Modern Warfare’s new Battle Pass gives Call of Duty the reward system it needed, while the new cosmetic store leaves room for improvement.
Modern Warfare received its first major content drop on December 3, including new maps and modes for the “Season One” event that runs from now until January 28. This first season also includes a 100-tier battle pass that players can grind for loot.
Last year’s Black Ops 4 was the first Call of Duty to adopt the style of Fortnite’s in-game reward system, but that Battle Pass was heavily criticised for being an intense grind for cosmetic filler items, while many of the high-tier cosmetics and DLC weapons got stuffed into loot boxes. The passes, free for everyone, often ranged from 50 to 100 tiers of progression, and they were severely saturated with iffy rewards like stickers, emotes, and emblems. And instead of improving over time, the quality of the rewards degraded further over the course of the year’s events, as some passes lacked any camos or DLC weapons.
Modern Warfare renovates the Battle Pass with a much more rewarding stream of in-game cosmetics that compares much more favourably to Fortnite. Also like Fortnite, the Battle Pass includes both free and premium content streams. The free content path obviously has far fewer cosmetics, but it does include the important bits.
The game’s new DLC weapons are made available in both the free and premium streams, and unlike with Black Ops 4’s battle pass DLC weapons, you don’t have to put in ridiculous hours to reach the final tier. The Holger-26 light machine gun is unlocked for both streams at tier 15, and the RAM-7 assault rifle is unlocked at tier 31. This makes the new base weapons much easier to obtain for casual players.
Level progression can feel just as slow as Black Ops 4’s Battle Pass based off in-game playtime, but Modern Warfare’s progression system claims to also factor in time spent playing, XP earnings, and challenge completion. I wish it was clearer how much XP points and challenges factored in to tier progression. As I completed more challenges on the second day of the Battle Pass grind, I did seem to level up faster, I guess?
Of Modern Warfare’s 100 Battle Pass tiers, 76 are exclusive to the premium stream. There are also four bonus instant rewards unlocked when the premium pass is purchased: Two Operator skins, a watch, and a double XP token. The premium pass can be purchased with 1000 COD Points, or about 10 bucks. There’s more meat to the rewards here with Operator skins and camos. There are even watches for your Operator, if you want to flex with something fancy on your wrist.
Another nice feature within this revamped Battle Pass is the ability to earn COD Points as tier rewards. COD Points can even be earned in the free stream, but there’s not a whole lot you can do with them since it tops you out at 300. However, you do earn 1300 from the premium stream. You can use those accumulated COD Points to buy other cosmetics available in the store, or further save them to purchase next season’s pass. This is a great way to keep the loot flowing throughout the year with only one real buy-in.
I’ve been playing Fortnite since the beginning, and I’ve only ever purchased one battle pass. I always save enough V-Bucks from my progression to purchase the next, because I’m often gaming on a budget. Occasionally, I’ll come out of pocket for a cool skin or gift a friend with a pass, but I always hoard enough rewarded V-Bucks for my next pass. The fact that I can now do this with Modern Warfare will probably be the deciding factor for me purchasing the premium pass. I can’t personally justify $15 per season on cosmetics for a yearly $80 title, but I’ll do my best to milk a one-time purchase of COD Points for Modern Warfare into a year’s worth of content.
Some players are unhappy that Modern Warfare now has both a battle pass and a cosmetic shop of separate items. The store lets you buy different bundles of themed cosmetics, which feels pricey in a $80 game. The store also seems to hide other cosmetic deals behind the current offerings, so you’ll see a new deal once you buy something. This could be a glitch, or maybe it’s a way to entice more spending. It would be great if Activision would at least adjust this practice to show everyone the same set of deals with a daily or weekly refresh time, without all the hidden bundles.
Currently the store is offering me Viking- and Grim Reaper-themed packages of charms, camos, and stickers ranging from 500 to 1800 points per bundle. I don’t need all those cosmetics—no one does, really—but they’re available for players with deeper pockets than my own.
It sucks that everything can’t be earned simply by playing the game, but it’s just a shop of cosmetics bundles that aren’t necessary for enjoyment. This would be a totally different conversation if the store was offering bundles with exclusive DLC weapons or anything that gave a competitive advantage. And while there’s obviously always room for improvement when it comes to microtransactions, this is still a great leap forward for Call of Duty’s loot system, the Battle Pass model that Black Ops 4 so badly needed.
It’s too early to tell if Modern Warfare’s future passes will follow this same design, but if Activision stands by its new stance towards post-launch content, no one should feel pressured to buy into Call of Duty’s COD Points currency this year. The premium stream is just for players who want more cosmetic stuff, which so far contains greater loot value than Black Ops 4, and new base DLC weapons are free for everyone.