Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is an impressively successful attempt at refreshing the Modern Warfare series in order to add more realism and give the game better longevity. A very satisfying campaign, revamped multiplayer, and a bevy of great CoD multiplayer game modes mark the successes of this “back to basics” take on the Modern Warfare franchise.
However, as is the case with many modern online games, Modern Warfare has been plagued by early issues that the developers plan to iron out as the player base voices their opinions. Whatever one thinks about games that adopt a constant-update model, it is at least some consolation to know that the developers listen to player feedback and do incorporate it into updates.
The most recent update to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a perfect example of this process. There were several weapons and mechanics that were extremely overpowered and made the game much more frustrating to play online. When one or two guns become the most viable options, it takes life away from the game. What is the point of having so many weapons to choose from if the player knows that most of the guns put them at a significant disadvantage to other players?
FPS fans always have been, and likely always will be, extremely vocal about the balancing issues that occasionally rear their heads in multiplayer games. Luckily, the Modern Warfare update that went live on Friday, November 8th fixed a great deal of complaints that players had. Several guns including the M4A1 were nerfed, others received slight buffs, claymores were tweaked, and footstep noise was reduced. However, the most important nerf was that of the 725 shotgun.
Why Nerf the 725?
The most recent, and perhaps most egregious, issue that has reached the developers’ attention is that of the 725 shotgun. There are many weapons that are overpowered or do not fit in well with a fast-paced shooter, but the 725 represented a truly unfortunate lapse of judgement on the part of the game’s designers.
This weapon may at first appear to be a simple double-barreled, breach-loading shotgun, but anyone who played with it since the game’s launch understood its almost obscene range. It is true that many video games under-represent the range of shotguns for balancing purposes, but the range of the 725 can fly far beyond the bounds of realism. This is especially noticeable when all the other shotguns in Modern Warfare share the short range that keeps them balanced against other weapon types.
With the correct attachments, the 725 could compete with sniper rifles in range and damage. This gun could outcompete automatic rifles at mid range, every other shotgun and SMG at close range, and with a little work could even be used to embarrass the occasional sniper.
The 725 has been used in some of the most toxic loadouts available in CoD multiplayer, often paired with a riot shield. The riot shield is its own animal, and deserves a nerf of its own, but a weapon that breaks the time-tested rules of range and damage was right to be first on the chopping block.
There were plenty of other problematic weapons. The M4A1 was hands-down the best weapon in the game, and is still one of the very first automatic rifles available in the game. Claymores had such long range that they could still kill someone who saw one beforehand and shot it from a distance.
Luckily, the M4A1 was nerfed significantly. At the same time, all automatic rifles chambered in 5.56 saw their damage range reduced. This should give other weapons a little room to breathe in the meta. For example, the three-round-burst-only FAMAS should now be able to at least out-range other automatic rifles, if not out-DPS them. Likewise, claymores had an overwhelming superiority over other explosive equipment because they were so hard to deal with. Now, they will at least not kill a player who shoots them from a reasonable distance.
Will it be Enough?
Simply put, no, it will not be enough. Games in this genre will always need more balancing. As more content is released and players spend more and more time in the game, new flaws will be created or discovered. Anyone who plays other games with constant updates, like R6 Siege, will recognize that every bit of content always introduces some new exploit that will need to be balanced.
It has only been a short time since the most recent patch came out, so there will likely be more issues discovered. Of course, as more fan-requested modes or weapons are added, more issues will arise. At the same time, there are other issues that were not addressed in the most recent patch because they were not as egregious or obvious as the ones that got fixed first.
For example, riot shields still have no real counters. They protect players from bullets and explosives, and allow the user to melee while they are fully extended. This means that someone who comes across a riot shield cannot damage the user from a distance, and cannot risk getting up close. At the same time, the riot shield protects its user’s back when they swap to another weapon, making them annoying to deal with even when caught off guard.
The shields cause the pace of gameplay to grind to a halt in a game that is all about moving quickly and constantly staying fluid. Map design and spawn systems will also likely see improvement in the near future. The newest map added, Shoot House, already addresses this somewhat as a much smaller arena that is a more traditional style of CoD map.
No matter what, it is certain that a constant cycle of fixes and patches will become the norm in Modern Warfare. This is the natural tradeoff in games that constantly add more material. Before this model, unbalanced parts of games became a part of each title’s identity. However, now developers are able to slowly altar the nature of a game over time through added content. There are conflicting opinions about the games-as-a-service model, but at least it allows the voices of the gamer proletariat to elicit change in their favorite games.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.