Call of duty®: modern warfare

"Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare" is an excellent first-person military shooter that returns the ... <+> franchise to its roots, offering up a stunning campaign and excellent multiplayer modes.

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Credit: Infinity Ward

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare is half prequel, half reboot to the Modern Warfare franchise. The game takes place before the events of Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but since this is a re-imagining of the entire story, developer Infinity Ward still has plenty of room to not simply revisit the events of those earlier games, but alter and expand upon them however they see fit.

It’s also a return to a more grounded, realistic military shooter after years of futuristic entries (Call Of Duty: WWII notwithstanding). Gone are advanced mobility mechanics–double-jumping and wall-running–and good riddance. You’re still able to slide into a crouch, and Infinity Ward has added door-mechanics that allow you to either open doors slowly or burst through, making your entrances that much more dramatic.

Likewise, the hero-shooter aspects of Black Ops 3 and 4 are no more–and good riddance to that, as well. You have different operators to play as in multiplayer, but there are no special powers cluttering up matches. In Special Ops Operators do have passive and active abilities, but that’s co-op and it’s still toned down from what we saw in last year’s game.

And unlike Black Ops 4, Modern Warfare has a complete single-player campaign that’s well worth playing.

The Campaign

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare

Credit: Infinity Ward

I’m a sucker for a good Call Of Duty campaign, and I’ll be very upfront about this: I like almost all of them. Some are better than others, but they’re always entertaining. Besides, you can fine-tune the difficulty to exactly the level of challenge you want.


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I played Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare’s campaign on “Hardened” which means I died regularly but never got stuck. I’m going to play it again on “Veteran” to really amp up the challenge, but “Hardened” is a pretty good balance between challenge and fun. “Your skills will be strained” about sums it up.

In any case, I know there’s been some controversy over the game’s historical accuracy, but I’m going to review it based on my experience playing rather than nit-picking the historical accuracy of a game that makes no pretense at being anything other than a total fiction.

The country of Urzikstan is make-believe, and while the regional politics certainly resemble the conflicts we find ourselves embroiled in in that part of the world, the game is using fictional heroes, villains and events and that’s perfectly fine.

There’s all kinds of historical fiction out there, with made-up countries and conflicts, whether we’re talking about books, movies or video games. I’m more interested in other questions, such as:

Was the story entertaining? Was it well-written and well-acted? Was it believable and coherent within the parameters set by the fiction? Did it make me feel things? Did it speak to about the larger issues of war in the modern age?

I’ve played every single Call Of Duty campaign since Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (and a couple of the pre-Modern Warfare campaigns as well) and I’ve enjoyed some more than others. Some of my favorites include Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, Black Op and Black Ops 2, World at War, WWII and Advanced Warfare.

Where the Modern Warfare campaign sits in the rankings of all those games is hard to say, but it’s some of the most fun I’ve had since the Modern Warfare trilogy, and I’d probably put it right above Black Ops 2 which I enjoyed immensely.

Alex from "Modern Warfare"

Credit: Infinity Ward

Story And Missions

For the purposes of this review, I will avoid spoilers as much as possible beyond the basic premise stuff. You should play the campaign yourself to experience its various twists and turns.

Captain Price (this time played by the very talented Barry Sloane) returns from the original, though he takes a far greater role in this game than in CoD4. There are some other familiar faces, as well, though Price looms largest.

Most of the other characters are new. A talented cast paired with impressive writing and almost lifelike facial graphics and animation makes every cutscene enjoyable.

The game’s two primary playable characters are Alex (Chad Michael Collins), an American CIA operative, and Kyle Garrick (Elliot Knight), a British soldier in the SAS. You’ll play as freedom fighter Farah Karim (Claudia Doumit) but only in very short instances.

Like the previous Modern Warfare games and first two Black Ops games, the story takes place in “modern” times. This isn’t historical or futuristic. Most of the story takes place in fictional Urzikstan though some of it takes place elsewhere, including the UK.

The story pits three factions against one another. There’s the united US/UK forces who team up with Farah’s freedom fighters; the brutal Russian occupiers of Urzikstan led by Roman Barkov; and the terrorist group Al-Qatala led by Omar "The Wolf" Sulaman. Various twists and turns throughout the campaign tinker with this three-pronged dynamic, and you begin to realize that it’s not at all as cut and dry as it seemed at first, but I won’t spoil any of that.

The game largely takes place in the present timeline, but occasionally dips back into Farah and her brother Hadir’s backstory. These are the sequences you play as Farah (for the most part). Everything else switches between Alex and Kyle, and you’ll bounce all over the place for these missions.

The game often nods to past Modern Warfare titles, with some sequences mirroring (though not replicating) some of the best moments in CoD4. For instance, at one point you have to crawl under a truck in a convoy, and then moments later lay in a field of bodies as a troop of Russian soldiers walks slowly past. This is certainly reminiscent of “All Ghillied Up” though much briefer and less original.

There’s another scene where you briefly fire rockets and down on tiny little enemy soldiers and tanks that’s like CoD4’s Death From Above mission but again, much more brief and much more part of the breathtaking action rather than the almost detached brutality of the original.

There are other, similar scenes but I won’t spoil any. I don’t mind these callbacks at all, to be honest, though I’m not sure the game ever quite rises to the level of CoD4 simply because it relies too often on these moments rather than creating new sequences as memorable.

Perhaps the most memorable sequence in Modern Warfare 2019 takes place in the UK when Kyle and Captain Pierce, along with other special forces units, clear out a building with terrorists and civilians inside, including women and children. I accidentally shot one of the women a terrorist was using as a human shield. I felt bad about it, too. Another woman pulled a gun on us as we cleared the building. It was hard to know who was a target and who was a civilian.

From start to finish, Modern Warfare’s campaign is a tense, challenging, brutal and beautiful experience. It’s Call Of Duty, so don’t expect the most emotional or profound story. Expect an intense, action-packed shooter with plenty of military jargon, some surprisingly relatable characters, and lots of violence. It’s an excellent campaign and I’m thrilled that Infinity Ward has taken the franchise back to its Modern Warfare roots.

I will say that one character’s ending left me a little cold. It seemed to abrupt and too played down for what it was. But for the most part, I loved how the game ended–the denouement and post-credits scenes are excellent–and how it opens up so many possibilities for the future of this series.


Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare

Credit: Infinity Ward

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer comes with two halves: Competitive multiplayer and co-operative Special Ops. Progression carries over between these two modes, and bits of story also cross over between the campaign and Special Ops, while multiplayer maps are often clearly inspired by levels in the campaign.

There’s been much ado over Modern Warfare’s map design, which is quite different from recent Call Of Duty games, largely (though not entirely) abandoning the three-lane map structure of past maps in favor of more open-ended maps. Many of these maps are littered with camping positions. This, combined with a brutally fast TTK (time-to-kill) can lead to a more cautious play-style, which some people feel is more tactical and others hate.

I love it, quite frankly. It took me a little while to get used to the new maps and play-style, but I really enjoy them now, including ones I didn’t like much at first such as Piccadilly, an urban map set in London replete with large buses, city streets and cramped indoor areas.

Other maps include more traditional three-lane-ish fare like Gun Runner or Hackney Yard. Still others are sprawling, such as Aniyah Palace, which almost feels too big for its own good.

Runnig-and-gunning may not work as well as it used to, but just because Modern Warfare is a bit slower and more tactical hardly means it’s slow or boring. Yes, you might get killed by campers more often, but you that just means you have to adjust your play-style a bit. Be more cautious. Learn where people like to camp. I know, change is hard. But in this case, I think it’s also very good.

Gameplay is essentially what you’ve come to expect from Call Of Duty though there’s some nice little additions like the ability to mount your gun on most surfaces, whether that’s the corner of a wall or a crate you’re using for cover. This is a great feature that I hope the franchise continues to use in later games.

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There’s some cool little changes to the game’s structure that make it even more enjoyable. The “Pick 10” system is gone, allowing you to customize your loadout in much greater depth. Customization is deepened further by the gunsmith system, which allows you to tinker with numerous attachments for each of your weapons, each with some kind of pro and con–improve stability but slow aim-down-sights (ADS) and so forth.

Better still, you can change loadouts and attachments mid-match, something long overdue in this series. Not happy with your assault rifle? Or just the scope you chose? Maybe you’d like to try out some different perks? That can all take place while in a match. It’s very cool.

Multiplayer also now has a whole bunch of different types of match beyond traditional game modes like Domination, Team Death Match and so forth. It has all those, but there’s also now, on top of 6 vs 6, 10 vs 10, 20 vs 20 and even 32 vs 32 in Ground War, which is basically Call Of Duty’s version of Battlefield.

One of the best new modes is Gunfight, which pits teams of two against one another with preset, randomly cycling loadouts for quick-burst matches on tiny maps. This is a fast-paced, incredibly competitive mode that’s a real blast, especially if you have a solid teammate–i.e. it’s best if you play with a friend rather than randoms.

Special Ops

Credit: Infinity Ward

That’s also true of Special Ops, Modern Warfare’s cooperative multiplayer. This replaces Zombies (finally) and is a nice break from that mode. Special Ops is comprised of Operations, Missions and, on PS4, Survival modes. Operations are story-driven objective stages; Missions are shorter, less involved tests of skill; and Survival Mode–a wave-based horde mode–is exclusive to PS4 until Oct 1st, 2020.

I’ve enjoyed the Operations quite a bit so far, but your success really does depend on your team actually playing like a team, and that’s tricky with randoms. It’s tricky enough in competitive multiplayer in objective-based modes like Domination when half your team just wants kills instead of playing the objective–it’s even harder when you play with teams in Special Ops who have no interest in reviving downed teammates or sticking together. That’s not the mode’s fault, of course, but it is a challenge to overcome.

All told, the sheer breadth of mutliplayer options on offer in Modern Warfare gives players an astounding amount of stuff to do, modes to play, challenges to overcome. Speaking of which, there are daily and special challenges (get X number of kills with a shotgun style) available now and once the Battle Pass is live I’m sure there will be more. I’m having the most fun I’ve had in multiplayer since War Mode was introduced in Call Of Duty: WWII, which reminds me that I really wish this game had War Mode. Oh well. You can’t have everything.

Other changes from last year’s game include the return to auto-healing. Infinity Ward was wise to remove this from multiplayer (an annoying change in Black Ops 4) as well as the campaign (an annoying change in WWII) and so we’re back to traditional auto-healing where the screen gets faded around the edges when you’re hurt and you hear pounding in your ears.

And to top it all off, you now can play against friends on other platforms. For the first time, Call Of Duty is launching with crossplay between PC, PS4 and Xbox One, with a variety of options to make sure you’re not going up against mouse-and-keyboard players with a controller if you don’t want to. That means you can play with your friends who don’t own a console, or with your brother who owns an Xbox One instead of a PS4 like you. It’s terrific.

Graphics and Sound

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare

Credit: Infinity Ward

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare might just be the most photo-realistic video game I’ve ever played. The faces are just about as close to “real” as I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s gorgeous, especially on PC with ray-tracing enabled. (Though you’ll want to turn down film-grain on PC, at least. It makes everything look muddy, at least in MP).

I played on PS4 and PC and while both are incredible looking, there’s no doubt that PC is the winner. The game is at times simply jaw-dropping, especially in the campaign which is lush with various environments, massive explosions and the ridiculously lifelike faces.

The sound design is as on point as ever, minus the overly-loud footsteps at launch and the overaggressive “chatter” in multiplayer. These have been toned down, thankfully.

The excellent weapon sound design is one reason why this franchise’s gunplay is so good. Like the graphics, the sound design has improved over the years and it just makes the shooting that much tighter and more intense.

Meanwhile, the original score by Sarah Schachner is excellent–an intense musical companion to the intense campaign. It’s not my favorite Call of Duty OST–in modern memory, I’m quite partial to WWII’s OST by Wilbert Roget II and its sweeping horns. But this one is quite good, especially in its Middle Eastern pieces like “Farah.”

The game looks and sounds incredible. It’s almost a shame so many ugly things happen in the campaign. Such beauty juxtaposed with such ugliness.

Bugs and Other Issues

So far, I’ve had very few issues with this game. I know that is not the case for many others. I’ve spent the vast majority of my time reviewing Modern Warfare on PC rather than PS4, and the worst issues I’ve personally encountered were graphical fiascos in multiplayer.

Once, I entered a match and had to quit because the light was so bright I couldn’t see anything. It was like I’d just been to the eye doctors and had my eyes dilated and then walked brazenly into a bright, sunny day. At times the images have just become massively distorted and glitched out.

I haven’t had any crashes, however, though I know this has plagued the Xbox community in particular and the PC community as well. Word of warning, then, you may experience crashes and other errors I haven’t experienced.

People have also complained about the SBMM (skill-based matchmaking) but I haven’t noticed anything too terrible. Sure, at times I’m more on point than others, and at times it seems like I’ve been matched against players that are just ridiculously better than me and my team, but that’s always been an issue with Call Of Duty and plenty of other competitive online games.

I’ve also heard complaints about netcode and lag compensation but for the most part (on my very fast internet connection) I haven’t noticed anything too egregious, and I suspect that these are blown out of proportion, as per usual.

As far as joining matches goes, I’ve had a pretty easy time of it, usually finding new matches in well under a minute and loading in quickly and without issues.

I’ve played on two different desktops–my newer machine has an AMD Ryzen 3700X CPU, an RTX 2080 Super GPU, is entirely SSD-based with 32 GB RAM; my older PC has an i7-6700K CPU, a GTX 1080 GPU, a mixture of SSD and traditional HDs, and 16 GB of RAM. It runs great on either machine, though the older one doesn’t have ray-tracing and can’t run it at quite as high of settings. I’ve played on QHD monitors, aka 2560x1440 resolution and have had no frame-rate issues whatsoever.

In any case, many of these issues should be ironed out with patches. From my personal experience, there’s nothing game-breaking going on, but Xbox One X players in particular have had a rough time with hard crashes, so keep that in mind.


Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare

Credit: Infinity Ward

So far, I’m having a terrific time with Modern Warfare. A return to a modern setting is exactly the game I’ve wanted for years now, and I’m thrilled that Infinity Ward has found its groove again after some fumbles. While I enjoyed both Ghosts and Infinite Warfare, I didn’t love either game. Infinite Warfare had a pretty good campaign, but I was much less impressed with the futuristic gameplay in multiplayer.

Modern Warfare gets the series back to its roots with plenty of nods to the 2007 original, but it also does enough to keep the game fresh and exciting, and it looks simply stunning on both console and PC.

A strong campaign, tons of multiplayer options including big team Ground War and 2 vs 2 Gunfight, and a break from Zombies co-op with the return of Special Ops–what’s not to love?

It is important to note that the Battle Pass system has not yet been implemented. This year, all post-launch maps will be free and Activision has stated that loot boxes / supply drops are no more. Instead, there will be a seasonal Battle Pass a la Fortnite, with cosmetic rewards that you earn through play. This is all excellent news, but since they haven’t included it in the game yet I can’t say for sure whether it’s a good system or not. I’ll update this review accordingly once that happens. Hopefully Activision doesn’t pull any funny business, introducing loot boxes or paid maps down the road–but I wouldn’t put it past them.

Still, all signs point to major improvements in terms of post-launch revenue and hopefully it stays that way. Hopefully Infinity Ward also keeps communicating with players about the issues they’re having with the game, as open communication is vital to the community and game.

In any case, if you’ve been holding off on buying new Call Of Duty games, or if you’re just sick of the futuristic shooters or the hero-shooter aspects of Black Ops 4, this is the perfect time to return to the series. Even if you just play for the campaign, I think this one is worth your time and money. I give it a Buy on my Buy/Hold/Sell rating.

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Platform:PC, PS4, Xbox One Developer:Infinity Ward Publisher:Activision Release Date:October 25, 2019 Price:$59.99 (plus various special editions) Score:9 out of 10

A digital PC review code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. I also purchased the game on PS4.