As someone who has played titles in the Call of Duty franchise primarily for their campaigns in the past, I was very excited to learn that the newest iteration in the series would pay a much greater emphasis on the single player aspect of the game. The last few entries have really been lacking in this regard, with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 not even having a campaign at all.
Thankfully though, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a return to form for the series, with perhaps the best campaign the franchise has seen in many years. It’s not perfect, and it sometimes falters in its approach to storytelling, but it’s still one of the best we’ve seen from Call of Duty.
Told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, the story pits players against the terrorist organization Al-Qatala. This terrorist force is active in the fictional nation of Urzikstan, and our protagonists join up with the local rebel leader Farah Karim to try and disrupt their nefarious activities.
The entire cast of characters is very likable overall thanks to some great character writing, motion capture and incredible voice acting. Captain John Price, first introduced in 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, also makes a return to the series and plays a very crucial role in the events that unfold over the course of the 6-7 hour campaign.
The story goes to some very dark places during the campaign, often placing a heavy emphasis on the deep human cost of war. It’s something that the Call of Duty franchise does very well when it chooses to tackle these subjects, but there are a few moments in this particular entry that seem a bit too artificial. Depictions of suffering and cruelty definitely have their place in video game storytelling, but there are times in Modern Warfare when it seems that they are being forced simply for the shock value and not to make a point.
There’s one particular plot thread in the game that blatantly blames actual real-life war crimes on Russia, when they were actually committed by America. The creators of Modern Warfare have claimed that a focus on realism was a factor in the development of this game, but I feel that there are few things that betray that goal than actual historical revisionism.
Missions constantly change the way you approach them by introducing new set pieces at a steady rate, and there are some truly memorable moments that switch up the gameplay. There is a stealth encounter in the game, that I will not spoil, that is undoubtedly my favorite part of the entire campaign due to the sheer spectacle of it alone. It’s a lot of fun to play through.
The campaign also introduces a new mechanic called the Collateral Damage score, which is a pretty self-explanatory feature. During missions players are encouraged to take it slow and think their actions through in combat situations. Discretion is advised when dealing with NPCs in the world, and players are punished for being too trigger-happy. Those who are able to deal with situations tactfully receive a higher collateral damage score, and are rewarded for it.
Multiplayer in Modern Warfare is still as fast and frantic as ever, even if movement is fairly slower compared to what we’ve seen in some of the more futuristic entries in the series over the past few years (excluding Call of Duty: WWII). There’s no grappling hooks, no wall-running and certainly no jetpacks. This is Call of Duty going back to basics, and it feels great.
A few new gameplay mechanics like the ability to mount your guns on corners or other surfaces for increased accuracy and a high speed tactical sprint are very welcome additions to the established formula. They add a lot of variety to how you approach situations in tried and tested game modes like Free-For-All and Team Deathmatch.
The maps available for these standard multiplayer modes though are fairly limited at launch, and the game desperately needs new ones soon. None of them are particularly memorable either, and they’re missing a lot of the creativity that we’ve seen before.
Ground War is a returning 32v32 game mode similar to the Conquest mode in the Battlefield games that takes place in large open maps. Players have to capture and hold points on the map while fighting off the enemy team, and they can also make use of vehicles like tanks and helicopters. The maps are fairly well designed and massive, but it’s a shame that there are only 2 of them available at launch.
The new Spec Ops selection is easily the weakest part of Modern Warfare, partly due to the potential that’s clearly there. This features wave based challenges that let a team of 4 players loose in maps where they can either complete a set of objectives in Operations mode, or just take on enemy after enemy in a traditional horde mode style in either Classic or Survival modes.
These are repetitive and annoying, with each mode almost always devolving into a mess as you and your teammates find yourself being crushed under the brunt of a seemingly endless number of enemies that spawn out of absolutely nowhere. These aren’t really all that fun, and they pale in comparison to the traditional Multiplayer and Campaign.
Visually speaking, this is one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. The lighting, the textures and the particle effects are such a step above last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 that I sometimes had a hard time convincing myself that these games belong to the same franchise. It’s honestly baffling how good this game looks, and I don’t mean to sound insane, but I found myself just staring at a fire burning during one of the night time missions because that’s just how pretty it was.
And while the Xbox One X truly goes above and beyond in bringing this game’s visuals to life, if you’re still one of the thousands that play games on a base Xbox One or Xbox One S, I have some bad news for you. While Call of Duty: Modern Warfare still looks stunning on these consoles, you can easily tell that they’re struggling.
There’s significant texture pop-in issues on these base platforms to the point that you can actually see grass just appear in front of you as you’re sprinting, and buildings and other structures just look noticeably bad when compared to the Xbox One X. These consoles are at the end of their life cycle, and it’s just the way it goes at this point.
In conclusion, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has a fantastic campaign that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s dark and gritty, and it’s a comeback for a series that had started to seriously neglect its single-player content. I have some issues with specific aspects of its storytelling, but they don’t take away from the overall quality too much.
Multiplayer is also amazing, and the new gameplay mechanics add a much needed layer of strategy to the typical run and gun formula. New maps are desperately needed though, or players are likely to loose interest very soon.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is out now on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC. It was developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. This review covers the Xbox One version of the game.
The review code was provided by the publisher.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a return to form for a franchise that had started to ignore It’s single-player content. The new campaign is fantastic, the multiplayer is still solid, and this is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played.