I wasn’t sure what to make of Infinity Ward’s decision to remove the default mini-map. I’ll admit it’s always been a crutch for me. Every few seconds, I would steal a glance at the top corner of my screen to see where teammates are spawning or look for red dots when an enemy player fires their gun. Instead of learning the ins and outs of a particular map, I would use the mini-map.
Plus, if you understood Call of Duty respawn mechanics – you could determine when the spawns were about to ‘flip.’
That’s changing with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and this past weekend’s alpha was a great way to ease me away from the mini-map.
(A quick note on the mini-map in Modern Warfare. While there is no permanent mini-map, earning a killstreak of 3 gives you a Personal Radar, a temporary mini-map for you. 4 earns a UAV for the entire team.)
Instead of throwing us into the bigger matches finally coming to Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward opted to let us try Gunfight’s 2v2 mode first. There was probably plenty of reasons for this (like server stress), but I like to think the devs wanted to ease players into a multiplayer with no mini-map. What better way than small maps where communication is as easy as ‘left, right, middle, and behind you.’
I didn’t even notice the lack of mini-map until the second night of playing. And I liked not noticing it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve died in previous COD games because I was looking at my mini-map right as another player turned the corner. Keeping all my focus on what was happening right in front of me was a nice change of pace.
All the maps in the alpha didn’t feel much bigger than Call of Duty’s infamous Shipment. Rounds could (and often did) end in an instant. Better sound design also helped big time. It’s not hard figuring out where other players are when that .50 cal pistol roars. And it’ll only get easier as the devs tweak footstep audio too.
Visual design was also top-notch on most of the maps with little clutter. Pine seemed a bit too cluttered in spots, but I never had trouble spotting folks.
Gunfight was the best way to get me used to no mini-map, but what about larger modes and maps? While the devs are nixing the mini-map, they are adding a compass along the top of the screen. Here’s how it looks in a match of Headquarters.
It’s a smart design choice. Millions of gamers are used to using them from Battle Royale games. Plus, it helps out with map awareness. You’ll know where the headquarters (blue satellite dish icon) is located plus a general direction of enemy gunfire (red tick mark).
I’m still not 100% convinced yet. You don’t need a mini-map when the entire map can be seen from the start. But Ground War? That mode is reported to have 100 players or more. It’s hard to imagine no mini-map working on a huge map. Imagine playing a Battlefield game with no mini-map?
Map design is going to be an even bigger deal than it already is. With no mini-map, we’ll need to see clear map boundaries on the bigger maps. But they’ll also need to flow well. Infinity Ward already said they are moving away from the ‘three-lane’ design philosophy made popular by Treyarch COD games.
Shooters ditching the mini-map isn’t unheard of. Rainbow Six Siege did it, and it didn’t hurt that game one bit. I’m not 100% convinced it can work with Modern Warfare’s biggest maps just yet, but I’m more on board with the idea after playing Gunfight this past weekend. Next month’s beta should give us a good idea of whether stripping the mini-map across all modes was the right call.