Activision got my letters. After last year’s dismal Call of Duty offering, I thought maybe I was done with the series. I felt that maybe the publisher and its stable of developers had run out of ideas, having taken the franchise into the past, present, future, and even space. But lo and behold, I was wrong, as Infinity Ward has revisited present day conflicts with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and has restored my faith in the franchise from top to bottom.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare isn’t a remake of Call of Duty 4, and it could be seen as more of a soft reboot, or a reimagining. Captain John Price returns, but the star of the game is in the gameplay and the bold decisions the fabled developer made for this year’s edition of the storied franchise. Gone are prestige ranks in MP, and Zombies mode. Instead, more emphasis was placed on fleshing out the amazing campaign with cooperative “spec ops” modes.
Perhaps the biggest change in this year’s game is dedicated servers, allowing for cross-play between the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. There are no longer walls separating players from playing together, and this changes everything.
I’ll break down each mode separately to give you a better idea of what Call of Duty: Modern Warfare offers players this year.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare – Campaign
The campaign in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is easily one of the best in the series — the entire series and not just the Infinity Ward games. Players control one of four different operatives through the 15 chapter story. The narrative bounces from the Middle East, to Russia, to London, and back again, and the action is balls-to-the-wall intense. Like its namesake predecessor, the story even takes detours into the past. But one thing it doesn’t do is get overly political.
The Russians are bad guys. This is nothing new for pop culture war stories. And while some of the history gets shady in areas, including some devastating actions attributed to Russia when in real life, it was the U.S. who created the atrocities, this is a video game and most of the settings are in fictional lands. If you want historical record, pick up a book. If you want to shoot bad guys with cool guns and equipment, you play Call of Duty.
The new game engine that Infinity Ward created for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is amazing. The cinematic cutscenes blend almost seamlessly with the action levels, and I’ve found myself playing and replaying levels just for the experience of it all. This is, by far, the best looking Call of Duty game ever, and I find myself hoping that they build on this for next year’s edition from Sledgehammer Games.
Infinity Ward also removed the fetch quests for intel and other things in a level, so when you play, you can actually focus on the mission and not try to find a piece of intel that might be hiding behind a tree stump. This is a welcome addition (by subtraction) and puts the Call of Duty franchise back on the map in some big ways.
After last year’s Black Ops 4 omitted the campaign entirely, I cannot stress enough how great it was to once again play a run-‘n-gun summer action blockbuster full of explosions, widespread devastation, ham-fisted dick measuring, and some good old fashion shooting. It’s good to be back.
As mentioned, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has removed the prestige questing in the multiplayer mode. There are still fully customizable loadouts and perks, and the collection of guns here is pretty vast and tailored to various play styles. Weapons level up independently from the player, which isn’t new, but it does keep you playing after hitting the soft level cap of 55. After level 55, your levels keep going with Officer Ranks, and you don’t lose your hard earned weapons, killstreaks, and perks. In many ways, this keeps Modern Warfare accessible to all players.
The classes have been separated into two teams and stripped down, so players can choose from a handful of various characters that are unlocked as you play the various game modes and complete missions. I cannot tell you how excited I am to not see robots and veritable superheroes on the battlefield. Winning is based on player skill and not some super skill that gets unlocked because you chose a guy with surgical implants or metal arms. This is Modern Warfare and not a Heinlein novel, and getting back to boots-on-the-ground action has been a thrill that has restored my love of the franchise.
The nine various maps are well thought out, with big, sprawling maps, mid-size locations, and smaller, in-your-face spaces. Each has benefits for the type of player you are. Snipers will find plenty of camping locations, and run and gunners and tactical players can benefit as well. Maps like Piccadilly, which is tiny, forces the action quickly, and still leaves room for strategy and team work.
Bigger maps, like Aniyah Palace, leaves sight lines open for snipers and yet provides the right amount of cover for assault players. These might be some of my favorite maps since the first Black Ops game and each time I play, I seem to find a new hiding spot or an ingress or egress that I hadn’t seen before. It makes hunting that much more fun.
Multiplayer also has various game modes, like NVG, Ground War, and Gunfight. NVG are matches played at night, primarily through night vision goggles (hence, NVG). The limitations of the goggles means you have to switch up your play style. Aiming down the sights is impossible, and you have to use the laser targeting. This creates some interesting skirmishes. NVG uses four of the game’s maps, mostly the smaller and midsize locations.
I freely admit that I get my ass kicked regularly in this mode, but I keep coming back to it, as practice makes perfect — or something like that. NVG is a welcome change of pace from the Team Deathmatch and Domination matches in regular multiplayer, and I applaud Infinity Ward for trying something new.
Ground War is an epic skirmish played on two of the game’s biggest maps. Up to 64 players challenge each other to capture location flags and dominate the other team. Vehicles are also usable to help traverse the large distances. Infinity Ward took a page out of EA’s Battlefield playbook here, and its a nice addition to this franchise. The one downside is that one map takes place in a city setting with many tall buildings.
Most matches in Ground War quickly devolve to sniper duels and the team that wins creates devastating kill zones for the troops on the ground. There is nothing more frustrating in the game than to run all that distance to get into the fight, only to be taken out by a sniper from up high, 300 yards away, only to respawn to do it again. And again.
I’ve found the best way to play Ground War is with a group of friends in a squad — and then to work together. One player can be a spotter, calling out and dealing with sniper nests, while the others clear out areas of enemies on the ground. Teamwork is key, but unless you have a squad of like-minded players, all with mics, it doesn’t work as well. Battlefield V last year put major emphasis on being a team player, and I don’t find that often when playing Call of Duty. It’s a real shame, as Ground War is the perfect breeding ground to grow teamwork and squads, but finding the right team has been a chore.
The exact opposite of Ground War is the 2v2 Gunfight mode. This mode is intentionally designed for quick matches as two teams of two try to kill each other. The rub here is that the game decides your loadout, so you might be stuck with a gun you aren’t familiar with. It creates thinking on the fly, as the seven small locations force players into conflict almost immediately. Most matches take less than a few minutes and Gunfight serves as a welcome reprieve from some of the bigger, more intricate game modes.
I’ve found plenty to enjoy in each of these modes, and have spent the better part of two weeks playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. But as good as the campaign and multiplayer are, there is still one more way to play.
Co-op mode replaces the Zombies games from the previous years. It keeps the same concept: team up with three other players, and work together to carry out the mission or survive. The post-credits scene on the campaign sets the story for the various Spec ops operations in Co-op. Essentially, you and your team are continuing the story by taking on and completing missions. These include dusting HVTs, stealing data, and interrupting various terrorist activities.
While it’s easy to compare this to the Zombies mode, it also borrows heavily from Rainbow Six – Siege. Working together to complete the tasks in each mission — and make it to the end comes with some big rewards, including unlocking new classes for multiplayer and more. The operations in Co-op are not easy and it takes a good team to pull them off. It lengthens Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s story mode by giving players more to do, and upcoming season drops could add new missions, stretching it out even further.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is welcome return to what made the series so popular in the first place. It has a solid, often-time amazing campaign/story mode, tons of new twists and turns in multiplayer, and the Zombies can finally rest, as the Co-op mode actually works to bring the whole game together in one nice package. Unlike last year, this year’s title feels like a complete game, and my playtime totals in two weeks are a good indication that this is a game I will be playing now and in the future.
I get that doing an annual release isn’t easy, and Activision had to bring in three main developers — with help from the amazing devs like Raven Software and High Moon — to keep up with the year-to-year games. With a release schedule like this, it’s very easy to run out of ideas. Infinity Ward fixed that by tapping into their own past to create something new and fresh, and in so doing have created one of the best Call of Duty experiences so far. The game is far from perfect, but this is FPS gaming at its very best, and I’ve had a blast by once again taking my middling skills out into the violent world of online shooters and holding my own.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, above all else, is fun. and it keeps me coming back for more each and every game session. I don’t know when — or if — I will ever get tired of playing it, but I can say for now that I am so glad to be back playing a Call of Duty game, and after a year off, I’m once again singing its praises.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is available now on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game uses dedicated servers for cross-play, so it doesn’t matter which system you use, we’ll see you on the battlefield.
All images courtesy of Activision.
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