CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE (Infinity Ward/Activision – X1/PS4/PC – October 25, 2019) – With this, my first official meeting at E3 2019, I had no idea what to expect from the next installment of Call of Duty. That’s wild to say about a franchise where things are as expected and routine as waking up and brushing teeth in the morning, especially with a name called Modern Warfare.
Not only is this soft reboot/reimagining (i.e. or whatever term you feel like using to justify the title) unlike any other Call of Duty, the second volume of Modern Warfare looks drastically different than anything else at E3. The brief demo we saw behind closed doors was terrifyingly moody, sure to disturb those not ready to see the raw, gray areas of.. an almost too true-to-life modern warfare.
The demo goes far beyond the original definition of the title. New age war tech and toys are important, sure; but when it comes to tension and presentation, this COD is more of a Resident Evil/Rainbow Six mash-up with potential terrorists replacing zombies. It’s cruel, incredibly complex and shall leave many shaking in fear, if not quitting their gameplay sessions altogether. With that notion, Modern Warfare was the most riveting hands-off experience I had at E3 2019.
In the 15-minute demo, Infinity Ward director Taylor Kurosaki spoke on those potential terrorists; COD:MW is more on the side of a moral conflict mind-fuck than that of the big action set-piece formula of previous COD’s. I give the team credit for not shying away from the horrifying, ultra uncomfortable subject matter. While the game has the potential to be a PR nightmare, the narrative will at least grasp and shift players emotionally in ways a Call of Duty — or perhaps any other shooter — has never done so before.
Those ready for a vastly different, provocative take on an FPS will no doubt eat this one up. The sound is sparse, the setting is dark, quiet and realistically personal to no end. Everything feels so confined in tight frames. You can hear potential suspects in a targeted London terror cell townhouse chatting in the background. Your commander whispers directions to the unit as you creep up stairwells and timidly search closed doors. Tough choices are made, unexpected incoming bullets are sprayed– through doors, walls and windows your ops team can also peak or bust through. Anticipation and safe retaliation is everything; not everyone needs to be a casualty of war.
In case you’re wondering why my demo presentation was so short, so was I. I’ve been invited to and covered every Call of Duty E3 presentation since 2012, and this was, by far, the quietest and most swift. Gone was the sonic boom of a massive booth in the LA Convention Center’s South Hall that led to a surplus of industry gamers camping out with hot anticipation of playing COD’s adrenaline-rushing E3 demo, complete with the annual gift of a free tee. Also missing were the optional team-based PVP or PVE modes the media typically got their hands on in upstairs meeting areas. Rather, our hands-off showing of the new Modern Warfare was missing a back half to it.
According to various media who saw the game on May 30th, there is footage that E3 media were likely intended to see before it hit controversy. This second mission features a young Middle Eastern girl who loses both of her parents just seconds before being captured by the Russians and subsequently sent to a commanding officer for means I will not repeat here. This sounds like gritty, demoralizing stuff. But even without having viewed gameplay from the perspective of an innocent war-torn youth, Modern Warfare sounds like a winner. The pre-alpha footage’s gorgeous 4K visuals at 60fps (that London landscape is going to be something else), bullet-penetrating environments, and Naughty Dog-guided narrative (that includes those highly fervent moral choices) insantly shoots this new era of Call of Duty to the top of my to-play list.
And in case that’s not enough, co-op mode Spec Ops is back! 4.75/5 Zero Dark T-Shirts.