Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4) Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4) Review

After nearly a decade since its original release, the premiere modern shooter franchise returns with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. Available exclusively with the Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition as a pack-in title, Modern Warfare Remastered flooded my mind with feelings of nostalgia for one of the most addictive arcade shooters I played as a child.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4) Review 2Aside from the noticeable jump in graphics, lighting and resolution, Modern Warfare Remastered plays exactly like the original, which is a relief for many fans returning to give the Call of Duty franchise another chance. From the M9 pistol sharing ammo with the MP5 to the M40A3 ACOG combo killing anything in one shot, even the exploits and bugs players used to take advantage of remain untouched. I’m so happy that Raven Software treated this release of Modern Warfare as nothing more than a graphical update because messing with any of the gun balancing or perks would have made the title feel unfaithful to what gamers experienced in the past.

Enough of what returning players can expect though, because a whole new crowd of gamers are going will soon be populating the servers. Modern Warfare Remastered’s campaign places you in the dual roles of British S.A.S recruit, Soap Mactavish as well as a marine within the American Armed Forces. Under the command of the legendary Cpt. Price, your squad is at the forefront of stopping a returning terrorist threat from plunging the world into a bed of chaos and war.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4) Review 4Despite being critically acclaimed for its time, Modern Warfare’s campaign hasn’t aged well. Compared to the cinematic blockbuster experiences offered by newer shooters, the moments that were designed to shock and awe the player just don’t carry the same feeling of amazement and intrigue as they used to. Raven Software has touched up these moments by adding more effects, but at the end of the day the majority of the campaign does feel outdated, especially the poor writing.

However, the most infamous mission in Modern Warfare’s campaign, “All Ghillied Up”, remains one of the best levels in any shooter campaign I’ve ever played. The feeling of tension and suspense players feel while stealthily infiltrating the radiation filled city of Chernobyl builds up at a steady pace until they reach the climactic moment when they must assassinate the target. It’s a timeless mission that I recommend any gamer experience if they get the chance.

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At launch Modern Warfare Remastered’s multiplayer give players access to 10 of the 16 original maps, with the rest coming in a free December update. While most competitive shooters these days have stepped away from asymmetrical map design, I loved revisiting maps like Crash, Overgrown, and Vacant because they felt so fresh to experience again in comparison. I felt right at home picking up classic weapons like the 3-burst M16 and the powerful AK-47. Some of the more hardcore players might be disappointed with the fact that the sounds of Modern Warfare’s arsenal have all been changed, but it didn’t bother me much because the recoil and feel of each weapon remains identical to the original.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4) Review 5Some cosmetic aspects of multiplayer have been changed with Remastered’s release. Most notably, the screen can quickly become flooded with in-game emblems representing how well you’re performing in game. It’s an artificial way of extending player rewards, but I dislike the overall inclusion. Sometimes I had five or six emblems rapidly appear when I was going on a kill streak and it would throw off my concentration when I was trying to track targets. Thankfully this feature can be turned off in the in-game menu, which I highly recommend any competitive player do.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4) Review 6It’s hard to pinpoint what makes this game’s multiplayer still feel so addictive, but I believe it has to do with its purity. Unlike Infinite Warfare, Modern Warfare Remastered remains a simple but effective shooter where players are rewarded for their skills and tactics instead of unbalanced abilities and lucky RNG. Sure, some perks are annoying—like Juggernaut and 3x RPG’s—but instead of creating an ability that just counteracts another, Modern Warfare provides you with a different tool that can be utilized to beat them.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is clearly the superior piece of the Infinite Warfare package. My key criticism against Infinite Warfare was that by implementing so many different mechanics and features without proper balancing, the core gameplay loop that the franchise was known for in the past suffers immensely. This was the game that created the definitive arcade shooter experience that so many publishers tried to replicate, but failed. Activision should take out their notepads and look at Remastered with locked eyes, because this is what a great Call of Duty looks like.

Call of Duty: Infinite Downvotes

Call of Duty: Infinite Downvotes

After plenty of hype, rumours, and speculation, Call of Duty finally released an initial trailer for 2016’s Infinite Warfare. Going the exact opposite direction from what the fans want, the trailer was infinitely unsuccessful.

Wherever you would find Call of Duty discussions, you’d typically find three key requests: boots-on-the-ground-style combat, modern setting or earlier, and the then-rumoured Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare remaster to be available for purchase separately. Infinity Ward ignored their pleas: Infinite Warfare is set in the future, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is exclusively bundled in the game’s Legacy Edition.

The majority of Call Of Duty fans expressed their desires for the franchise to go back to its roots instead of the futuristic CODs of late. Infinity Ward completely disregarded fans’ wishes, which triggered an extremely negative reaction from the Call of Duty community. Just how negative, exactly? In just three days, the trailer accumulated well over 355,000 dislikes on YouTube, and it’s probably much worse off as you’re reading this.

To put that in perspective, the trailer has roughly 540,000 total reactions, a culmination of both likes and dislikes. Of these, 185,000, or about 34 per cent of people liked the video, while the remaining 66 per cent disliked it. Now, let’s compare that to Activision’s 2015 COD title, Black Ops III. Of the roughly 473,000 reactions, the launch trailer has about 394,000 likes, with roughly 79,000 dislikes. This means about 83 per cent of fans liked the trailer, while only about 17 per cent disliked it.

For measure, the most disliked video currently on YouTube is Justin Bieber’s Baby, with about 6,050,000 dislikes. However, Bieber’s music video has been ripe for the disliking for over six years, while the Infinite Warfare trailer has been live for a matter of days. If the trailer were to keep up the current trend of about 100,000 dislikes per day (which it probably won’t- there will likely be a gradual decrease as the trailer loses the fans’ attention), it would knock Bieber out of the number one spot in just over two months.

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Okay, maybe comparing the trailer to Bieber’s Baby is a bit of a stretch. After all, it’s currently the tenth most viewed YouTube video of all time. Hold your horses, though: Although Baby is the most disliked video of all time, it still maintains about 43 per cent approval. The video has about 4,505,000 likes among the total 10,570,000 reactions. You guessed it: that’s better than Infinite Warfare’s 34 per cent approval rate. Yikes.

Infinite Warfare probably won’t take the “YouTube’s Most Hated” crown from Baby – at least not any time soon. More realistically, the trailer will probably break into the top 25 most disliked YouTube videos of all time by the end of the week. In doing so, Infinite Warfare will have “no treble” stealing the 25

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spot from Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass, which currently has about 491,000 dislikes.

Fans have the amazing ability to make or break a game before it even exists – who would’ve thought, right? Look at Yooka-Laylee as an example: People wanted a nostalgia-infused 3D platformer to the tune of Banjo-Kazooie or Spyro the Dragon. The genre may not have seemed to be in huge demand, nor have a large or profitable following, but Playtonic Games wanted to cater to said community anyway. The team, a group of ex-Rare developers, offered Yooka-Laylee as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie through Kickstarter. Long story short, more than 73,000 people pledged money to the idea – that’s right, just an idea of an unfinished game that wouldn’t release for well over a year – raising almost $4,000,000 CAD in just a few months. How’s that for a dead genre?

On the flip side, sometimes fans don’t give new ideas a chance. Pigeonholing developers can often be artistically restrictive and dissuade them from trying new, innovative things. Metroid Prime: Federation Force didn’t deliver the Metroid game fans wanted and on it’s E3 trailer, the game was disliked almost 87,000. That’s about 90 per cent of the total number of reactions on that video. So few people support the idea of a new spin on the Metroid series, which could prove to be a remarkable success – but fans won’t give it a shot.

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The point is, happy fans make a successful game, no matter the genre. Behind all the numbers and statistics is one infinitely upset community – and it’s not the minority, either. Sooner or later, major developers like Infinity Ward will need to listen to fans to avoid their wrath. Regardless of the reason(s) behind each dislike, Infinity Ward has clearly done something wrong this year. The fans have spoken, and Infinity Ward has about six months to prove they’re listening. Although the game’s mechanics and setting are probably already set in stone, it isn’t too late for the developer listen to the community’s plea for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered to be released as a standalone title.

Advanced Warfare Reinvigorates Call of Duty

Advanced Warfare Reinvigorates Call of Duty

Sledgehammer Games’ Advanced Warfare is, I think, the best Call of Duty since 2007’s Modern Warfare. This feels like an unusual thing to say because, after finding myself unable to generate even an ounce of excitement for last year’s Ghosts, I was pretty sure the long-running series was finally getting ready to complete its slow fade into irrelevance. The formula had started to wear thin. The ideas that had once made Call of Duty one of the best (if not the brightest) multiplayer action games around had been stagnating, starting to come off as increasingly dated. Next to the parkour movement and giant robots of Titanfall, or flawed but fascinating co-operative play of Destiny, it was hard to imagine that a new Call of Duty would feel like anything more than a relic.

This is why Advanced Warfare has proven such a wonderful surprise. Though rocketing the setting into a future filled with superpower-enabling “Exo-Suits” and flashy science fiction guns didn’t seem like the most interesting idea at first, Call of Duty’s high technology turn has managed to reinvigorate the series. Through a simple trick—changing up the controls and arsenal—Advanced Warfare makes its campaign, multiplayer, and co-op survival modes far more engaging. Players can double jump over obstacles, toss grenades that reveal enemy silhouettes behind walls, dash while flying through the air, and shoot a laser gun. These new gameplay mechanics and features couple with a campaign that actually, honestly (surprisingly) attempts to look back at the rest of the series with a welcome level of introspection. Without spoiling the plot, suffice it to say that Advanced Warfare includes many scenarios that come off more as a critical look at past games than any real nostalgic indulgence. It’s all excellent stuff. But it does beg the question of exactly how the next Call of Duty will follow up on these gameplay changes.

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Part of what makes Advanced Warfare work is its place in a long-running series. While a lot of fun in its own right, the new mechanics and tightly paced campaign are most notable against the backdrop of prior games that seemed comfortable repeating the same tricks again and again. Compared to the basic set of movement controls offered in the Modern Warfare and Black Ops titles—sprint, duck, shoot from a prone position—the introduction of boost jumps and ground-pounds feel refreshingly kinetic. Another entry to the series that re-uses these mechanics would likely be fun. But it would also lose the sense of novelty that has given the series such a shot in the arm. Imagining how Advanced Warfare’s mechanics can be re-used in other settings seems equally difficult. As much as I liked the game’s vision of the 2050s, the exploration of new technologies and political tensions offered through Advanced Warfare was thorough enough that a string of sequels doesn’t seem necessary. The process of slowly learning what the state of the world was in Sledgehammer’s future is a big part of what made for such an interesting campaign. That’s the kind of thing that can’t be repeated since, well, a mystery isn’t much of a mystery once it’s already been explained.

All of it comes together to make the future of Call of Duty a pretty uncertain one. Advanced Warfare’s changes to the series’ formula are great, but may not be replicable. Without continued reinvention, trotting out the same future setting too often will quickly wear thin and the new movement controls will start to feel rote. Making a return to past conflicts, whether the series’ World War II roots or Black Ops’ latter-20

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century missions, would also make it difficult to rationalize using the new (most definitely) improved robotic suit controls, too. Advanced Warfare may have painted Call of Duty into a corner that will require a level of fundamental redesign that seems hard to imagine.

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Regardless, I’ll be interested to see where the series goes from here if for no other reason than the complete surprise of finding myself enjoying Advanced Warfare. This time last year I was pretty well convinced that I was done with Call of Duty. It seemed to have exhausted itself, something which is understandable for an annualized series afraid of losing its fan base by making sweeping changes to what is clearly a well-loved style of game. That Sledgehammer Games was capable of accomplishing the seemingly impossible feat of reinventing Call of Duty is remarkable. That alone, I think, warrants a bit of optimism for future games, no matter the challenges they face in discovering new avenues for innovation.

Steve Fukuda Speaks Titanfall, It’s Done (For Now)

Steve Fukuda Speaks Titanfall, It’s Done (For Now)

As Creative Director for Respawn Entertainment, Steve Fukuda is a busy man.

The Canadian launch party for Titanfall was a typically jubilant affair, with excited fans thronging demo stations, typical hors d’oeuvres making the rounds, and the excited chatter of happy gamers mingling with the sounds of future-warfare emanating from demo pods around the venue. While this revelry is taking place, Fukuda is attending via Skype connection, holding interviews from a sparsely-decorated office in LA, the only noteworthy feature of which is the whiteboard behind him that bears a three-inch inscription: “It’s Done. (For Now)”.

Fukuda seems gratified by the warm critical reception to the game so far. He cites the ‘freshness’ as a product of their initial goal to avoid a lot of what other people were doing, which required a certain amount of ignoring the commonly held assumptions about multiplayer shooters and making the most fun game they could, designing through iteration to overcome the challenges that arose. “That process happened to work out, and people seem to be responding to that”.

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Titanfall originally started out with a specific plan, but the final product today represents a lot of experimentation. “A lot of us got caught up in the top-down aspect – the story, the universe, and contextual explanations for everything that’s possible in the game. After a while, we increasingly grew convinced that maybe we should go in the opposite direction, and we started exploring abstract gameplay concepts that were separate from the context.”

“It’s a tough shift to make – especially when your background is to make the most cinematic levels possible – suddenly you’re looking at coming up with a whole new kind of way to play the game. That mental shift was a big part of the process.”

Fukuda doesn’t go into specifics, but gives a hypothetical to underline his point. “Let’s say you want to make a superhero game. People will say ‘Superheroes? Jumping across buildings in a single bound? Running on walls? Sounds goofy.’ But don’t think about the concept – don’t worry about the guy in tights – just think about how fun it is to have that amount of movement freedom. That’s an example of how gameplay and concept can fight each other, but ultimately, gameplay has to win.”

“It was a long road, with a lot of iteration involved.” Early on, the AI drones that populate the arenas caused issues – “we had to make sure that the AI were no shooting you in the back when you were dealing with an enemy player.” Every possible variable in the game was subjected to revision and playtesting – “we particularly iterated on the motion model – running on walls, the double-jump height, reconciling that with the geometry of the levels, and the motions of the Titans. Even the dash ability of the Titans – how often and how fast you could move – all these were being tweaked constantly to make it fun.”

It’s bold that as a flagship-console title, Titanfall is multiplayer only. There was a desire to keep the team small, which necessitated a certain amount of focus, and there was a lot of friction within Respawn initially as the team members grappled to avoid doing the same old thing. Many of the team came from a singleplayer background, which generally calls on a different skillset.

“When you’re working on singleplayer games, you can lock yourself away in an office and work on your level to the exclusion of all other things” Fukuda explains. The multiplayer approach involves a lot of interlocking game mechanics – “even the scale of your geometry and things like that have an effect on everything else. Everyone else needs to be working in tandem to get the feel right, otherwise it’s going to cause problems. Working closely as a team was critical.”

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With no traditional campaign mode, Fukuda wanted to cater to the “things that people may take for granted in single player – that sense of visceralness, the cinematic action, and cinematically charged game mechanics”. This is the mentality that brought about the bespoke animations that trigger when a player enters a Titan. “We hand-crafted all these very specific animations for certain situations. Depending on your angle of approach you’ll enter the hatch differently, or you’ll get the fun stuff when piloting the Titan, like ripping out a pilot, squishing him in your hand, or crushing him against the wall depending on the conditions when you melee.”

As for what’s next for the team, it doesn’t sound as though they plan on sitting back and enjoying the fruits of a successful launch anytime soon. “Right now we’re looking at how the public is reacting, and what kind of crazy exploits are going to show up. We’re thinking about what we want out of the game based on player input, because we definitely want to support it going forward. We have a list of things that we want to tackle, and we’ll prioritize it based on the feedback”

I ask Fukuda what kind of design challenges or genres he’d like to tackle after Titanfall, and he gets quiet. “I haven’t really thought that far ahead. We’re a small team, and we’re still really excited about exploring the design space within Titanfall, so there are no plans yet”.

Done for now, indeed.