With the release of Warzone 2, which went down in relative silence and without flashes, Season 01 for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 begins, bringing a big update to the multiplayer games. It was supposed to add a lot of content, fix bugs, balance weapons and give a direction to further development of COD MW2. And it did, although perhaps not in the way we hoped for. Season 01 seemingly shows that Modern Warfare 2 is more like a premium mode for Warzone 2, coming at the hefty price of $70, in which we can easily level up weapons and get camouflages, and then join the "main" theater of war, which takes place on Warzone 2 servers.
I was very much looking forward to this season, because I wasn't all that enthusiastic about COD MW2. I agree that the game has some significant advantages that make it what it is – namely, good, mostly satisfying gunplay, great gun feel, superb gun models, good, photogrammetric graphics, etc. But at the same time, playing COD MW2 after the release, I constantly had the impression that I was playing an incomplete, truncated and rushed version. Today, after season 01 and Warzone 2 launched, I was only assured of it.
Necessary, but unwanted
After the huge success of Warzone, we probably all expected that the publisher would smell the big money and command all hands on deck to expand the f2p brand. Instead of getting killstreaks on multiplayer maps, players preferred landing in Verdansk. Indeed, Warzone turned out to be the new favorite game for many players – for me, during the sad, messed up 2020 and deep lockdown – it was a form of maintaining friendships. So, together with 100 million players, I landed on a vast map of a post-Soviet city, only to senselessly die a moment later from a sniper bullet while running through the open.
Even then, I noticed how the proportions of my gameplay changed by the day – I was spending less and less time on multiplayer, and more and more in Warzone. I returned to the former only to unlock and level up a given weapon, camouflage or operator faster and more efficiently. I wanted to complete my dream character class and then drop them in Verdansk. It completely changed the way I looked at the multiplayer – it's no longer the game proper, it’s not the gameplay I've been waiting for, but rather some kind of introduction that I had to complete in order to play another game on my own terms.
You see, pairing Warzone – an f2p game – with an expensive, full-fledged Call of Duty installment was the best and at the same time the worst thing that could have happened to the community. We were happy about it, because the progress made in Call of Duty Modern Warfare from 2019 (and then in Cold War and Vanguard) was transferred to Warzone. How can you not be happy about being able to take your hard-earned camouflages or weapons, and various cosmetic goodies, to another game?
At that time, however, we did not feel that buying COD MW was actually a way of buying progress in Warzone. There was quite a lot of content, and Warzone was just spreading wings. Today, after the release of COD MW2 and Warzone 2.0, the situation is completely different. Call of Duty multiplayer is a gold nugget with the price tag of a golden ingot, and season 1, which was supposed to bring us enough content to last until the end of the year, turned out to be a sad, early-access-like version. COD MW2 currently seems an unwanted, but still necessary product, which, according to my gut feeling, is not selling well because it offers a good experience with a lot of content, but rather because of the dead weight of the entire franchise.
I don't even know where to begin
When you look at the official Call of Duty blog, you may get the impression that we live in an amazing world of happiness and abundance. According to it, there's so much content that you won't know where to begin. Meanwhile, the reality is diametrically different. We got fewer maps at launch than in previous COD installments, and on top of that, in Season 01, we will only get two. One on November 16, and another one later during the season.
K/D stats were also added, along with favorite weapons, etc. (I'm still wondering why this kind of framework wasn't ready for launch); the Prestige mechanic (which is actually an increase in military rank level cap from 55 to 200, basically giving us nothing but an animated emblem), a new co-op mission that no one was waiting for, new operators, four new weapons, including one unlockable only in Warzone 2 DMZ mode (sic!), new challenges on the so-called calling cards, i.e. animated banners displayed to players we kill, the Tier 1 mode (i.e. hardcore, which was also missing at launch) and... I think that's about it. Summarizing the entire content of season 01 took me 690 characters with spaces. The official COD blog needed 28,000 characters to tell you the same thing.
But let me also elucidate a bit, because we need to focus on the two, hyped, new Call of Duty multiplayer maps. If you follow this topic, you surely already know that these are the beloved, iconic maps from the previous installment – Shoot House and Shipment. Both have undergone a thorough graphical rework and look beautiful. These are the two maps that have been used to camouflage grinds, challenges, and gain weapon XP. If we wanted to quickly unlock gold on AK, we played Shipment. And you see, I really liked these maps. I've played them plenty of times after work because they were fast and positively dumb. So I'm not sad to see them return in COD MW2.
The point is that these are the ONLY two, not entirely new maps that people will only get after spending $70, and I assume that after spending said amount they'd like to feel that... Maybe not that it was a smart purchase, but at least that nobody cheated them. Because – newsflash – not everyone plays Warzone. Not everyone likes the long and unforgiving battle royale matches on a huge map. Not everyone has the desire to do it, and most of all, not everyone has the time. There are plenty of people who limit their adventure with CoD only to classic multiplayer. And these people would just like to keep playing, enjoying the new content, waiting for updates and checking what the creators came up with.
COD MW2 – a premium account for 70 bucks
And here, we see the other side of the coin – linking the full-fledged parts of COD with the free-to-play Warzone created a relationship that has the seeming of a happy marriage, but when you get to know them, you’ll realize that this relationship – at least from the perspective of the player – is only about money. It's a rather toxic relationship in which COD MW2 – or more broadly, no subsequent Call of Duty at all – can keep neither face nor autonomy. Everything is moving in a direction, where "classic" COD will simply become an addition to Warzone. Of course, advertised as a revolution and fun for thousands of hours, the game is actually a tool designed to get platinum camos on the AK. The Shoot House and Shipment maps – although, again, I love them sincerely – only confirm my suspicions. We're witnessing the blazing of a new trail for COD, towards a secondary grind app that complements Warzone. Playing W2 for free? Great, but look, in COD MW2, you can easily unlock new weapons, coveted extras and amazing camos, and in addition get 10% more XP. Maybe you'll try it? This premium account is only $70.
And this toxic relationship is most harmful to players. Those who bought the game get a game that’s sluggishly expanded and riddled with bugs, which can't be fully experienced without playing Warzone, because otherwise, the feeling of progress in multiplayer ends very quickly. Those who didn't buy the game, and only downloaded the free Warzone 2, will get an incomplete game that, in order to meaningfully develop the character, requires buying an additional, supposedly separate game, in which they will need to spend long hours upgrading the levels of weapons...
Of course, this doesn't mean that we won't be able to advance weapons to a higher level in the battle royale from Activision. We will, but under certain conditions and – no hiding it – it will take much more time and offer much less freedom.
My friends (cheers!), who showed off much more reason than me and did not buy the new CoD (for, mind you, $70), are landing with me in Al Mazrah just the same (that's the name of the new Warzone 2 map). They have also pretty much come to terms with the fact that they'll probably never be able to create their own, battle-tested loadout – because first, they don't play 12 hours a day, and second, they did not spend $70.
Now, I am not against combining the progress of both games per se. I only wish to point out that the result of this combination is neglecting one of them, which is translated into poor content. I would not have written this text if classic multiplayer was treated with due diligence.
So let's emphasize this: Warzone 2 is not a separate, autonomous production. COD Modern Warfare 2 just isn't a standalone game. It's a part of a “scheme” designed to pump large amounts of money and significantly accelerate progress for people who pay. We have come to a strange moment where, in theory, there's no premium account available in an f2p game... except there is. It's a strange reality.
Ever since the release of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, I've had the impression of taking part in a rushed and underdeveloped early access, which not only lacks content, but the content that's available seems untested. The slew of bugs – both in multiplayer and in Warzone 2 – makes me almost certain that it’s not a full-fledged, finished product that was ready to release. In such an environment, it's hard to be optimistic about the future of both franchises. When, after the beta and the subsequent release, the developers were criticized for the absurdly illegible, unresponsive and simply broken interface of the game, they issued a statement that more or less read: "We carefully consider the feedback and promise to improve the interface." Then comes November 16, and calling card challenges are added to the game. And, by the goddess, when I see the way they were designed in COD and Warzone, I don't believe for a minute that anyone has accepted and tested them at all. The screen is filled with hundreds of cards, which we have to endlessly scroll through.
And in order not to end on such a pessimistic note, I, nilly-willy, have to contradict almost everything I wrote – because I'm still having a great time playing the new COD. Not just that; I'm also sure I'll spend a lot of time with Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2 in the future, because even despite the bugs and the fact that the content – at least in multiplayer – isn't as great as I expected, I enjoy 95% of the matches I play just fine. I get pissed off a lot, laugh or wring my hands (especially over the lobby chat in Warzone 2 – seriously, do something about this, Infinity Ward, because it’s more toxic than dart frogs), but still – I have fun and get a lot of satisfaction from it.
Because what Activision Blizzard created could as well be a great beginning – a nice foundation or platform on which the devs can – and hopefully will – build one of the best Call of Duty installments ever. Good luck, folks.