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(Pocket-lint) - If you love a good microscopic comparison there’s nothing like the release of a new Call of Duty to get forensic with - the minutiae of recoil models and movement techniques all become of paramount importance.

Modern Warfare 2 has more community hype behind it than any recent COD release, too, with the promise of an effective franchise reboot to go with it, all while Xbox’s buyout of Activision rumbles on in the background. We’ve been sinking the hours into the MW2 beta to give our insight into how it’s shaping up. 

Our quick take

Although its release isn’t too far off now, the amount of change we’ve seen from past pre-release COD beta versions compared to the final articles means there’s still a lot of potential for tweaks left.

In that light, though, we’re excited about how Modern Warfare 2 is shaping up, with an audio system that might finally match the rest of the game’s visual presentation, and guns that feel interesting and challenging to master. 

With a wide range of modes to try, and the allure of free-to-play Warzone 2.0 and DMZ both on the cards too, this could be a smorgasbord for Call of Duty fans - one that will be supported properly for two years, at long last. 

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 preview: Refined and ready

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2

For
  • New audio sounds terrific
  • Visually impressive
  • Multiplayer is addictive
Against
  • Progression can be confusing
  • Menus are a little clunky

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All change, no change

For now, we’ve obviously only had a chance to play Modern Warfare 2 in its multiplayer modes - the campaign will be bombastic and explosive, we’re sure, but that’s something we’ll have to wait for release to try.

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The multiplayer beta, though, has offered up a pretty chunky set of content to try out, all of it giving a flavour for how Modern Warfare 2 aims to change things.

First, though, the obvious caveat - this is still a first-person shooter (outside of a couple of playlists in third-person for a fun twist), and it’s still absolutely brutally fast and unforgiving in its time-to-kill and level of competition. 

With that out of the way, though, anyone with hours in Modern Warfare 2019, Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard (the last three COD releases going back a few years) will immediately see some big differences as they play Modern Warfare 2.

For one thing, this is a slower Call of Duty than we can remember for ages, stripping away rapid movement options like slide-cancelling to ensure that players have to be more deliberate as they slink through the maps on offer. 

A new dolphin-dive move lets you chuck yourself into the fray, but it delays your weapon firing, as does dropping into a prone position, all of which means that you won’t see quite the same level of farcical movement around the place as you play. A new ledge-hang mechanic, meanwhile, feels frankly unnecessary but might come in clutch at certain times. 

For our money, this is all great - movement was getting out of hand in COD, and we’re looking forward to this slowing down of things coming to Warzone 2.0, which will follow soon after Modern Warfare 2’s release.

It makes for a slower and more considered approach, bringing back some of the tension that only Modern Warfare 2019 has really managed in recent years, especially in modes without respawn mechanics. 

This is added to by a new recoil model that is really interesting - while the guns have kick and take some getting used to, just like MW2019, it’s the significant visual recoil that’s really striking. Shooting a heavy machine gun feels and looks as weighty and bouncy as you would assume it is in real life (or a lot closer to it, anyway). 

Modern Warfare 2, in its current build, is a far more realistic-feeling beast than most shooters you can run into, then, albeit one that knowingly undermines that realism with its fast-paced action and modes. This is great progress though, and we’re interested to see how much of it is preserved through to the final release. 

What’s that sound?

If the game plays more slowly, and guns require more control, a huge part of the equation comes down to a completely new 3D audio engine that Infinity Ward has built.

After years of inconsistent audio across COD’s multiplayer and (in particular) Warzone, this might just be the light at the end of a long tunnel - a pretty generational leap in quality. 

Where before you could generally hope to hear people running along the same corridor as you, or as they crossed into the same room as you, Modern Warfare 2 introduces a world of echoing steps and clear cues.

You’ll hear someone creeping through the room above you, then hear them transition onto a marble staircase in an attempt to ambush you - at times, you’ll be able to follow their exact position just from that noise. It’s absolutely a step up and explains why the minimap again will not show people shooting un-silenced weapons as red dots.

It shouldn’t be understated - as it stands, this is a refocusing that places audio above the map in terms of tactical importance, something that was farcical in Vanguard but works perfectly now that the game’s audio is actually great. 

Even aside from its tactical use, the incredible punchy and powerful sound effects are also simply impressive from an immersive point of view, with a wince-inducing character that makes using some guns viscerally enjoyable.

Level me up

Another site of change for Modern Warfare 2 comes in the form of its dopamine-injecting progression system, which is a little more complicated than it used to be.

Where most COD games have let you level up as you play, unlocking new weapons as you rank up, and attachments for individual weapons as you use them, here things are more nuanced.

You’ll still level up and earn weapons but some weapons will only be unlocked by using a related weapon for a certain amount of time or kills (or at least that’s how it appears to work in the beta).

These unlock trees offer you a secondary set of objectives to chase as you play, although they’re a little muddled when you’re starting out.

Once you have unlocked some attachments for a weapon, a newly-upgraded Gunsmith system lets you kit them out exactly as you like, and it’s as detailed as any enthusiast could ask for. We’re mostly just thrilled to see that we’re back down to a maximum of five attachments, removing the absurd overkill of Vanguard’s approach. 

Again, this is a paring back of excess that should stand the game well in the long run, if it works as intended, and we’re also once again excited to see its influence on Warzone 2.0’s hopefully less laserbeam-esque gunplay.

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To recap

Modern Warfare 2 is shaping up really nicely, with superb new audio and a more involved progression system augmenting its rock-solid gunplay.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.
Sections Activision Games