Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: 10/25/2019
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When you’re desperate to bring a franchise back what do you do? Well, two things, you either reboot the entire series into something new or bring the series back to its roots. Activision chose the latter and somehow it just brilliantly worked. See, Call of Duty 4 was something groundbreaking and revolutionary in the first-person shooter genre. With a fantastically cinematic campaign and an interesting protagonist (Cpt. Price) and addictive multiplayer that had you grinding for perks and weapons unlocks, it was fast-paced and fluid with well-designed maps. Infinity Ward had created magic that took the world by storm. Of course, what do you do with a franchise that’s this successful? Milk it to death with yearly sequels for over a decade until it kills itself. That’s actually what happened to Call of Duty, twice! While the peak of the series was with Black Ops 1 the latest Black Ops 4 was a complete disaster. With every iteration was a less than stellar campaign and boring multiplayer. So, all those wonderful memories you had with Call of Duty 4 can now come back as this is a prequel to that game and keep those memories in mind because we’re going to come back to those later.
Now, Call of Duty has never been well known for its amazing story, but Modern Warfare tries at least with the game taking place in Russia and the Middle East. You are trying to find out who stole a toxic bio-weapon and you team up with a rebel group in the Middle East to stop the Al-Quatala terrorists from unleashing it on the world. It’s a typical modern terrorist plot, but it’s enough to get the job done. At least the characters are interesting With you playing Adam, Garrick, and Farah. Adam is part of the US Army and Garrick is part of the SAS. Farah is the rebel group trying to break her people free from Al-Quatala and the Russians selling the bioweapons aren’t helping. Each character is actually really good to watch and pay attention to on-screen. Of course, Cpt. Price has this awesome presence that you can’t look away from. His voice acting and motion capture are amazing and it’s nice that they tried to breathe actual life into these characters. Remember when I said to remember those CoD4 moments of nostalgia? Well, when Cpt. Price comes on screen for the first time or you see the ending, you get goosebumps and can’t help but smile and think, “It’s back!”
The campaign is short but sweet. Running in about 6 hours, each and every level is unique and different with a ton of scripted cinematic moments. There’s even a level where you play as a child and have to sneak out of your village. Infinity Ward really tried with this game and the campaign is actually replayable and incredibly fun to go through. The game is familiar to any Call of Duty fan, but you can feel the original’s fingerprint throughout the entire game. From nighttime stealth missions to explosives bombastic firefights, Modern Warfare covers every base and the pacing is spot on and it never gets boring. The shooting itself is very familiar with the first three Modern Warfare games with various real-world military weapons fine-tuned and balanced just right. There’s a play style here for everybody from spewing rounds with the PKM, running around corners with an M80 shogun, or picking off enemies with a Dragunov sniper rifle. The balance of weapons leads to the feeling of movement and satisfaction of bringing someone down. The four-way spread of the reticle when you’re hitting an enemy and the sound it makes to let you know you’re on target to the way you can now slide around corners and mount walls. It’s a formula that only works in Call of Duty and it’s never been better than it has been here.
Once you finish the campaign it’s off to multiplayer which is where the meat of the game is at. This also feels very familiar and brings back old Call of Duty balancing and modes such as Team Deathmatch, Headquarters, and various other modes. This is the first Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare 2 that has had me coming back over and over again for more carnage. The gameplay is perfect and while the weapons are still being balanced through patches, the expensive map packs are now gone in favor of free maps and a battle pass similar to what Battlefield is doing.
Acquiring new unlocks comes much quicker and more steadily than in previous games. Nearly after every match, I was unlocking something whether it was a paint job a perk, or an attachment. There are so many playstyles available for players and the maps allow them all. Hand back and pick off enemies, set up camp in a sniper position, or run around with a shield and shotgun like a lunatic, it’s all up to you. The Killstreaks and Perks are back to basic with UAVs, Cluster Strikes, and Apache helicopters raining havoc down including white phosphorus and the new Juggernaut armored suit. It’s a reason to play better and stay alive as the best Killstreaks are for the elite players who are the best. The game can also seem frustrating at first as you will die a lot and not get any kills when you first start out. Modern Warfare has a special feel to it that every player needs to get down. Learn the maps, every nook, and corner, learn the shortcuts, and how the flow of each map is laid out. That is key.
Speaking of maps the launch maps are rather generic. While they aren’t designed poorly they just aren’t that interesting with just an overall generic feeling to them. While more maps are to come the 10 maps included just don’t feel as memorable as previous games. With a few maps being specific to Ground War which is an all-out huge battle to take over choke points, the smaller maps just leave too much room for campers with blind corners and easy to hide in pockets. Overall, they’re still fun and I don’t have any other complaints about multiplayer than the map quality. I do enjoy the new cross-play feature which is a first for Call of duty. PC, Xbox, and PlayStation players can play together with symbols indicating what system and device the players are using in the lobby before a match starts. It’s a great way to keep longevity alive as PC activity usually dwindles towards the launch of a new game, but with three combined user bases, the game is sure to stay alive for much longer.
The last thing I want to talk about is the visuals in the game. They are out of this world amazing thanks to a new game engine and implementing RTX Ray Tracing on PC for Nvidia GPU users. The lighting is fantastic, and the engine is so well optimized I’m able to get triple digits frames with RTX on and the graphics maxed out in certain scenes. The textures and models look fantastic and the lighting is just incredible. Running through certain scenes and levels just made my jaw drop and this is easily one of the biggest technical marvels of the year, hands down. However, that is just for PC. I did play this on the original Xbox One console and it looks like garbage with tons of blurring, poor frame rate, and stuttering. I’m sure the PS4 looks the same if now worse, and the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro versions are better performance-wise but don’t hold a candle to the PC version.
Overall, Modern Warfare is one of the best shooters in the last decade and the best in the entire series. It took way too long for the series to get back on track, but it’s here and better than ever. With groundbreaking visuals, an addictive multiplayer suite, and tons of maps to come, there’s not much to not like about this game.