TTK (Time-to-Kill), Modern Warfare II, and How Activision Can Save Call of Duty

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TTK in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, and Vanguard: What MWII Can Learn 3
Credit: Activision

Time-to-kill, or TTK, in a Call of Duty game is one of the most important elements to really get right. When your TTK is too fast, or even feels too fast, the game very quickly becomes frustrating when you're getting instantly vaporized. When your TTK is too slow, killing folk becomes a chore, and once again, it quickly becomes frustrating when people you're shooting and cheese you and escape after taking tons of damage.

Activision needs to get TTK right in Modern Warfare II, and in this article, we'll explain how it can do that. Read on to learn everything you need to know about TTK, Modern Warfare II, and how Activision can save Call of Duty.

TTK in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, and Vanguard: What MWII Can Learn

TTK in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, and Vanguard: What MWII Can Learn
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Credit: Activision

On average, the TTK in Modern Warfare (2019) is a hair or two under 200 milisconds; the average TTK in Black Ops Cold War is a bit over 300 miliseconds; and the average TTK in Vanguard is about the same as in Modern Warfare.

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This isn't the full story, though. Both Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard have pretty significant headshot multipliers that significantly bring down the effective TTK. For Black Ops Cold War, this means with a bit of skill (or luck) you can enjoy a TTK similar to Modern Warfare. For Vanguard, this means with that same skill (or luck) you can just instantly annihilate people.

The average human's reaction time to a visual stimulus is around 250 milliseconds, or a bit less than a third of a second. Modern Warfare's average TTK is significantly lower than this, and in the case of connecting the right shots in Vanguard, you definitely won't, physically, even have a chance of reacting.

Modern Warfare, to much of the community's chagrin, is a bit of a slower, more tactical game in the context of Call of Duty as a franchise, so even though its average TTK is very quick, it can feel fairly reasonable. Vanguard has about the same average TTK, but it's a much more fast-paced, aggressive game, so when you throw in a meaty headshot multiplier, you rarely feel like you have a chance to even try to outskill your opponents, as you'll already be dead.

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Black Ops Cold War's average TTK is just over a third of a second, that average human reaction time threshold, but if you can connect your shots and get headshots, you can lower that down to the likes of Modern Warfare. This meshes nicely with the pacing of Cold War, which is a lot more aggressive than Modern Warfare but not nearly as fast-paced as Vanguard.

Modern Warfare II could stain to gain a lot from adopting a TTK system similar to Cold War. Make the average weapon kill somebody in about a third of a second, so there's a decent chance the enemy can react to being shot at, but give players the opportunity to cut down on how long an enemy has to react by hitting headshots. This will encourage satisfyingly aggressive play without turning CoD into Halo.

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The Pacing of Modern Warfare II Has to Match its TTK

TTK in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, and Vanguard: What MWII Can Learn 2
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Credit: Activision

Modern Warfare (2019), with its Ghost perk that worked even while standing still, its minimap that didn't show enemies firing unsuppressed weapons, and Dead Silence as an all-powerful field upgrade, played a lot slower and more tactically than other Call of Duty games.

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Or rather, you'd likely be most successful playing it slowly. Thus, the game has always had a problem with camping, especially considering the maps of Modern Warfare are as porous as a sponge and filled with hidey-holes that also encourage camping. For all that Modern Warfare did right, these elements of its design conspired together to disappoint many longtime CoD fans.

Vanguard walked back a lot of these problems with the same engine and basic setup of Modern Warfare while also offering up maps that weren't as huge and complicated, but the game's punishingly fast TTK, particularly with headshots, and its intensely quick player movement speed ultimately mades the experience more frustrating than anything else. This problem is only magnified by Vanguard's perpetual problems with weapon balance.

Modern Warfare II needs to take a few cues from Cold War: Give gamers a reasonable TTK that can be cut down with headshots, and make movement somewhere in between the speed of Modern Warfare and Cold War. Throw in maps that, sure, can sometimes be big and complicated, but stick to the general flow and layout of maps as seen in Vanguard and Cold War. Then, top it all off with balancing weapons in the game at least effective enough to not constantly lead to players figuring out some insane combination of attachments they can use to immediately delete the competition out of existence.

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If Modern Warfare II does all this and manages to not walk back the excellent changes in design in Vanguard, like having Ghost only hide you when moving, nerfing (or removing) Dead Silence, and making unsuppressed weapons appear on the minimap, then there'll be little for any CoD fan to complain about. All the ingredients for success are already in Activision's hands: they've gotten each individual component right before in different games.