Call of Duty is synonymous with gaming, even if you don’t play games, you know what Call of Duty is or at the very least have heard of or have seen it in some form. 16 years, that is how long the famed series has been around and in that time 15 main series console platform titles have released. There has always been an expected level of quality because of how high profile the brand and franchise is, that isn’t to say they always meet the mark, notable less well-received titles include Ghosts in 2013 and Infinite Warfare from 2016, what’s notable is both games were developed by Infinity Ward who take the helm for this year’s Modern Warfare. The need to deliver is very real, will this be a return to form or an addition to their lukewarm offerings?
What I’ve found to be the most interesting thing before release was that we are getting a reboot, not a sequel. To reboot a series of games that fans already loved and had no real issue with before is ballsy, didn’t need to happen but I think Infinity Ward realised long before now that what they had with Modern Warfare was something special. The risk is high, but the reward could be so much greater and with that, let’s jump in.
I spent roughly five to six hours on my journey through the campaign which immediately is a little bit of a sting, because after it finishes, I want so much more. I know the campaign hasn’t always been why people play these games but for those that do will be left wanting a little more for their money especially if you have no desire to spend much time in the multiplayer or co-op modes. But enough about quantity, let’s look at the quality.
What I absolutely love is that this reboot in terms of timeline takes place before any of the events of the original game yet also set in 2019, years after the others in the subseries, basically think a completely clean slate almost like what Days of Future Past did for the X-Men Cinematic Universe but hopefully, better. It features some characters we’re familiar with, some being new versions of their former selves and introduces us to brand new ones that perhaps look to play a part in future instalments.
There are two core playable characters that you switch between throughout the story, the first one being Alex, a CIA agent who kicks things off with a mission to recover chemical gas that is inbound to Urzikstan. Kyle Garrick begins his path as an SAS Sergeant who is tasked with going to Piccadilly Circus in London to assist in controlling the horrifying situation after a terrorist attack, this is where we meet that moustache donning SAS Captain, John Price. Two separate encounters but what follows is an organic story development that shows just how close these events are related but in a smart way, not feeling just shoe-horned in or come across as out of left field.
Throughout, there are a ton of characters that get inserted in but only a select few that seem to matter and bring some depth to the story in terms of showing different backgrounds and cultures that are affected by this over-arching plot. Characters like Kate Laswell, Farah and Hadir go on to serve a purpose and then there are the plethora of named soldiers that don’t really do anything for the story other than to just be present and be cannon fodder. It makes battles seem much smaller as if only a select few characters matter and nobody else does, the stakes never feel real for anyone else, so when somebody dies it’s just, oh well.
That aside, the main recurring characters are interesting enough to carry the story from beginning to end, delivering meaningful interactions with each other and are unique enough to feel diverse even when everyone is a soldier of some sort, they have different reasons for fighting and differing values that shows how close they are in terms of circumstance and at their core so far apart.
Antagonists need to come across as menacing and dangerous and I feel The Wolf, The Butcher and Roman Barkov all do, the issues that often arise for the villains is they can be very one dimensional and that they are just pure evil for evils’ sake. I feel this to be the case for atleast on of these baddies here, unfortunately it’s the main one, the other two show some form of humanity at pivotal moments. That being said, Roman nails the menacing vibe with his cruel humour and antics, it sucks because for being the top bad guy, he’s barely present, a couple of scenes and that is it, a forgettable villain, a good story does not make.
At times, events in the story are dark, sinister, and maybe offensive for some people but I believe do a lot in presenting you with context and aren’t just included for a headline etc. There are scenes that include torture, executions and some include children, not for the faint of heart whatsoever but are important in portraying that some of this stuff, it’s real and it happens to people. Very powerful stuff, absolutely not for everyone but I think executed as appropriately as it can be for a video game audience to witness.
Perhaps the shining aspect of Modern Warfare is the gameplay, I absolutely loved going through each mission not only because I followed the story closely and wanted to know what was happening next, but because the gameplay made it fun to play. There are several missions that offer new ways to play and prevent the staleness that can often arise when just running and gunning. Scattered throughout, there are times you need to either stealth it up, do some sniping or use various equipment to accomplish the mission and all of them are enjoyable to take part in.
The general gameplay has been tight for years, it just works and is satisfying to play. That is the same here, with all guns feeling different and the time to kill is short enough to present some realism and long enough to not feel so easy in terms to kill things and not too unforgiving when getting shot that’s true for both the campaign and multiplayer. The gameplay itself is accompanied by the sound effects very closely because the sounds make or break the reward aspect of using whichever weapon or equipment, that click of the claymore or the burst of air from a rocket launcher are satisfying sounds that make you want to keep at it.
Visually, it looks fantastic, of course it does and there’s no way that would be any different, I think at this point it’s almost taken for granted. The levels in the campaign and the maps for multi-player are well designed and varied enough to really display this stark contrast between having a battle in the dessert and executing a covert mission in an urban environment. Everything from the landscape to the fine detail of how walls and ceilings are designed in a mid-terrace house in London look so authentic, that I found myself looking around areas and thinking, I believe this.
The cutscenes are where this game flexes it’s visuals best, it looks as close to real-life as I think possible to the point there were moments I questioned whether or not it just flipped to live-action. Details like facial expressions which are so pronounced that everything spoken comes across as intended, subtle mannerisms of each character you can pinpoint with ease, beautiful.
After the campaign there is still plenty to dabble in, the multiplayer of course and the co-op missions. The latter of which are delivered as a sort of mini-story that takes place after the events of the campaign. There are four operations available now at launch and they each feature multiple objectives and allow you the choice of how to go about each task. What makes the operations so exhilarating is variety, they are all vastly different and offer some fantastic set-piece like moments.
These operations are tough, if you aren’t communicating with your team or not on the ball, you will get overwhelmed, very quickly. That being said, what I found this did, is that when I beat an operation with my team, I felt like I accomplished something. They are a much-welcomed inclusion to the content offering, it’s something different to dabble in when you’ve been killed one too many times because of ‘bullshit’ reasons online.
Now for the multiplayer suite that features a whopping 17 maps plus night variations of some of them and 9 game modes plus variations. That is a lot of content but of course that comes with a little caveat, not all maps are playable in all modes online, some are specific to certain game modes due to their size. Gunfight is a 2v2 mode so it only makes sense there are smaller maps to do battle on as opposed to Ground War’s need for massive locations to allow for 64-player combat.
The variety speaks for itself, there is something for everyone, whatever the playstyle and personal preference. Gunfight allows for more intimate gameplay, working cohesively with one other person to try and be the better team. Then you have your standard 6-a-side team modes ranging from team deathmatch to search and destroy and the newly added cyber attack. Finally, on the other end of the spectrum is the 32 per team Ground War, which looks to rival the feel of Battlefield’s large-scale warfare.
If you want a bit more of a challenge, Realism takes away the HUD and makes headshots a one-hit kill, as it should. This adds to the immersion, with no HUD to clutter the screen and distract you, you get sunk into the map and are completely focused on looking for the slightest movement. This isn’t what we know as hardcore however, as hardcore modes are separate to this.
I think the map design has truly stepped up with Modern Warfare, they seem more optimised to cater for varying playstyles with plenty of indoor and some outdoor areas well suited for close-quarters combat. Then you have large open areas that allow for snipers to take control and everything in between. There are locations where certain loadouts will be the most beneficial and makes the game more tactical than before. In previous titles there has always been weapons and equipment that are rarely used but in this there is a time and place for all to be taken advantage of.
One big gameplay altering addition is finally being able to go up to a corner and mount your gun to it, allowing you to peer around it with protecting your body from gunfire. It’s been implemented well in other games and this is no different, it makes defensive type play so much more feasible, it sucks for those who hate defensive players or ‘campers’, however I am all about more strategic options and a big STFU to those who hate people for defending, in a defending game mode.
OVERALL: 8.7/10 – GREAT
Call of Duty Modern Warfare is a true return to form for the experienced team at Infinity Ward. Delivering a captivating story that is albeit short and produces a cast of interesting characters that make up for the throwaway ones. Gameplay is king, once again delivering a grounded experience that shows boots on the ground can feel just as satisfying if not more satisfying than in the air. The multiplayer and co-op suite is bursting with content allowing everyone to find something they enjoy. New additions in terms of features and modes keep the series feeling fresh. It’s the reboot I never knew I wanted, and eagerly anticipate what’s next for the Modern Warfare subseries.
Written by Rhys Baldwin.