Another year and another entry in the Call of Duty franchise is released, and Infinity Ward has done a lot to make sure that people can't just say that its the same as last year's Black Ops 4. This year's addition to Call of Duty is a reboot of the popular Modern Warfare series, following in the footsteps of God of War and naming the reboot the same as the first title, which is not annoying at all. Nevertheless, the reboot of the Call of Duty's most critically and financially successful sub-series isn't just for some easy marketing and hype; Infinity Ward really put a ton of effort into this reboot, and it shows. From an updated engine to modernized gameplay (see what I did there), along with a compelling story, Infinity Ward is making it hard to say it's the same old Call of Duty.
(Slightly) Slower is better in Modern Warfare
The biggest change to this year’s Call of Duty is that this is the first game in the series since Call of Duty 2 to not run on the IW engine, with the exception of Call of Duty 3, which ran on Treyarch NGL. This year, Infinity Ward created a whole new engine to offer better graphics, tighter gameplay and better overall performance. The game maintains the arcadey style of older Call of Duty games, but it has been slowed down to allow for more tactical gameplay. This game does tend to favor a more positional strategy-based style of play slightly more than the old run-and-gun style of previous Call of Duty.
There have been a lot of small gameplay additions, as well. You can now mount your gun on a ledge or around a corner. This gives you the ability to check areas for enemies and have a more stable and safe area to fire from. Doors can now be opened and closed as well, with the option of bashing in a door using a melee strike or just plain running or walking through it. There are now two types of sprinting: standard and tactical. Aiming down the sight feels a bit slower from what I remember from Black Ops 4, but this could also just be the loadout I use.
I also find that the slower game speed has hit the quickscoping community hard, as you tend not to find a lot of them online. Most of the weapons feel powerful and are fun to use, with the exception of the marksman rifles that feels really out of place. They just seem very old-timey (because they are basically 5-round muskets) and seem to be for players who want sniper rifles without scopes attached to them. The problem is they don’t have the best range for that and really hamper your character's mobility, so I understand why I barely ever see them online.
A Return to Form for the Campaign (Spoiler Free!)
Being the reboot of the series, naturally, the campaign makes it so that the events of the original Modern Warfare timeline never happened. The campaign sees the return of series'
The story itself largely takes place within the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Urzikstan, which has been taken over by Russian general Roman Barkov, the game’s main antagonist. Other parts of the story take place in England, Georgia (the country, not state), and Russia. The story largely revolves around the rebels in Urzikstan trying to free their country from the tyrannical rule of Barkov, and like every Call of Duty, it has its share of shock moments that are supposed to make you question the side you’re on.
None of these moments get close to the level of shock and gruesomeness that happened in Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian mission, and there never will be again probably. Yet, in terms of volume, there are a lot more of these intense and gritty moments, although they never hit too hard. I’m not going to get specific, as that would lead to some spoilers, but there are scenes of domestic terrorism and child soldiers that are pretty shaking, as well as scenes of brutal chlorine gas attacks.
All in all, the campaign lasts around six hours when I was playing on regular difficulty, and I really liked the story in this game, although it had a somewhat lackluster ending. It just kind of ends on a not-so-good mission that I thought would lead to something else, but then credits just started rolling. But still, it had great chapters, some intense set pieces, and new styles of missions that we haven’t seen from other Call of Duty titles.
Adapt to Survive in Multiplayer
Now for the meat and potatoes of every Call of Duty: the multiplayer. With the previously mentioned changes to gameplay and the new engine, how does this change the experience of online play? As mentioned before, it's slower-paced in a good way, since people aren’t running around everywhere trying to melee. It now requires two shots to kill with melee, like in Black Ops 4, and checking corners has become more prevalent.
In terms of game modes, the classics, including Team Deathmatch, Domination, Headquarters and more are all there, with Hardpoint being patched in at a future date. New modes have also been added, one of those being Cyber Attack, where you have to retrieve an EMP device in the center of the map and plant it on the opposing team's datacenter to destroy it. If they retrieve the EMP first, you have to defend your own datacenter. The first team to claim eight rounds wins.
Another new mode, Gun Fight, is a 2v2 game type, set in small map locations where you must eliminate the enemy team with pre-selected loadouts. The first team to win six rounds wins the match. This is definitely a fun and competitive mode, but play it with a friend, because in about half of my matches, someone leaves and it either becomes boring or infuriating depending on which team the person who left is on.
Ground War has been tweaked for this game as well, becoming a massive Battlefield-esque mode that leads to a giant game of domination. Seriously, they took some inspiration from the Battlefield with this one, featuring five control points and squads you can spawn on, as well as two huge maps to be played on and vehicles to help traverse the landscape.
You are also able to select your character model for multiplayer’s two factions, those being the Coalition and the Allegiance. Each faction has its own unique operators which can be unlocked by completing various challenges. The choice doesn’t affect gameplay and the operators are just cosmetic and vocal changes. The ability to choose how you look in multiplayer is nice, and the characters have good designs on both teams. The problem comes when they say things like "enemy spotted" even though you can’t actually see the enemy, because the line triggers when the person's foot is in view for a second or something similarly impossible to see unless you’re a hawk.
The biggest gripe I have with multiplayer is the map design because it really wants you to set up camp and never leave it. Seriously, the map design in Modern Warfare, or at least the maps in their current state, clash with the game design that seems to want us to move around. The maps have a lot of small, open windows and corners that allow campers to set up their tent, fireplace, and claymore and never move for most of the match, which is counterintuitive. I don’t think that this inherently has to do with the move from the three-lane map design philosophy Call of Duty has had for many years, but this is definitely not the style to replace it.
For cooperative offerings, Spec Ops mode is back, and it's been rebooted in its own little way. The classic style of Spec Ops from previous Modern Warfare titles returns as well, as Classical Spec Ops, which is honestly just a lot better than the new version of the mode they made. The new Spec Ops style has potential, but where it suffers is in its execution, and honestly, its faith in its audience. I say this because the newer Spec Ops missions want players to take a stealthy approach, at least for the first stage. However, if you're trying to play with randoms, you’re gonna have a bad time, because without fail someones going to run in and try to shoot up everyone and set off the alarm. This causes endless waves of enemies to attack you, and they never stop respawning so you don’t get a chance to breathe.
All in All
This reboot to the franchise has its missteps, but they’re due to the developers trying to do something new with a title that people have been saying has been stale for years. Honestly, I feel like they succeeded and kept the spirit of the game, while also changing it up just enough to make it fresh and interesting. I for sure recommend this game if you’re a shooter fan or someone who fell off from the Call of Duty series a while ago like me.
Matt reviewed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PC with a personally purchased copy. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.