Hot off the heels of the game's long-awaited official announcement, it now appears that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot will allow up to 20 players to play online. This number doesn't even scrape the massive server sizes of other multiplayer shooters or even that of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode, but a 20-player non-battle royale mode will be a franchise first.
At its height as an innovator of the military shooter genre that it helped to define, Call of Duty wasn't afraid of pushing the envelope in terms of story. Showing the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, putting players into the shoes of coldblooded terrorists, and, now, exploring the shocking reality of child soldiers, the franchise isn't known for shying away from controversial subject matter. However, until Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 infamously ditched the series' distinguished campaign to make room for an ambitious trend, Call of Duty is notorious for being incredibly slow and incremental in changing up its time-tested gameplay formulae.
That may change if Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's rumored 20-player mode ships with the game in October. Both the Microsoft Store and PlayStation Store purport that the game will support 2-20 players in each of their pre-purchase listings. This runs counter to the game's traditional multiplayer modes normally only supporting up to ten or twelve players per match, which is prompting speculation as to whether a new mode or set of modes will be introduced to the mix or if this is signals a fundamental change to the patent Call of Duty multiplayer formula. Most notably, this could mean that a battle royale mode like Blackout has either been massively retooled to support smaller matches or lifted from the equation entirely.
As a twitch shooter that's only gotten twitchier and less inspired over the years, map design and moment-to-moment player experience has grown increasingly stagnant since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare first shook up the franchise and the entire FPS market. Whereas maps were once as varied in layout as they were in unique visuals and assets, the series' maps have grown less and less distinct in design with each release ever since, now almost always consisting of three lanes with little cover. This has made Call of Duty multiplayer well-known among players as an invariable spawn-run-and-die simulator, but a considerable shift in team size in the upcoming game's traditional modes could mean that major changes have been made to multiplayer gameplay.
Of course, the 20-player limit could ultimately be reserved for a more methodical, small-scale battle royale mode, or a brand new mode altogether, but Call of Duty is long overdue for a multiplayer makeover that goes deeper than outward appearance. Until developer Infinity Ward sheds more light as to whether things will change or remain the same in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (which could possibly come as soon as E3), players will be left guessing.