Hot Topic: The Current State of Play in the Online World of Modern Warfare 2
Written Friday, February 19, 2010 By Martin Gaston
With all the recent media excitement surrounding Bayonetta, Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2, it’s been easy to forget about Modern Warfare 2. But to downplay the game’s phenomenal performance would be a mistake. This week the game has turned a quarter of a year old, and as I write this, there are 860,650 players online. That’s almost three times the population of Iceland spamming the "noob tube."
Capturing flags is quite popular in Brazil.
The game is big. Mass Effect 2 might have been number one (and deservedly so) in the retail charts on its launch weekend, but Bioware’s opus couldn’t come close to knocking Modern Warfare 2 (or even last year’s Call of Duty: World at War, for that matter) off the top of Major Nelson’s Xbox Live activity list. It’s safe to say a large chunk of people are paying Microsoft their Xbox Live subscriptions primarily to play games of Infinity Ward’s latest. So why then, have I recently been avoiding the game like a videogame character would a body of water? Hacks and exploits, of course.
Modern Warfare 2's many exploits have frequently made headlines. The online community has been okay for the last week, as the latest in a series of desperately needed title updates was made available on Xbox Live not long ago. A similar patch was released on PSN a few days before, with the 360 equivalent lingering in Microsoft’s certification process for what felt like an eternity. When news of the patch was reported on X360A, the comments thread almost buckled under the pressure. If you’re not playing Modern Warfare 2, you’re probably posting on the internet about how much you hate it.
One commenter, Grummy, was less than impressed:
“Well that's about 30 glitches down so now just another hundred or so to go. Until the matchmaking system is fixed, the game will stay a heap of trash anyway. I traded in about 3 weeks ago and haven't looked back. Absolute Garbage.”
Silentbob0 was happy to pledge his alliance to another game, saying that “this patch comes too late for me. The glitches and exploits ruined this game, even after the patch there will probably still be more glitches found. I can't wait for Bad Company 2 - I’ll happily play the demo until the game releases.”
Two on two. We have a shield. They don't. Good odds.
As much as I’m smitten with the BC2 demo, I’ll admit that I’m still a big fan of MW2. My personal experience with the game hasn’t always been rosy, however. I remember spotting something for the first time a few weeks ago: one of the players in my game was a 10th Level Prestige. Impressive, I thought. Then I noticed another. And another. A few days later I was in a game where I was the only player on my team without the lofty status emblazoned alongside my gamertag. I knew I’d taken a few weeks off over the New Year period, but I didn’t think the level gulf would have got this out of hand.
It made sense when messages started flooding in, with players offering me the coveted skull icon in exchange for money. It’s been pitched to me in all kinds of varying denominations, ranging from $3 to £25. A quick glance on eBay turned up plenty of users who’ve made over £500 selling prestige hacks to players desperate to impress their friends, loved ones and internet enemies.
What’s the solution? Robert Bowling stated on Twitter, responding to the idea of a complete leaderboard wipe, that Infinity Ward “would never reset millions of players ranks because a thousand and some odd players are bad eggs.” That’s fair enough, and I certainly wouldn’t want my two-and-a-half days worth of playtime scratched off the map. With no indication of Infinity Ward potentially pruning out the erroneous levellers though, I sympathise with the players who would reach 10th Prestige on their own over time. Though I’ll likely never reach that point myself, I don’t know how fond I’d be of being sandwiched on the leaderboard between two players who bought their ranks for $20.
Shields are no good if you have your back to someone.
People hacking their way to 10th prestige hasn’t even been the worst of it. Fresh on the heels of the annoying javelin glitch that blighted games until December, there’s been a recent flurry of users exploiting the infamous care package glitch which let unscrupulous users rain down infinite game-breaking perks into their eager hands. For the last couple of weeks everyone in the game has become agoraphobic, creeping around in the safety of the indoors and ensuring the Cold Blooded perk was equipped at all times. I decided to stay away from Modern Warfare 2 until it was fixed as this felt like it was going on in almost every single game I played.
Maybe I should have been more optimistic. Or, as bryandagamer put it, “I concentrate on the aspects of the game I enjoy, not the issues that it has. My glass is half full, not half empty.”
It’s hard to be optimistic though, when it’s revealed that a very recent set of devastating hacks - which have allegedly been made possible on the 360 due to the recent patch - include god mode, infinite ammo, no recoil and a wall hack. I haven’t seen these in a game myself, and they require the host to have a modded console, but if they become anywhere near as common as the javelin and care package glitches, the game will have effectively been destroyed until IW manage to patch it back out. It’s not good.
What’s left for the future? Infinity Ward’s big push for their DLC must be on the immediate horizon because, from a business perspective, now is the peak time to release premium content. As for now, there’s still plenty of exploits - on top of the new god mode glitches - floating about. One, dubbed the elevator, allows players to fling themselves into the sky. This (often quite amusing) exploit will be “addressed in the first patch with DLC” according to Bowling’s Twitter feed. There’s also a way to level up your Cold Blooded perk to maximum in a single game, which needs sorting out, though these aren’t nearly as game-breaking as being unable to die. Over on the Infinity Ward forums there’s an active thread where cynical posters guess exactly what the next destructive exploit discovered will be.
Shhh... this dude's getting a knife in the face. Niiiice!
Nobody expected to see this many loopholes. Microsoft won’t be too happy about the prestige hack and God modes, although they’ll probably be more concerned with the modded 360 they require, and Infinity Ward has clearly been knocked for six over the seemingly continual exploits found within their game. I wonder if they’re regretting not running a public multiplayer beta. These problems are clearly a source of severe annoyance, and the disappointment of many players has almost certainly helped top up the numbers for games of Halo 3 and the Bad Company 2 demo.
Don’t get me wrong: I think Modern Warfare 2 is great. But one of my biggest fears for the game is that it will become riddled with suspicion similar to when I was playing Counter-Strike back in the days before Steam. Avoiding the culture of players constantly accusing each other of foul play is one of the reasons I switched to Xbox Live in the first place. Even today, despite the lack of any concrete proof, I’ve come across plenty of users who accuse each other of discovering another care package glitch. Adding another layer of negativity to the mix, with players attributing their losses to ‘hax’, is the last thing the Xbox Live community needs.
I’m sure I can’t be the only one that’s taken a break from the game recently. Have all the troublemakers caused you to fling your disc across the room in disgust? Has the care package glitch left you so dumbfounded you even started playing Bioshock 2’s multiplayer mode in a fit of defiant madness? Have you been the victim of someone with the god mode hack? Or does none of this bother you because killing a .50cal abuser from long range with a pistol is nothing short of gaming bliss?
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself though, could all of this have been avoided if Infinity Ward had opted for a public Modern Warfare 2 beta?
Editor’s Note: Hot Topic is an all new experimental monthly feature here on X360A, where we take one of the month’s talking points and discuss it until your eye-balls bleed through sheer delight. Now that's intense! How experimental you ask? If it's popular, we'll keep them coming.
Martin Gaston is a freelance writer and a long-term friend of the site. His work can be found over at MegaDerived.co.uk where he spends most of his days weaving words into a wonderful illuminating basket of awesomeness (my words, not his).