With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, it feels like the monetisation lever pullers at publisher Activision have finally found a system that is both good for business and players. But there's one aspect of the game that continues to frustrate me: rotating playlists.
With the launch of season three this week, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare got a new (and fun!) battle pass, new operators and three new maps free for everyone. It plopped the new maps in a playlist all of their own, and added a playlist just for team deathmatch and domination game modes. But in doing so it removed playlists that contained my favourite maps in the game. And now I can't play them.
Some background: I'm not a fan of Modern Warfare's larger maps. I outright hate some of them, especially when playing a 6v6 game mode. Infinity Ward's map design for this soft reboot seemed to revolve around large play spaces meant for 20 and above players, with plenty of clutter, nooks and crannies and verticality. This promotes slower, more cautious play, and yes, it promotes camping. You can spend a lot of your time looking for the action, only to be sniped by a player who's holed up on the second floor of a destroyed building. Again.
But Modern Warfare is a fantastic competitive multiplayer shooter on its smaller maps, where 6v6 game modes excel. I've already reported on the brilliance of Rust, but Shipment and Shoot House are fantastic close quarters maps, too. I like to play these maps. A lot. But now, I can't, because they're not in a dedicated playlist.
I understand Infinity Ward wants to promote the three new maps added to the game with season three, but... they're not great. Talsik Backlot sees Infinity Ward actually double down on the clutter / camping of Modern Warfare's launch maps. (I always chuckle when the team narrator says there's an enemy at the destroyed building, given the whole map looks like a destroyed building). Aniyah Incursion is a smaller version of Aniyah Palace designed for 6v6 play, but it's as awful as it's bigger brother. Aniyah Palace is perhaps one of the worst maps in Modern Warfare - way too big for most of the game modes you end up playing on it, and with a central dome that sucks the life out of everyone who's inside. It's a lost cause, and I can't believe Infinity Ward returned to it. Hovic Sawmill is the only new map to retain any dignity, with a decent flow, minimal clutter and, crucially, clarity. But so many of my matches on these new maps time out, rather than end when one team gets enough points.
In short, I just want to play a handful of maps in Modern Warfare, but I can't, and that seems like a bad situation to be in. I have limited free time to play video games, so when I do have an hour or so for some Call of Duty, I want to play on my favourite maps. Why can't I?
Modern Warfare doesn't even have map voting, so it's not like you can steer your time with the game in a favourable direction, either. If I do venture into the random world of quickplay, where I assume there's a chance Rust, Shipment and Shoot House will pop up but I can't be sure, I back out of lobbies that load up a map I hate. I jump in again, hope for the best, then rinse and repeat. That doesn't feel good for the game, and it's certainly a waste of my time.
I'm not alone in wanting a playlist just for Modern Warfare's smaller maps. Call of Duty social media posts often see replies from players calling for a small map playlist. The game's subreddits are littered with posts from players who want the same thing, or map filters, or map voting, or even map bans.
As it stands, I'll probably put Modern Warfare down until my favourite maps return to a playlist of their own - or Infinity Ward lets me play the maps I want when I want.