Menu Menu

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Review

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.

The Campaign

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.

Multiplayer (in progress)

Truthfully, I haven’t sunk as many hours as I’d like into Modern Warfare’s multiplayer this opening weekend, but I have given most game types a go and I’m counting down the hours before I can head home and hop back on it again. That’s a pretty good sign, right?

Off the bat it has to be said, this is a completely different game to previous Call of Duty’s. Normally you can pick up a new shooter, get to grips with the maps, and pick up where you left off. Not this time. Whether you’re playing Domination, Team Deathmatch, or Free for All, there are new principles of play, and if you don’t adapt, you will die… a lot. These new maps aren’t as symmetrical as before, and spawns are heavily varied. There are also a tonne more buildings and vantage points per-map than ever before.

As you can imagine, this combined with arguably the most lethal gunplay to date means the days of sprinting around with an MP5 are long gone. Aggressive play is a recipe for rage. The way to win now is simple; secure power positions and hold angles. If someone is holding one, kill them and take their spot. Often it can become frustrating watching killcam after killcam where players are peeking round a window frame or crouched on a table in a dark room with a shotgun, but that’s just the way the balance has shifted.

Sprinting around the map is a bonified way of hacking at your KD. The sound design is so crisp that you can hear enemies approaching even without headphones and they will appear on the upper compass if they’re nearby. As a result, you’re best off either baiting people to approach by running and then ducking in cover, by crouch walking, or by adding the silent running special ability to your loadout (my personal preference).

The new emphasis on tactical play, combined with authentic weapon handling and near photo realistic visuals honestly makes this Call of Duty feel more like Battlefield. Infinity Ward won’t want to hear that, but that certainly isn’t a bad thing.

For those who can’t get on board with the slower approach to gunplay, Gunfight is where you should lay your hat (or army helmet, whatever). Gunfight is a new 2v2 game mode where rapid fire rounds pit duos against each other with set weapon loadouts in miniature maps. If the round lasts longer than a few minutes a flag will appear in the centre of the map, a couple seconds to land the cap and you’ve won the round… viola, no camping. You could also chance your arm with the ‘No Hud’ Kill Deathmatch variant. The less time you’re visible on UAV, the less time you’ll spend spanking your controller.

Final Thoughts

While I’m still getting to grips with the new multiplayer, I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride. Call of Duty needed some new direction to keep the franchise fresh and interesting and people should welcome the new emphasis on tactical gunplay. Truthfully, I’m just so over being blown up by RCXD cars, bouncing betties, and getting shafted by wall runners.

As someone who has always run through Call of Duty campaigns on veteran, I really missed the absence of a single player-player last year, and I’m chuffed to have it back. Modern Warfare introduces some truly memorable moments and incites a kind of tension and tautness I’ve never felt playing a game in this franchise.

Sure, the story may not be as provocative as they were aiming for, but in a world full of stale battle royale and looter shooters, this game just reminds us of the good old days. It’s good to be home.

out of 5

A step in the right direction for the franchise