Being the annual franchise that Call of Duty has become, it was inevitable that a year like 2018 was going to happen. Since the original Modern Warfare in 2007 raised the bar for console shooters with its explosive, blockbuster campaign the series has had to find a way to outdo itself. When the narrative, literally, reached the stars in Infinite Warfare there had already seemed to be a scramble to figure out ways to make the campaign, which could arguably be seen as the average CoD players second (or even third) favorite mode to multiplayer and zombies, still feel relevant.
Then came Black Ops IIII in 2018. At launch the multiplayer, zombies, and even the new battle royale ‘Blackout’ mode seemed like the solid, polished product players had gotten from Call of Duty for the last twelve years, but there was one glaring admission — the campaign mode was a no-show. A slight narrative started to form based out of rumors and insider info that Black Ops developer Treyarch was attempting a major shift away from the traditional CoD linear campaign format and attempting a slight open world design to make the series seem fresh. Allegedly, this was scrapped when it didn’t seem to come together well enough to meet standards as the product was getting closer to being shipped.
Then there were even rumors that a campaign DLC would launch later that year never came to fruition, and thus the large chunk of the CoD holdovers that primarily played the game for the campaign were left in the dust. It seemed this year all Infinity Ward had to do was simply deliver a standard campaign and a set of refreshed multiplayer modes, and the wounds could start to heal until the next gen systems came out…
PS4, PC, and Xbox One users have been blessed by an early present — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) feels like next-gen come early. Like all the Hollywood action blockbusters have been doing in the last five years, this is a familiar skeleton but with flashy new-tech driven skin. There is a very noticeable leap in the audio-visual fidelity of Modern Warfare that can be a feast for graphical comparison videos from even Infinite Warfare and World War 2. The lighting and textures are stunning on what are about to be the last-gen consoles, and the audio has significantly improved making the “Battlefield has better sounding guns than Call of Duty” argument almost null and void.
Gunfire in hallways and enclosed areas have a reverberation to them amplify the closed quarters, claustrophobic feel, while large scale battles no longer sound like a wall of sound and rather a dynamic multi-layered audio experience that actually helps you in battles. While every mode benefits from this new shine on the gameplay, it is one of the marquee features in the back-to-basics narrative. With the campaigns lack of celebrity performed characters and likenesses, increasingly futuristic vibes and gadgetry, and the scaling back of the conflicts to a more personal level — the technological leap makes the classic feel brand new again.
It’s easy to dismiss reboots as another cash grab, but that argument doesn’t seem to hold water in the video game space. Everything is about pushing new features, enhancing gameplay, and finding ways to incorporate the more modern ways of making money into the fold with loot boxes, in game currency, and multi seasonal endgames. Modern Warfare’s narrative campaign being rebooted feels more like a creative team wanting to find solid footing again.
The whole experience feels as fresh as the original Modern Warfare did in 2007. The overall pacing is well done, but nothing the studio hasn’t done before. The campaign features a mix of blockbuster set pieces, mixed in with more intimate story driven moments that are more cutscenes disguised as playable levels. By stripping out all the excess in the world building that the series has escalated to (CoD in space on paper felt like a joke), Infinity Ward was able to rediscover characters and find more creative ways to deliver their story.
Aside from the return of Captain Price, the new characters feel a lot more specific and unique that the player protagonists have ever been in the past. Starting out as a CIA officer in Alex is already a fresh new take as you’re not the usual infantry soldier, or even specialized military private. Then there’s the SAS Sergeant, Kyle Garrick who embarks on a bigger journey than anyone in the game going from the streets of London to running missions with Captain Price. The real standouts are Farah and Hadir, though. The game gives them more development in mere acts than a lot of characters have gotten in an entire game. Without spoiling it, there’s legitimate drama and intrigue on display here with the likes of which have been featured in more prestigious single player campaign narratives in other games, but were never really a feature in Call of Duty.
Setting the main conflicts in a mashup of real life locations, with fictional countries also lends itself to a more focused, “action blockbuster” narrative since it doesn’t have to do a dance around real life conflicts. Unfortunately there are a few key moments that parallel actual world history, and in some cases weren’t as cleverly disguised, and the thematic implications and perceived messaging can easily divide certain players; the mileage on whether or not that will be a particular turn off may vary on one’s own knowledge of history and inherent cultural biases and perception. Yet, thematic mess aside, the single player campaign itself is almost the best it’s ever been and fans and newcomers alike should celebrate that we got this redefining moment of the franchise’s identity a year before this generation comes to an end.
Campaign = 4.5/5 Bibles.
The rebooted Modern Warfare seems to tick almost all of the multiplayer boxes this year. In the age of loot boxes and season passes, Activision surprisingly goes the other direction this year. All upcoming maps and weapons are free to all. No loot boxes and no pay to win.
Instead, we will be introduced to freemium and premium seasonal Battle Passes where you can unlock cosmetics and even COD currency points, just like in Fortnite and Apex Legends. Modern Warfare also offers cross-play and cross-save across PC and consoles, enabling friends to play together regardless of platform and controller types. Leave no man behind…
COD:MW also manages to reinvent itself while sticking to its award winning formula. The multiplayer offers everything from the competitive 2v2 Gunfight mode played on tiny maps, to grand scale 64 player conflicts in Ground War with tanks, helicopters, ATV’s etc. Something that surely appeals to fans of the Battlefield series. If co-op is more your flavor, join your friends in Spec Ops. Pick a class and play different missions together in a huge open world map where the A.I will do its best adapting to your play style, throwing curveballs at your team when you least expect it– Left 4 Dead style.
More over, Modern Warfare nails it with its audiovisual presentation and gameplay. Gunplay feels incredibly rewarding and the vast amount of challenges keeps it fresh while leveling up your weapons and unlocking new killstreaks, field upgrades, emblems etc. Gameplay is slightly slower paced than previous titles with larger, more complex and realistic designed maps, too. Some say this ruins the “run’n’gun” flow of the game, but it only takes more time to master compared to the dusty old three-lane map design before you dominate out in the open. The last time I was anywhere near this excited about a Call of Duty game was with Black Ops 1. Yeah, it’s been a while.
Is the new Modern Warfare perfect? No, expect updates to spawn logic, weapon balancing, net code etc and hopefully in-game chat audio. But it is the best “boots on the ground” fps game available bar none. I am looking forward to all the upcoming free maps, weapons and and special events. The only thing missing, really, is a Battle Royale mode. But leakers with a proven track record claims that BR will come early next year as a separate free to play client and it will be played on an extended version of the Spec Ops map. Roll on 2020.
Multiplayer = 4.25/5 Bibles.