How Esports Friendly is the new CoD: MW?

Posted by Josh Ong October 25, 2019 in EsportsGaming

The long-awaited return to the Modern Warfare franchise within Call of Duty was a welcomed announcement earlier this year, with the series tending to suffer from a general lack of charisma in its latest titles. However, with the exponential growth of esports in recent years, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to create games that do not provide the aspects of competitive gaming and alongside a strong framework on which tournaments and other formal championships can be held. This article will investigate how esports-friendly, and ready, the game is come it’s launch on 25th October. 

Where general attitudes towards esports have changed rapidly within a recent time frame, it remains true that general knowledge of major tournaments remains solely within fanbases of particular games; where even non-fans could name you the Premier League when discussing football, the majority of people would be pretty clueless if you asked them what RLCS was. Granted, this is somewhat changed, and all for the better. Where the Fortnite World Championship infiltrated most major news headlines, mostly for its $3m prize pool, it brought with it an accompanying shockwave and potential sparking of interest for people to dive deeper. Similarly, after being crowned champions of Season 2 of the Overwatch League, players Sinatraa and Super found themselves on prime-time television chatting to Jimmy Fallon, something that would have been a frankly absurd thought even about 3 years ago. However, where change has been incremental in terms of popular recognition, the demand for entry into esports at a grassroots level has remained fairly steady over a much longer time period. 

This brings us to where we are now, where the twofold demand for accessible esports-style gaming, both in terms of playability and as a viewer, has reached its highest point in history, almost every major game that contains at least a form of competitive aspect gets interrogated with an esports agenda. The new Call of Duty is no exception to this rule, and has generally found itself off to a strong start in understanding this demand and subsequently announcing features that are generally being welcomed to the scene. 

Immediately from the announcement of the premise and features of the game, it was clear that the developers understood the necessity of including competitive aspects into the game. Equally, it was clear that these moves were not in place to tarnish the franchise’s reputation as an easily accessible ‘casual’ shooter’; if the changes were too drastic, they would be alienating their largest market. Equally, it was well understood that something needed to change as a trend of declining satisfaction with their games had continued in recent years. The changes that needed to be made had to therefore be additional whilst similarly capturing the original spirit of the game that fans had felt had been lost through wild tangents and confused direction. 

This is mind, the changes came from the ground up; having brought onboard many of the developers who had worked on the first Modern Warfare, the team set out their plan for recapaturing and improving the quintessential Call of Duty experience. From this, they rebuilt the entire game from scratch. By ditching the aged engine on which previous games had run, they provided themselves with a clean slate on which they could eliminate any aspects that had been weighing them down. Notably, many of these have come in the form of more ‘tactical’ features, such as mounting and advanced door mechanics, which, whilst might seem relatively uninspiring to the untrained eye, create a far broader dynamic when considering high-level strategies being used by players and teams. 

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You might be saying that the above features have been lifted from a well-established esports title already, Tom Clancy Rainbow Six: Siege, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. In terms of raw gameplay and new mechanics, it’s clear that the developers have chosen to learn from other already functioning titles as inspiration on which they could build. In spite of earlier remarks in not wanting to alienate the casual shooter market, the weapons, and how they ‘feel’, has arguably received the largest change. Notably, in terms of recoil and firing patterns, they are the most realistic feeling they’ve ever been. Where realism isn’t a necessity in esports or any game, they do tend to lend a helping push when your game is set in a mostly real-world environment.

In addition to newly added game mechanics, the game has added two major multiplayer modes; Ground War and Gunfight, the second of which is teeming with esports potential. Where the 64 player large-format battles of Ground War make it frankly impossible to function in a traditional esports format. However, Gunfight offers a particularly promising setup; a simple 2v2 elimination, with no health generation, mirrored loadouts and quick-fire rounds, it’s seemingly ideal for it. This turn to favouring more ‘hardcore’ modes has been across the board on the new game to make modes like this an achievable possibility. Furthermore, the benefit of enhancing gameplay generally means that all other modes get to reap the benefits too. Where Search and Destroy was almost a watered down version of Counter Strike’s traditional Bomb Defusal mode, it can now be just as tactical, if not more so, in terms of raw gameplay.

Competitive gaming for all at a grassroots level is of great importance. But, if there’s no mainstream attention or backing of gameplay at the highest echelon, there’s no doubt that interest will dwindle. Fortunately, following in the footsteps of Blizzard and the last two seasons of the Overwatch League, under the same parent company of Activision, CoD have already got the ball rolling. Having already announced 12 teams across various locations in the world, with 3 already confirming their branding, the championship will run in a similar fashion to the OWL. It’s clear that CoD has used their connections within Activision to ensure that they won’t run into the same teething problems that OWL did. Specifically, aspects such as home and away games, only now being implemented into the upcoming Season 3 of the OWL, are present from day one of the Call of Duty League. Should all go according to plan, CoD League should bring in thousands of viewers and inspire and shape the game as it continues on. Also, unlike Overwatch, Call of Duty has the upper hand in already being a household name, allowing for greater potential outsider viewmanship. 

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Call of Duty has been on a long wayward path in recent years. After playing in the beta and watching countless developer videos explaining in depth the lengths they have gone to ensure that the game has preserved and updated the core CoD mechanics has been revitalising. The game is teeming with potential and looks set to please just about everyone; with large ground war even convincing some Battlefield loyalists to jump the fence alongside tactical-heavy 2v2s, it’s got just about everything. Moreover, the inclusion and backing of high-level esports within that game from day one is a particularly promising aspect that should only help but boost the games popularity. This is the first Call of Duty in years I cannot wait to get my hands on; let’s hope it stays that way.