There’s been an interesting new bump in the road on the path to 2018’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Turns out we’re almost assuredly going to be introduced to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered sometime between late March and April 30 (possibly later). It’s been a while since the previous re-release, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (natch), and to be frank that release was a bit of a disaster.
Now, we’re starting to see some scuttlebutt about the next remaster, and it will be launching with its own, unique quirk. That is to say, this game, a legendary game even, won’t have its multiplayer intact. It may be a remaster, but this’ll be the first console Call of Duty launch, sans multiplayer, in a loooong time. It’s great headline fodder, but I’m here to take a step back and ask, “is that really a problem?”
Here’s the thing: Modern Warfare Remastered really was a cluster. People got real hype when the thing was announced, but the hype quickly jumped from excitement to excrement when Activision revealed you could only get it paired with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in an expensive bundle. Worse, only the Xbox One version even included the game on the disc. But despite the PS4 version just being a download, you needed to verify your ownership of Infinite Warfare to get it to run. Eventually the game was parted out as a standalone release, but that was after Infinite Warfare was met with a more lukewarm reception – Modern Warfare Remastered was released on its own nearly a year later, and it was still 30 bones.
Now, based on the current rumors (which have been corroborated by multiple outlets), Modern Warfare 2 Remastered will be released on its own right off the bat, earlier than the year’s new Call of Duty, and at a lower, more sensible price point (20 bucks). But of course, the catch is that, reportedly, Modern Warfare 2 won’t have multiplayer. It’ll just be the campaign. While it’s a damn good campaign, probably the best in the series to date, the prospect of dropping without multiplayer is likely a dealbreaker for a significant portion of Call of Duty’s audience.
This is the part when I speculate on why without any inside or development knowledge. Why would Activision pivot so drastically from an expensive, convoluted release strategy for the first remaster, then a cheaper, but less restrictive, but also feature-incomplete release for the second try? I’m thinking the multiplayer was the issue all along. Maintaining a multiplayer component for a remaster project cannot be a task that is easy or cheap. The roadblocks and extra costs (and paid DLC!) were likely all a result of the multiplayer coming back for the remaster.
It just makes sense. Look at other examples of backwards compatibility with multiplayer games – specifically, look at what happened with Halo. The Master Chief Collection is still a disaster, although the developer is still hard at work to fix it – credit where credit’s due. This stuff takes serious resources to reintroduce and maintain. To me, that’s an easy conclusion to make – because Activision wanted to make sure Modern Warfare Remastered as authentic as possible, Activision also had to make sure it was paid for. But because game publishers are game publishers, the transparency was non-existent, therefore fans were just frustrated instead.
That then explains why the second try doesn’t have multiplayer. If all you’re doing is remastering the single-player story, there’s no need to devote the time and resources to maintaining the online content, therefore no need to mess around with the consumers and risk pissing everyone off again because being honest is apparently bad for marketing. Not having multiplayer will likely also rub people the wrong way, but if Activision is upfront about it, 20 bucks for the campaign on modern consoles isn’t a bad deal. It’ll be a much easier pill to swallow than all the hoops required to jump through for the first game. It’s not ideal, but that’s probably an inherent risk of modern games coming with necessary to maintain online infrastructures. And that’s a whole other can of worms.