Last week’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare beta was something of a big event – a chance to road-test a significant amount of multiplayer modes, maps and content on all systems, opening up cross-play functionality for the first time. No matter what console or PC set-up you may have, COD now offers users the option of striking out from PSN, Xbox Live or battle.net, letting players battle it out in all-platforms free-for-all. This is monumentous stuff for the biggest franchise shooter of them all, and an opportunity we couldn’t miss.
Firstly, we could stress-test the cross-play functionality by amassing a single squad with representation from all online systems to see how it works on a mechanical level. There are few surprises here but party set-up is remarkably straightforward: lobbies give you access to your PSN or Xbox Live friends list, along with a secondary list populated by friends who’ve registered an Activision account. Users can set-up parties and join parties, and it’s a virtually seamless experience – cross-play can be enabled or disabled, while playlists are easily set up to filter out users with different input mechanisms, so PC keyboard/mouse users with a ginormous advantage will only appear if the user allows it – with icons on-screen clearly showing which control system each user has selected.
The good news is that aside from one Xbox user appearing offline during our tests (solved by having that user join the party rather than being invited), everything just works. The overall experience is as smooth and fluid as a single-platform online experience. We tested all consoles plus PC and it all worked out beautifully – and I can’t help but feel that when next-gen finally arrives, this set-up won’t be the exception, it’ll be norm. And why not?