The Modern Warfare franchise was always my favorite of what Call of Duty has provided over the years. It’s an interesting switch to take the series back to that with a fresh reboot, but it’s one that now makes perfect sense.
This entry feels as revolutionary as CoD4 was back in the day. Not only in terms of returning to that style, but also in that it aims to take the franchise in a completely fresh direction. This is the most expansive take on their competitive multiplayer ever, while also adding an extra sense of realism to it all.
The narrative follows a group of soldiers that provide varying perspectives on the current climate of warfare. At its core, and this continues to build as you work through it is the perspective of a freedom fighter. This is Farah Karim (Claudia Doumit), and you get to see her life through a modern lens, and flashbacks that are littered throughout the latter part of the campaign. This is an important perspective, as you can actually see the effects of war on regular people. This is the most visceral, and perhaps shocking campaign that the series has ever provided.
There was a sense of trauma, and just generally being uncomfortable with events that took place. I won’t discuss some of the later elements as that spoils the effect of them taking place to you in that first person perspective, but I’ll touch upon some things. There’s an early terrorism situation that took place in London, where you actively are trying to eliminate targets within a citizen crowded fleeing setup. That is continued later on, with an embassy under siege and then there’s the intense witnessing of chemical weapons.
It’s got a lot of shock value, and that’s generally what real conflict is, and it’s not at all pretty. This is a very gritty narrative, one that carries great pacing and an excellent length to it. This all flowed well, as you went from place to place across the globe to deal with threats and go as far as needed to get the job done. They created a great sense of purpose, and perspective with cinematics that felt as though they were right from film.
While the campaign is a core element of what makes a Call of Duty title, at least in my opinion, the multiplayer is essential to what keeps people playing. The multiplayer in Modern Warfare is the greatest change-up for the competitive play since CoD4.
It’s a larger experience than ever before, and it does Battlefield better than that series has in recent years. This is largely provided through the Ground War mode which offers large scale battlefields where teams of thirty-two battle it out. These create intense battles in grander competitive maps than ever before.
I say that specifically as the battle royale from Black Ops 4 was large scale yet not really the same type of multiplayer experience as traditional competitive play. The Ground War playlist has a few options, and many objectives per map to capture. There are vehicles which I compare to Call of Duty 3’s multiplayer in style and many new ways to get around. It’s the same style you expect, but in a completely different format that’s quite enjoyable and just fresh.
The rest of the multiplayer has also been changed quite a bit. You do get the traditional playlists, with some returning ones. That includes the likes of Domination, Headquarters, Team Deathmatch and Realism which is essentially hardcore. That aside, there are larger takes on those modes as well available which are bigger than the expanded multiplayer options of the past. The maps of the multiplayer also comes across as more natural landscapes, they make past competitive maps feel almost cartoonish in nature.
These don’t feel like finally sculpted arenas of war, these are locations that feel like actual real places. They’re larger, offer more natural movement for hiding or path finding and excel at giving varying levels of verticality. They’re clever in their cover layout, there are a good quantity of them and for the most part they’re all great. These are some of the best maps they’ve had in the game, and they feel like natural locations as opposed to a silly traditional map.
When it comes to the level system it also feels more classical, you’ll level and unlock weapons or gun skins. The gunsmith allows tons of customization for each gun, and the loadouts which are custom classes offer tons of choices for editing the type of classes you need to feel successful with.
There aren’t any pushed microtransactions at the moment, and just lots to unlock. I’m not sure how they will alter play later on, but they seem serious about being a different type of Call of Duty with this experience. The post-launch multiplayer content is set to be free, it’s incredibly as not to segment the player base down the road and I consider this a massive improvement for the series.
This is an area of the game that continues the events of the single player narrative. It doesn’t necessarily truly continue the story, but it does provide a few situations of extra tactical play. This is played in four player coop, with matchmaking being a central element of this mode. It can be rather hard to accomplish these missions as they’re quite vast in scale and open in how you can tackle an objective. They offer freedom, and at the same time it comes down to the attitude of your squad to be successful.
When I played with randoms, few seemed to understand using stealth which is frustrating, but this does offer great extra value and interesting situations. I felt the one where you take on a plane hijacking was particular interesting to me, with a massive terminal area and then a very interesting continuation to that. This mode does have more classic options too, but regular matchmaking provides it with a new style to the action.
The new graphics engine is a serious step up for the franchise and makes this look like a stunning next generation Call of Duty. It’s seriously just incredible to take in whether you’re noticing the insanely detailed campaign levels or the very realistic multiplayer component. I never would have pictured the series looking like this as I had already thought it looked good, this is just a massive step up.
The levels of realism have never been so perfect from the natural environments to the very faces of the characters. They provide remarkable set pieces, with tons of explosions and yet still intimate action. It’s very graphic in nature, and should be disturbing in its realistic depictions of dark situations. The maps as mentioned feel like real locations and the texture work lends to heightening that sense of being naturally accurate in design.
This of course all runs excellent at a 4k resolution on Xbox One X at 60fps with HDR. At times, there were minimal performance drops yet nothing too noticeable. It runs very well, everything loads in almost perfectly with just tiny bits of pop-in on objects a regular player will never notice if you’re not looking for it.
The gunplay feels great here, the weapons come across as authentic and there’s a nice sense of grit to the overall scenery. It feels graphic, and just an evolution on the past titles in terms of how visceral everything is. They’ve done perfect work on revamping the series here, a true boots on the ground experience that feels nostalgic in being true to the series while coming across a fresh game to play.
The addition of cross-play here is perfect, and works very well. It’s nice to be able to choose between controller or keyboard/mouse on consoles while having the matchmaking work to keep the playing field level. They knocked that addition out of the park, it’s really appreciated and hopefully pushes this feature to be a standard within the industry.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a remarkable reboot that comes across as innovative as CoD4 did when it completely changed the shooter genre. This takes the franchise to new heights and elevates the core gameplay in fresh ways. The large scale multiplayer works too well, and it’s just so fun to play. It’s nostalgic to a degree, yet completely fresh. I truly do have a good time playing this, it’s just really enjoyable. The campaign was seriously disturbing with shock value that presents what I’d consider to be a realistic depiction of current conflicts.
It builds a convincing story and makes you care about the lead character’s troubles. There are some fun surprises for fans of this Call of Duty series, and it’s still entirely different. I really did feel troubled by some of the events in the story, and that left a lasting impact on me. The Special Ops is a nice addition if you can get a squad together that can work efficiently. It’s not quite what older players would be expecting, but it works and offers a fair bit of content. The multiplayer is just awesome, I really like playing it. It feels great to work through the levels, actually unlocking weapons and gun skin camo among other little decorations.
It’s great fun, and this does feel like a next generation title. The push towards cross-play is just what we need at this point in the industry, use whatever input you want and play with anyone on any platform. This is hopefully a landmark entry for the series going forward and hopefully they continue pushing it in new ways to try out different mechanics or types of play. This might be slightly dialed down in terms of not having zombies or just extra mode like battle royale, but that works fine here as there’s enough of that available already.
Read our Gears 5 Review
View our Call of Duty Hub
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review on Xbox One X
Review Code Provided by Activision