A common criticism of modern first-person shooter (FPS) titles has been a tendency to reward campers — players who sit in a corner of the map, waiting for their opponent to come to them. Gunfight, a two-vs-two, round-based mode in the upcoming ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’, has been designed to tackle this with limited health, smaller maps and, crucially, very short rounds. Developer Infinity Ward opened up the Alpha play test for free on PS4 over the August 23-25 weekend, and players got to try it out for free — without needing to pre-order or subscribe to PlayStation Plus.

We tried out the Alpha — here are our thoughts.

Clock’s ticking

The biggest challenge in Gunfight is time. You and your partner have 40 seconds to eliminate the opposing pair and win each round. If the clock runs out, a flag materialises in the middle of the map and starts a ten-second period of overtime, during which you need to either capture the flag or kill your opponents. If both teams fail to do either, the win goes to the team with more health. In the unlikely event that both teams have exactly the same health following 50 seconds of play, the round ends in a draw. The first team to five wins takes the game.

You only get a few maps to try out in the Alpha. I went a few rounds on Docks. It really is tiny. The entire thing basically comprises a water walkway and a pair of minuscule double-story storage houses connected by a bridge, which is where most of the action took place.

Infinity Ward has placed added emphasis on realism for ‘COD: MW’, which releases in full on October 25. One of the ways it has gone about this is binning the mini map, a staple of recent COD titles that (temporarily) highlights enemy positions, either when they fire a shot or your team gets hold of a drone. Every player is also given the same randomised loadout, or set of weapons, at the start of each round (unless you’re playing Pickup, which leaves weapons and grenades around the map at random). In my brief playthrough, I used a pistol, shotgun and SMG. There’s a little more recoil here than Infinite Warfare — firing in short bursts feels more rewarding than attempting to hose down your opponents with bullets.

Gritty gameplay

Another common feature of COD is the haze of red blood that obscures the screen when you’re hit. MW takes this and adds a pulsing black-and-white effect to the screen, which makes fighting back in such a scenario a lot harder. However, coupled with the frighteningly realistic gun models (“Dude, lit me up with a desert eagle and I felt like I was getting shot at in real life”), Modern Warfare is eschewing the arcade-like feel of recent titles in favour of grittiness.

The objective of this Alpha test was to iron out issues ahead of the upcoming Beta release, which will allow crossplay between PS4, Xbox One and PC. Beta invitations will be sent out around mid September.