Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare review – reboots on the ground
GameCentral reviews the entirety of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, including the multiplayer, Spec Ops, and story campaign.
As we alluded to in our review of the single-player story campaign, Call Of Duty has been in a constant state of reinvention since 2017’s WWII. The initial catalyst was the hostile fan response to sci-fi entry Infinite Warfare, but after that Fortnite appeared and threatened to eat all of Activision’s lunch. Their response to the new rival has been generally effective though, maintaining Call Of Duty as the biggest paid-for franchise in gaming (barring sports sims and GTA). And despite some issues Modern Warfare hasn’t dropped the ball in that regard.
As always, Call Of Duty is really three games in one: story campaign, standard multiplayer, and co-op. Last year’s Black Ops 4 ditched the campaign in favour of Battle Royale (not entirely by choice, if stories about the production turmoil behind the game are true) but now it’s back and headlines what is intended as a loose reboot of the original Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare from 2007.
Being a reboot doesn’t affect the multiplayer modes quite so much, but this is the first time the series has been set squarely in the modern day since Modern Warfare 3 in 2011 (although to be fair a lot of the others have been pretty close, with their ambiguous ‘near future’ settings). It’s also the first game in a long while not to feature a Zombies mode, which used to be only for Treyarch developed games and was not originally part of the Modern Warfare sub-series.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Spec Ops review
Instead of Zombies, what you get is co-op mode Special Ops, which hasn’t been seen since Modern Warfare 3. Although there are no fantastical elements in Special Ops it does tie into the campaign by revealing a few new story points, as you try to complete a series of team-based missions either in co-op or with computer-controlled teammates.
There are plenty of modes, including shorter missions adapted from the story campaign and the already infamous Survival mode, which is exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version for a year. It’s really nothing to feel jealous about though as it’s just a fairly basic wave-based survival experience that, like the rest of Special Ops, feels surprisingly old-fashioned compared to the rest of the game.
There’s a good reason why all the Call Of Duty games started used Zombies and while that mode may be played out by now, going back to one that was already unexceptional 10 years ago doesn’t seem a very good idea. Apart from anything Special Ops is frustratingly difficult, with enemies constantly spawning at random, to no discernible pattern. Given that and the mini-open world map you begin to wonder why they didn’t just stick with a more realistic Zombies or, even better, come up with something entirely new.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer review
It’s been a while now since the jetpack era of Advanced Warfare, but all the modes in Modern Warfare are permeated by the same sense of pseudo-realism. This extends even to the map design, which skews away from the familiar three-lane set-up of most classic maps in favour of a more unpredictable layout in terms of chokepoints and sniper spots.
Modern Warfare might not have Zombies but it does use the idea of operators from the Black Ops games, with 18 different characters to play as, from multiple different factions. And of course, there’s the traditional killstreak system, where you get ever more powerful rewards the better you do – kind of like a reverse Mario Kart.
The small number of new game types includes a 20-player Team Deathmatch mode called TDM 20 and the more inventive Gunfight. TDM 20 always seems to drag on forever but Gunfight is a very worthwhile addition where you only get one life in a 2v2 match and weapons are randomly picked each round (or you choose to start with none). To be honest, it’s often a more entertaining co-op experience than most of Special Ops and seems destined to become a new favourite.
Ground War might as well, with its larger maps that contain five control points and one safe zone for each team. This is Call Of Duty’s most concerted effort yet to beat Battlefield at is own game, with 64 players and useable vehicles. At the moment though a lot of players are still treating it like a normal Call Of Duty match, largely ignoring the control points and just going for ordinary kills. But hopefully that will stop after a few weeks.
There are other minor variants of existing play types, such as a more tactical take on Search and Destroy called Cyber Attack, plus night vision goggle versions of the maps. The latter is interesting both tactically and in terms of visuals, although Activision keep taking them out of rotation for some reason.
And then there’s the new Realism option, which sits slightly behind the traditional Hardcore option as a purposefully more difficult challenge. In what seems a perfect illustration of the game’s approach to realism though it’s not quite what you’d imagine, as you still magically regenerate health and there’s no friendly fire. What is different though is that there’s no on-screen interface, so you have to listen on the radio for both killstreak info and kill confirmations.
Of course, all three modes sport the same gunplay, which is as excellent as ever. No matter which developer is involved they’ve never been foolish enough to drastically alter the core action and this handles as well as ever. However, the pace of everything is purposefully slower, from the campaign to the multiplayer, and the time to kill (TTK) seems lower than it’s ever been in the series.
Again, it’s the attempt at faux realism that’s driving the change, as well as a desire to muscle in on some of Rainbow Six Siege’s esports territory. We’re not sure the TTK was necessarily a good idea in the bigger maps and game modes though, with Ground War in particular suffering from the fact that you can get murked in a millisecond and all your careful planning and traversal is wasted.
As is always the case with Call Of Duty, there’s more positive than negative and depending on how you take to the story campaign it’s easy to imagine this being many people’s favourite entry of recent years. But there are just enough issues in each of the three modes that it doesn’t quite come together at launch, even if the multiplayer modes will likely be tweaked and improved over the coming months.
What’s also likely to happen in the future is that Activision will add in microtransactions once all the reviews are out and they’ve already had the game’s content classified as not including them. Most fans will already expect that to happen though, as they will know and expect most of the game’s other foibles and eccentricities. If this was an attempt to shake up the Call Of Duty formula then it is a failure. But if it was simply meant to be a more serious take on familiar concepts then we are duty-bound to say it has succeeded.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare review summary
In Short: Nowhere close to a reinvention of the series but the more serious tone is mostly successful, with an ambitious story campaign and some entertaining new multiplayer modes.
Pros: A mountain of content bound together by Call Of Duty’s typically excellent gunplay and map design. Gunfight and Ground War are both welcome additions and the graphics are very impressive.
Cons: The campaign doesn’t have the narrative courage to finish what it starts. Multiplayer has few genuinely new features and low TTK can be a problem. Special Ops is super hard and not much fun.
Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: 25th October 2019
Age Rating: 18
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