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In Ditching Paid Maps, Call Of Duty Finally Gets With The Program

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Screenshot: Activision

Over a decade after the original era-defining Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Activision said last week that 2019’s Duty will be a re-imagining of Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare series. Along with the campaign trailer that dropped on May 30, the community also received a dash of hope that Activision might finally be giving Call of Duty the shakeup it needs.

Captain Price and other fan-favorite characters are returning in a completely new story for the softly-rebooted Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which releases October 25 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. While Activision is likely saving the bulk of the details for E3, we’ve at least learned of a few positive changes on the horizon.

A brand-new co-op mode is coming to relieve players of Zombies fatigue, letting the dead stay buried this fall. And the long-envisioned dream of cross-play will finally be a reality. While Activision’s initial announcement didn’t directly state if this will end Call of Duty’s console war, a producer with Infinity Ward tweeted out a Forbes article that goes more in-depth. The article clarifies that Modern Warfare will have true cross-play between PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, pairing players based off their input devices, so you won’t have to go up against a keyboard and mouse player with your DualShock 4. (However, if console players choose to party up with their PC buddies, then all bets are off.).

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Most notably, Activision is finally killing the archaic $50 DLC “season pass” model. Modern Warfare will instead receive free maps and content as well as post-launch events for all players. I’m sure microtransactions will slip into the game at some point, and hopefully more tastefully than Black Ops 4, but I count free maps as a win. This is something Call of Duty has needed for years. Call of Duty is one of the last major shooter games to leave the stone age of paid map packs, joining Battlefield 5, Rainbow Six Siege, and many other games that offer free maps.

The map packs and season passes of years past have created an unfortunate divide, sometimes hurting Call of Duty’s player base more than it helped. It’s not just because the extra maps cost money, players were separated into haves and have-nots. Even players who purchased the pass often didn’t get to play them. If any person in your party didn’t have the paid maps, nobody could play. As much as I wanted to enjoy the maps I paid for, I never shunned one of my friends because they didn’t have the cash to buy extra stuff. I just waited for another opportunity to play.

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Pam Grier in “Shaolin Shuffle.”
Screenshot: Activision

Also, there was no way of knowing how often the new maps would appear in rotation. This was a massive problem with Infinite Warfare’s season pass. I could spend hours at night playing, but a DLC map might only appear once, if at all. It was a shame because Infinite Warfare’s DLC had stylish multiplayer maps that I really wanted to play more. Even Zombies got better with the “Shaolin Shuffle” DLC, allowing players to obliterate the dead with Kung Fu moves and the help of Hollywood icon Pam Grier.

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Not all maps are created equal. Many DLC maps over the years were actually visually interesting and more fun to play than the maps packaged with the game at launch. I hate that a major chunk of the player base never even got to experience them.

There’s been excellent DLC from all three of Call of Duty’s major developers, but if we just focus on Infinity Ward’s maps, we still get several gems. When I think of unique COD maps, I often think of “Fog” from Call of Duty: Ghosts. Fog was a DLC map that paid homage to slasher films by setting players on a small, eerie map with a cabin that was perfect for someone like Jason Voorhees to lurk about. Players could complete an in-game objective to become Michael Myers for a brief period, and the Halloween theme music would play. The music got me hyped every time. It was awesome.

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The “Fog” level in Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Screenshot: Activision

Modern Warfare 2 had enjoyable maps in the second and final map pack that released in the summer of 2010. “Trailer Park” was a tiny, derelict cluster of mobile homes perfect for Pave Low and Chopper Gunner killstreaks, and “Carnival” was a fun, abandoned theme park environment. Modern Warfare 2 might be backward compatible on Xbox One, but reliving the nostalgia of these maps today means dealing with tons of hackers. I hold on to hope that we’ll see remastered versions of these maps in the future.

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At launch, Call of Duty multiplayer maps often tie into the campaign’s storyline, but DLC maps are usually where the developers get to have a little more random fun— Sledgehammer’s WWII map with toy soldiers fighting in a sandbox, or former Tony Hawk developer Treyarch’s “Grind” skatepark in Black Ops 2, for example. Whatever direction Infinity Ward takes this year, at least everyone should be able to finally enjoy all the maps together, regardless of the platform they choose or the content packs they buy.

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