Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is set to release on October 28, and Activision gave us an early look at the game ahead of its official reveal event. During the presentation, Infinity Ward highlighted campaign and multiplayer details players can expect when it launches. Here is everything we’ve learned so far about this “new era” of Call of Duty.
A new era of Call of Duty, but still supporting old-gen
Some of Activision’s marketing describes Modern Warfare 2 as a “new era” of Call of Duty. When explaining this new era, Infinity Ward explained the game was designed for “state-of-the-art” connected gameplay built on one unified engine. This redesigned engine will be shared with Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games, and other co-studios for future Call of Duty titles. The developer was quick to add that a shared engine across all studios won’t change the overall feel of each release. A future Treyarch developed Call of Duty should still have its own unique style, as should the games from other studios.
Despite this new era, Call of Duty still isn’t ready to abandon the older platforms. Players will still be able to enjoy Modern Warfare 2 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. Activision also confirmed Call of Duty will be returning to Steam for PC, but Battle.net is expected to still be an option.
When asked about how Modern Warfare 2 will perform on the older-gen consoles, Infinity Ward’s co-studio head and creative director, Patrick Kelly, said he is “proud of how the game looks on older platforms.” He added that he believes it still looks better than 2019’s Modern Warfare, despite being on older consoles.
As if to provide a bit of a tease, Kelly also said during the presentation that Infinity Ward wanted to provide “experiences where players of all mode preferences could enjoy the game in the same space.” The developer didn’t elaborate on what kind of shared experience Modern Warfare 2 might create but said that more information would be revealed at a later time.
A campaign inspired by real events and Call of Duty’s best missions
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 follows three years after the events of 2019’s rebooted Modern Warfare, with Captain Price’s iconic Task Force 141 now fully formed and operating around the world. Price is joined by the familiar faces of Simon “Ghost” Riley, Kyle “Gaz” Garrick, and John “Soap” MacTavish, but this newly assembled Task Force 141 also includes a new character, Col. Alejandro Vargas.
Shadow Company, a faction previously introduced in Modern Warfare’s post-launch narrative within Warzone, is also being reintroduced in the campaign for Modern Warfare 2. Shadow Company is a private military contractor run by another new character: Phillip Graves, who is described as being a valuable ally to Task Force 141.
While 2019’s Modern Warfare took a more provocative approach with missions like Clean House, Kelly said the direction for the sequel was to focus more on entertainment and fun. Additionally, Kelly said the studio worked to treat sensitive material in the most delicate way possible, but still show reality. The story is fiction, but as Kelly said, it’s also “inspired by the military events that shape our world.”
While the developer didn’t hint at their influences for this year’s narrative, the synopsis, which focuses on the aftermath of a US airstrike that kills a hostile foreign general, sounds very reminiscent of the 2020 assassination of Qasem Soleimani, who was an Iranian general killed by an American drone strike. Following the death of Soleimani, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened that “severe revenge awaited the criminals” behind the attack. Modern Warfare 2’s Task Force 141 seems to be fighting back against very similar threats and retaliation, though this is just speculation on my part
Infinity Ward gave us a preview of a few missions in Modern Warfare 2’s vengeance-fueled campaign. All of these levels showcased the typical Call of Duty set pieces that players have come to expect from the franchise, meaning more of those over-the-top chase sequences and stealth missions. However, the developer said the levels were designed to bring new mechanics and fresh takes on some of Modern Warfare’s iconic missions, including ones that feature stealth and rappelling. Additionally, new carjacking and mantling mechanics were introduced to the typical vehicle-chase set piece. From what we’ve seen so far, it feels like Modern Warfare 2’s campaign could be a greatest hits album with a few interesting remixes.
The developer showed off a stealth-based mission called Wetwork, where Price and Gaz must swim and creep around the docks to clear out a harbor filled with enemies in a nighttime setting. The mission feels reminiscent of the iconic All Ghillied Up level from 2007’s Modern Warfare, but with a focus on knives instead of guns.
Another example is Convoy, which is Modern Warfare 2’s high-speed vehicle mission that adds new movement to Call of Duty’s classic vehicle chase sequences. The developer described Convoy as a “vehicle sandbox” that gives players choice and new ways to engage with the mission. Players can move to any vehicle in the convoy sequence, choosing to hop into a driver seat or climb on a rooftop with vehicle platforming that looked very much like something out of an Uncharted game.
Gaz from Modern Warfare 2 campaign
Nightwar, meanwhile, is a nighttime extraction mission with Soap, Ghost, and a team of Marines. Players must work to clear buildings of enemies, and those with a keen eye will likely notice Modern Warfare 2’s more advanced A.I. for the NPCs.
One of the key features explained by Infinity Ward’s lead animator Mark Grigsby was a focus on more advanced A.I. from the previous game. Infinity Ward showed examples of the soldier body language used in the research to make NPCs grouped with the player to be more actively checking corners and preserving their life.
It’s worth noting that this newly advanced A.I. was also mentioned as carrying into all modes, but the developer didn’t share specifics on how it might be used across multiplayer and battle royale.
Mostly familiar multiplayer
Some of Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer modes were also revealed to us, including Call of Duty’s staple modes of Team Deathmatch and Domination. The popular large-scale Ground War mode from 2019’s Modern Warfare is also returning this year. We were able to get hands-on with all of these, plus two new round-based objective modes called Hostage and Knockout. However, our multiplayer impressions will come at a later time.
Hostage is a 6v6 mode which requires players to take turns either trying to defend or rescue two hostages on the map. The match rounds for Hostage can also work like Call of Duty’s Search and Destroy objective mode, with a round ending if one team is completely wiped out. Of course, players can revive their fallen teammates to get them back in the match to avoid the full team wipe.
Knockout is a mode Infinity Ward described as Gunfight meets core multiplayer. This mode features fast rounds in a best of five match, where both teams will fight to grab and hold a bag of cash. Last team holding the bag of cash wins the round. While Gunfight is traditionally a 2v2 or 3v3 small-scale mode with one life per round, Knockout is a 6v6 mode with the ability to revive teammates.
This was likely just a sampling of the modes Modern Warfare 2 will offer, but players shouldn’t expect Gunfight at launch. And although Knockout is meant to be the new successor to the 2v2 mode, Gunfight will return “at some point.”
Perks and killstreaks are going to be familiar offerings as well, but perks do work a bit differently. For Modern Warfare 2, perks come in “packs” of four. Players can customize the perks within their pack, but they’ll only have two perks active at the start of the match, while two more are earned during the game. These include typical Call of Duty perks like Overkill, Hardline, Double Time, and Ghost.
For Killstreaks, we didn’t see any that Call of Duty players haven’t used before. We saw the usual streaks like the UAV, Counter-UAV, Care Package, Sentry Gun, Chopper Gunner, Gunship, and more.
Weapons and Gunsmith
Players will see a lot of familiar weapons return in Modern Warfare 2. Our time viewing campaign missions and playing multiplayer showcased popular offerings with assault rifles like the AK-47 and M4, as well as the MP5 submachine gun.
The Gunsmith feature will return, but it was not available to view in the build of the game we saw during the presentation. Infinity Ward said this Gunsmith will feature more attachments and offer “interesting trade-offs” between the selection of attachments, which sounds like the stat-based pros and cons for each attachment that were used in past versions of the Gunsmith. There was also a mention of an additional option to “fine tune” attachments, but the developer was vague on details with more information to be revealed at a later date.
When we asked about the maximum number of weapon attachments that could be added to a gun build, the developer was unable to confirm a specific figure. Infinity Ward game director Jack O’Hara said the decision was leaning more towards having a maximum of four to five attachments, which isn’t on the higher end like Vanguard’s customization of up to ten attachments per gun build.
Modern Warfare 2 is set to take a slightly different approach to the weapon customization and leveling with “platforms,” which the developer describes as a family of shared guns and attachments players can unlock. O’Hara further described this as customization with lots of tree branches. Using one gun should then seemingly unlock similar attachments for guns within the same shared family.
Ground War remains large, while traditional maps are scaled back
Ground War maps will no longer be larger pieces of traditional multiplayer locations. Infinity Ward said these are separate “battle maps” built from day one specifically for large-scale modes. Some of the Ground War locations will be small pieces pulled from Warzone 2’s map.
One of Modern Warfare 2’s “battle maps” is Sharrif Bay, which is a harbor location with plenty of water for swimming and boat engagements. The other Ground War map we played was Sa’id, a promenade-style map with tall buildings.
For traditional 6v6 maps, we played three different locations. Spain is a museum that is, unsurprisingly, located in Spain, Grand Prix is a night map set at a racetrack located in Asia, and Farm is designed as a training location/shoot house-type facility in an undisclosed location.
While 2019’s Modern Warfare went rather large with many of the core multiplayer maps at launch, the developer said it scaled back all the standard multiplayer maps for the sequel to cater to traditional 6v6 matches.
New equipment, vehicles, and mechanics
Regarding multiplayer, Infinity Ward co-design director Joe Cecot discussed a focus on “emergent play,” which is meant to offer a variety of 1v1 engagements. This includes new underwater equipment to use and vehicle types to control the playfield.
Some of Modern Warfare 2’s new equipment seems to take inspiration from other games. For example, the Drill Charge equipment works much like the operator skill for Fuze in Rainbow Six Siege: The device attaches to surfaces to drill a hole and shoot a grenade into the area, which can breach walls and even vehicles to damage enemies or flush them out. Unlike Fuze’s cluster charge, players don’t have to manually mount the device, as the drill charge is a throwable item players can hurl towards oncoming tanks or nearby buildings.
The DDOS is new tactical equipment that will provide an electromagnetic pulse to temporarily disable vehicles. Players will have the option to “restart” the EMPed vehicle with a series of button prompts.
Field Upgrades return with staple options like Dead Silence and Munitions, but there’s also a new Inflatable Decoy used as a Field Upgrade. This lets players deploy an inflatable soldier meant to confuse the enemy team. It can also provide cues to player locations, much like Alibi’s decoys in Rainbow Six Siege. The decoys will have poses depending on where they are deployed, with a swimming pose used for those deployed in water.
And speaking of water, swimming mechanics are confirmed to be returning to Call of Duty. The developer talked a lot about water and tackling the challenge of adding realistic water across all modes. Players will be able to go for a dip in multiplayer modes and the future Warzone map, but underwater gunfights will feel a bit different. Infinity Ward said water will have an effect on weapon ballistics, slowing down the bullets and reducing damage to require more bullets to kill underwater.
Additionally, Modern Warfare 2 features additional options for movement. Players can still choose to slide, which is a popular movement ability from the past few Call of Duty games, but it also brings back the option to “dolphin dive.” Diving into a forward prone position, which is also known as dolphin diving, was made popular in Treyarch’s older Black Ops titles. Now players can choose to dive forward into battle or slide towards or away from the action depending on whether they choose to press or hold the assigned action button.
Furthering the movement options, players will also be able to mantle and hang from ledges. This also works for players parachuting onto the map during a match of Ground War, allowing them to grab onto a nearby ledge.
Spec Ops and Warzone 2 details
The developer didn’t share any details about Modern Warfare 2’s third game mode during the presentation, but in a later interview with Infinity Ward game director Jack O’Hara and studio animation director Mark Grigsby, we were able to confirm the mode would be Spec Ops.
Special Ops or “Spec Ops” is the popular co-op mode originally from 2009’s Modern Warfare 2, which served as a series of 2-player missions of varying objectives with increasing difficulty. Spec Ops returned 10 years later with the 2019 reboot of Modern Warfare, but the mode grew a little too ambitious. This most recent take on Spec Ops featured 4-player squads on larger maps with objectives that felt lackluster and a difficulty level that proved to be daunting for even seasoned Call of Duty players. When asked what version of Spec Ops players could expect, O’Hara said the mode would be more comparable to an enhancement of 2009’s Spec Ops.
While few details were shared regarding the battle royale sequel, it’s worth noting that the developer mentioned Warzone 2 might not be the final name for the Warzone sequel. The battle royale is confirmed to include the same vehicles, swimming, mantling, and mechanics from Modern Warfare 2, but it’s still uncertain whether this next iteration will be a 100% clean slate or include the weapons and skins from previous titles. (For more, we previously outlined rumors and other facts about Warzone 2.) Additionally, the presentation confirmed that Warzone was coming to mobile platforms, but we didn’t receive any details about its upcoming mobile iteration.
Activision also confirmed preorders of Modern Warfare 2 would include early access to the game’s upcoming open beta, but no start dates or further details have been provided. Infinity Ward’s topics of shared play and uses of A.I. were cryptic, so hopefully we’ll find out more in the coming months. Additionally, Infinity Ward teased a few surprises for a later time, so we’ll likely learn more details closer to the beta and launch.