Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review – Comfortably Numb

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review

It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Activision and Infinity Ward ever since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was revealed back in May. There was outrage over the rumored use of White Phosphorus and anger over the child soldier’s sections. The internet was also fuming over the Spec Ops mode being made a timed exclusive for PS4 owners and there was some controversy over rumors you would be able to kill unarmed civilians. It seemed as though Modern Warfare just couldn’t escape the heat.

The developers and Activision have done their best absorbing some of the blows. They’ve promised a multiplayer campaign that features crossplay, cross-progression, no lootboxes, no season pass, and a battle pass system with only cosmetic items and boosts. Not to mention, the single-player mode is back. So despite some of the backlash, fans seem jacked about this year’s installment in the Call of Duty franchise. And frankly, they should be.

Promises, Promises

I can confirm Infinity Ward followed through on all their promises. Modern Warfare’s crossplay abilities work as advertised. Progression does indeed carry over from one mode to the next. I didn’t see any lootboxes in the game and it’s great to see the campaign return.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that Modern Warfare did make me feel uncomfortable at times. The overall package is a bit messy and bit too familiar. Yet at the end of the day, we’ve got ourselves another Call of Duty game that manages to stay fresh enough and bring enough new to keep the excitement levels exactly where they need to be.

Infinity Ward has said all along they wanted to make a single-player story that is relatable and reflective of combat in our modern world. The name of the game is Modern Warfare after all, so it’s understandable developers wanted to craft an experience that will stir some emotions. War is messy and sometimes the line is blurred between the good and bad guys. Over the years, I’ve certainly become desensitized to depictions of violence in games and on TV. While Modern Warfare isn’t exactly an HBO series filled with unadulterated sex and gut-churning violence, Modern Warfare does have its share of brutally gruesome moments and scenes that made me uncomfortable at times.

It’s Not So Bad

In saying that, Infinity Ward never crosses the line. The goalposts have moved over the years in what society has deemed appropriate and inappropriate in video games but there were certainly some moments where Infinity Ward could have shown us, for instance, a brutal rape scene or kids murdered on screen. But they didn’t and I am obviously relieved they didn’t. That being said, the single-player does depict scenes of children killing “the bad guys” and the use of chemical weaponry is part of the experience. So expect to be rattled by some of the scenes in the game.

Needless to say, it’s nice to see the single-player mode return. For a while last year I wasn’t sure if it would ever come back given the popularity of the multiplayer modes and how much of a financial cash cow they’ve become. Yet I am relieved it’s back and I was entertained. Sure, the campaign follows that same Call of Duty template we’ve become familiar with; and it’s super short. Modern Warfare clocks in at around 5-6 hours. Even by Call of Duty standards, this is a tad too short.

There are probably many reasons for this but I suspect the new engine may be partially to blame. It is a graphical powerhouse after all and the level design is stunning. There is only so much content Infinity Ward can cram into the game. Regardless, I expected a bit more.

Another knock is that there are no collectibles to be found and very little reason to explore the levels. Previous Call of Duty games features collectibles and a reason to explore every nook and cranny. You don’t get that this time around. Perhaps this is due to the level of realism the development team wanted to maintain. But I can only speculate.

She’s a Beauty Price

Visually, the campaign is a stunner and the cut scenes feature some of the best animations I’ve ever seen in a Call of Duty game. There are times you’ll need to defend a base or snipe enemy at a distance, and it is in these moments you can soak in the scenery. Other times, you need to skirt through the levels at a brisk pace, so you really don’t have the time to appreciate the graphics.

Modern Warfare’s campaign does stay true to the franchise by delivering a mostly linear experience where you’ll move from one objective to another and from one giant set piece to another. You’ll pilot air drones; use your sniper rifle to shred enemies while taking into account wind and distance; help folks escape scary situations by hacking into security cameras; you’ll command a gunship; call airstrikes, and even make dialogue choices. While the variety is appreciated, most of Modern Warfare’s single-player campaign involves gunning down enemies with the assortment of weapons at your disposal. And that is okay. After a year off, this is exactly what I wanted. I don’t need a giant open world time suck. I just want something I can bang out in a day and move onto Multiplayer.

Modern Warfare does have something for everyone. In addition to that single-player romp, there is a brutally difficult spec ops co-op mode, a varied multiplayer mode which includes the new Gunfight mode, classic 6v6, 10v10, night vision maps, and a massive Ground War mode which can accommodate over 60 players. There are 23 multiplayer maps out of the box, which is something I have yet to see in a Call of Duty game. Granted, some of these maps are re-skinned night maps and tiny 2v2 maps, but still, 23 maps is mighty impressive. Even more impressive when you see the size and scale of the Ground War maps. They are gigantic! Plus I should mention there are 5 Spec Ops maps, so it’s understandable why you’ll need to clear up some serious hard drive space for this game.

There is no doubt Call of Duty’s multiplayer mode remains the top priority for the development team and it shows with this year’s offering. The removal of the season pass and making all the current and future maps available to everyone across all platforms is fantastic. While there will be a battle pass (similar to Fortnite), we were told at the Call of Duty review event that items that have a functional purpose will not be behind a paywall. It remains to be seen exactly what kind of microtransactions will be included in the game but I am confident it will be limited to cosmetic items, skills and XP boosts. Stuff that really doesn’t give you an advantage online.

PC Players Licking Their Chops

The crossplay abilities is also going to be a game-changer for the franchise. At the review event, admittedly under the most optimal conditions, I played on PS4 and competed against PC players. I did find PC players tended to perform quite well. I don’t have the stats to back it up, but it sure felt like PC players were kicking my ass. This wasn’t surprising at all.

All the MP modes we have come to enjoy are back and play exactly as you would expect. Gunfight, Modern Warfare’s 2v2 mode, is intense and the matches are super quick. If you are someone like me, who prefers using one weapon while playing online, you’ll struggle in this mode. Yet there is no denying I had a ton of fun playing it. Likewise, the Ground War maps offer up some enjoyable games. Sure, those proficient with sniper rifles seem to dominate and camp at high elevations which is annoying as all hell but the size of the maps are immense. It almost feels like a battle royale map where you can fly helicopters, drive tanks, and ATV’s.

Much like 2v2, the Spec Ops mode is intense and requires a certain skill set. In other words, you need to be good at Call of Duty. And be able to communicate effectively as a team. I was caught off guard at how hard the mode was. It’s punishing! Typically, Call of Duty co-op modes have a progression system and slowly ramp up the difficulty as you move along. This is not the case in Spec Ops. With each map, it isn’t long before you are completely surrounded by enemies and struggling to stay alive. Playing as a team and having the right weapon loadout is critical as we found out the hard way.

Now I can appreciate what the developers attempted to accomplish with Spec Ops. They want a mode that isn’t a breeze and something with replayability, but the randomness of the enemy spawns was a tad infuriating. It felt like there no rhyme or reason when it came to the spawns. They came at you from 360 degrees and it just seemed silly at times. The objectives themselves are pretty basic and essentially involve running from one objective to another. It’s really all about hustling, surviving and watching each other’s back. Go in without a strategy, like we did, and you’ll get crushed like a grape.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare does everything fans of the franchise could ever want. You get the triumphant return of the single-player campaign; crossplay that actually works; maps and weapons available to everyone; and a robust multiplayer experience packed with over 25 maps (including Spec Ops maps) out of the box. Modern Warfare isn’t the best Call of Duty game in the franchise as the single-player and Spec Ops modes fall a little short. Yet, at the very least it pushes the series back in the right direction and fans should be plenty satisfied with what Infinity Ward has brought to the table this year.

***Modern Warfare was reviewed on PS4. Travel and accommodations for the review event was provided by Activision***

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