Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II benefits from evolution. Its Early Access multiplayer beta across September gives PlayStation users a chance to go through the motions again. Only this time, the developers at Infinity Ward have added a few new twists to an otherwise familiar point-and-shoot experience. 2019’s Modern Warfare not only rebooted a popular franchise, but set a baseline for fluid gameplay. MWII follows both Cold War and Vanguard in creating more ways to be a deadly operative.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s biggest refresher comes with more advanced first-person gameplay. The present day turns players into more skilled soldiers than ever. The game doesn’t just apply Vanguard’s already-kinetic movement system. Infinity Ward makes sprinting, ducking, sliding and mounting smoother.
MWII felt more responsive with these manoeuvres once a player’s reaction kicks in. In mere seconds, players can chain together a sprint, slide to cover, mount with their sights and suppress fire. The movement system also brings back diving to save players from a grenade or cruise missile. Brand-new animations flow seamlessly with anything players want to do. Where 2019’s first Modern Warfare aimed for realism, Modern Warfare II feels even more definitive in look and feel.
The control upgrades feel on-brand for peak athleticism in a special forces operator. Players can parkour their way through maps and move through the war zone by instinct. Sidearms can now be used with ledges, allowing players to peek mid-climb. The changes are blended with an even bigger focus on cover, at a risk of exposing your position. Infinity Ward somehow adds these new additions to motion without needing more buttons on the PlayStation DualSense controller. Players have more ways to be faster, smarter and creative for outgunning opponents.
Modern weapons give Infinity Ward and players more to work with. Gone are Vanguard’s limited arsenal and vintage guns. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s deadly tools feel louder, precise and high with velocity. Infinity Ward sticks to realism by making every gun high in damage. Of course, it only takes a few bullets to take players down. The Beta’s weapon sounds alone alert players to danger from across the map. Classics including the M4A1 make a glorious return. Players can find some range and versatility in the M16, AK-74U and SCAR. I especially loved sticking to the brand new FSS Hurricane, an SMG that packs deadly range, high ammo count and a really cool reload animation.
Wise words from Gaz in 2007’s Modern Warfare still apply: switching to your pistol is always faster than reloading. MWII adds new animations to show off this manoeuvre with a soldier’s dexterity. It’s incredibly cool to see players successfully pull out their pistols—if they’re alive long enough for their rifles to dry up.
Some things don’t change in a Call of Duty game for better or worse. A winning tactic might not work in the next match. Trigger-happy players give others a reason to take things slow. Campers have even more spots to lie low and pick off stragglers. I couldn’t exactly break my habits of sprinting into the crossfire and having a faster trigger. But Infinity Ward has embraced these types of playstyles. When these clash in Modern Warfare II‘s multiplayer matches, every match adds a level of survivalism and tension.
Gunsmith comes back 2.0 as a staple feature in Activision’s rebooted Call of Duty franchise. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II beta introduces three perk classes—Assault, Hunter and Tank—with their own presets. Each class is tailored to the aforementioned playstyles.
“The Shock Stick is easily Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II’s most interesting addition.”
Assault comes all-rounded for range and close quarters rushing. Hunter is better suited for snipers and players scoping the map out. Tanks focus on heavier equipment and deployable cover to push through heavy fire. New equipment like the Spotter Scope can mark enemies for other players. The Shock Stick is easily Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II’s most interesting addition. Players can chuck the stick on walls and floors to briefly stun enemies. Equipment and vehicles can instantly short circuit to turn the tables around.
The presets help new players navigate the types of perks and equipment without overwhelming them, while returning Call of Duty vets can still customize their own classes. Experimental stocks, lasers, sights and barrels are just some typical parts for custom weapons. MWII feels even more extensive with its menu as players unlock their way through modifications. It’s still as satisfying as ever to send stats like Damage, Fire Rate, Recoil and Bullet Velocity off the charts through creating the ultimate weapon.
Modern Warfare II‘s beta keeps players more than busy with its 6v6 game modes. Team Deathmatch still delivers the straightforward kill, die and repeat drill. Domination ups the ante with capture points to fight for. Hardpoint (in Third Person Mode) makes camping a group effort for scoring. These are Call of Duty’s bread and butter modes for online.
“The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II beta has a bigger focus on making each life count in matches.”
The 6v6 is where MWII improves on teamwork. Its six-player team size makes maps feel more expansive. Heavily-used features in Warzone like pinging, automated callouts and buddying up drastically help win matches. I found it easier than ever to mark enemy activity with the push of a button, along with hearing enemies thumping towards my direction.
Infinity Ward’s focus on teamwork only makes modes like Search and Destroy (S&D) feel more precarious than ever. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II beta has a bigger focus on making each life count in matches. Prisoner Rescue and Knockout—two new modes for MWII—take respawns away for that purpose. Teammates are encouraged to use the tweaked communication mechanics and their ears to win. Revives are also allowed in these new modes to turn teamwork into a marriage.
Fans of Rainbow Six: Siege and Counter-Strike will especially feel settled into Prisoner Rescue. The original mode pits teams in a typical S&D fashion. But it forces an attacking team to reach and evacuate two hostages. Opponents also guard and defend hostages as they sweep for rescuers. It’s nice to see Call of Duty keep up with these modes in their vision of a modern shooter. While it took a few matches in Beta to break my comfort zone with Prisoner Rescue. Without respawning, Call of Duty feels even more tactical, collaborative and complex through the mode.
Knock Out feels similar to Prisoner Rescue. The mode replaces hostages with a package players have to keep away. Inspired by Halo’s Oddball mode, teams score by keeping the package for as long as they can. Teams also have more reasons to watch each other’s backs once they secure the package for points. From the Beta alone, players can find some fun out of MWII’s spin on Football.
Third Person Mode makes a return from 2009’s Modern Warfare 2. The mode is fun to explore, but still feels like an experiment suited for a Beta test. Infinity Ward finds a challenge with breaking Call of Duty’s first person mould, but across TDM, Domination and Hardpoint, there’s fun to be had with playing classic modes in a new way. The third person camera even gives players advantages and a wider view, but MWII still forces players to use their sights in first person. The transition from third to first person can feel disorienting since players will constantly aim, but fans of SOCOM and Metal Gear Solid might find some comfort out of the latest Call of Duty.
Top-down changes are also showcased in the Beta’s maps. MWII translates the fluid motions and takes players across a number of playgrounds. It didn’t take long to notice what makes each of the four sample maps (Breenbergh Hotel, Farm 18, Mercado Las Almas and Valderas Museum) unique.
Breenbergh Hotel takes the fight indoors with plenty of narrow corridors and cover. Players can also manoeuvre through catwalks and multiple floors for tactical advantages. Farm 18 feels like a CIA training camp turned into a fun, close-quarters war zone. 6v6 teams can feel more tense as tight corners blend with open yards.
It’s much harder to pull off a Hardpoint match thanks to spawn trap locations and too little room to find safety. The beautifully designed Mercade Las Almas comes inspired by MWII’s campaign, while Infinity Ward crafted an outdoor farmer’s market with a blend of open warfare, long-range sight lines and parkouring. MWII’s Valderas Museum feels like the biggest map of the four and serves as the Beta’s highlight location. Large, indoor halls are connected with pathways to other exhibits. Players can also find more high ground advantages with long range rifles. The Valderas Museum’s expansive rooms and routes also made my Search and Destroy matches extra quiet and cautious.
I literally hit the ground running through the MWII Early Access and Open Beta. There’s a certain tension that comes with every annual beta. The return of advanced technology—and weaponizing it—make MWII feel more complex to play with its setting, reflecting a change from Vanguard’s stripped-back setting, but also a significant step-up over 2019’s precise controls and power for players.
This time, MWII’s Beta time feels special knowing it’s also the last one player’s get to see for a while, following Activision’s move to break its yearly development cycle. With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, players will have plenty of time to feel like they’re back where they belong in the present as developers stay busy.