I'll get my hands on it right away, because I want to be clear: Modern Warfare 2, the latest iteration of Call of Duty, is a really good game. The gunplay is truly wonderful, the weapons available to users too, as are obviously the customization possibilities. It is a masterpiece from every point of view, even that of support, from which many other teams such as DICE and 343 Industries should learn, which with their Battlefield 2042 and Halo Infinite are stumbling before departure. I'll say it again: MW2, as it's called in Internet slang, is a good game. Yet I'm here to tell you that we should immediately put down the pad or mouse and keyboard and focus on something else.
I know, it seems counterintuitive. Yet, after accumulating over a hundred hours of gameplay, I only realized one thing: Activision doesn't like us very much. Who am I referring to in the plural? Simple: to us players who enjoy ourselves and were, at least in the past, slightly above average. Yes, because if you too are with me, that is, unfamiliar with tactical online shooters and more interested in the casual side and not the competitive one, you will immediately notice that Modern Warfare 2 does not reward you, not even for a single moment and indeed, that that you have in your hands is simply one of the worst online games that a slightly above average user could decide to play.
Modern Warfare 2 was killed by the SBMM
I'll put my hands forward right away: I'm not a professional, I've never played Call of Duty consistently. My latest approach to the Activision series dates back to the first lockdown, when a friend decided to share his copy of the Modern Warfare reboot with me. We are in quarantine, unable to go out and I buy a PS Plus subscription to start playing online. I like it, but I die often, I don't enjoy it: I want to win. I book a coaching session and start to improve, about fifteen euros well spent for the results I was getting. The matches were always balanced and it often happened that I dominated the lobbies, finishing in first position, obviously also sweating the well-deserved podium in a free-for-all or in a Team Deathmatch or Domination, my favorite mode when I played Call of Duty with a little more light-heartedness, obviously free from work and love commitments. Strengthened by that positive approach and driven a bit by the idea of going back to playing online after a long time, I bought Modern Warfare 2. And I immediately regretted it.
If you browse Reddit, Facebook groups or forums dedicated to the series, you will have noticed that there is a word that has been dominating the web since the game was released. That word (or rather, that acronym actually) is SBMM, which stands for Skill Based Matchmaking. It is, in simple terms, a system that should search for matches based on the player's skill, in order to provide increasingly balanced lobbies. There is nothing wrong with any of this, however, a pity that Infinity Ward has decided to take this matchmaking system and tighten the shirts. The result has been there for all to see, for over two months now, that is, making an excellent game practically unplayable for most of the average user.
For the writing of this article I used a series of screenshots and clips captured directly from my gaming sessions. The first image, which you can find a little further down, shows a result well above the average of a random player: 35 kills and 5 deaths, with a score over 4.000 points. Also note the balance of matchmaking - we are talking about a match of Hardpoint vinta 250 at 54. This is not a balance.
That result led me, just two games later the next day, to get a slew of bad streaks that would make even the bots envious, who could hardly do worse. Sure, someone could talk about a very rare episode, but no, it's not like that, also because the highest series of kills achieved is equal to 12, while the record is around 36, still higher than the match mentioned above. To fill any doubts, however, I took a series of screenshots of the Modern Warfare 2 stats page, that you can find here and which demonstrate, unequivocally, that in reality there is a deterioration, an improvement and a deterioration again. An infinite cycle, impossible to break.
Mine is not an isolated testimony: out there is full of users who complain about this loop, as if we ended up in Deathloop. But why is all this happening? The person responsible is the SBMM, or rather, its parameters. Already the presence of this tool in casual games is pure madness, but Infinity Ward has tightened the shirts, making it very severe. How it works exactly is impossible to know (I assume it's copyrighted), but the general feeling is that the system looks at the last 5 games. And this is leading to other problems.
The danger of reverse boosting
To overcome the SBMM there are some little tricks, which of course should go against the code of conduct, but which are not a real "crime". The most used is reverse boosting: in practice, a series of games are intentionally played badly, so that the game recognizes the player's inability and lowers the matchmaking parameters. Once that's done, after a set number of games, lobbies will inevitably be easier to deal with. Then there are other little tricks, such as buying two versions of the game for two different consoles and using a secondary account with bad statistics to host the games, in such a way as to always find much easier lobbies. I repeat once again: these are not normal lobbies, but easier lobbies, than for players who have a K/D ratio greater than 1.00 (it is, if I am not mistaken, 20% of the Call of Duty player base) become real walks.
Reverse boosting pollutes Modern Warfare 2 even more, with the risk of finding themselves in front of much stronger players in each game. At the moment my rate fluctuates between 0.92 and 0.93 and it is practically impossible for me to be able to raise it. Of course, surely the more we go on with the Seasons, the more new maps will come out and the more there will be balances it will be possible to improve, but let's face it: the writer is a thirty-year-old who at the end of the fair would just like to have fun, without having to concentrate as if it were a final of the Call of Duty League.
The problems behind the game
Other to matchmaking, Then there are other parameters to take into consideration. The maps, being literally pieces of the Warzone 2 playing field, reward movement little and slowness more. It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, except that every corner remains insidious and lethal. The time to kill is too low, without forgetting the spawns, completely broken, as evidenced by this little clip of mine captured in a game on Shoot House. And it is not an isolated case: it happens over and over again that the game gives a "free kill", with respawn behind the enemies' backs or vice versa.
Weapons are another problem, since there is, at least currently, no real balancing: some rifles look like machine guns (like the Kastov family, for example) and the leveling system devised is simply unthinkable, because it forces the player to grind even with rifles that are not exactly ideal for certain modes. All of this obviously leads to even heavier defeats and a general sense of frustration.
The problem is not us casuals
At one point, probably to better understand whether it was my problem or not, I decided to do a little experiment, obviously not conclusive, but which can give us a little idea on how times have really changed. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the last Call of Duty I was able to play was the first Modern Warfare, thanks to a copy shared with a friend. Unable to access it, I invested about twenty euros to purchase the Xbox version. After about six hours of playing, without the classes I was using at the time, without the correct perks and setups (including commands), the metrics speak for themselves, with a K/D of 1.00 and a W/L of 1.65.
These metrics will obviously not be accurate and cannot be taken at face value. But let's remember that this is a fresh account and presumably, if the game hasn't been abandoned (hard to say for sure), it is very likely that there is clear evidence of how Skill Based Matchmaking is much more severe and difficult to counter in Modern Warfare 2. The numbers, d' after all, they are these.
What are we to do with Modern Warfare 2?
Now, this article is more of a rant from a person who paid 80 Euros to not be able to have fun. The truth is that the game cannot be abandoned: beyond the many problems, if you love first person shooters like me, Infinity Ward has created a complete package, full of fun for practically everyone. The arrival of competitive modes could have some interesting effects and maybe go gradually to reduce the effect of SBMM and balances that afflict the more casual gaming experience. Most likely, however, for all those who had more than excellent (and not discounted) results in the previous chapters of the series, they will have to get used to the idea of going down a grade.
So long, Modern Warfare, and thanks for all the good times.