Activision attempts to change the fortunes of the franchise with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The 2019 soft reboot aims to recapture the spirit of the original hit, going back to what made the series great.
After all, recent Call of Duty games have faced criticism for straying too far from the traditional formula. Many fans have complained about gameplay changes that they feel alienated them. Just how successfully they’ve managed to address those issues is something this review will attempt to answer.
Throughout development, Infinity Ward was quick to point out that they wanted to incorporate a more mature narrative. Most Call of Duty games have overblown and action-orientated singleplayer campaigns. However, with Modern Warfare, the studio attempted to have a more nuanced and grown-up story. Real world events inspire important plot points and the game attempts to highlight the moral problems in war. The end result is that the story in Modern Warfare is arguably the best in the series to date. There is tension, drama, and it also raises questions that the series has not explored before.
Controversial moments are not something the series has ever shied away from. Many players will remember the uproar that erupted over the mission ‘No Russian’ in 2009. It seems like both the developer and publisher are still prepared to use similar shock tactics to attract attention. The new game contains several contentious scenes that have attracted criticism. Yet, they don’t detract from the experience too much.
If you have ever played a Call of Duty game before, nothing in Modern Warfare will be that revolutionary. The basic mechanics are, for better or worse, very similar to what players experienced more than a decade ago. Even killstreaks have been brought back, replacing the contentious scorestreaks. But this is probably to the benefit of gameplay. A return to the simpler and more balanced gunplay from earlier games is welcome.
That doesn’t mean that there are not any changes. Singleplayer missions now have mechanics meant to make you take more notice of your surroundings. Grades are given to players according to the collateral damage they cause. This includes unarmed civilians you kill, which will reduce your chance of unlocking extra rewards. The developers have also reduced player speed, making gunfights feel more methodical and deliberate.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has an impressive amount of multiplayer offerings. Along with standards like Domination and Free-for-All that you would expect, there are also new game types. Limited time events show up regularly as well. These tend to introduce things such as Gun Game or the zombie playlist Infection. Another big plus is that this new game supports cross-play. Regardless of whether you are on PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, everyone can play together. Customization options mean you can easily create your own rule sets for game modes and even filter out keyboard and mouse players.
Perhaps the most significant inclusion is Ground War. This is a massive multiplayer mode that lets teams of 32 players square off against each other. On top of this it also includes vehicles and wide-open arenas to battle in. It feels more like the kind of experience you expect to find in Battlefield rather than Call of Duty. Outside of some issues with spawning right in front of enemies, it is an interesting change of pace.
Spec Ops also makes a return in Modern Warfare. The co-op game mode sees players continue the story in a variety of action-orientated missions. The ones I sampled were much more difficult than I thought they would be. They are challenging and need a lot of teamwork and cooperation to complete. This mode is only for the hardcore who want to complete every section of the game.
Considering the big-budget nature of Modern Warfare, expecting top tier visuals and sound is completely fair. Fortunately, this latest entry in the series delivers. Coming in at over 100GB, it is clear that much of that data makes up the high-quality textures and models. There isn’t any part of the game that doesn’t look amazing, with the visuals and animation being impressive throughout.
Well-directed cutscenes that give characters some emotional heft elevate the gritty story. A loud and audacious musical score also adds plenty of pomp. Unusually for a Call of Duty title, there are also some more delicate moments in the soundtrack. The voice acting is superb while every gun sounds powerful thanks to the audio effects.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a fantastic return to form for the franchise. While a few of the latest installments may have disappointed, this game addresses every major complaint players have had. The campaign demonstrates why a strong single-player experience is important. Meanwhile, the array of multiplayer offerings is exceptional. Modern Warfare has something for everyone and will no doubt keep fans occupied for a long time to come.