Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is not a game I can claim is good. It’s got big-money polish, cinematic orchestral music, and the quote-unquote “gunfeel” of a AAA banger, but a large portion of the series’ fanbase and I agree that it’s also rife with issues that make it irredeemably frustrating to play: camping players, too-loud footsteps, huge loading times—you name it.
What bothers me about the game isn’t that it’s irredeemably frustrating, though; lots of games are, and we just put them down and walk away (or go back to playing Overwatch). It’s that I cannot stop playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, despite having absolutely no fun whatsoever while doing so.
Ordinarily, when I’m sinking lots of time into a Call of Duty game, it’s because I’m enjoying myself. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, the series’ 2018 iteration, was a dream. I played its battle royale mode Blackout greedily, sometimes arguing with friends and colleagues that it was the best battle royale mode I’d ever played. The map ruled, the guns felt incredible and the pace of the games was simultaneously natural and challenging. So when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare released in October, I immediately scooped it up and, after suffering a truly awful game-downloading nightmare, I queued up for some multiplayer.
Five hours of multiplayer later, I have come to terms with the fact that, in proper Marie Kondo terms, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare does not bring me joy.
Here’s how a game of multiplayer quick play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare generally goes: I wait five minutes for the shaders to load, I get dropped onto a map full of nooks and crannies and second-floor windows, and then my head explodes. I grunt under my breath and watch the replay: In one swift motion, my killer peeked out of a window, one-shotted me, then went back to hiding. My next death is from someone camping in a doorway with a shotgun, and the one after is from someone camping in a stairway with a shotgun. My loud footsteps give me away, so I conclude that the best course of action is not to move at all. Inevitably, though, I get bored and move, only to die again to a stairway shotgun.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s subreddits are in chaos right now over the camping epidemic. (In a recent update, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare added some less campy maps.) Lots of players post salty clips of themselves dying in some utterly one-sided circumstance. Sometimes, also saltily, others will point out that the original complaining player has a very high level in-game. In other words, they’re complaining, but they keep on playing.
Not a lot sucks more than hearing someone bitch about a game they play incessantly, because a lot of the time, that means the bitching is incessant, too. It’s your free time. Don’t waste it on something you hate, and especially don’t waste others’ free time whining about it.
I say this, but I don’t live it. I hate this game—I really do—but I can’t stop queueing up for multiplayer games. (You may have noticed that this very post involves me complaining about it.) Quick play multiplayer in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has become all about the “salty runback,” or queueing up for another game when you feel you’ve a.) underperformed, b.) were unfairly massacred by campers or c.) both.
I keep playing to redeem myself, or better yet, attain the high I expected when the game’s supercool loading screen first came up on my monitor. It’s there. I know it’s there. How could it not be, when so many people spent so much time and so many resources on developing this bad boy? I loop and loop and loop until the dream I had at the start of my play session about a satisfying and smooth first-person shooter dissipates and all I’m left with is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: the video game.
Maybe Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s developers will succumb to players’ increasingly shrill complaints and change what makes the game frustrating. Or maybe, this is the game it was meant to be, and I have to stop imagining that it’s something different and better. In the meantime, the only fun I’ll be having is in quick, millisecond bursts when the word “headshot” appears on-screen after I get a lucky kill, and it will be easily forgotten once I land in another match.