After exploring the possible future of warfare and revisiting its World War 2 roots, the Call of Duty franchise has returned to the modern era with one of its most ambitious entries in years. Despite my distaste for Infinity Ward’s previous work on Ghosts and Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare feels like a much-needed return to form for the studio, delivering a bold new campaign and a tactically rich, but flawed, multiplayer experience that has reignited both mine and my friends lost passion for this iconic FPS series.
Starting with Campaign, Infinity Ward has taken out the blockbuster tone and celebrity villains of the latest Call of Duty’s and replaced it with a much more grounded tale heavily inspired by real world acts of terror and warfare. Players follow the perspective of three key playable characters; which include CIA operative, Alex, Urzikistan Liberation Force Commander, Farrah Karim, and the latest member of Captain Price’s SAS squad, Kyle Garrick.
While the plot of Modern Warfare is played fairly safe as we watch these characters struggle against the common threat of the terrorist organization, Al-Qatala, what makes this campaign so memorable is experiencing the evolution of these characters through smaller, more intimate gameplay sections. For example, when players get to control Kyle they are playing as someone green to black ops style missions and the hard decisions that naturally entail from their classified line of work. When faced with an unarmed woman potentially reaching for a weapon to kill you, ultimately it’s in the player’s hands whether or not to take action and pull the trigger.
Outside of these intimate moments, Infinity Ward has also done a great job at pacing the action of Modern Warfare’s campaign and keeping the gameplay refreshing throughout. While some previous COD campaigns were plagued with sections of endless waves of enemies, this campaign doesn’t fall into that same trap and is always ready to supply the player with a new gadget or gimmick to control and break up the traditional boots on the ground gameplay. Whether it be controlling a drone, navigating people away from danger using security cams, or stealthily infiltrating a large compound in complete darkness with night-vision goggles, the action always felt fresh and varied enough to keep me fully immersed till the end credits.
With over 24 hours of multiplayer logged as of writing this review, I have no issue in saying this is the best Call of Duty multiplayer has felt since Black Ops 2, but it has some deep flaws that need to be addressed in later updates. Beginning with the positives, gunsmith is hands down my favourite mechanic in Modern Warfare. I love the journey of taking a stock gun I’ve recently acquired by ranking up and grinding through 70 levels worth of attachments, perks, and camos as I customize each element of the weapon to my preferred playstyle.
By the time I had levelled up my M4 rifle fully it had evolved into a completely different weapon. Not only did I slap on a new optic and a suppressor, but I even changed the stock, the barrel, and even converted it into a burst rifle, making it reminiscent of the classic M16 from the original Modern Warfare. However, that’s only one of the many directions I could’ve taken this weapon in using gunsmith, and with 29 other guns in the sandbox to customize to this extent, I eagerly look forward to levelling up many more in the coming weeks.
The new additions of Ground War and Gunfight are also great new modes to the multiplayer suite that caters to wildly different player bases. If you happen to be someone who loves the massive scale and vehicular combat of Battlefield, then you’ll feel right at home playing Ground War with 64 other players on one map as you fight back and forth against the enemy team to capture objectives. Acting as a polar opposite, if you are a player who enjoys team doubles, like me, you’ll be spending a lot of time in gunfight with your best bud coordinating over voice chat how you plan to utilize your randomly chosen sets of equipment to outsmart the enemy team and claim victory each round.
Another aspect I enjoy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is that Infinity Ward decided to make a majority of the maps asymmetrical and filled with two-storied buildings. I was getting increasingly bored year-after-year of seeing the same three-lane map design with a new coat of paint over it when I know these developers are capable of creating maps with plenty of character and personality akin to the old Modern Warfare trilogy. I understand that some will complain that these maps heavily promote camping due to their abundance of corners or windows, but those aren’t my issues with these maps. The slower, more tactical gameplay is right in line with what I wanted from this latest Modern Warfare because I enjoy clearing houses, capturing objectives and controlling points of interest by coordinating with my team just like we did when we played Modern Warfare 2. That’s not to say the run-and-gun playstyle is dead, however, as I’ve already begun to see guns like the MK2 Carbine and 725 shotgun start to emerge as one-shot kill weapons that have ruined many of my building killstreaks.
With only 10 maps at launch, however, Infinity Ward needed each and every one to be stellar and memorable, but sadly not all of them are. Whether it’s due to a mix of poor spawn logic, flawed map design, or questionable objective placements, most maps have an issue in at least one game mode that harms my enjoyment of them. For example, I love commonly criticized maps like Piccadilly for Headquarters due to how fun it is to carefully navigate the abandoned city streets as both teams clash near the rotating objective to capture it, while at the same time I absolutely despise playing this map on Team Deathmatch because once either team is spawn trapped it’s next to impossible to get the spawns to flip and try to regain ground. The reintroduction of the voting system would go a long way into players picking the maps they enjoy the most on their preferred game types, rather than the alternative outcome of witnessing multiple teammates jump out of the lobby the moment they see they have to play Domination on Euphrates Bridge once again.
While maps can be adjusted and fixed over time, the one element I can’t wait to be immediately removed from Modern Warfare has to be the automatic audible callouts operatives say in the middle of a match when the game senses a nearby enemy in your sights. That’s right. You may not see the enemy, but the game knows there’s someone close by and can’t wait to tell you by shouting in your ear. I get that Infinity Ward implemented this so that even multiplayer felt more immersive, but it only ends up being a distracting inclusion that annoys me when I’m trying to focus on the gameplay. There have been multiple moments where I’ve been able to stealthily get the flank on enemies only to blow my cover from my operative shouting, “Contact”, like a complete and utter idiot, revealing my position to the entrenched enemy team without firing a single bullet.
The last component of Modern Warfare’s three-part package is the return of Spec-Ops. Sadly, I think this mode needs some heavy reworks. In its current state, whether you’re playing the PlayStation exclusive survival mode, one of the four available operations, or the one “classic” mission at launch, I felt the mode was too unbalanced and cranked up the difficulty far too quickly to make it worth playing for long. Compared to the previous missions available from Modern Warfare 2 and 3, this year’s rendition of Spec-Ops lacks a lot of the spectacle and epicness of those smaller challenges, opting to instead replace them with a lackluster role system and massive maps that only continue to pelt wave after wave of sharpshooting AI at you as you struggle to get from one objective to the next. Hopefully, this mode can be saved with more difficulty adjustments, or even some fun custom modifiers because Spec-Ops is easily the most forgettable part of Modern Warfare.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare does a lot of things right. The gunplay is fantastic as always, the amount of customization in the sandbox is outstanding and the campaign from beginning to end was both captivating and tactically immersive. However, the annoying state of some multiplayer components at launch and a deeply disappointing co-op mode does make the full package suffer overall. I’m optimistic Infinity Ward will fix the issues with Modern Warfare as they continue to support the game, but with more content scheduled to come down the pipeline, along with a brand-new monetization model post-launch, I expect they will experience difficulties managing the time to address the game’s more prevalent issues.