Call of Duty is slowing down this year. I put down the series years ago after tiring of so many iterations of killstreak chaos, but there’s a lot going on in Modern Warfare that’s reminding me of my favorite tactical shooter, Rainbow Six Siege.
Of course, Modern Warfare is still Call of Duty at its core. Enemies can eat a few headshots before going down with most weapons and the hitboxes are chunky and forgiving to aim. But in Modern Warfare, I’m listening hard for enemy footsteps and using information gadgets, careful things I don’t really associate with the chaos of CoD. There's also the new "mount up" mechanic, which locks you into a stable position on any piece of cover to shoot with virtually no recoil. Mounting up on a corner feels a lot like holding a smart angle in Siege that enemies won’t expect.
Then there’s the bullet penetration. Penetration has been in CoD since the original Modern Warfare, but Infinity Ward is emphasizing its importance this year and making more surfaces permeable, depending on your weapon’s caliber. My Siege training came in handy here. It’s not exactly Siege’s intricately simulated destruction, but it’s fun.
Modern Warfare’s emphasis on intel gadgets is also giving me Siege vibes. Most of them aren’t unlockable in the multiplayer beta, but you can play around with your class and outfit yourself for surveillance instead of raw firepower. My favorite Field Upgrade (a bonus gadget that recharges over time) is a manually piloted recon drone that I fly around to mark enemies for my teammates, similar to scanning for targets on a camera in Siege.
Instead of a flash or smoke grenade, you can choose to bring a little handheld heartbeat sensor reminiscent of the rifle-mounted sensors in Modern Warfare 2. The earliest Field Upgrade is straight up just a deployable shield from Siege, which is perfect for mounting up for a steady shot on a specific angle. The Trophy System that zaps away enemy grenades also returns, which sounds handy when defending an objective.
There are a few off-beat gadgets returning from past CoDs, too, such as the Snapshot Grenade that can spot enemies through walls or Dead Silence, an evolution of the classic perk that temporarily silences your footsteps.
It’s a shame that all of these smaller-scale gadgets are completely outshined by Modern Warfare’s ridiculous killstreaks. It’s great that shooting doesn’t instantly reveal my location on the minimap anymore, but that hardly matters when both teams are constantly firing off personal radars, UAVs, and predator missiles that can all broadcast my location unless I choose a specific perk. On any of the traditional modes like Team Deathmatch or Domination, killstreaks are a nightmare of random deaths and constant exposure.
It’s not quite as bad in Cyber Attack, which is where I’ve spent most of my time in the beta. Cyber Attack is Modern Warfare’s newest one-life elimination mode that is part Search and Destroy (a CoD staple with similar rules to Counter-Strike and Siege’s bomb modes) and part capture the flag. A bomb spawns in the middle of the map, and two teams of six attempt to plant it at their enemy’s data center while also protecting their own. If a team plants the bomb, their opponents only have 30 seconds to defuse and retrieve it. The biggest twist is that you can be revived by a teammate. While you’re in a 1v1 situation carrying the bomb to the objective, your opponent could be reviving his friends to attack you from multiple angles. First team to 6 rounds wins.
The intensity and stakes of Cyber Attack is a refreshing break from the randomness of other modes. It naturally encourages the use of Modern Warfare's intel gadgets. That spotting drone is much more handy when enemies potentially have only one life. Killstreaks continue to disrupt everything at a moment’s notice, though. It sucks to already be in a 1v3 just for an enemy to activate a UAV you have no recourse for.
It’s even worse to be stealthily navigating the map to plant the bomb when an enemy decides to drop a predator missile on you. It’s nothing new for CoD, but these power trips diminish a mode meant to be tactical and measured. Gunfight, the beta’s most competitive mode by a mile, is an intense 2v2 round-based elimination with no killstreaks.
The Modern Warfare beta has so many little sprinklings of Siege that I love, but all of the ways it’s still Call of Duty directly clash with that more deliberate flow. The pure speed and kill-respawn-kill-respawn mindlessness of Team Deathmatch or Domination still favor lucky positioning and snap reflexes over cleverness. I’m still spawning right next to enemies fishing for kills. Still, in 2019. I can briefly escape that chaos in Cyber Attack, but only until someone scores the first UAV or gunner helicopter.
I feel a constant tug-of-war between 'New CoD' and 'Old CoD' in Modern Warfare’s multiplayer. There’s so much potential for Call of Duty to evolve even further than it has this year, but it’s clear that Infinity Ward still wants to keep things samey enough for the folks who pick up the series every year—those who crave the killstreaks I despise and revel in the randomness of Team Deathmatch. I know which side of the rope I’m pulling on, but I also accept that it’s likely a losing battle.