Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the 16th entry to the mainline Call of Duty franchise – and the 8th title created by Infinity Ward. Unlike their most recent entry, Modern Warfare aims to be a return to form for the long stagnating series, with more grounded setting, interesting new gameplay mechanics, redesigned multiplayer, and a much different campaign experience. It’s certainly still a Call of Duty game, but having just played through every entry in the series over the course of the past month – it’s abundantly clear that this Modern Warfare is one of the biggest shakups to the series in over a decade.
To help break it all down – let’s first start by taking a spoiler free look at the story. But before we do so, I wanted to clear up some confusion that I noticed with my comparison video last week. While this game is called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, it has almost nothing to do with the original trilogy of Modern Warfare titles. There are some reoccurring characters, but the plot is completely different – almost like an alternative timeline.
In this modern warfare, most of the action takes place in and around a fictional middle eastern country called Urzikstan, as players help a group of rebels push out invading Russian forces in exchange for information about a terrorist organization believed to be in procession of chemical weapons. Like many of the older call of duty games, players assume the role of multiple characters including Garrick in the British SAS, and Alex of the CIA. This allows for more variety, as the story will shift between these characters between missions – with the British missions focusing more on covert infiltration, while the American side has more large scale battles in middle eastern war torn cities.
And while this sounds a lot like the format of the 2007 classic, Call of Duty 4 – the pacing of the missions is completely different. Missions now include much more dialogue sequences before you get to the action. This allows for much greater character development and a more meaningful story – something that will surely divide fans of the series.
Now without spoiling anything major, I will say that this Modern Warfare is one of the more mature entries to the Call of Duty series. Events depicted share a lot of similarities with real world events happening in Syria over the past few years, with the americans helping rebel allies in exchange for information and assistance neautralizing a terrorist cell. There’s even a mission that was clearly inspired by the Osama Bin Laden raid that – with the added underground sequence, feels incredibly similar to the recent Abu Baghdadi raid.
Because of these more mature topics, many of the scenes throughout the game depict scenes of mass genoicide and brutal violence – including a mass shooting in a western city, chemical warfare, and suicide bombings. It’s a much more believable and modernized narrative than the past games, and one that I believe has been executed in a respectful way – albeit, at the expense of the high intensity action that the franchise has always been known for.
Now, as far as the connection to the original games go, the new Modern Warfare appears to be a fresh reboot for the trilogy – with a number of reoccurring characters like Captain Price, in addition to an exhaustive amount of fan service – including mentions of other key characters, references to similar events, and plenty of repurposed dialogue from Call of Duty 4. It’s an exciting premise to return to this story, and after completing the roughly 5 hour campaign, I’m definitely excited to see what’s in store for the sequel.
But the gameplay offers an even greater change to the experience, like I said before, the pacing in the single player campaign is much slower than past call of duty games, with smaller scale conflicts and higher lethality. Weapons feel more powerful and satisfying, thanks in part to the incredible sound design and reworked recoil animation – and movement – while still boots on the ground, feels more fluid and responsive. What’s interesting though, is that the mission designs offer very few over the top action sequences. In fact - A good chunk of the action in the campaign takes place late at night with night vision goggles and small scale skirmishes.
There’s about 3 missions throughout the campaign that feature very small, close quarters environments, with reduced movement speed and a heavy emphasis on scripted AI in each room of a small building. To make this more believable, players can now interact with doors, and can either slowly move them open – or recklessly kick them open to catch enemies off guard. In addition to this, players now need to much more carefully pick their targets, as environments now include balanced amount of both hostile and civilian NPCs. Some characters that look like civilians, will even reach for guns – requiring players to think on their feet and engage when necessary.
There’s still some old school Call of Duty action mixed in, including a level that feels eerily similar to the format of Charlie Don’t Surf, but they aren’t quite as common, and these small-scale infiltration missions and more narrative driven experiences round out the rest of the campaign.
In terms of the controls, Modern Warfare plays mostly the same. Players still move alongside an AI unit and engage groups of scripted enemies – either holding a defensive position, or attacking key objectives – but there are a few new mechanics like the Tactical Sprinting – that allow players to press the sprint button a second time to move even faster, though at the cost of slower response time.
Players can once again slide on the ground into a crouch, and can now mount their weapon around corners or on cover – greatly improving weapon stability like an impromptu bi-pod.
And then of course, there’s the multiplayer experience. Just like the campaign, Call of Duty Modern Warfare’s multiplayer is designed very differently than the past several games – with several new playlist types, new balancing, reworked map direction, and a change-up to the progression and customization systems.
So first, let’s talk about the progression and customization system. Like before, Modern Warfare allows players to rank up their profile and unlock new weapons, perks, and killstreak rewards to use ingame. Weapons range from assault rifles, submachine guns, and shotguns to Light Machine Guns and sniper rifles. And unlike past games, Modern Warfare allows players to equip up to 5 different attachments to both their primary and secondary weapon without having to sacrifice any other loadout customization. This allows for an unprecedented amount of player freedom and personalization, – and can finally be tweaked mid-match instead of having to return to the lobby like before.
There’s an insane amount of attachments available to choose from – though because each attachment is unlocked by ranking up that particular weapon with acquired kills, I feel as though I was stuck using the same weapons for longer periods of time. It was difficult to force myself to switch off of the highly effective M4A1 in favor of a new assault rifle simply because of the huge handicap I’d be giving myself – and based on the number of M4’s I found lying around dead bodies ingame, I feel like either lower weapon ranking requirements, or shared weapon attachment unlocks – may encourage players to try out different weapons more.
Perks handle mostly the same as before, with 3 different categories to choose from – but the more powerful perks from past games like the popular Dead Silence are now part of a new gameplay mechanic called Field Upgrades. Field Upgrades can be used infinitely throughout the match, but can only be used temporarily before needing a cooldown. This feels like a great way to balance out the more powerful perks – though I would like an option to equip specific field upgrades per loadout – instead of needing to change it out every time I want to change up my playstyle.
Killstreaks also make a return – and as the name would suggest, once again require kills instead of just objective scores. Though, players that prefer the scorestreak design can equip a perk to change this. The killstreaks themselves don’t innovate much. There’s your standard UAVs, sentry turrets, care packages and airstrikes – but there are a few new ones like the White Phosphorous attack, that blankets the level in a thick volatile fog that stuns the enemy team and deals burning damage over time.
Other customization options include a few pre-made character models – that for whatever reason, have small intro cutscenes when you first view them, and ton of other cosmetic unlocks like skins, charms, and player cards.
Unlike past Call of Duty games, Modern Warfare does away with the prestige system, and instead, allows players to rank up past the max 55 through a new Officer Rank system – which adds an extra 100 player ranks to achieve with each additional season. This system is tailor made to introduce vanity items like advanced cosmetics for dedicated players – but past 55, it doesn’t seem like you’ll gain any sort of general gameplay advantage.
Next, let’s talk about the different game modes. As usual, Modern Warfare features all of the classic team based game modes like TDM, Domination, and Search and Destroy – but also introduces some new modes – including a versions of standard maps that require night vision, a competitive 2v2 mode called gunfight, and the large scale 64 player ground war.
Gunfight, pits 2 players against eachother in small arenas with identical weapon loadouts and no respawns. This mode offers some great competitive action, as the focus turns away from trying to score killstreaks and rank up individual weapons, and towards more of a focus on adaptive teamwork and genuine skill to come out on top.
Meanwhile, ground war goes the complete other direction with it, and offers huge expansive environments with upwards of 64 players fighting over several different control points. To help cross the terrain more effectively, Ground war also offers some driveable vehicles including an APC light tank, quad bikes, and even a small transport helicopter, useful for gaining a high vantage point for a squad of snipers. This mode naturally shares a lot in common with Battlefield – but is also not the first time the Call of Duty series has attempted something of this scale, with the multiplayer in older titles like United Offensive, and Call of Duty 3 offering a very similar experience – albeit, in a WW2 setting.
But unlike those older titles, this Ground War just doesn’t feel like it works with the fast paced action of the modern call of duty experience. While combat certainly feels great and is fluid – the vehicles feel really stiff and awkward to use, and the lack of environmental destruction for smaller objects like trees and poles make them frustrating to maneuver through the streets. Also, a lot of the older features from Call of Duty 3, like class abilities don’t make a return. The reason battlefield works the way it does, is because the different classes are forced to work together to make traversing the large environments tolerable. Ground War would be more interesting if there were player classes like the older games – with specific roles having access to certain weapons and abilities, like a medic that can revive squad members. Call of Duty’s ground war doesn’t feel like it’s built around working as a team at all. Sure, you can spawn on your squad member and shoot at the same nearby targets, but it just feels like a major step back from more modern large scale war games. Ground War also allows for player killstreaks – only making the action more chaotic, as automatic turrets, helicopters, and airstrikes make any movement outside of the central structures suicidal.
But this is hardly an issue when compared to the restriction on party sizes eligible to join. Because squads in ground war are composed of only 4 players, it’s impossible to join with a larger party size into a ground war match. Instead, we found that we had to split into grounds of 4 and join on each others game in progress with no guarantee that we’d end up on the same team together. This, along with the lack of a join-in-progress queue system just makes the mode more of a hassle than it should be.
That being said, the standard multiplayer mode still feels great, with some intense close matches and solid feel to the combat. The only thing keeping it from feeling perfect are some fairly major weapon balancing issues – and issues with the level designs.
The balancing in this game needs some serious work. After a week or so of playing, it’s especially clear that the 725 shotgun – aka the Olympia, is beyond overpowered. This 2-shot buckshot has way too long of an effective killing range, making it unstoppable in many of the close quarter environments.
The M4A1, as I mentioned earlier – also feels far better than any of the other AR’s that I’ve tried, as I found weapons like the burst fire FAMAS took far too long to down enemies by comparison. Claymores also need to be investigated, as their range and damage output just seems excessive. A weapon this powerful would probably be better suited for a field upgrade, which would make them less common and less frustrating as a result – though for now, you can equip a perk to help identify claymores through walls to avoid them.
The level designs are the other major issue here, mainly the way the game registers a spawn swap. Typically, in a call of duty multiplayer match, if one team is dominating and pushing the opposing team into a corner, the spawns will automatically switch sides to the other side of the map, giving the losing team some breathing room. But because of the larger level designs, and increased player count for these larger levels, the spawns don’t seem to properly swap – turning matches into one team being completely destroyed in their spawn for 10 minute straight. This is especially noticeable in Euphrates Bridge and Piccadily – where teams are frequently pushed back into spawn and the winning tema is able to score easy spawn kills using sniper rifles and killstreaks.
My guess is that the increased player count keeps enough players respawning on both sides to prevent the game from recognizing a safe alternative spawn zone – so it just continues to spawn in the initial deployment area, so either these maps need to have a reduced max player count – or the spawn areas need to provide significantly more cover and alternative roots. Piccadilly in particular is especially bad, as players are forced to either travel down a narrow street in the open, or through a small maintenance hallway on the right. Opening up an additional route underground or to the left would immedietly fix this problem -in addition to a more effective spawn swap system.
So the map spawns, and weapon balancing are currently the only major problems I have with the game currently – everything else looks and plays great – and thanks to the new full cross-platform compatibility, PC players no longer have to worry about empty servers if they decide to buy the game a week late, an issue that has plagued Call of Duty’s PC releases for the past decade.
And then finally, there’s the cooperative Spec Ops mode. Just like Modern Warfare 2, players can work together to overcome challenging missions tailored specifically for cooperative play. But other than that very generic description – this version of spec ops plays nothing like the older games.
So first off, there’s 3 different spec ops modes to choose from – standard missions, spec ops classic, and the ps4 exclusive survival mode.
In the standard missions, 4 players are dropped into a massive semi-open ended environment filled with an endless supply of enemy compatants. These enemies range from standard infantry, and juggernaughts, to technicals, helciopters, and tanks. While fighting through these enemies, teams are responsible for completing several different objectives, often involving extracting data from servers, or destroying high value targets.
While a pretty straight forward premise – the endless supply of enemies, and their increased variety and difficulty makes this one of the most brutally challenging modes in the game. Players will need to carefully coordinate their weapon loadouts and perks to maximize their effectiveness, and work as a team to stay alive. Unlike the multiplayer, Spec Ops gives players special power ups called “Munitions” that allow players to call in things like airstrikes and juggernaut suits to push back. While munitions can be chosen at the deployment, more munitions can be found in small boxes all throughout the large environments, and players will need to carefully coordinate their munitions with eachother to bypass the more challenging sections.
Unique to spec ops missions are player roles – that grant both an active and passive ability. Roles are extremely important, and can provide the team with much needed relief. The medic for example, can occasionally use an active ability called Team Revive – that revives every downed teammate instantly – and can also revive all players more quickly by hand.
Meanwhile the heavy can provide instant armor protection and has increased grenade launcher capacity.
Mix and matching different roles, loadouts, and munitions makes this mode and it’s 4 distinct missions highly replayable – and a definite challenge, even for the most seasoned groups of players.
Spec Ops classic on the otherhand – feels like a major missed opportunity. Despite the name, Spec Ops classic feels nothing like the old 3-star missions of MW2 or MW3. Instead, there seems to be only a single level that borrows the sniper mission environment from the single player, where players need to hold off against a few waves of enemy reinforcements and then escape by helicopter. Players can not choose their loadout, and the team roles are not implemented – though munitions can still be found throughout each wave and used to resupply and call in air support.
And then there’s the PS4 timed exclsuvie Survival mode, that plays similarly to the survival mode from MW3. Here, players need to survive endless waves of enemies in repurposed multiplayer maps – and can unlock weapon attachments and other powerful rewards between waves.
Overall, the spec ops mode is definitely worth checking out if you have a group of 4. Though the spec ops classic mode is a huge disappoint considering it only comes with one map – and players on the PC and Xbox will have to wait a full year before they can survive against waves of hostiles in spec ops survival – at which point Treyarch’s new Call of Duty will be right on the horizon.
Another interesting takeaway here – is that it seems as though the huge environment featured in the main spec ops missions, are tailor made for a large-scale battle royale experience, similar to Black Ops 4’s blackout mode. If you look closely, there’s even iconic locations in the background from past Modern Warfare titles, like the Gulag – which helps to explain why the Gulag showers are one of the playable maps in the 2v2 gunfight mode. I would not be surprised at all if Infinity Ward released a battle royale to help rebuild hype for this game in the coming months. Either that, or they were working on a battle royale mode and canned it partway through development.
Finally, let’s talk about the presentation. As you’ve probably already noticed or discovered with my recent comparison for this title, Modern Warfare demonstrates a pretty significant leap forward technically for the Call of Duty series. Thanks to Infinity Ward’s new engine, everything from the character models, animations, and lighting have seen a huge uptick in quality – providing for one of the best looking call of duty experiences to date. One of the most impressive technical achievements are the high quality cinematics between missions, that look near photo realistic. Unfortunetly, these beautiful cutscenes are ruined by some consistent stuttering and audio sync issues on the PC, that seemed to be caused by the next level attempting to load in the background.
The actual rendered visuals are impressive as well, with phenomenal animation work, and excellent special effects – all with solid performance throughout.
The sound design is also a noticeable improvement here – as weapons feel genuinelyl powerful for once.
The only technical issues I ran into were occasional times where my game would minimize during gameplay, and an annoying shader installation process that seems to occur after every update to the game client.
Still – in the grand scheme of things, these are fairly minor issues, and certainly can be fixed with additional patches in the future. In game visuals and performance are excellent and a huge step forward for the series.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the answer to nearly a decade of complaints from fans – asking the developers to do something different. While it’s still the same old call of duty at its core, it offers a much more mature experience, with a campaign that covers more realistic events and doesn’t rely as heavily on needlessly over the top action sequences.
The multiplayer certainly could use some work, particular with weapon balancing and the design of the larger maps, but the new cross-platform play makes the experience finally available to play reliably for all players, regardless of platform preference.
And the spec ops mode offers an extra challenge that will test your cooperative capabilities – while also hinting at a potential battle royale mode in the future.
It’s a huge package, that delivers something for every type of player – and certainly feels like a high point for a series – and hopefully, the developers will continue to innovate like this moving forward.
But what do you guys think? Did Call of Duty: Modern Warfare meet your expectations? Let me know in the comment section. And if you want to learn more about Modern Warfare, and the rest of the Call of Duty series, be sure to check out the full feature length documentary on the franchise, that covers everything from the development history, evolution of visuals, and all the changes that have been made over the years to the gameplay. And of course - don’t forget to like and subscribe to Nick930 on YouTube for more videos posted every week!