I love Call of Duty. Unapologetically. Full stop. I couldn’t particularly tell you why. The franchise has suffered from bloat and over-monetization and has certainly become a victim of the Fortnite effect. There are even plenty of reasons to question if people are tired of Call of Duty. Yet each year, I easily throw a thousand hours into multiplayer and even sprinkle in a little Warzone for variety. It has been one of my favorite ways to unwind since 2009 when I begrudgingly swapped to Modern Warfare 2 (2009) from Halo 3 so that I wasn’t left out of my friend group’s regular gaming sessions.
Call of Duty has dragged me through its gritty, realistic boots-on-the-ground gameplay to its quirky little romance with jetpacks and grappling hooks into its era of trying to be a hero-shooter like Overwatch, and back to classic boots on the ground. I’ve been through the COD gauntlet, and now that we’re closing in on the reboot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 this November, I have a few things I’d like to see Sledgehammer Games change and/or bring back for the good of the franchise.
The middling-reviewed Call of Duty: Vanguard was released just two years ago, and the title was not exactly well-received among players either. It was the poorest-selling Call of Duty in the franchise’s history, but there was one particular element to Vanguard that—while I was hesitant about it pre-launch—quickly became one of my favorite features.
Combat pacing gave players the choice of how many enemies they wanted to play against in a match. Now, that’s not a new feature in and of itself, but in previous titles, if you wanted to play big team battles, you had to do so on dedicated maps in 16v16 playlists. Those maps were often incredibly large sniper havens and weren’t conducive to close-quarters and mid-range gameplay.
There was also a limit to how small maps could get and still house 6 players in standard 6v6 playlists. This fragmented the player base among far too many play modes, an issue that COD has continued to work to rectify for several iterations now. With combat pacing, nearly every map was available to play with 6, 10, or 24-player teams. This included high-octane, fast-paced chaos on smaller maps like Shipment, while larger maps still felt full and lively.
The higher-scoring Modern Warfare 2 (2022) sadly did away with Vanguard’s combat pacing instead of returning to the classic playlists segmented based on map size. Occasionally Infinity Ward brings back playlists like 10v10 Mosh Pit or 4v4 Face Off to help players who crave that frantic gameplay, but these are often short-lived and only make their way to the playlist rotation for a week once or twice per season. There are also no hardcore variations of these playlists, adding insult to injury.
Shipment 24/7 is by far one of the most popular MW2 playlists due to its hectic, fast-paced matches, but the Hardcore Shipment 24/7 mode only appears during free weekends. Shipment as a map has been completely removed from the playlist rotation on Hardcore game modes, so even when you’re playing under normal circumstances, the map does not show up at all.
At this time, there’s no indication Combat Pacing will be included in MW3.
Speaking of maps, the rotation system has certainly run afoul of players with recent Call of Duty titles. Map voting has had a few different iterations since its original inception, which let players choose from 2 potential maps, seeing a third random choice. Unfortunately, this led to many players consistently forcing lobbies into a loop where they could only play Nuketown for several matches in a row.
To counter this map lock, Call of Duty developers changed up the voting system so that you could only play a map twice in a row before it became locked, and you were forced to play something different while also creating the aforementioned “Your Favorite Small Map 24/7” playlist where the rotation was exclusively the most popular map.
This was later changed, with only one map being shown and the option to play that map or another completely random one. This was always a bit of a crapshoot, though, as you could end up with a worse map than what you had if you voted for the random. Of course, map voting runs into a similar ‘playlist fracture’ issue that something like combat pacing does because you’re inevitably going to have a small selection of players who would rather leave a match and research for a better map if they get one they don’t like.
That subgroup of players behaves the same even without map voting, though. For example, the Santa Seña Border Crossing map on MW2 has long been despised by many. Its disdain has even led to my own squad begrudgingly coining the map’s appearance in rotation as being forced to “pay the highway tax.” It’s not uncommon to sit in a full lobby and hear other players comment that they are backing out or leaving a match because they refuse to pay the highway tax for another match. Map voting may not be an end-all-be-all solution to this, but it certainly helps cut down on lobbies disbanding due to player backouts.
When I began writing this list and preparing the article, little was known about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and I thought the chances of map voting coming back were fairly marginal. I was wrong on this one, thankfully, and we will actually see map voting in this year’s game.
I’m probably out of luck with this particular wishlist item, but I would love to see an end to bunny hopping. For those unfamiliar with this practice, bunny hopping is a term for when a player approaches a corner when moving about the map and then jumps rather than turning the corner by walking, crouching, or sprinting.
If there is an enemy player on the other side of the corner, jumping can help throw off their aim, forcing their shots to hit the lower body of the attacker, or if they’re on a controller using aim assist, they may find that their aim is pulled upward unexpectedly. The attacker also gains the upper hand by having a better shot on the upper body and head compared to the defender, who is more likely to land less damaging body shots due purely to positioning.
Sledgehammer addressed bunny hopping when it became a nuisance in the Vanguard era. At that time, Sledgehammer made it so that there was a small amount of lag to player movement following a jump meaning players who bunny-hopped a corner weren’t able to aim as quickly as if they’d just turned the corner normally, and this led to a significant drop in the behavior. Unfortunately, calls for Infinity Ward to curb bunny hopping have fallen on deaf ears, and they opted to celebrate it with a rabbit-themed operator bundle instead.
Movement has always been a source of contention between streamers, influencers, and other hardcore players who want fast-paced (and seemingly game-breaking) mechanics that work in their favor over casuals who just want to have a good time. There’s more of the latter than the former, but we know it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Mechanics like slide canceling and tactical sprint recharge are officially confirmed to be returning in MW3, so it’s unlikely there’ll be any relief for us anti-bunny hoppers.
This is going to be an odd one for a lot of the COD player base but hear me out. Modern Warfare 2 had one of the best lineups of playable female operators in the franchise’s history.
The incredible campaign characters Farah Karim and Valeria Garza, the newly introduced Nila “Nova” Brown, and the returning Rozlin “Roze” Helms, among others, are all great characters to run through multiplayer and Warzone with, but I have to be entirely honest here: Their monetized Operator bundles suck. There hasn’t been a single one that has succeeded at parting my money and my bank account.
There has clearly been a lot of time and effort put into designing fun, badass-looking Operator bundles for the male characters available to play, with Horangi, Hutch, and Konig certainly having the most variety. That’s not to say it’s completely barren for the female operators. The Grimm bundle is fantastic, Violent for Violet was also one of the better options, and if you’re into the neon look, there are certainly some bright futuristic bundles to choose from.
If you’re like me, however, and longing for the more vibrant options of COD’s past, you’ll be disappointed that there is simply nothing that compares to the Zombicorn weapon skin or Domino’s Licorne from the Rainbow Sparkles bundle that was offered for MW (2019) and Warzone: Caldera. Less anime and more unicorns, please.
Skill based match making
Skill-based matchmaking has become the bane of every competitive Call of Duty player. Way back in the day, when we all played Modern Warfare 2 and 3 for the first time and queued up with a lobby of random players, they could be from anywhere in the world and of any skill level. Lobbies stayed banded together for multiple matches until people left. Granted, there were some drawbacks to this. Lag was primarily an issue because you could be dropped in a lobby with somebody on dial-up Internet half the world away.
The old way of matchmaking also meant that during the holidays, we all got to spend time with (or being) the beloved ‘Christmas Noobs,’ an affectionate term for low-level players who received the game as a gift for the holidays. Those playing the game since launch would have the home turf advantage and could absolutely steamroll the newbies for high-kill games. With the implementation of SBMM, however, Christmas Noobs are a thing of the past, as you are always matched with players in your skill bracket.
There’s no shortage of clickbait rage pieces on the Internet about how SBMM has ruined gaming and any social media post from Call of Duty is guaranteed to be swamped with comments raging against it. I’m not entirely opposed to it—though I do miss Christmas Noobs. Modern Warfare 2 has certainly cranked it up higher than more recent COD titles, though, and I’d like to see Sledgehammer Games at least dial it back some. MW2’s SBMM is far too quick to bump player brackets. There are times when I feel bad for having a good game because I know it means my squad and I are about to get thrown into SBMM hell for the next hour or two until our rank gets evened back out.
There are no outright statements from Activision or anybody on the Call of Duty dev teams to specify exactly how SBMM works. They haven’t even bothered to outright state it exists, so any statement on it being amped up or dialed down is unlikely. But I can dream.
Modern Warfare 2 somehow managed to mess up a mode that has been with Call of Duty since the beginning for absolutely no good reason whatsoever. For those who don’t spend much time in multiplayer, Hardcore is a traditional 6v6 playlist across a variety of modes where there is a limited HUD — no mini-map or bullet counter but hit markers and the obituary feed are still available — and lower health with friendly fire on. The time to kill is extremely low, and you better hope you can hit that first shot when you see another player, or you’re toast.
For reasons unbeknownst to anybody, Modern Warfare 2 launched without Hardcore for multiplayer. After a lot of complaints from the community, Infinity Ward announced that they were adding “Tier One,” a replacement for Hardcore that would launch with Season 1. When Tier One landed on everybody’s playlists, we learned that it was not at all Hardcore but rather a version of Core that was so overwhelmingly stripped down that you couldn’t even see an obituary feed to find out what caused your untimely demise. Hitmarkers were gone, scorestreak indicators were gone, and the HUD was completely wiped out. It was an absolutely awful experience with zero UI to redeem it.
Eventually, after even more complaining from the community, Infinity Ward scrapped Tier One to the bin where it belonged and adjusted the playlist to reintroduce classic Hardcore gameplay. Sledgehammer Games has confirmed that Tier One will not be returning in Modern Warfare 3, so us Hardcore tryhards can breathe a sigh of relief that we’re getting the mode back proper this year.
If there was one element of Modern Warfare 2 that I felt was significantly weak, I would argue it was the multiplayer map design. Nearly every map present in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a slice from Warzone’s Al Mazrah, with only a few specific maps deviating from that origination. Creating Al Mazrah for Warzone was no easy feat, I’m sure, but repackaging it as smaller Warzone maps for multiplayer fans was honestly a disservice to the fans.
In the past, developers have said that they typically create a map concept that is then adjusted for Team Deathmatch first and objective modes like Domination and Search and Destroy second. However, the maps in Modern Warfare 2 being sliced out from Al Mazrah meant they were originally designed for the sort of combat scenarios a player will encounter in Warzone, and it does not necessarily translate well to multiplayer gameplay. Even the smaller maps feel much too large, and they break the classic 3-lane design system that funnels players into potential combat. Some of Modern Warfare 2’s most popular maps, Shipment and Shoot House, are refreshed maps from Call of Duty’s past and feature the 3-lane layout.
Sledgehammer Games has confirmed that Modern Warfare 3 will launch with 16 entries, and every single one of them will be a modernized rendition of the classic maps from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009.) However, Activision has also confirmed that 12 new maps will also be part of the post-launch seasonal content drops players can look forward to. So, there is some hope we get to see something new and exciting there.
Call of Duty has developed into this absolutely monstrous creation that, in all fairness, must be a nightmare to develop for. There’s no shortage of influencers, streamers, and fans alike who have high expectations for what the annual blockbuster should be. I can’t imagine actually having to be in a position to decide whether a community-favorite feature gets the proverbial axe.
I do worry, however, about what effect the push and pull of the community’s whims will have on the long-term creative vision of a team that has been building up to this for more than 20 years. Regardless of what comes or goes, it’s likely I’ll stick around for the ride for another 1000 hours or more.
Unless we get Infinite Warfare 2. But let’s not even speak of such a horror.