Call of Duty has always offered fast, explosive action, the likes of which might make Michael Bay quiver in his gasoline-filled boots. Well good news, it’s here again in Modern Warfare and it’s LOUD!
Fluid graphics (especially in multiplayer), satisfyingly huge sound, and attention to detail in weaponry are all hallmarks of the series, and they’re all present and accounted for here. Infinity Ward have always set themselves a high benchmark and once again meet that demanding standard.
Finally, we have a single player mode that rivals that of the original Modern Warfare in 2007. It’s an exciting turn for the series, with a deep and engaging story that’s more than the mere tutorial missions that we’ve seen in previous titles and rival series. Unlike Call of Duty: WWII, this feels much more appropriate for the style of franchise. It takes the best aspects of the first two Modern Warfare outings and melds them together into something compelling.
You follow a series of characters around a twisting plot, and while It’s not particularly surprising or original as far as storytelling goes, the attention to detail and the effort made to create this mode make Modern Warfare a much more complete game that’s well worth the price of admission.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, as there are some story missions where you need to rely on stealth with no access to guns, which is completely maddening. It’s like going to an ice cream parlour where you’re only allowed to eat the cones. Call of Duty can be smart and detailed, but it absolutely must be action-packed. We can’t think of any FPS title where we’ve thought, “What this game needs is more stealth missions…”
The on-rails aspect of the story mode is also a little tired. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, although there are some occasions that smell like they could have been a 30 second-skippable cutscene. Meanwhile, there are other story missions that feel more like trial and error rather than a test of skills. Baddies jump out from places that they logically couldn’t be in, like a terrorist Michael Myers hiding from Jamie Lee Curtis in an impossibly small cupboard.
The single player mode is strongly recommended to get you into the spirit of the game. It offers a solid standalone experience that’s easy to enjoy. Still, while a fully fleshed-out single player story line is a very welcome addition, let’s talk about the real reason we’re all here… multiplayer!
Where the single player mode is mostly well paced and interspersed with detailed and provocative storylines, the online multiplayer is lightning fast and reactionary. The experience of logging in for the first time is like jumping headfirst into an ice bath. It’s a shock to the system, especially for anyone who hasn’t played Call of Duty for a while.
Once you’re up to speed, the combat is fluid and accessible. It takes time to adjust to the different maps and game modes, and during that time you will die frequently and for no apparent reason. It’s the most accurate experience of trial by fire you can have from the edge of your couch.
Crossplay – one of the big features of multiplayer – works like a dream. It’s everything that you could want from multiplayer. It’s fast and easy and sets the standard for every multiplayer game moving forward.
You can hook up with your friends on other systems by using your Activision account details (required to start the game) and it’s as simple as finding them on your preferred platforms. You won’t be able to tell the difference unless you’re looking at the player list before entering a match.
One word of caution though. If you’re playing on console, you’re going to eventually come up against PC players. Still, they level out the skill level difference by requiring PC players to use a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse. In theory, this should make it a level playing field, but it’s something we’ll have to measure over time. The only practical difference you may see here is the access to fast text messaging via the in-game chat.
“Baddies jump out … like a terrorist Michael Myers hiding from Jamie Lee Curtis in an impossibly small cupboard.”
Levelling up, like the combat, is superbly quick. Two hours in will see you at level 10, and you’ll already have unlocked some cool toys. There are also daily challenges and missions that unlock special weapon skins and profile badges. Playing with a preferred weapon and racking up the kills will mean you gain experience for that weapon, unlocking better attachments and upgrades that make you more effective over time.
The CoD points system is also back, but at the time of review there was nothing available in the store for purchase. Expect that to change in the coming weeks as Activision up the available content in time for Christmas, once all of the active players are effectively levelled up.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare works best in tight corridors and small maps. Lightning fast gameplay and zero time to strategize. It’s reactionary and visceral. The ‘Ground War’ mode, while fun, is probably not the best use of these strengths. It’s pleasing that CoD is stretching out into this territory as well, but it’s like going to a movie theatre to watch reruns of Friends – it’s possible, but you really aren’t seeing things the way they were designed to be seen.
Not since the first appearance of Call of Duty 4 have we had such a significant addition to the franchise, or one that immediately should be on the must-play list of anyone remotely interested in first-person shooters or competitive multiplayer. Infinity Ward have knocked this year’s edition out of the park. Compelling storylines, and a Hollywood blockbuster level of action with explosions that will leave a ringing in your ears. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a return to the roots of what made CoD great and stands out as a strong contender for the best FPS of 2019.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.