A little over a decade ago, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare ushered in a new era of first-person shooters. Features like killstreaks, gun customization, and perks became commonplace virtually overnight. For a while, CoD was the king of shooters, at least as far as popularity was concerned. Alas, even the mighty must adapt, and the Call of Duty franchise is undergoing an identity crisis as it tried to keep up with the times. Battle royale, futuristic themes, and character abilities came and went to mixed reception. The latest iteration, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, does away with all that in an attempt to capture lightning in a bottle once again.
We're going fully back to basics here, so there's little in the way of complexity in the gameplay mechanics. The crazy movement and character abilities, laser guns, and robot dogs are gone. If you can walk, aim, and shoot, then you've basically mastered 90% of the experience. There is a new cover leaning mechanic, but it's far too unwieldy unless you make a habit of camping. On the surface, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare presents the Call of Duty template unchanged and untarnished.
Fighting Against Time in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Jump into the multiplayer for a few matches and you'll see this design philosophy in action, for better or worse. Virtually everyone uses assault rifles. Recoil is more of a suggestion than a drawback. Practical time to kill is less than a second in most situations. Newcomers get stomped due to a lack of weapon attachments and perks. Campers exist. Spawn locations need work. It's all pretty much tradition at this point.
And yet, if you care enough to delve deep into the mechanics, you may notice more than just superficial changes to this year's rendition. For starters, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has excessively good audio. Every gun sounds beefy when fired, and your characters make useful callouts to each other. On the other hand, footsteps are so loud that you can hear someone walk around from a dozen feet away, if not more. At the same time, because guns are so loud, they kind of blanket each other, making it a little difficult to hear where gunfights are breaking out.
The Devil is in the Details in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
The revamped map design moves far, far away from triple lane layouts. While it makes for more visually appealing maps, it also means that some are much worse than others. These maps usually have wide-open fields and a giant central point that gives a team a hilariously overwhelming advantage. Euphrates Bridge is the worst offender by far, literally taking place on a bridge in the desert. As you can probably guess, the team that controls the bridge has the high ground advantage, cover, spawn advantage, and you can shoot into the other team's initial spawn area. In fact, depending on who you ask, all but one or two of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's maps are lackluster at best. Given that map design dictates player experience, this is a worrying complaint.
This is especially noticeable in the 64 person Ground War playlist where, because there are no destructible environments, dozens of people can camp a building. Indeed, it is painfully obvious that Ground War is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's attempt to mimic Battlefield, sans decades of design experience. Vehicle combat is the least of your problems when you're forced to climb 20 flights of stairs to try and dislodge a team from a rooftop so that your team can actually try to capture a point without sniper fire raining down from above. For whatever reason, there are often only two stairwells, making it a trivial matter for any half-alert team to defend said rooftop.
Call of Duty. Extra Modern, Extra Warfare.
Amusingly enough, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's single-player campaign is fantastic. Granted, it's a rather linear and scripted experience, but that's largely negligible all things considered. The overall story feature strong writing clearly based on the last half-century or so of Middle Eastern history. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan, imperialism, Western/American interventionism, and the consequences of such policies are just some of the more overt themes addressed in the story. Segments that involve torture, suicide bombings, hostage-taking, modern genocide, and more make the infamous No Russian mission from Modern Warfare 2 and the torture segment from GTA V look like child's play. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
In lighter news, the missions themselves are excellent. They are reasonably diverse and don't feature too many cliched moments. You get to clear tunnels, partake in an insurgency, and lay siege to a city. There's an obligatory sniper mission, stealth segments, and a couple of unique flashback sequences. Of the dozen or so missions, only two particularly stand out. Both involve a nighttime house raid by special forces troopers. There's no running and gunning in these missions. Instead, it's a tense case of cat and mouse as enemies hide in every nook and cranny. Infinity Ward really captured the terror of not knowing what's behind a door. It could be a guy with a shotgun who instantly takes you down. It could be an empty room. It could be an innocent woman with her baby. Now if only the checkpoints didn't warp me back to reality...
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review | Follow the Script, Please
If nothing else, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare proves that Infinity Ward can create a good single-player campaign. When combined with a tried and true multiplayer formula, and an apparent (and hopefully permanent) lack of microtransactions, this year's Call of Duty may very well be the best one yet. Of course, the game's longevity ultimately depends on how quickly and comprehensively Infinity Ward handles balancing. If they can address the design of some specific maps or implement a map pick system, then even better. Until then, you may want to think of the game like a diamond in the rough, full of potential in spite of the relatively simple gameplay.
TechRaptor reviewed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on Xbox One via a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via Battle.net
- Surprisingly Good Story Based On Historical Events
- Numerous Gun Customization Options
- A Return To Popular Modern-Style Multiplayer
- Fair Amount of Map Diversity
- Generally Good Sound Design
- Ground War Is A Cheap Imitation of Battlefield
- Somewhat Finicky Spawns
- Huge Disadvantage For Newcomers
- Useless Friendly AI
- A Few Garbage-Tier Maps