Call of Duty Modern Warfare Review 8.7/10
This year’s Call of Duty installment is definitely one to notice. It is a return to form and a major improvement for not just the gameplay but also in terms of monetization, graphics, and story. I have to say it is definitely one to remember.
I’m going to break this review into two parts, the Campaign and Multiplayer portions.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare brings back the campaign that was left off in last year's Black Ops 4. Modern Warfare also brings us a whole new engine that really shows in just graphical performance alone. There were sometimes, especially the night “breach missions” where I could have sworn I was watching a pre-rendered or HD Live Action recording of real military breaching a home. Just as amazing as the visuals were the audio as well, with some of the most impressive audio files I’ve heared. Weapons and surrounding gunfire were super impressive and definitely something you would want to experience with nice headphones.
This year’s campaign is definitely an amazing high quality experience. It is visually stunning, and it is very obvious that the game is running on a new engine. The character models, the vast detail in the environment, and everything about it is a visual and auditory treat. There were several design decisions such as a lack of COD-Standard slow-mo moments, and ultra minimal HUD both added to a realistic cinematic experience.
I could go on and on about how beautiful and smooth the campaign felt, looked, and sounded. It played smooth and I kept wanting to play more for the experience. This is ultimately was gives the campaign a must play stamp of approval.My only complaint is the story. While it looked, sounded, and felt amazing, ultimately the story was just average. Activision InfinityWard really hyped up the gravity of the game’s story in marketing and journalistic discussions. They made it seem like the game from start to finish was going to be this controversy machine. They made it seem like it was going to be one long “No Russian” Mission. I went in expecting to be shocked, surprised, or pulling out my hair in the gravity of my decisions, and I just wasn’t. The player is never asked to “play as bad guys” or sent out to kill the “good guys” or civilians. InfinityWard does portray the difficulty of modern warfare where enemies work in the shadows, disguised as civilians or using human shields, even arming women and children. However, if you kill unarmed civilians in the game it will give you a game over screen. There is a scene where you might be led to think a woman is grabbing a gun but instead is grabbing a baby, if you shoot the baby it gives you a game-over (something I read about but didn’t try because most gamers wont try to shoot a baby). There is an optional scene where you torture a terrorist by threatening his family. I don’t want to make it seem like this was some family friendly game, it was definitely mature, just hardly the game that was promised. I didn’t see anything I haven’t seen in a military film. I never wanted to pause and reflect on a difficult moment or regret a bad choice I made. They went for realism and forcing players to go for quick decision making, where marketing and pre-launch hype made us think the game was going to have you possibly commit warcrimes and other atrocities.
Even with out the much warned “shock value” the story was just average. In reality, 90% of the time the enemies were “real” enemy combatants and the main antagonists could be summarized as generic Middle Eastern or generic “Russian evil soldier”. It was a little stereotypical as who the bad guys were, and they were just evil for the sake of being evil. I would have liked a more grounded, grey, complicated villain. I wanted someone to to sympathize or understand, someone like Jonathan Irons from Advanced Warfare. Instead we got generic villains that gave me neither satisfaction or sadness when they died. I kept expecting the female soldier you’ve played as and talked to through out the game to turn out to be a villain twist at the end but that didn’t occur. Adding a complex story with moral dilemmas and complicated villains would have been great. The average story doesn’t do enough to lower the score because the story is outweighed by amazing visuals and gunplay. That is something that needs to be experienced so I definitely recommend playing the campaign.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare has some fast paced amazing action. The game features really good gun crafting and customization. It is definitely the polished look and feel we have come to expect from Call of Duty. I was impressed at every detail even on the multiplayer maps, seeing detailed environments I would more expect in single player. The addition of doors and smaller rooms made the world feel more natural and real. It adds a layer of strategy to a game genre that has been described as “run and gun”. You can slowly peer through doors or come bashing in.
The amount of maps, and the fact that Activision InfinityWard has made the decision to finally do away with map packs and keep new maps free is really great. Could Activision be learning good monetization practices after all these years? Time will tell.
The addition of the Gunfight 2v2 mode is super fun, and I have spent hours in the fast paced small maps. There is nothing more satisfying than getting a 1v2 victory. The randomization of the guns in 2v2 is also great at equalizing players who are best with one gun only, or have more leveled up guns.
The addition of a large scale ground war is an amazing new addition that will definitely appeal to Battlefield fans. All in all the sheer replay-ability of the Modern Warfare’s multiplayer is a huge value component, especially when added to free updates and new maps.
I will say there are some negatives. InfinityWard didn’t do enough to compensate these new smaller tighter maps against gameplay imbalances. This game has a major camping problem. Camping is made worse by the fact that tighter halls and doors can add major choke points. The game contains claymores and also tight corner stairwells that have no way to shoot from a distance, effectively making areas impassible. The claymore (while being realistic) should just be removed from the game or at least have a smarter “cant place here” system like turrets do.
Time to death and time to kill are so short in this game that (again while realistic) also makes some guns virtually unusable because (outside camping or luck) you will 9/10 times die while trying to lift your weapon to shoot.
My biggest critique is really about how Activision has progression in Call of Duty games in general and not unique to Modern Warfare. I would love to see a iteration of COD that abandons performance enhancing progression. When I first started playing, I was frustrated at the amount of times I felt I died because of things like “aim down sight speed”, or having no scopes on my guns and being killed by distant enemies that have 3x scopes.
I don’t believe leveling based progression has any place in online games. Now I will definitely admit that is much better than random, paid, or luck based progression. Perfect example of that was the Loot Box Battlefront II debacle. However, as bad as “pay to win” is, I don’t think “play to win” is much better. It is fine in single player games where eventually you unlock better guns, faster cars, or better powers. However, experience comes with playing. Players learn the map, and practice. You get better already by playing, you shouldn’t also have an advantage with better guns.
I much prefer games like Overwatch, it keeps it balance by making ALL unlocks are cosmetics, doesn’t matter if they are paid or earned. A level 1 tracer is just as powerful as a 300 level tracer player. And because experience is also an advantage, they have very decent matchmaking. It feels balanced. Compare that to Call of Duty where players with max level guns can aim down sights in half a second and shoot you from across the map is put on the same map as players with level 1 guns that don’t have scopes. The popularity of Gunfight (where everyone has the same random gun) should teach Activision that players prefer balanced gameplay determined by skill.
Call of Duty could learned from the fun factor that comes from balanced-cosmetic only gameplay. I want to win because I’m better not because my gun was better. I went from feeling like a noob to feeling like Rambo simply because I finally spec’d out my M4A1.
Despite this, the multiplayer is super fun, and this game is paired with an amazing single player experience. I feel like it is a great must play experience for any FPS fan, COD verteran, or those who haven’t played a COD in a while.