Call of Duty: Modern Warfare cranks up the nostalgia meter and arrives just in the nick of time to breathe new life into a waning franchise in its 16th year.
If, like me, you were becoming sick to the back teeth of exosuits, wall running, and implausibly farfetched narratives that have plagued Call Of Duty in recent years, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief upon completing your first few missions of Modern Warfare’s grounded and unflinching reboot.
Call of Duty has never shied away from controversy. In many ways, it has become an integral component of the shooter’s design since its very inception, and Infinity Ward have had no trepidations about reviving their brutal and unforgiving vision of geopolitical warfare for this latest outing.
Modern Warfare is a thorough return to form, bringing the series full circle while still providing something fresh. It’s multiplayer adopts a new angle to a well-tried formula, and the series is all the better for it.
Over its eight hour runtime, Modern Warfare’s campaign pits you at the hub of a civil war in a fictitious Middle Eastern country called Urzikstan, only occasionally offering real world locations such as London’s bustling West End, the outskirts of Verdansk, and the once tranquil streets of Saint Petersburg.
The story here is every bit the bombastic blockbuster portrayed in the trailers and, unless you’re rushing through the game on veteran difficulty level for mandatory achievements/trophies, succeeds at creating an intense, purpose-driven experience. The gunplay is as crisp, weighty, and authentic as we’ve seen from the franchise, and draws comparisons to Rainbow Six’s methodical, trigger squeezing level design.
It’s not all been a completely hitch-free launch though. Activision and Infinity Ward have come under scrutiny for what, at certain points, feels like a tasteless gamification of real-life war crimes. But to give them some leeway, it was always going to be a struggle pulling off a controversial and affecting story akin to the series’ last-gen titles in 2019. I personally think the studio’s constant emphasis on ‘authenticity’ in pe-launch promotions set them up to fall here.
The campaign was intended to ‘reflect the world that we live in’, but it fails in its attempts to hold a mirror up to the modern military machine or engage with the real politics that fuel its rifle-wielding protagonists. In reality it’s a little too serious and contrived. Instead, the game needs to be taken at face value. What we have is a tightly scripted, emotive, and hella fun addition to the Call of Duty franchise… and boy did we need one.
Now let’s talk about the good stuff. Modern Warfare is as tense a shooter – outside the horror genre – as I’ve ever played. It doesn’t have single iconic missions like ‘All Ghillied Up’ or ‘Death From Above’, but its variation in mission types and level design constantly keep things interesting.
For me, it truly excels in narrow passages and hallways where, taking point (as you often do this time around), you can hear targets scurrying around above you readying for your imminent breach, and the implementation of a new spec ops style door push and tilted corner aim make for some genuinely heart-pounding moments. You can really tell that the devs have worked with ex-marines to get the feel just right.