Call of Duty: Modern Warfare aims to be one of the strongest entries in the franchise since the 2007 release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but it makes us wonder if the latest entry can reintroduce an already well-established saga once again. So, let’s find out with our official review for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
+Audiovisiual designs are probably some of the best in the franchise
+The pick-10 and pick-13 system has replaced for a more user-friendly system
+Ground War is back and delivers one of the most chaotic experiences yet
+Spec Ops offers a challenging post-campaign experience that is an absolute blast
+The story does not hold back its punches and delivers some powerful blows
-Minor sprint bug that causes characters to randomly pause or not sprint at all
-Spec Ops is absolutely locked behind a console exclusivity period for PlayStation 4
My most critical moment with the Call of Duty series wasn’t the invasions of Stalingrad, storming the beaches of Normandy, nor were they the defining moments of taking on sniper versus sniper combat. Instead, they began with 2009’s entry Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
I wasn’t ready for what I was about to witness in the mission titled “No Russian” where players are led through a massacre in an airport. They’re responsible for assisting in the gunning down of dozens upon dozens of innocent people in that airport. While under deep cover, you hold steady to your enemies’ cause, hosing down an entire airport full of people attempting to keep them from becoming suspicious of your actions and affiliations.
Now, here we are, ten years later, and ten installments later, each one coming with their own violent acts, some used to perpetuate the evils of our world while others just give the villains unrealistic motivation. Before we talk about that though, I need to warn you. Our review WILL contain spoilers – it will discuss some of the more altruistic natures of some of the characters you will encounter, but also the growth of others in a well-deserved fashion.
With that being said, we’re going dark for this review, so let’s get those goggles down, check your gear, and prepare to deploy.
A look at how the series had fallen from the narrative grace we had known it for
For years, I complained about many of the franchise’s shortcomings. I complained about microtransactions, I raised Hell about the pacing of the series for modern-age gamers, many of the features only having existed thanks to Titanfall some years ago. One of the few times I felt that many of the community concerns had been heard came in the shape of Call of Duty: Ghosts, while troubled, was a true return-to-form for its time.
While it didn’t do near as good as others, the pacing was brought down a bit, forcing players to think tactically instead of running and gunning their way through entire teams on a map. It even delivered a non-zombie like an experience, which again, was very short-lived.
Fast forward several titles later and zombies were splashed all over the advertisements and the artwork. The stories became lacking, not really delivering a heavy-hitting blow, no matter how bad we wanted top-of-the-line actors including Peter Weller as the antagonist in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.
Skip forward another few installments and it seemed that the Call of Duty empire had begun to crumble, a few cracks in the wall was all it took, and the games just became a form of unintelligible carnage due to its pinpointed focus on multiplayer gameplay. Call of Duty: Black Ops IV would further emphasize this, removing a campaign altogether, only to slightly spoonfeed players one through its operator missions.
From there, it looked as if Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would fall victim to this emphasis once again, pushing a well-written campaign onto the backburner, and again, focus on multiplayer elements. Except, here we are, we’re about to talk about the rebirth of the series thanks to our latest installment.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is dark, it’s gritty, and it gives a true look at the horrors of war
In many ways, I’m surprised by Infinity Ward. They have scaled back on explosive thrill rides, set pieces that look like something ripped from a Michael Bay flick and have opted to not have us stop World War 3 once again. Instead, Modern Warfare is toned down in that aspect, focusing on the human side of the war, the costs it brings with it, and having players think of something a bit more critical than they had before.
In this one, we’re introduced to an entirely new story, one built upon foundations of real-world events, but in a completely fictional setting, the country of Urzikstan. As you might imagine, the game focuses heavily upon the events that occur, but from multiple angles, following members of Price’s team including Kyle Garrick, Alex (do we expect the last name from CIA characters anymore?), Farrah, and her brother Hadir.
Unlock many of the franchises past characters, these characters are well-rounded characters, each one has a sense of depth to them, each one has a form of growth that is unprecedented for most modern-military shooters. However, don’t let this give you the idea that you’ll get a story as deep as Metro Exodus or Fallout, it won’t happen, but the characters are more human than you can imagine.
Farah, however, is unmistakably the protagonist of the game, the others are just along for the ride. Everything she goes through or has gone through and every decision she makes helps drive the story forward. Don’t expect there not to be tons of military jargon, satellite images detailing events as they unfold, or familiar faces to not be a larger picture of a much larger war than there already is.
The game is a geopolitical match of chess, one where the CIA, SAS, Russians, and the fictional Al-Qatala are constantly making moves against one another. Their war, if you will, is essentially a revenge thriller that turns the dial from a five to an eleven using military backdrops as its platform. You’ll find missions like “Clean House” turn incidents like Benghazi into a virtual situation, one where the movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi plays out, but with you as a member of the forces driving back the Al-Qatali forces.
It’s not a small mission either, nor is the summary as to why moments like that build up as they do. It doesn’t stop there though, missions do throw us into the past, showing us the motives and reasons behind some of the characters we encounter. One such mission is Farrah as a child who watches as her loved ones die, her village is gassed by chemical weapons, and she takes the steps needed in order to become the fierce warrior she is.
It’s grizzly, it’s realistic, and unforgiving when you think about it, walking through a village as a little kid, watching those around you that didn’t suffocate from the gas being gunned down just for who they are while the Russian’s (why is it always the Russian’s?), only to kill a soldier as a child.
The grizzly reality of war isn’t unbeknownst to Call of Duty as a franchise
But it isn’t just Farrah’s childhood you get to see the grizzly scenes of the game. In the opening hour, you partake in the “Clean House” mission, where you go dark, night vision goggles on, and anyone that isn’t SAS is more than likely a target you will end up gunning down. You’ll work room to room in the London home that is occupied by an Al-Qatali sleeper cell and a possible housing of chemical weapons that have gone missing.
The mission is slow, cramped, but it’s a nerve-wracking experience honestly. Imagine a place where enemy forces are around every corner even as you slowly push a door slowly open, aim through windows and creep about the hallways, you could accidentally kill a child if you didn’t take the proper precautions. Trust me, I did, and my breaching the door was an instant mission failure.
It doesn’t stop there though, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare isn’t shy about harsh realities, and in one of the middle-game missions, you will see innocent men, women, and children become casualties of war. If it’s a dark setting you want, look no further, in its 9-12 hour campaign on Veteran, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare doesn’t miss its mark and it left me wanting more of Farrah’s adventures as a freedom fighter.
On a PlayStation 4 Pro, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is marvelous and an absolute audiovisual treat
Unlike many reviews, mine won’t be a 4K extravaganza using an Xbox One X or a PC running some of today’s latest tech. Trust me, if I could, I would have in a heartbeat. That aside, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is an absolute treat. It boasts some of the best graphics the franchise has ever seen while sitting at 1080p at 60fps and running smoothly at 60fps using Dynamic Resolution Scaling in 4K, meaning you may not see 4K your entire time.
With a 1TB 7200RPM HDD, the load times aren’t near as bad as one might expect. Generally, load times average between 30-40 seconds for almost every aspect of the game, while it seems insane, it’s not near as bad as it could be. Truth be told, I was expecting an average of 2-3 minutes per load screen.
However, we’ve run into a few minor issues regarding movement bugs and small texture load-ins. They’re minor things that can be overlooked, but it’s hard not to make note of them, or discuss them when critiquing a game from one of the most popular franchises around the world.
Even missions like “Going Dark” can represent some of the issues that there can arise when guiding characters through nonlinear mission objectives. You’ll find that it works, that they are bold in trying new territory without making their new creative developments a gimmick versus a meaningful part of the campaign.
Ready up folks, it’s time to dust off those knickers and get your boots on the ground – Let’s talk gameplay
Much as you would expect for a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the game stays true to its predecessor entries. The gameplay is pristine, each weapon feels unique and comes with their very own levels. Some even having legendary blueprints you can earn simply by playing the game itself.
Weapons such as the M4A1 Carbine, the FR 5.56 (FAMAS), and the EBR-14 all make beautiful returns, each one feeling just as lethal as the other. They all play differently though. The FR 5.56 is a three-round burst rifle that works as a makeshift marksman rifle, but even more so, it’s more lethal at medium ranges where you can ensure that all three rounds make contact with your target.
The EBR-14 is one of the best marksman rifles in the game as its a nice nod towards rifles such as the MK14. Utility pieces such as the Riot Shield do make a return and will require some critical thinking when facing down against a player that is wielding one. Another nice change is the perk system, which sees some of the previous combinations of perks players used ineffective due to how some of them have been rearranged.
Unlockables work just as they did before, you’ll be assigned specific tasks such as leveling up, getting x-amount of headshots, frags while crouching, or even using specific attachments. It really hasn’t changed, but luckily for us, there won’t be any resetting due to a prestige system this time around.
Those of you looking at just the Player vs Player aspect won’t be disappointed, there’s a handful of options at your disposal, which for a change, isn’t disappointing. Lobbies are never empty no matter the mode you opt into since cross-play is fully functional, however, there is currently a bug not importing PlayStation 4 friendslists at the time of this review.
The Spec Ops mode shouldn’t be platform exclusive as it does have story elements tied to it
One of the biggest parts of this game isn’t just the Spec Ops mode being locked behind console exclusivity. To be honest, it’s one of the grossest things about games such as this. Spec Ops aren’t just filler, but rather, a continuation of where the story left off, giving players much more to look forward to as their story begins to build-up to where we want it, giving us a chance to go further than before.
The downside, this is only for PlayStation 4 players, and these missions are some of the best coop missions one can play. They aren’t short and they take on multiple situations including eliminating enemy leaders, getting their intel, eliminating jammers while taking on enemy vehicles including tanks, helicopters, and even juggernauts.
The missions aren’t simple, they aren’t easy, and they do put a squad’s skills to the test. You’ll need different specializations including medics, demolitionists, and so on. Each one comes with their own unique capabilities including an incendiary grenade launcher, an instant revive, and even an armor kit.
Unfortunately, the one-year exclusivity is an issue and it detracts from the overall experience for fans on PC and Xbox One. It’s an age-old tradition that needs to die, especially with games going cross-platform anymore. They need to be welcoming to the idea that there are other platforms, that fans will want to play the mode and that their locking it behind a platform is the literal definition of insanity.
Ground War is back and it’s bigger and better than ever
After having been absent from the series for quite some time, Ground War is back, making it one of the biggest and most ambitious modes to date. Fans of Call of Duty: World at War and Call of Duty IV: Black Ops – Battle Royale, you aren’t missing out on not having a battle royale mode what-so-ever. This mode isn’t for the faint of heart as it is a massive mode, and it pushes players’ skills to the limits.
You will find yourself working against another team, a 64 player mode, which resembles Conquest from any Battlefield title ever. It’s fun, it’s insane, and it’s one of those modes you can’t help but love. It’s a massive Domination mode that sees your skills put to the test. Want to speed up the mode altogether? Capture as many flags as you can. Want to save your killstreaks to dominate a location? Do that as well.
Just don’t expect killstreaks to add up towards your next one – it doesn’t work anymore. It’s purely based on your skill now. The more frags you wrack up against the enemy team, the quicker you get your killstreak, and in Ground War, they make all the difference against enemy tanks, helicopters, and APCs.
Ammo and equipment restock placements that are commonplace, allowing teams to work together more efficiently at critical points on the map. Each one is easy to access if your team can clear out the room, hold the area, and ensure that encroaching enemies don’t push your team out.
It’s exciting, it’s fun, but it can be quite annoying once enemies lock down each and every point, pushing your team back into the spawn. You’ll really have to experience it yourself, it’s fun, difficult, and the challenge that comes with it will force you to pay attention to your surroundings.
There are a couple of new features worth mentioning including Night Mode maps and Cyber Attack
If you put your basic modes aside, there are a couple of new features to mention outside of Spec Ops and Ground War. These two new features are night Mode maps, which tie into Team Death Match itself, and Cyber Attack, a modified version of Search and Destroy.
The prior is a unique take on the game we know, forcing players to adjust to night time missions, each one requiring players to focus on their surroundings, to communicate, and to be sure of their aiming before they find a location to lockdown. Enemies, just like in the campaign, can track your laser sights, making you easy to make out, but also doing the same for them.
The biggest addition is Cyber Attack, which feels and plays a lot like Search and Destroy, but with the ability to revive downed teammates while playing tug-o-war over a device to hack the enemy data center. It’s an exciting mode that will push both teams to their limits, communication will take precedence (as usual), helping drive your team to an easily obtained victory.
If that’s not the mode for you, it is worth noting that there are dailies to complete that come with various rewards including identity emblems for you to obtain. There are even nifty little throwback modes including Gun Game, Domination, Search and Destroy, Team Death Match, and the 40-player TDM as well as Domination modes to choose from.
The Conclusion – Going Dark
While there are minor bugs, such as a sprint bug that crops up rather often, an 8-12 hour campaign on Veteran, and a platform-locked mode, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is almost everything you’d hope for in a title that serves as a soft-reboot of an already established saga.
For what it’s worth, however, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is also the franchises saving grace, forgoing all future paid DLC and opting for a battle pass feature that will arrive at a later date, makes this title a bold move for Activision and their development teams.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Infinity Ward, Raven Software, Beenox, and High Moon Studios
Release Date: Available Now
To be quite frank, this is the Call of Duty I’ve been waiting for – for quite some time. It’s just troubling it took them this long to get it sent our way and even longer for them to listen to the vocal crowd of gamers who grew tired of microtransactions being a focal selling point of a game. Fortunately, we finally got it and if this is what the future of Call of Duty looks like, they’ve won me back.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was purchased by the reviewer for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.