Nearly a month after the release of Call of Duty: Cold War, COD has officially launched the first season of their Cold War cycle. Adding several new guns, maps, and game modes into the game, the next generation of COD multiplayer and competition is finally coming into focus.
However, there are plenty of reasons to doubt whether or not this generation of Call of Duty can be a legitimate E-Sport game. Between the weakness of the maps, the lack of balance, and the broken skill-based balancing system, it should be in question.
To clarify, between the Call of Duty League and Activision’s abundance of money and public image, Call of Duty: Cold War and the new Call of Duty: Warzone are both going to be involved in a decent-sized E-Sports scene. The question instead is whether or not it will be an engaging and interesting game to watch and play.
Some may question my credentials to speak on and come to a conclusion for this topic, which is a fair question that you should ask the author of almost any piece you read. I am in the top .001% of Cold War players, I have been a game journalist for over a year, I was a competitive Super Smash Brothers: Melee player for a few years, and I have studied E-Sports history and E-Sports commentary. Am I the most qualified individual to speak on it? Maybe not, but I am qualified enough to come to an educated and informed conclusion.
Firstly, the content already in the game is less than ideal for competitive matches. Of the maps currently in Cold War, there are only two maps that are engaging and built for competition (Nuketown ’84 and Crossroads), with more than a majority of the maps being completely unacceptable and unusable in competitive matches (Miami, Cartel, Satellite, The Pines, Raid, Garrison). These maps create “corners” out of everything, which becomes especially problematic when the gun balance makes every corner almost immediate death.
There are quite a few guns in Cold War, and most of them are bad. But the guns that are good are great. The MP5 shreds enemies to pieces from any distance (My main class uses an MP5 build I have nicknamed “The Laser Beam”), the XM4 is to Cold War what the Kilo is to Warzone, the shotguns (Hauer and Gallo) are so powerful that it is clearly ridiculous for them to secondary weapons (the secondary on my main class is a Hauer that never has to be aimed and I never have to stop running to use).
Of course, the most ridiculous category of weapon is the sniper rifles, with both the Pellington and the Tundra being specifically unacceptable in the game.
The Pellington is a one-shot kill about 90% percent of the time, with the 10% of the time that it is not a kill shot being when it is fired from across the map and catches your foot. The ADS is a little slow on the default scope, but that gets fixed with attachments, making it a nightmare.
Then there is the Tundra, a sniper rifle with a better fire rate than all of the shotguns and most of the pistols in the game. Sure, it is not quite as consistently one shot, but if you do not hit the ground after the first shot, the second shot is only .03 seconds away.
These rifles make every corner a life or death decision and further makes the fact that most of the game’s maps are full of corners into sniping lanes (even the best map, Nuketown ’84, has some problems with spawn spots being immediately followed by corridors and corners that lead into sniping lanes) even worse.
Of course, we have to talk about the skill-based balancing system that COD has patented and implemented. Why? Well, because it is trash.
Normal SBMM is simple: the better players get matched up with and against other good players so they are not terrorizing worse players. Most of the time, this is an optional thing that is implemented in “ranked” or “arena” modes, although it is not uncommon for some sort of SBMM to be worked into just casual playlists as well.
This type of SBMM does not affect the E-Sports side of the games because that does not affect private matches or tournament matches. However, COD has taken that system a thousand steps too far, going from affecting lobbies and team balancing to effecting in-game ability and gameplay.
In COD, when the player is doing well, the game will punish that player in several different ways. The player will start to deal less damage per hit, their aim assist will randomly be turned off (try going from precision aim assist to no aim assist, it will ruin your night), their hitbox will increase, health will decrease, their accuracy threshold will be lowered (It can get extreme to the point that shots will not register unless you put the shot right in the middle of everything, meaning shotguns become useless), even lowering the player’s movement speed, sprint-to-fire time and ADS speed.
This is completely unacceptable mechanic for a multiplayer game at all, let alone one that is going to try and build an E-Sports following and community. The top players are going to be punished for having great games against other great players, which incentives smurfing and camping.
Sure, they may be able to turn the system off during these matches, but even that will not work because these players will have practiced and gotten accustomed to these old systems, learning to overcompensate for low accuracy threshold and damage output.
The way the game exists now, with only a few viable maps, a huge balance issue, and a system that incentives playing poorly, the game cannot and will not produce engaging and interesting E-Sports content and will only serve to the detriment of the scene.