Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – (Re)Fresher Part Two

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareContinuing where we left off yesterday, today we’ll look at the maps that were featured in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This is all to get ready for this fall’s remastered version of the game that will be bundled with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. We know that we’re getting ten maps with the remake – that means six maps are being left behind from the initial release. Instead of trying to guess which those six  will be, because there are a couple that I think are potential cuts, I’ll just run through the full list quickly. The standout maps I’ll talk a little more about, while the lower tier maps we’ll hit quick.

First on the list is Ambush. It’s a fairly large map, great for long-range encounters and sniping. It’s not actually symmetrical, but it’s pretty close, to the point where I don’t that one side has a huge advantage. It works in Domination, Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, and if the remake has newer modes, Kill Confirmed. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to appear, it’s one of those fan favorite maps on the original disc. I definitely think this one of the best maps to help get your long-range combat skills better. Grab a M40A3 or G3 and watch the side roads. Next up is Backlot, which is one of the few maps that we know is in the Remake. Unlike a lot of modern maps in FPS games, this one is all about the center location. There’s one – technically – three story house right in the middle of the map that is really important to control. It’s got great sightlines on the other two major landmarks – the destroyed building and the construction site – which means a good shot can helps control the flow of a game. I like playing it on Team Deathmatch the most, since it tends to revolve around those landmarks instead of trading spawn sides. Next let’s look at Bloc. Bloc is one of those maps that I think gets overlooked when we talk about great Call of Duty maps. I love this map – it’s everything I like in a shooter map. It’s balanced – basically symmetrical, with two blocks of apartments on either side. Sure, some games will descend into firefights from building to building, but playing the flanker role can be a huge amount of fun. This was always one of the few maps that I felt comfortable using the shotguns on without being at a disadvantage. If you can get into the apartments and other close range situations, those weapons can really make a power play.

The next map on the list is Bog, which is another one that I think is all but a guarantee to appear in the Remake. It’s a pretty open map, not a huge amount of cover so timing your runs is pretty important. Sniping is really great on this one – as is running with Frag X3 if you know the angles. Domination is good, Search is potentially very frustrating with those grenades, but the map works across the board. Next up is Countdown, another one I could see being included. This is one of the bigger maps in the game, and has some pretty crazy sightlines. It’s got  lots of long lines, but it’s dotted with cover so setting up to snipe can be tricky. Domination is lots of fun, with pretty intense games. Expect spawns to flip a lot with this one, and air support to be more effective than usual. Next on the list is Crash, which is one we know is coming forward. At this point you should probably already know all about Crash. I think it’s the perfect Call of Duty map for that Modern Warfare style combat. Long lanes, tight corners, interior combat and plenty of alternate routes make it a tough map to predict how games flow. I still think it’s Infinity Ward’s best map they’ve ever made, and I’m super excited to revisit an old friend. Next on the list is Crossfire, another one we know is coming forward. Crossfire was another map that I always really enjoyed. It’s essentially a giant “S” shape, with the outer edges made up of buildings you can move through. Snipers can lock down the center lane, as well as potentially make some buildings dangerous to go in. If you do manage to close the range down, fighting building to building is always tense and fun. This is another one I’m really looking forward to playing.

Moving on down the list, we have District next. I think it’s one that might be left behind – it’s not a bad map, but it doesn’t really stand out in any way. It also had a pretty bad glitch where there was a building that had no collision so you could shoot through it. There’s the market too, where the combat tends to funnel toward, but it’s nothing standout. Next upon the list is Downpour. Downpour is set on a rainy rural farm, and it’s not exactly a huge map, but it’s a good size. It’s asymmetrical, so it’s important to try and grab the high ground.As much as I like this map, I could easily see it being left behind. On the other hand, the next map – Overgrown – is probably pretty likely to show up. Overgrown is a huge map – set on a massive farm with a pretty good size main farm house, a two level barn and a filed with hay bales.  It’s a great sniper map, and if you’re a good flanker it can be a perfect map for it. You definitely need to pay attention to the alternate routes that this map is full of. Same goes for the next map – Pipeline. It’s apparently a favorite since it showed up in Advanced Warfare, just tweaked a little for that game’s mechanics. It’s another big one, but sniping is tricky since there are plenty of interior routes to take to get closer to the snipers. I think there’s a good chance it’ll show up, and if it does, get ready to pick out enemies from farther away and then close on them.

Moving on down the list, we get to Shipment. This is probably the smallest map in the series, and it’s another fan favorite. It’s a great Free-For-All map, and just about any match on this map is total chaos. It’s full of tight corners, medium range sight lines and plenty of angles to toss grenades on. I really doubt this one won’t show up – it’s too damn popular to not. Hopefully it shows up in more playlists though. With only a few more maps to go, let’s talk about Showdown. It’s another simple map – it’s a big rectangle/courtyard with a couple levels to it. Lots of mid-range combat, a couple good ambush places, and it’s a great map for Helicopter support. I’m on the fence with this one – I could definitely see it moving forward, but at the same time, I could easily see them leaving it behind. It’s just not overly special. Next up is Strike, another really popular map. This one is tough for me to call. I had a lot more fun with the map when they put it in Modern Warfare 2. It’s not a bad map, it’s got a good mix of interior and road combat and I think plenty of different loadouts work well. Our second-to-last map to look at is Vacant. Another that showed up in the sequel, Vacant is a great close range map. There’s lots of tight corners, combined with a couple mid-range hallways. It’s the other map that I used to like using shotguns on – running through the halls with Juggernaut and RPGs with a shotgun was a lot of fun. I definitely hope that this one comes forward. Our final map is Wet Work – which we saw portions of in the reveal stream, or at least assets that were in Crew Expendable and probably could be used in the map. I definitely see it moving forward, even though it’s not my favorite map. It’s not bad – symmetrical in nature, with longer range combat definitely the more common action. My problem is just that when I first started playing MW, my friends wanted to play Search, and this map in particular had some camping issues. There was also a way to get out of the map and snipe from above the control room. I definitely think this one is coming forward, but I would really rather see something like Bloc show up.

There’s still a lot to learn about Infinite Warfare as well as the Modern Warfare Remaster before this November’s launch. But that just means that there’s plenty of time to talk about one of the best FPS games of the last ten years. If you can, I definitely think you maybe hopping on the old game isn’t a bad idea.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – (Re)Fresher

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareWith the official word that we’re going to get an updated, remastered version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, I thought I’d talk a little about the game for people who either didn’t ever play the original, or haven’t in a while. The franchise has evolved a lot since the original launch, so players who have come into the franchise since then might be a little surprised when they load up the classic. I’m looking mainly at the multiplayer side of things, specifically the weapons today. I’ll look at the maps tomorrow, since we’re getting the ten original maps in the remake.

The big thing that could really throw people for a loop is probably with the Create a CLass system from the original Multiplayer system. Now, we don’t know for sure if that’s what we’re getting, but it’s a safe bet that we’re getting the original multiplayer across the board. We’ve been spoiled over the last handful of games with the pick-ten system, but that’s not how it worked in the good old days. We had a primary, a secondary, tactical and grenade, and three perks – that’s it. A lot of what we’re used to in terms of flexibility wasn’t there. When you combine that with the smaller number of weapons, I can see how newer fans might go into the remake with some negative opinions. What I think actually ends up happening is that a lot more power is put into the players’ thumbs. Yes, there were a couple weapons that were a little stronger than the rest – M16, M4, MP5, M40A3 – but pretty much every weapon was competitive. It’s a lot easier to put in the time to become familiar with the weapons, since there aren’t as many to work on. The drive for camo completions also isn’t quite there, because Gold camo only existed for one gun per class. That’s one of those things that I could see changing for the Remaster, the challenges in general were pretty threadbare compared with the later games.

COD 4 Create a Class

The weapons themselves I don’t think will be a huge hurdle for newer players to get over. There isn’t a huge difference between the weapons within a class like now – between burst-fire SMGs, autobursts, semi-auto, burst fire snipers, it can be hard to really get good with a gun. The old set though really only had a couple things to deal with – two semi-auto assault rifles, one burst fire one, and that’s about it. You’ve got the typical mix of bolt-action and semi-auto snipers, and different fire-rates for the SMGs mainly to worry about. The weapon classes all feel pretty good – or at least did back then – they fit their roles to a tee. There aren’t as many attachments to really worry about either, so the barrier for entry for higher level play isn’t as high as it might be now. What becomes more important as you continue playing is map knowledge and game flow awareness.

A couple last quick points that new players might need to get used to with the remake. First is the pace of the game. Pretty much every Call of Duty since Black Ops has been focused a lot around fast infantry combat. Even Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III with the boost jumping and wall running is still infantry and plays super fast. Modern Warfare not so much – it’s a much slower pace than what we’ve been playing for the last handful of years. You might need to take a few games to get used to the slower pace and more emphasis on cover useage. Second is the killstreaks present. We’ve had a plethora to use ever since Modern Warfare 2. The original only had three though – UAV at 3 kills, Air Strike at 5 kills and a Helicopter at 7 kills. They don’t stack like they do now, you have to use them in order and they can be overwritten if you die and go on a second streak. Again, that’s a system that I could maybe see them retool, but if it doesn’t change, you’ll probably have to get used to calling those streaks in more frequently.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III – The Best Call of Duty?

Black Ops 3I know that we’ve been talking a bit about The Division Beta and Destiny‘s future lately, but the game that I’ve been playing the most over the last month or so has been Call of Duty: Black Ops III. And that’s had me thinking – is it the best Call of Duty since the modern era of CoD games started? So with that in mind, let’s rank the modern games and find out. By modern games I mean any Call of Duty console/PC release since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, mainly because it completely changed the formula for the series.

Before we hit the rankings, there is one little caveat to get out of the way. I can’t put Call of Duty: World at War on the list because I’ve never actually played it. It came out while I was still playing a whole lot of Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4, among other games. In hindsight I do wish that I had picked it up when it was relevant, but oh well. With that said, let’s move on to the Official Infinite Lives Call of Duty Rankings.

Advanced Warfare Cover

At the bottom of the list, I’m going with Advanced Warfare. Yes, it’s Sledgehammer Games’ first full Call of Duty game, but the formula for what makes a CoD game work isn’t exactly a secret. Advanced Warfare just didn’t really pull it off – the campaign was forgettable, the co-op experience was pretty threadbare and the multiplayer had a weapon meta that never really got balanced. The problem really is that there were two or three weapons that were just head and shoulders above the rest – the BAL, ASM1 and Tac-19 all were essentially required to have a shot at performing well. The movement changes were a step in the right direction, but now that we’ve seen Black Ops III take them further, I think it’s kinda evident that that was what Advanced Warfare should have done; regardless of the Titanfall comparisons. I do think that Sledgehammer can make a real good CoD title, but Advanced Warfare just wasn’t it.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Moving a little up the list, we get to the last Infinity Ward developed title: Call of Duty: Ghosts. This one hurts a little because it was so, so close to being great. The campaign, while predictable, was fun the whole way through. The Extinction mode was fantastic, in truth it was my favorite part of the game. What killed the game for me was, much like AW, a broken online meta. The Honey Badger was just too powerful in any engagement, and IW never really addressed it in a way that fixed the problem. There’s a reason that it was banned from competitive play. What kinda blows my mind though is how with the DLC season, IW kept moving in that direction with map-specific killstreaks that were just insanely powerful. Michael Myers and The Predator totally broke any semblance of balance in matches, even with Honey Badgers all over the place. Since Infinity Ward is putting out this year’s game, and I would expect to see Ghosts 2 (despite reports I’ve seen to the contrary – it just makes too much sense not to), I really hope that they look at what works with their style games and what the community has embraced with the last two titles.

Call of Duty Black Ops

Next up, I’m going with a somewhat unpopular opinion here – Call of Duty: Black Ops. Since I’ve been playing the new BO title, I’ve been keeping an eye on Reddit as well. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen with comments putting the first Black Ops title up on a pedestal. I am very much not one of those people. And I think I can explain why – I was the only one in my group of friends I play with that had Black Ops. That meant no Zombies mode for me, which I think is the strength of the first game. The campaign was really good – something that Treyarch is great with across the whole BO series. The multiplayer was solid. There was one weapon – the Commando – that was a little stronger, but in general it was fine. My problem looking back was that the maps really weren’t that memorable. Aside from Nuketown, and arguable Firing Range, I really don’t think there were any amazing maps there. Considering that it had to pull me away from Halo Reach and Modern Warfare 2, I just never got to that same level of love for the game. Still a good title, just not my favorite.

Modern Warfare 3

Moving up the list, another Infinity Ward title, Modern Warfare 3. A game that is near and dear to me, as it was one of the few titles I actually was able to create content for G4tv.com for, I can’t really put it higher up the list. I think the best way to really describe the game is just plain solid. Everything in the game was good, and arguably great, but the game as a whole just didn’t blow me away. The campaign should have been this huge blow off to the story that was told over three games. Instead, it felt like those huge set-pieces were forced in, along with the big twist with Yuri and Makarov. The multiplayer did something different with the Call of Duty: Elite system to deliver the DLC. And that DLC was actually pretty strong – a good mix of new maps and classics, along with a whole new Face-Off mode for small matches. I played it for about a full year, and enjoyed it all the way through – it was the first Call of Duty that I actually wanted to stick with to hit Prestige 10. I just think that compared with the four remaining games, it’s not quite as strong across the board.

Modern Warfare 2

One step up the list, the previous game in Infinity Ward’s lineup – Modern Warfare 2. This one is a little tricky for me. I love this game – in truth I think it’s my favorite of the series. I had more fun playing this game than just about any other Call of Duty. But looking back at it, it absolutely had its flaws. Not having a really fleshed out co-op aside from Spec Ops missions I think now seems like a big miss. The multiplayer had its fair share of relatively major issues – the Javelin glitch, One Man Army abuse, Marathon-Lightweight-Commando knifers, infinite care-packages and care-package marker speed boosts all contributed to some frustrating moments. But IW was good about fixing them as best they could. Add in that the map selection was phenomenal, made for really fun games. Increasing the customization options to players with Callsigns and Emblems tied to challenges helped push the players to actually try to do challenges that maybe they wouldn’t have normally. It’s still a game that I look back on and get the itch to load up from time to time – I actually did play a few games of it last summer.

Black Ops II

Pulling the bronze medal on my list, I’m going to go with Black Ops II. Treyarch is really good at crafting a story mode that is actually worth playing through. In this case, they really stepped it up with branching paths that could impact the ending of the game. That not only shows that Treyarch was taking something, a campaign, that a lot of players brushed off really seriously; but it also added replayability to something that typically doesn’t really have it. Zombies mode – which again I didn’t really play – took the formula and cranked it up to 10. The Easter Eggs were super in-depth, with multiple demanding steps to unlock them. And the meat of the game – the multiplayer – was just as solid as ever. I think this is the game where Treyarch really nailed their style of multiplayer. It’s not as fast paced as Infinity Ward’s, with a little slower time to kill and more focus of simple map design with little flairs to try and control. Sure there were powerful weapons – the M8A1 in particular – but they weren’t game breaking ones. It’s the first game that I felt compelled to complete gold camo challenges for entire weapon classes – diamond camo will do that. After how lukewarm I felt about Black Ops, this game was a complete 180 for me – I really enjoy the hell out of this one.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Finally, I’m going to take a bit of a cop-out. There are two games left to look at – Modern Warfare and Black Ops III – fitting since that was the question that I really set out to look at. And here’s the thing – I don’t really know that I have the answer. From a content standpoint, Black Ops III is way ahead of Modern Warfare – as well it should be. Modern Warfare is almost ten years old at this point. Mechanics-wise, again, Black Ops III shows ten years of development learning. But there’s still something really special about Modern Warfare. It was a landmark game in FPS progression. It was a seismic shift for a franchise that dates back to the early 2000’s. It showed that modern set games could be just as gripping as World War Two shooters. But most importantly, it gave us the blueprint for the way multiplayer shooters would evolve and grow into. We’re still playing games that borrow, sometimes directly, from that first Modern WarfareBlack Ops III is, I think, the peak of that evolution. It takes everything that Infinity Ward put out, spins it forward those ten years, and makes it all work with the extra moving parts we’ve come to expect. Is it the best Call of Duty game in the franchise? I think it’s the best Call of Duty that we can have right now – it is the perfect combination of all three phases: Campaign, Co-op, and Multiplayer. The question I’m looking at now is what Infinity Ward, the original guys on the franchise, can do to continue evolving the franchise this year.

Mapping Out December – Part Four: Answering the Call of Duty

I know that this blog has seemed to be pretty much focused exclusively on Call of Duty, but I swear that isn’t by design. This year’s fall season was more about the consoles released than any really big game, outside of Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. I’ve already talked about how Call of Duty dominates sales right now, so really when I decided to do this series on the best multiplayer maps, I knew that I would have to talk more about it. But since I had talked a bunch already, that’s why I pushed it back this late. I should also say that I’m focusing this on the series since Call of Duty 4, since those are the games that have performed well, and that I’m most familiar with the multiplayer of.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

With all that said, let’s flip back to 2007 and look at Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. At the time, it was a bit of a risk – moving away from the tested and true World War II setting to the slightly touchy setting of modern day conflict, as well as pushing hard on consoles. But it certainly paid off big for Activision. Let’s look at some of the better maps from that game. I’ve already talked a couple times about Crash, so I won’t beat that horse any more. Instead, let’s start with Backlot – one of the mid-sized maps, it’s got a solid map flow with good sight lines crisscrossing the maps. There’s a good variation in vertical lines as well, with multiple levels on a few different buildings. Domination games are always fast-paced, with a lot of fighting around B Dom. Sticking with good Domination maps, Ambush is another winner. It’s a bit bigger, with some really long sight lines that a good sniper can lock down, and a B Dom point that is wide open, and holding it for any real time can help solidify a win. Another big map that plays really well is Overgrown – great for a good sniper, even better for a good stealth class. It’s a map that can come down to the last few minutes to determine the winner, in any game mode. It’s so good they brought it back for Modern Warfare 2.

Modern Warfare 2

So with that, let’s look at Modern Warfare 2 – the game that really cemented Call of Duty as the leader of the pack. Even four years later, I still remember that the first match I played was on Karachi – so let’s start there. I loved running around the roofs with a SPAS-12, stopping snipers and running and gunning all around this map – it works well on pretty much any gametype, but TDM games are always fun on here. The other big memory I have of MW2 took place on Scrapyard. A smaller map, it’s a frantic pace for any game type, but it shines on Domination – well balanced, with great running and sight lines, any weapon can excel on it. It was a Domination game that me and my college buddies were in where we shut out the other team on this very map, 200-0. That could only happen on a map that had great running lanes that made defending points possible. I also always loved playing Highrise – good for any mode, but really great on CTF, this map has tons of little touches that make it really fun to play. This was the map that probably had the most little external spots that players can get into – either the crane, the roof, or the balcony all come to mind right away, along with lots of different paths to take.

Modern Warfare 3

I want to stick with the Modern Warfare series while I’m on it and go to Modern Warfare 3 next, then I’ll talk Black Ops and Ghosts. I always thought that with MW3, the initial maps were a bit of a step back. The DLC maps were good, but the initial offerings didn’t really have a fantastic stand-out. I think maps like Outpost, Lockdown, Resistance, Bakaara, Fallen, Seatown and Dome are all okay, but not exceptional. It’s full of maps that work, but almost all have one or two spots that are really easy to camp and hold. Outpost had the bunker, Lockdown has the long hallway, Resistance had the B-Dom building, Bakaara has the hill building, Fallen had the overwatch building, Dome has the B-Dom building. Seatown has a few buildings that tend to get held on to. Then there’s maps like Mission where the entire flow of the game hinges on holding the top-middle section of the map. I think Infinity Ward took a lot of the feedback to heart with the DLC maps, as well as the design for Ghosts.

Black Ops II

But before we head there, let’s talk about Treyarch’s games – Black Ops I and II. Compared to Modern Warfare 2‘s maps, I never really felt that Black Ops had nearly as good maps. I just never really was able to get into the multiplayer to the same extent. Not that there aren’t stand-outs: Nuketown and Radiation are both great maps; but for the most part, the maps are pretty average, and ultimately, forgettable. Cracked, WMD, Firing Range and Summit are all solid maps, but the rest of the mix were all just sort of “there.” I think Treyarch probably puts a big amount of time into the Zombies mode, which might explain the step down from MW2 maps, but that’s total speculation. Especially since Black Ops II had much better maps. Maps like Hijacked, Standoff, Yemen, Overflow, Raid, and Meltdown are all quite good maps. They all offer a way for any style of play to excel on them – a CQC runner can do well, snipers can find good lines, AR gunners can do some major damage, while LMGs can hold objectives really well. With the exception of Carrier and Aftermath, I actually was totally fine with the maps in this offering.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Now, Ghosts is still going through some growing pains, since it’s still quite new, but I think some patterns of play have definitely developed and certain maps have emerged as winners. First off, the lack of a Ground War playlist makes maps like Siege, Stonehaven, Stormfront and, to some extent, Whiteout, suffer a little bit. These maps are just a little too big for just 6-on-6 games. But some of the other maps have shone as really strong maps – Strikezone, Octane, Sovereign, Flooded and Chasm all play pretty well this early on in the life of the game. Strikezone and Sovereign play super fast, with a great mix of close-quarters fighting, with a few longer lines here and there. Octane and Flooded are more mid-range maps, but have a couple really good sniping lines, and even a few good running lanes. Chasm is probably the best balance of the different types of combat so far – long lines for snipers are there, it’s got great mid-range lines for Assault rifles and DMR’s, but a run and gun class can do well too, with lots of different paths between points.

In general, I think what helps the Call of Duty maps out, are the different gameypes – Domination really helps show off a map’s defensible positions, while also showing off the different paths between points; Hardpoint takes that idea and rotates it around the map; CTF and Blitz offer classic style team based games; while the Demolition/Sabotage/Search and Destroy/Headquarters games all change the dynamics of the map.

That will wrap up my look at what I consider the best maps in multiplayer shooters, across time and platform. Next week, I think I might offer up a few of my picks of the worst maps I’ve ever played, as well as I will probably look back over 2013 with my picks of the year’s best.