Call of Duty: Modern Warfare recently released its second season, and I'm having a blast with it mainly because of the addition of Rust.
Modern Warfare's impactful gunplay and 60fps performance combine to create one of the best-feeling shooters in all of video games. But at launch I felt it was badly let down by its maps, and after a few weeks I stopped playing.
The arrival of Rust convinced me to jump back in. Such is the draw of this most wonderful of Call of Duty maps that I soldiered through season two's huge 60GB update (seriously, the updates for this game are ridiculous). Modern Warfare's Rust is a faithful recreation of the Modern Warfare 2 map of the same name, a ring-fenced oil rig in a small, square desert space that makes for fast-paced, close quarters action.
With Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward shot for larger maps that could house 20 players and, in some modes, up to 64. But in packing these maps with nooks and crannies and doors and windows and all sorts of rubble, the developer created a campers' paradise that forced crushingly cautious gameplay. Modern Warfare took on Battlefield at its own game - but it simply was not up to the challenge. (For more, check out my Call of Duty: Modern Warfare review.)
Modern Warfare for me is best when it's fast and in your face, and that's why I love Rust. Camping isn't really an option. What few sniper spots there are offer short-term protection at best. The tall tower at the centre of the map is surrounded by open space, and while there are some containers for cover, respite is fleeting. At the base of the tunnel are a couple of small tunnels that let you ambush your enemies, which is something I like to do very much indeed. But you must keep moving - a flash of your ADS, the pull of the trigger, a sprint away and a quick swap to your handgun for that last kill before you bite the dust. There's no time to think, really. There's no time to reload, either. Rust is a map fuelled by instinct. Rust is a map for laughs, for shenanigans, for killstreaks that make a mockery of the enemy team. I could play Rust on repeat for hours. In fact that's pretty much what I've been doing - wolfing it down as if it were sickly sweet ice cream, with a soupçon of Shipment to taste. The addition of 1v1 Rust is the cherry on top.
Rust is a nostalgia play. It is not a new idea. But I don't have nostalgia for Modern Warfare 2 because I never played it. In fact, my first Call of Duty was Sledgehammer's underrated Call of Duty: WW2. I appreciate Rust for what it is: one of the best FPS multiplayer maps I've ever played.
Elsewhere, Modern Warfare's second season battle pass includes enough unlockable gubbins and related missions to keep me going with the grind. Modern Warfare does not have any loot boxes, nor does it sell new weapons directly. DLC maps are free for all. So all eyes are on the battle pass. Progress is slow but steady (I'm over halfway through now and the pass doesn't reset for another 46 days). The two new base weapons are a tad uninspiring, but they are fun to try out. New character and weapon skins are surprisingly abundant. It is very much a good thing that progressing through all of the 100 tiers will earn you enough COD Points to buy the next battle pass.
Modern Warfare still has issues, of course. I dipped back into quick play to doublecheck my feelings on Modern Warfare's launch maps and yes, they're still terrible. Piccadilly is an absolute nightmare. Euphrates Bridge should be nuked from orbit. And the less said about Aniyah Palace the better.
For me the 32v32 Ground War mode remains an awkward fit for Call of Duty, although the new realism variant, which strips away much of the information provided by your HUD including the player names that appear when you target someone, encourages more coordinated play. The new Ground War map, Zhokov Boneyard, includes a reimagining of the map Scrapyard from Modern Warfare 2 and so is yet another nostalgia play, but this is no Rust situation. I feel like Ground War shows off what Call of Duty can do, but perhaps not what it should do. Warzone, the upcoming but so far unnanounced Modern Warfare battle royale, will I'm sure offer a better large-scale conflict.
Co-op, however, is dead to me. It is this thing I see on the main menu every time I launch the game but I never touch it. It's worth noting season two has not added a new Spec Ops operation. Based on the feeling about Spec Ops within the Modern Warfare community, perhaps this comes as no surprise.
Despite these longer-term issues, Modern Warfare is in a good place after some tough times at launch. Battle royale is waiting in the wings and I am pumped for it. In the meantime, competitive multiplayer is just enormous fun. It's only February of course, so fatigue will perhaps set in, but I already find myself lamenting Activision's stubborn commitment to pump out a brand new Call of Duty game every Christmas. There's so much more Infinity Ward and the other developers who work on the game could do with Modern Warfare - battle royale and all - if Activision took a long-term view of it. Just look at the incredible work Ubisoft has done with competitive shooter Rainbow Six Siege in the four years since its disastrous launch. Would Activision hold back Black Ops 5 for Christmas 2021, giving Modern Warfare another year in the spotlight? Never! Not with the glaring eye of investors burning a hole in the back of Bobby Kotick's head. But it should!
Ah well. My progress through the season two battle pass continues nonetheless and I have another 20 rounds of Rust to play. That legendary Ghost skin won't unlock itself!