The Call of Duty franchise is a bit like a roller coaster — it goes up and it goes down. Whilst I spend year after year blasting my way through each campaign (Black Ops 4 notwithstanding) and having a jolly time doing so, even I will admit that some of the more recent entries have put me off a little. It’s not that I’m against a more futuristic setting to an FPS game. To me, Call of Duty represents more of a modern take on warfare, which is why, as its name aptly points out, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare feels like a welcome return to the franchise despite treading familiar ground.
That familiarity comes in the form of both characters and gameplay. First up, single-player. The plot itself isn’t all too dissimilar to the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is plausible due to this being a soft reboot of sorts and has you fighting across the globe in England, Russia, and the fictional country of Urzikstan. Representing the British S.A.S soldiers are John Price, a returning fan-favorite who still supports his delightfully rendered facial hair, and Kyle Garrick. Further support comes from the CIA soldier, Alex, and resistance fighter, Farah Karim, who both lend a hand in fighting terrorist threats and saving the world because they are the good guys — sort of (more on that shortly).
Your job, as you jump between characters and locations as well as the occasional time period, is to combat the threat of Russian forces and the Urzikstan terrorist group Al-Qatala. The pacing of the campaign is very fast, with its 14 missions being doable in around 4-6 hours depending on chosen difficulty. I didn’t necessarily feel I’d been short-changed with the campaign; it told a cohesive story and I came away thinking I’d had a good time. I just wish there was an hour or so more playtime overall. Having said that, it still offers one of the better Call of Duty campaigns in recent memory, which is as I mentioned, because of how it’s familiar in a welcoming way.
The last few installments to the franchise, excluding Call of Duty: WWII, have opted for a more futuristic setting and I’m pretty sure Jon Snow popped up in one of them too. Thankfully, at least to my personal Call of Duty taste, there’s not a single spaceship in sight during Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Instead, the focus is on the current climate we live in with some political commentary on the way the world is today. For example, there are drone strikes and chemical warfare, suicide bombers and covert terrorist cells, and a commentary on what is truly the right way to go about fighting a war for freedom.
Take one mission set in Piccadilly, where the terrorist organization Al-Qatala has begun opening fire and detonating bombs in London without a concern for civilian casualties. It’s a very real threat that can and does happen. As a nation, we all want to think we’re doing the right thing in putting a stop to it. However, this is one example where some of the grayer areas of war come to light within the game, particularly in how Captain Price and Farah arguably oppose one another morally. During this mission, if you’re a hostage wearing a suicide vest, don’t expect much sympathy from Captain Price if it means you’re going to endanger others. On the flip side, Farah is out to save as many people as she can, sometimes to a detriment. This isn’t the only moral conundrum the campaign throws at you — there’s a torture scene involving very young people (which is skippable, yet no less harrowing to think about) and also a flashback involving Farah and her brother that involves the pre-pubescent pair having to commit some traumatizing acts just to survive.
I’m not saying that Modern Warfare should shy away from these topical issues. I personally think it portrays them in a fairly respectful and thought-provoking light (though I know others disagree). For those who moan “everything is so political nowadays,” don’t worry — there’s still a spruced-up version of “All Ghillied Up” to play through, so stop your moaning.
As a quick side note before we move on to multiplayer, the single-player mission variety is decent. There are some Zero Dark Thirty-style stealthy missions, some that are more action-oriented, and some that are a mix of the two. None are particularly lengthy, save for one that seemed roughly 3x the length of any other, but the gameplay in each is a little different and doesn’t feel like it stagnates all that much. Modern Warfare is visually impressive too. You can still tell it’s a Call of Duty game, but it’s a darn pretty one for sure.
Multiplayer is still just as bombastic as you’d expect, but at a more stripped-down level, though not to the game’s detriment. By this, I mean the leveling system feels far more streamlined and less cluttered than it has for the past few years. Want to unlock new weapons, killstreaks, and perks? Then simply level up. Want to unlock weapon attachments and camouflage? Again, a simple case of leveling up weapons by using them during a match. There’s no faffing around with unlock tokens and all that nonsense. Multiplayer is a far more refined version of older gameplay systems found in the aged entries of the franchise, and personally I think it works far better.
There is currently a decent rotation of maps with future DLC apparently being free of charge (yay), and a familiar roster of game modes make their return. Alongside these though are two newcomers: “Ground War” and “Gunfight”. The former is basically a large-scale version of your standard deathmatch, a la the likes of any recent Battlefield game. The latter is a 2v2, pitting you and a friend against another duo out to kill you. Ground War was, as I expected, hectic, whilst Gunfight made for a more tense shootout, especially considering your loadout changes each round. All in all, there are a few issues (camping seems to be a big one at the moment), but the removal of wall running and exo-suits seems to have made old fudges like me capable of getting back into the swing of things and reliving the glory days of 2007. Thumbs up. You can also play in “Realism” mode which turns off your HUD and limits your ability to see teammate movement. Now you can pretend you really are on the front line (you’re not, don’t be silly).
Finally, we cover Spec Ops mode, which canonically follows the main campaign’s conclusion. As with multiplayer, new content is to be introduced for free down the line, but as for what’s there right now, it’s no walk in the park. Be prepared to die a lot if constant teamwork and communication aren’t your forte, because there are A LOT of enemies to deal with. Couple this with a large map and you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed if you don’t strategize and play it safe. Whilst I admittedly didn’t put a great amount of time into Spec Ops, I can see myself sinking more time into it once a few more operations are added, even if that just means shouting at one another because we are so close to finishing an objective until somebody decides to try and go lone wolf. Shameful.
There we have it then. Hindsight is a funny thing — maybe I’ll look back at this and think I do prefer the more futuristic Call of Duty games, but in all honesty, I don’t think I will. Modern Warfare‘s stripped down and back to basics look at warfare (not at all in detriment to the game) honestly felt like some fresh air to the franchise, even if it touches on familiar ground. A solid campaign mixed in with the most fun I’ve had in Call of Duty multiplayer for a while, alongside very good potential in the Spec Ops mode, means Call of Duty is back on my FPS radar. Great job, Infinity Ward.
Story: Not the most original of narratives per se, but a cracking good time nonetheless.
Graphics: Undoubtedly a Call of Duty game, but still the best looking Call of Duty to date. For further proof, refer to Captain Price's mustache.
Multiplayer: A solid entry into the Call of Duty MP roster, with a stripped back approach proving that sometimes simplicity is king.
Gameplay: The game spices up several missions in some way — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. However, credit where it's due, things don't stagnate.
Fun Factor: Honestly? It's like playing through an action movie and I had a damn good time doing so.
Final Rating: 8/10. If you’ve been hankering for a return to the days when warfare was depicted in a ‘realistic’ way, then Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has you covered. It modernizes things just enough to avoid feeling like a carbon copy of the original, whilst giving you welcome familiarity. Plus, Captain Price now has an even more luxurious mustache. Fantastic.
Multiplayer is a far more refined version of older gameplay systems found in the aged entries of the franchise, and personally I think it works far better.
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Part time zombie-slayer, full time ice-cream lover. No horde will keep me from the dairy goodness.