Developer Infinity Ward‘s reboot takes what made the franchise interesting with the original series while changing enough to make it feel fresh in 2019.
This isn’t a simple rehash of earlier Modern Warfare games, either. Where 2007’s release was, by and large, a tale of good versus evil in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, today’s Modern Warfare is one that deals with the aftermath of such conflicts, inspired by the situation in Syria and the rise of extremist factions like the Islamic State.
It wants to show that global conflict isn’t black and white, kicking off with a terror attack in Central London and going on to discuss the price of fighting for one’s freedom and what lines they are willing to cross in that pursuit.
Infinity Ward goes to some incredibly dark places with Modern Warfare’s storytelling. Get ready to see suicide bombers, public executions, chemical warfare, child soldiers and various grim methods of torture – including a playable section where you are waterboarded.
The game zig-zags dramatically across the line between thoughtful storytelling and gratuitous shock value but rarely stops long enough on anything to really discuss what is happening in any meaningful way. There is also a surprisingly genuine emotional through-line to the story, however, carried by freedom fighter and the story’s protagonist, Farah Karim.
in terms of gameplay, the seven-hour 14-chapter-long story campaign sees playable characters, mostly Sergeant Kyle Garrick of the SAS and the CIA’s Alex – just Alex – in the typical Call of Duty blend of shooting sections mixed with periodic new mechanics like piloting UAVs and RC planes.
“The game zig-zags dramatically across the line between thoughtful storytelling and gratuitous shock value but rarely stops long enough on anything to really discuss what is happening in any meaningful way.”
Though there are some impressive large-scale moments, high points include some of the slower infiltration missions, such as one early chapter that sees you as part of a squad sneaking through a house in London’s Camden in the dark, taking out bad guys while making sure you spare civilians. It’s tense, quiet and atmospheric, showing the main characters to be smooth, intelligent and capable operators rather than gun-wielding action heroes.
Meanwhile, multiplayer is a mix of the intense action and killstreaks Call of Duty is known for, with some changes that serve to keep it fresh. Favourites Team Deathmatch, Domination and Headquarters return and are as smooth to play as ever, with slightly slower gunplay featured across the board. This mixes COD’s trademark speed with moments that feel more like Rainbow Six: Siege, which no doubt will make for some interesting matches in the upcoming Call of Duty League esports tournament.
This mix of old and new is most apparent in the two-versus-two Gunfight mode which sees duos brawling across small maps in short rounds with changing weapon loadouts. It’s tense, fast and captures the feeling of that final circle in a battle royale game.
Other new additions are somewhat larger in scale. Ground War has two teams of 32 brawling across sizeable matches featuring helicopters and armoured. It’s a definite shot at rival shooter giant Battlefield, which has always led in this more sprawling and chaotic brand of multiplayer.
Then there’s Realism, which lowers time-to-die and removes the HUD, encouraging patient play, while NVG features dark versions of regular maps. This is certainly a twist that adds some variety into multiplayer, it doesn’t feel as fleshed out enough to be one of its most popular modes. Meanwhile, Search and Destroy has been replaced with Cyber Attack, taking much of its predecessor’s DNA with the ability to revive team mates who have fallen introducing a tactical element to proceedings.
“This mix of old and new is most apparent in the two-versus-two Gunfight mode… It’s tense, fast and captures the feeling of that final circle in a battle royale game.”
Then there’s Spec Ops, which returns from Modern Warfare 2, tasking two four-player teams with completing a series of objectives in a small-scale open world and taking on waves of NPCs. There are some grand and epic moments here, but the enemy AI often feels like it has an advantage over players, appearing out of thin air and destroying your team.
While it’s not perfect, the changes made to Modern Warfare’s multiplayer core make it sharp and feel incredibly fresh with any frustrations likely being fixable with further updates to the game.
Overall, Modern Warfare feels like the first page in a brand new chapter for Call of Duty. Infinity Ward hasn’t been afraid to take risks, both with its gritty world and storytelling or the tweaks made to its gameplay in both the single player and competitive modes. These new additions don’t always land as perfectly as it feels they were intended, but there’s no denying this is the freshest the series has felt for some time.
Modern Warfare feels like the first page in a brand new chapter for Call of Duty.
- Tweaked gunplay that shines in multiplayer
- Usual COD gameplay variety keeps things fresh
- Excellent campaign moments
- Story often veers into shallow shock value
- Killstreaks can still feel cheap