Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been making headlines as the sequel to 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot hits new highs. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has generated a billion dollars in revenue in just ten days, shattering franchise records, and it seems like fans are enjoying the game. However, one issue that has plagued Modern Warfare 2 even before its release has been its clunky UI.
Fans and critics alike are dissatisfied with Modern Warfare 2’s UI and have been making their voices heard since the beta in late September. The finished product does have some changes in how the UI handles, specifically in the revamped Gunsmith and in-game loadout customization, but it’s still not there yet. In an attempt to modernize Call of Duty’s UI and bring the franchise more in line with mainstream design schemes, Infinity Ward has almost made a good argument for why it should have left good enough alone.
Modern Warfare 2 UI is Scattered and Unintuitive
The biggest victim of Modern Warfare 2’s interface is the camo selection screen. Every awkward visual design problem and unintuitive menu is magnified when players go to place one of their hard-earned camos on a favorite gun. For starters, the horizontal UI makes it so that finding any camo is a chore. There are 186 camos in the game right now, all of which are inside multiple style categories, and there is no quick way to access any of them. Reaching the final camo category requires seeing every single other category before it, and it becomes a slog to equip any weapon colors in that section. For some reason, Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t have multiple drop-down menus for each camo category that allow players to quickly see and reach all the camos in the game.
However, navigating the camo menus is only half the battle. Finding unlocked camos in Modern Warfare 2 is like finding a needle in a haystack. Instead of front-loading the player’s unlocked camos at the top of each style category for easy access, MW2 leaves all the camos in place and let players find their unlocked camos in a wild scavenger hunt throughout each subsection of camos. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if unlocked camos were solid colors, but at this time, both unlocked and locked camos are transparent, so it’s hard to differentiate what is unlocked or not. Modern Warfare 2’s camo screen is tough to use and see, but it’s not the only clunky screen here.
In addition to the scattered design scheme that Modern Warfare 2’s UI uses with its weapons menus, sometimes the broader UI doesn’t show the player anything or hides essential elements. One of the most perplexing UI omissions in Modern Warfare 2 is the lack of a double XP timer or alert that double XP is even active. It’s a doubly perplexing omission when 2019’s Modern Warfare had one. Other strange hidden features include the FSR and DLSS toggles on PC, which require accessing a sub-menu to pick the quality of each upscaler. It makes calibrating graphics settings more of a headache than it already.
This tedium also extends to the simple act of choosing a game mode. Instead of simply selecting a mode from a menu like every other Call of Duty game, fans have to jump through hoops and hidden menus to filter through game modes just to play one playlist. This design choice is confounding because there is currently a lone option for Prisoner Rescue on the MW2 welcome page. Clearly, there is a capacity for a simple, click-and-go UI, sort of like the previous games, but Infinity Ward has decided not to go for it. These problems may all be symptoms of a wider UI design issue though.
Modern Warfare 2’s UI Looks Like a Streaming Service, and It Shouldn’t
The Call of Duty community has quickly pointed out how Modern Warfare 2’s UI mimics that of streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. Call of Duty is one of the biggest entertainment properties of all time, and it would make sense to follow the design trends of other industry-leading entertainment services. However, Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services design their UIs with constant scrolling in mind, delivering as close to a channel surfing experience as possible. That design philosophy does not translate well to Call of Duty, as it is supposed to be snappy and intuitive, allowing players to get in and out of menus in no time.
Most games design their user interfaces vertically for a reason. Vertical UIs allow developers to fit a lot of info into compact columns, help fans easily digest a series of lists, and are an overall good use of screen real estate. Oddly enough, instead of following tried and true UI trends from previous games, Modern Warfare 2‘s game types and menus are sorted in an awkward left-to-right grid where players have to do a lot of scrolling to get to where they need to go. The clunky horizontal interface makes picking a game mode or a loadout far more disorganized and tedious than it should be.
For example, if players have anything over six custom classes created, they must constantly bounce back and forth in the menus, always clicking between the left and right arrow buttons to access classes at either end of the list. There are also a lot of guns in Modern Warfare 2, and the UI really doesn’t help the player sort through them. Deciding to swap one gun for another mid-game becomes needlessly confusing and time-consuming due to all the scrolling that players must do for weapon categories offering many choices like Assault Rifles or SMGs. Right now, Modern Warfare 2’s UI is the opposite of snappy and intuitive.
There needs to be a smarter way to get players to where they need to go in Modern Warfare 2, and a lot of the problem simply goes back to that horizontal, blocky, streaming service-like approach to UI. It may look modern, but it just doesn’t work. The current MW2 user interface is far too cumbersome to deliver a good experience, and perhaps Infinity Ward should try returning to the old-school way of doing things or find a new solution to improve Modern Warfare 2’s UI in the future.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
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