“War …War never changes”. That line is synonymous with the Fallout franchise as a representation of the unchanging nature of humanity. “War never changes” is also representative of the Call of Duty franchise. Every year for the last twelve years we’ve gotten a new entry in the Call of Duty lineup. Eventually the franchise that was innovative was reduced to iterations instead of grand sweeping changes. This year’s Call of Duty is no different, instead of grand sweeping changes, Modern Warfare goes back to basics. For people that love Call of Duty for its thrilling moment to moment gameplay, you’ll find everything you’re looking for and more in this package. However, if you want a revolutionary first person shooter experience that shakes things up like Doom 2016, you’ll have to look elsewhere. You should also look elsewhere if you’re squeamish, because atrocities are committed on a consistent basis during the campaign and if you don’t have the ability to handle seeing tragic events unfold, this isn’t the game for you.
Call of Duty’s gameplay is just as good as it’s ever been, if not better. Time to kill is lightning quick, guns are instantly responsive and deadly, equipment feels meaningful and continued play gives you a sense of skill progression that’s almost unmatched in other games. Shooting feels excellent regardless of what weapon you choose to fire and there are a plethora of them. Single shot, burst shot and full auto variants alike, no two weapons feel the same. Pistols function completely differently than SMGs in terms of firing pattern, recoil direction and control, aim assist and general accuracy. Each class of weapon has their own system of benefits and their own drawbacks. It’s up to the player to decide what to play with and how.
Call of Duty’s gunplay is simple to pick up and learn but difficult to master because of these intricacies. Taking advantage of drones, helicopters and vehicles like ATVs is also a seamless, intuitive experience. Input lag is non existent, and the game runs at a consistent 60 frames per second regardless of platform which leaves the moment to moment gameplay feeling frantic. However Modern Warfare decided to change things up this year in terms of its campaign. Typically Call of Duty campaigns are the summer blockbuster/popcorn flick of the gaming world. A solid four to six hours, sometimes eight depending on the difficulty level of mindless fun where you destroy everything in sight.
There are moments of absolute carnage and pandemonium, however Modern Warfare decided to go with slower paced, more methodical gameplay for a significant chunk of the campaign. Instead of raucous action set pieces happening every other minute, you breach and clear homes, factories and tight indoor spaces. Instead of mowing down every enemy in sight with a shotgun and a machine gun, you take out targets one at a time with a single silenced round. Instead of knocking on the door so loud even the dead can hear you, you and your team are as quiet as ghosts. This gameplay change is extremely welcome, especially on the first playthrough for a Call of Duty veteran like myself. The variety in gameplay is refreshing and requires you to think in ways you normally wouldn’t when you’re running and gunning.
There isn’t much that needs to be said about Modern Warfare graphically, it’s a gorgeous game. Probably one of the best looking games of this generation, especially if you play on PC. On console the game is stunning, but on PC you get to run at a native 4k with Nvidia’s RTX ray tracing enabled so long as your computer can handle it. All of the added features leads to more detail, which in turn leads to a more beautiful game.
Unfortunately, unlike previous Call of Duty games which had a myriad of collectibles and hidden items, Modern Warfare does not.
Modern Warfare’s story is an incoherent mess. It’s serviceable enough to move the plot from the beginning to the conclusion and give you a reason for taking part in conflicts but it’s nothing special. The writing is often ham fisted and tries far too hard to be both relatable and gritty at the same time. Characters feel like imitations of real people that just never got their own opportunity to shine. Even the titular Captain Price that many a shooter fan, myself included love feels like he’s just there to funnel things along. The story isn’t bad by any means, but Call of Duty as a whole, and Infinity War in particular have done better.
The sound design in Call of Duty is so excellent it’s horrifying. I mentioned earlier that graphically things were stunning and you could use shadows to detect the location of enemy players and get the drop on them. You can do the same with audio. Each gun sounds different when it’s fired, every character sounds different when they breathe, when they run, when they slide. Through and through the audio of this game is absolutely fantastic, the silenced shots of a single shot rifle feel satisfying due to the crunch and thud of the audio. Just like the explosion generated when you fire an RPG at a helicopter only to have it land center mass is an experience that needs to be heard to be believed. You can hear the enemy screaming, you can hear the metal warping as the shell penetrates the hull of the helicopter. You can hear the crashing of falling debris, you can hear everything, and as a gamer, there are few gifts that could be greater.
Musically speaking, Modern Warfare is wonderful. You’ve got synthetic tracks that fit the atmosphere and the mood of the scenes where you’re planning an attack. You’ve got sweeping orchestral pieces that ramp up during moments of tension like large scale firefights, and everything in between. However I’m most impressed by the quiet moments, the moments when the game lets you go without. No booming orchestral score, no synth beats, no drums, no snare, nothing. Just the sounds of the game world. Infinity Ward absolutely nailed the atmospheric design of Modern Warfare thanks to their audio department.
Difficulty Scaling and Replayability
I tend to play on higher difficulties because I’m a trophy hunter and higher difficulties reward more PSN trophies. Higher difficulty levels can be a bit of contention in the online community, some say they’re too hard, others say they’re not hard enough. I find myself in the middle, realizing that things could get worse and that I struggled mightily. However each mission and level is beatable with the right tactics.
What else is in the package?
Modern Warfare also comes with two alternate modes of play, one being multiplayer, and the other being Spec Ops, something we haven’t seen since Modern Warfare 2 and each of them deserves their own section to be described properly.
Multiplayer is the same fast and frenetic action that Call of Duty is known for without the distractions of yesteryear. There are no jetpacks, no health pickups and no parkour systems to wrap your head around here. No sliding and vaulting over cover to try and get an advantage over enemies. No powered exoskeletons. The only things on the battlefield are you, your weapons, your teammates, and your enemies. Going back to basics is arguably the best thing Call of Duty could have done. The simplicity of its multiplayer is what has drawn million to the franchise every year since ‘07, changing the formula inevitably lost people along the way.
Gunplay is snappy and responsive as mentioned earlier, time to kill values are short and each weapon, perk and ability feels powerful and impactful. When I get dropped in multiplayer, I don’t get upset, I understand it was my fault. I took a bad angle, I wasn’t using my weapon at the proper range, I wasn’t using my perks and attachments correctly. I engaged with bad positioning, the list goes on and on. Call of Duty feels fair and balanced in a way it hasn’t in years, and that’s a good thing. The game launches with 23 different maps that are spread across its various multiplayer modes, some even doubling for Spec-Ops content.
Each one is expertly designed with vantage points, counterpoints, contestable points, chokeholds and more. Learning the maps in multiplayer is just as key as learning your weapons and special abilities. Even simple tweaks to the game like having the option to open a door or bash it in give you the ability to choose how you engage your enemy. Mounting your weapon allows you to be active in combat while remaining in cover and defending a choke point.The players that take the time to study will be the ones that make it to a high level of skill and competition.
All post launch downloadable content will be available for all platforms simultaneously for free. Special attention should be paid to the brilliant addition of a 2v2 multiplayer mode called gunfight which is some absolutely wicked fun with and without team coordination. Gunfight can be played in one of two ways, with random weapons being given to you at the start of every match, or on site procurement, where you have to find weapons and ammo littered throughout the map. Each game mode has its own twists and unique flavor to it that makes it exciting. Overall Call of Duty’s multiplayer is extremely strong this year whether you want to play for five minutes or five hundred hours.
Spec ops has a variety of content on offer. Operations are large scale assault missions that are available for four players to tackle simultaneously and team work is a must. Enemies come at you from all angles using flanking routes and actual tactics to pin you and your teammates down. The maps are large and extremely open, reminding you of something you’d see in a Battlefield game, providing depth and tactical options and opportunities to the proceedings.
Spec Ops Operations are good fun with some friends or a coordinated team but not so much if you’re playing by yourself with little to no communication. Survival mode is a Call of Duty based horde mode presumably intended to take the place of Zombies. However without the lore and addictive gameplay loop of Zombies, survival falls flat, it’s fun for a little while but there’s better content on offer in the package, and it’s a PS4 exclusive until the fall of 2020, when the new Call of Duty will release.
Overall I’d have to say Call of Duty and its value depend on you as a gamer. There is a wide berth of content to take advantage of and if you’re so inclined, you can have a wonderful time going from single player to multi-player to Spec Ops. However if you’re a solo gamer like myself only interested in the campaign, you could end up being disappointed depending on what you’re after. There are some wonderful tweaks to the game, but they’re not enough to keep me coming back. However for someone that enjoys multiplayer action and coordinating with a team, Modern Warfare offers an experience that few other games do.