launcher. The change also gives a lot of versatility to snipers giving them the option of grabbing a fully-automatic pistol or shotgun for close range conflict.
Killstreaks have undergone a bit of a change. Your set of three rewards can be customized, but I was not able to play enough to unlock any additional rewards to select in my build. The default setup is a UAV at three kills, Care Package at four, and a Predator Missile at five. The Care Package drops a box on the map where you pop a smoke grenade. The box can contain ammo or any killstreak reward, including those you haven’t unlocked yet. Anyone can pick it up, including the other team. The Predator Missile flies in from straight-above the map while you control the trajectory of the missile with a laptop, but you’re still vulnerable while using it. Aim it into large groups of enemies for great justice! It’s a devastating attack that caught most players off-guard during our demo, but there’s ample warning to find cover or spread out. Other killstreak rewards include:
Counter-UAV (four kills) – A counter-intelligence reward that blocks the entire enemy team’s UAV for a period of time.
Sentry Gun (five kills) – A placeable turret that will automatically fire at enemies that enter its field of view. Can be shot and destroyed by the enemy team.
Precision Airstrike (six kills) – The new and improved airstrike. The same amount of ordinance is used from Call of Duty 4, but the bomber’s trajectory can be set so players can bomb an open street that would otherwise be covered if the bombs dropped from a set direction.
Attack Helictoper (seven kills) – The classic Call of Duty 4 chopper.
Pave Low Chopper (nine kills) – A better chopper.
AC130 Gunship (eleven kills) – Control an AC130 gunship from a laptop a la Call of Duty 4’s campaign. Switch between weapons to maximize your killing. It lasts for a long time and is so much fun to use. It also takes quite of bit of skill, since all of the gunship’s weapons have differing amounts of zoom and lead time before striking.
Remember, only three of these can be active for any player at a time, but the care package allows for some randomization. It’s a great feeling when you get an AC130 gunship out of a four killstreak care package. Additionally, you’ll get to choose one Deathstreak reward. These activate when you die a certain amount of times in a row without scoring a kill. The two I tried were Copycat (4 deaths) and Pain Killer (3 deaths). Copycat allows you to copy the weapon and perk loadout of the person that killed you. It’s a great way to preview some unlocks you might not have yet. Pain Killer gives you a significant boost to your health for around 10 seconds after you spawn. This is useful for escaping some spawn camping situations.
Perks are more useful overall and I had trouble choosing between them, especially during such a short play session. In Call of Duty 4, experienced players chose from a few perks that were much better than the other options. In MW2, the choices seem more useful and specific, allowing for some better class differentiation. One example could be the classic “Stopping Power” perk versus the new “Hard Line.” Do you take the Call of Duty 4 staple of “Stopping Power” to increase your damage or do you want your killstreak rewards to kick in at one kill less than required? Kill faster or get a UAV after two kills?
Each perk has a “Pro” level that is unlocked by completing perk-specific challenges. During my playtime, I was able to unlock the pro version of the aforementioned “Hard Line” perk. Instead of making killstreaks kick in at two less kills, it actually makes your deathstreaks go off one death earlier. I’m told that the other pro perks will be similarly different. They’ll be related to the vanilla perk, but not just a straight increase of power.
Players will also be gaining experience for a lot of things, and quickly. 100 experience per kill is the new baseline, up from 10 in Call of Duty 4. You’ll also earn point bonuses on top of that depending on how you drop an enemy. Score a headshot? That’s an extra 50 points. Do it from long range? You just grabbed another 50. Did you stop him short of a killstreak? Boom, 100 more points! I was able to hit level 12 after roughly six matches at the event. The new level cap is set to 70 and unlocks occur at almost every level. Infinity Ward wasn’t talking about MW2’s Prestige Mode yet, but it is in the game.
I was able to play on three different maps: High Rise, Favela, and Afghan in Team Deathmatch, Domination, Demolition, and Capture the Flag.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - CTF Flag Runner Gameplay
First, the maps:
High Rise – A square map on top of a large building, which is under construction. Teams spawn in to opposite buildings for some indoor cover, which opens onto the open rooftop. The rooftop has three levels of elevation. The top point is a helipad, which has a chopper for some cover, but it is mostly exposed. Under the ground level, there are some stairways leading to tunnels for navigating the map without too much exposure. Overall, an extremely fun map for all game types, but my team fell victim to some nasty spawn-camping during a game of Domination.
Favela – A tight set of run-down buildings offering a lot of twisting alleys, windows, and places to duck in for some quick cover. The left and right of the map have good sight lines cross-map for snipers, but they won’t find much luck anywhere else on the map. It’s the map in the “Flag Runner” video that Infinity Ward released (shown above). My least favorite of the three maps, but still very enjoyable for Domination and CTF.
Afghan – Think Crash from Call of Duty 4, but super-sized. This desert battlefield centers around a large, downed plane that has cracked into two segments offering some good cover. Surrounding the plane are some caves, bunkers, and cliffs. This is the map seen at the end of the “Flag Runner” video where fourzerotwo gets knifed in the back. Of the three maps played, this was easily my favorite. It’s large enough to get some cohesive strategies going and perfect for nine-versus-nine Ground War.
Now, the gametypes:
Team Deathmatch – Self-explanatory.
Domination – Returning from Call of Duty 4, unchanged. Capture up to three points on the map to gain points over time.
Demolition – A new and improved version of Call of Duty 4’s Sabotage mode. Everyone on the attacking team has a set of explosives and these can be set on two bomb points simultaneously. The attacking team tries to bomb both points before the round ends. Successfully blowing up one point extends the time limit. The countdown timer on the explosives is around 45 seconds to give the defense a chance.
Capture the Flag – Standard CTF, but capturing the enemy flag requires your flag to be at home. Picking up a flag is done automatically by standing over it for around a second. Returning a downed flag is just as fast. Flag carriers will appear on your HUD as periodically updating waypoints, showing the carrier’s position as of a few seconds ago.
I haven’t touched on the actual gameplay, because it’s still the smooth, polished experience you know and love from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The difference, however, is that this feels like a completely new game and not just a pack of guns, perks, and maps.
Feel free to post your questions below and I’ll try to answer them as best I can.