When the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 release date rolls around this fall, developer Infinity Ward hopes it marks more than the launch date of the latest in the long-running series of multiplayer FPS games. Modern Warfare II has big ambitions, and Infinity Ward says this chapter marks a “broad page turn” in the franchise with some new technology and new ideas to bring to bear. Internally, the studio has been calling it “CoD 2.0,” the start of a new era for the franchise.
Modern Warfare II is set three years after the events of 2019’s Modern Warfare, with Captain John Price and CIA handler Kate Laswell having assembled their lethal Task Force 141 counter-terrorism unit. That elite team includes Sergeant Kyle ‘Gaz’ Garrick and the skull-masked Simon ‘Ghost’ Riley, a key character in 2009’s Modern Warfare 2, who’s joined by Sergeant John ‘Soap’ McTavish, the squad’s junior member.
The events of the campaign kick off when a US airstrike kills a hostile foreign general, which sets in motion a deadly revenge plot that Task Force 141 is sent to sabotage. As they hop around the globe in pursuit of terrorists, Task Force 141 enlists the help of some new characters: Commander Philip Graves, who leads a private military contractor called Shadow Company, and Colonel Alejandro Vargas, who leads a squad of Mexican special forces known as Los Vaqueros.
Infinity Ward shared some insights into the key pillars of Modern Warfare II’s design during a private briefing for press and influencers. Where 2019’s Modern Warfare pushed itself to be provocative and uncomfortable, studio head Pat Kelly says that Modern Warfare II’s focus is on heroism.
“We have soldiers in military scenarios that are doing heroic and badass things,” he says. “But they also are always human. They’re not superheroes, they’re vulnerable. They’re human beings.”
Here’s the new trailer:
In one mission, Nightwar, Task Force 141 stages a helicopter insertion in the fictional nation of Al Mazra to capture or kill a key figure in the Al-Qatala terrorist organisation. It’s classic Modern Warfare: the squad flips down night-vision goggles as the helicopter dusts off, and the soldiers stalk toward a small cluster of buildings set in some ruins in a remote area. As they near their target, the team watches as their helicopter is shot down, turning their operation into an ad hoc rescue mission. The squad stealthily clears buildings to take the heat off the crash site, with defenders popping up from behind furniture and gunsmoke curling and dissipating as the dust settles after each split-second engagement.
When the team reaches the downed helicopter, the mission becomes a siege defence as waves of hostile forces approach through the surrounding fields, which have been set ablaze by the explosion from the missile strike that brought the aircraft down.
Where Modern Warfare 2019 had environments meant to feel real, Kelly says the goal for Modern Warfare II is to make them feel alive as well: “Imagine large, large play spaces with massive numbers of… I’m just saying, maybe? What if there was tons and tons of AI in the world, tons of players? That would potentially be really cool, right?”
New technology was a key part of Infinity Ward’s presentation too. The studio has created a complex water simulation that supports boats and amphibious vehicles, as well as new swimming mechanics. You’ll be able to dive underwater to escape and evade enemies, and the water will slow projectiles that pass through it, making bullets do less damage when fired into the water or from beneath the surface. The devs have even recreated an optical effect called Snell’s window, which limits what you can see above the surface while submerged to a cone of about 96 degrees.
NPC AI should come across as more believable too, with new behaviours added to give enemy soldiers a sense of purpose and awareness of the world around them. Modern Warfare II can support a lot more of them, too. “We are pushing higher AI counts than we’ve ever had before,” says game director Jack O’Hara. “We’re currently sitting at around 300 AI with 100 live players, and we really want the quality of the AI to be the same across all game modes.”
Stephanie Snowden, Infinity Ward’s communications director, says Modern Warfare II is part of “the most ambitious, franchise-wide plan we’ve ever had,” something Infinity Ward has internally referring to as “CoD 2.0.” Part of that involves getting this year’s Call of Duty title and Warzone running on the same new engine, but there’s much about it that the studio isn’t ready to discuss.
“So, all of Call of Duty on one engine: the Modern Warfare II experience and Warzone will exist in the same universe and be based on the same tech,” she says. “We’re really excited for this to be a broad page-turn for the franchise and what we have to offer.”
Most interesting, perhaps, was Kelly’s discussion of having players of multiple skill levels playing together on one map, each one having a fun experience that doesn’t detract from anyone else’s.
“We’re trying to create environments, create gameplay, where everybody can be together and they can have the experience that they want,” he told the group of Call of Duty streamers and influencers in a pre-reveal briefing this week. “If I’m somebody who doesn’t want to constantly get shot in the face by you guys, I can play in the same environment with you, I can even play in the same modes with you, but I can have my experience, and you can have yours. I know that’s a bit vague, but that’s what we’re going after.”
The new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II launches October 28, and Infinity Ward has confirmed that it’ll be coming to Steam this year on PC.