You know when you think something is truly, unquestionably bad and are surprised to learn that it's actually pretty popular? For me that's Shipment (opens in new tab), a Call of Duty map that I consider to be the worst FPS arena ever shipped for consumption. Activision announced this week the fan-favorite location is one of two new maps making its Modern Warfare 2 (opens in new tab) debut during Season 1.
To many, Shipment's arrival in Modern Warfare 2 is cause for celebration. To others it’s a disappointing, yet unsurprising, return of a bad thing that some people inexplicably love. The tiny, square-shaped maze of shipping containers has a 15-year history beginning with the original Call of Duty 4. Back in 2007, its reputation was clear—I have distinct memories of sitting in quiet pre-game lobbies that'd suddenly erupt into overlapping curse words and outbursts of "come on" when Shipment was revealed as the next map in rotation. It was bad, but it was also memorable.
Since then, the map has reappeared in various forms across 10 CoD games. It has become tradition (at least for some of Activision's CoD studios) to include Shipment in its map pool, even though by all forms of logic, it's a terrible idea.
Shipment makes zero sense on paper: the total area is so cramped that it's nearly impossible to spawn in a location where enemies aren't already looking. Spawnkills are constant, survival feels random, and a lack of cover gives dominant killstreaks free rein to murder every living thing on the map. Shipment is the embodiment of all cliches about Call of Duty that non-players espouse against it—that it's a brainless, low-effort meat grinder.
Like the chewed gum wad on my shoe that I can feel with every step, Shipment has proven to be a sticky, disruptive presence in a series that I usually like. Though, it's not as simple as "people inexplicably like bad thing." The reasons Shipment is a bad map are the same reasons people love it. It's chaotic, non-stop, and ripe for abuse. It’s bowling in a phone booth. You could argue that Shipment is enjoyed more as a meme than a respected piece of CoD history, but it'd be more accurate to describe Shipment as a popular tool. The map's cramped sightlines and terrible spawns make it relatively easy to rack up a lot of kills in a short time, creating a unique opportunity for players grinding XP.
The best time to level up a weapon you don't really like, but need to use to unlock something else, is when Activision activates the Shipment 24/7 playlist. We've seen demonstrated by a recent spree of widespread jerky vandalism (opens in new tab) just how far CoD players are willing to go for double XP. Consider Shipment triple XP. Not many can resist its charms—even I've dove headfirst into the shipping yard on occasion to turn a 2-hour weapon challenge into a 15-minute breeze.
As a means to an end, I have nothing against Shipment. Call of Duty is ultimately an RPG about repetition and watching numbers go up, and in that respect, grinding XP on Shipment is no different than finding a loot cave in Destiny. It's an appreciated boost that, when used sparingly, breaks the monotony of CoD's traditional 6v6 maps.
I will argue that when it comes to small maps with huge XP potential, Call of Duty can do (and has done) a lot better than Shipment. In fact, the other map coming in Season 1, Shoothouse (opens in new tab), is exactly that. Shoothouse was a map original to Modern Warfare 2019 that Infinity Ward is bringing back for the first time. It's also a smaller map, but instead of Shipment's gladiatorial layout, Shoothouse is more like a normal three-lane CoD map that's been scaled down from the corners. The result is a chaotic match, opportunities for lots of kills, and more reasonable spawns. Heck, I'll even give a hat tip to Nuketown, another CoD staple that is definitely more meme than map, for bringing the small map thrills without resorting to mind-numbing spawn camping.
As someone who plays Modern Warfare 2 more for its strong FPS fundamentals than the weapon grind, I'm a little bummed that both Season 1 map additions are XP-focused. It would've been great to see another Ground War/Invasion map thrown in the mix, or if Infinity Ward is exploring throwbacks, I'd love a 2022 version of Terminal. Apparently the airport on Warzone 2.0's Al Mazrah map has Terminal's layout already, so most of the work is done.