Night vision goggles in first-person shooters often felt like a gimmick, so I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying them in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare beta over the weekend. The PlayStation 4 beta featured two maps, “Azhir Cave” and “Hackney Yard,” in a nighttime setting with night vision goggles that you toggle on and off with a quick press of the Triangle button. I really enjoyed my time with the “NVG playlist,” even though I probably died more than I should have. Shout out to my teammates for picking up my slack, because I walked around a lot during my first few matches, toggling the goggles on and off all around the maps.
I couldn’t help it; it’s just impressive to see how far we’ve come since 2007’s Modern Warfare. That game had gimmicky night vision goggles that just plastered your screen with a green-tinted view. Also, none of those old maps ever sent you off into gunfights in complete darkness, so the goggles were completely unnecessary in 2007 and just as unnecessary in 2016's Modern Warfare Remastered.
In 2019, you need night vision goggles to survive in the dark. Some areas on the nighttime maps do have minimal outdoor lighting and low visibility, so you can navigate them with or without the assistance of goggles. But most interior locations are pitch black and require the use of NVG. You can technically leave the goggles off and wander into the dark void, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Here’s a brief video showing the difference in view with and without the goggles active:
Beyond just providing functionality, activating the NVG impacts your guns as well. With goggles off, you can aim down your sights as normal. Having the goggles on means that you can’t fully aim down sights, and must rely on a laser sight.
The laser is only active and visible with the goggles on and while aiming down sights. So, if there are enemies lurking in the dark with you, they’ll see your laser and vice versa if goggles are equipped while aiming down sights. So another option is to hip-fire your weapon while NVG is active to fight through the dark portions of the map, sacrificing your accuracy for stealth.
NVG in Call of Duty might still feel like a gimmick to some players. These night maps won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ll welcome the variety if they’re added into rotation of the standard multiplayer and realism playlists.
The beta only gave access to NVG night maps as part of the standard multiplayer experience, but we also got a taste of the game’s new “realism mode” on the day versions of the maps. Realism mode is much more unforgiving than traditional Call of Duty multiplayer, and I think it will pair nicely with the NVG maps for those who desire a slower pace and more tactical approach.
Realism mode adds deeper immersion by completely removing the HUD. This is not to be mistaken for Call of Duty’s hardcore mode, which gives you half health and limited HUD. Players do have full health in Realism mode, but the screen is completely lacking a HUD. You won’t even see any hit marker indicators when you get hits on an enemy.
For me, it was an awkward transition. Realism mode doesn’t tell you if you hit or killed anyone. If I took shots at someone rushing behind cover or camping in a distant window, I was never certain if I earned the kill, and had to constantly worry that the player had survived and was just skulking behind cover. I gained a certain level of paranoia when navigating the maps in realism mode.
I eventually warmed up to the changes, and I’m now intrigued to try the combo of “realism” paired with NVG. Sweeping through the tunnels of Azhir Cave with night vision can feel eerie in standard multiplayer, so I can imagine it’s quite an experience without any HUD.
I enjoy the fast-paced action from Call of Duty’s traditional modes, but I also have days where I prefer to slow things down and play more strategically. I still wish the current pace of Modern Warfare’s standard multiplayer felt a little faster, but maybe things will change as Infinity Ward continues to test out options for a mini-map during the beta and as players learn the maps post-launch. Regardless, I’ll be playing and enjoying the option to choose from either a traditional or a more tactical multiplayer.
Modern Warfare’s beta is now live for everyone on PlayStation 4, as well as for Xbox One and PC players who pre-ordered for early access. The open beta for all platforms runs from September 22 to 24. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will be released on October 26.