Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare launched in 2007, and the video game industry has never been the same. Call of Duty 4 changed the way developers approached first-person shooter games, providing widespread innovation and setting the bar incredibly high with its addictive, fast-paced multiplayer and blockbuster campaign. Modern Warfare 2 raised the bar even higher, with an even more intense campaign, some of the best multiplayer maps in series history, and the Spec Ops co-op mode. Modern Warfare 3 wrapped the series up, and then Call of Duty turned its attention to futuristic settings and jet packs. Now Infinity Ward, comprised of many developers who worked on the original Modern Warfare trilogy, is bringing the series back to its roots with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has three main game modes to offer players - Campaign, Multiplayer, and Spec Ops. The campaign is easily the highlight of the experience, with players joining fan favorite characters like Captain Price and new faces like Farah Karim in a variety of missions that are chock full of the franchise's signature set-pieces, shocking moments, and satisfying gunplay.
The Call of Duty series tends to feature globe-trotting plots that make it difficult for the developers to keep all of the characters together. The result is that it's hard to become quite as invested in them, but that's not a problem with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. All of the major players get proper character development over the course of the story, thanks to flashbacks and plot developments that bring characters together instead of having them completing different missions all over the world that feel disconnected from each other.
Players will find themselves attached to the characters in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is something that's rare for a Call of Duty game. These characters and the story they're in are both elevated by excellent performances and solid writing, which go a long way in making them seem like real, complex people instead of generic soldier types. By making players actually care about the characters, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign's more intense moments hit a lot harder than they would otherwise.
Not only does Infinity Ward deliver an engrossing story for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's campaign, but it delivers top-notch gameplay as well. The campaign still has the "Follow You" framework of past Call of Duty games, but doesn't let it slow things down. Players are constantly moving forward, and they rarely if ever find themselves just standing around waiting for NPCs to do something, which was a problem that plagued past games in the series.
There is plenty of variety in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign missions as well, so each mission feels distinct from one another, and they're all pretty great. Sometimes there are stealth sections, other times players have to take control of drones to take out waves of enemy combatants. Sometimes players are able to run through a mission guns blazing and really enjoy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's fantastic gunplay, and other times they have to command civilians through hostile areas.
Campaign missions take clear inspiration from real world events, which may make some players uncomfortable. There are nods to Benghazi, Syria, the Bin Laden assassination, and even the capture of Saddam Hussein. There is a terrorist attack depicted early in the campaign that seems as though it was inspired by the November 2015 Paris Attacks. Players will witness all kinds of disturbing imagery throughout the campaign, and sometimes its the players themselves that are committing the terrible acts.
For example, there is the much talked-about Clean House mission, where players have to clear out a terrorist cell living in a townhouse. This townhouse has a number of innocent people inside as well, and players are forced to think quickly to avoid killing civilians. There is even one moment where Call of Duty: Modern Warfare players may accidentally shoot a baby. This gives the game an element of player choice that is lacking in other Call of Duty games, though the way the player choice is delivered may admittedly not be for everyone.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare could have mishandled this controversial content and came across as being in bad taste, but the developers did a great job of depicting these things in a way that's not offensive while also not undercutting the realities of war. From start to finish, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign is an intense, memorable experience that will stick with players long after the credits roll.
Much of the campaign's success can be attributed to the game's brilliant visuals and sound design. Call of Duty outdoes itself visually every year, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare once again raises the bar for graphics. The lighting in the game is particularly impressive, whether it's bright flares illuminating dark tunnels or the warm glow of a building on fire. Everything just looks next-level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
The sound design in the campaign pairs well with the top-of-the-line graphics, with a thunderous musical score, jaw-dropping explosions, and realistic gunshots. In one part of the campaign, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare players have to play dead in a field of dead bodies, and players can hear their character's heart race as enemy soldiers walk by them. It's little touches like these that make Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's sound design especially impressive, and it would be surprising if it didn't win some awards for its sound come end-year awards.
Whether it's the sound design, the graphics, or the gameplay, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's campaign is superb. It's hard to put the controller down once players get rolling, and it's certainly one of the best Call of Duty campaigns ever. But once players have had their fill of Captain Price and his struggles to keep the world safe, they will no doubt turn their attention to the multiplayer component.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer experience is also great, though not quite as flawless as the campaign. It once again features split-screen and bots, which is always appreciated, and it has satisfying progression, visually striking maps, and more options than ever before. There is more depth to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer maps than fans of the series may be used to, with a lot more interior environments that sometimes makes it feel more like a Battlefield game than a Call of Duty game. One's enjoyment of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's multiplayer mode may boil down to how much they like games like Battlefield, so longtime fans of the franchise will want to keep that in mind.
Personally, we found the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer to be just as exciting and fun as it's always been. The map design slows down the pace a bit and favors certain play styles over others, but it's not like Infinity Ward reinvented the wheel here. Everything in multiplayer plays great as it retains the weighty gunplay from the campaign and it looks just as stunning as the campaign as well, though on Xbox One we did notice some occasional screen tearing issues.
Besides the standard Call of Duty multiplayer experience, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also features two new modes that offer vastly different experiences. The first one is the 2v2 Gunfight mode, and the other is the 32v32 Ground War. Gunfight is an absolute blast to play with the right person, offering intense shootouts that get players into the action immediately. It would be nice to see Gunfight become a series mainstay, and while it could perhaps be improved by getting rid of the unnecessary killcams to speed things up even more, it's still a ton of fun to play in its current state.
Ground War, meanwhile, is bound to be more polarizing. Ground War takes place on much larger maps than Call of Duty fans will be used to, with the addition of vehicles and objective-based gameplay that is, again, very similar to Battlefield. The time to kill in Call of Duty is a little too quick for this kind of game mode, though, and so players can expect to die a lot more frequently than they do in Battlefield, which can get old. Camping is more or less the only viable strategy in this mode, and we came away not terribly impressed by it.
Regardless, there will likely still be some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare players who will enjoy Ground War, and it will likely improve over time. Infinity Ward has already been quick to address some fan complaints about the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer experience, like how it's now possible to only search for matches on the smaller maps, for example. And future updates will bring even more content to the multiplayer, free of charge, so we have little doubt that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer experience will be even better a few months from now.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer fans should have no shortage of new content to play. The daily challenges, missions, and Battle Pass should keep them engaged for the long-term, along with the inevitable new maps and modes. What's here at launch is still quite good, however, though with the caveat that Call of Duty multiplayer purists may be put off by some of the map design.
The third pillar of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare experience is the Spec Ops co-op mode, which is the weakest part of the game. Since it's named "Spec Ops," it would be hard to fault fans for assuming that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Spec Ops mode would be similar to the Spec Ops missions found in Modern Warfare 2, but what's here is nothing like that at all. Spec Ops missions drop players onto large maps and have them complete a variety of objectives that feel not unlike a Destiny-style raid or something along those lines. It's nothing like the Spec Ops of old, which is disappointing.
But even if we ignore that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Spec Ops isn't anything like many fans would expect and judge it on its own merits, it's still underwhelming. The difficulty is too high and it's much buggier than any other part of the game. In one glitch that popped up for us a few times, it wouldn't let one of our co-op partners land on the ground. Instead they just flew through the floor and died repeatedly until we were forced to back out and start our progress in the mission over from the beginning.
Spec Ops in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare just feels tacked-on. There's also the matter of Spec Ops Survival being PS4-exclusive for an entire year, meaning PC and Xbox One players are locked out of one aspect of Spec Ops for quite some time. However, if it's anything like what's on display in the standard Spec Ops mode, we doubt that PC and Xbox One players are really missing out on much.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's Spec Ops mode is a big disappointment, though fans will find plenty to love about the campaign and multiplayer. After the disappointing Infinite Warfare and Call of Duty: Ghosts, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare feels like a return to form for Infinity Ward, and it will be exciting to see what the studio produces next.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant reviewed the Xbox One version.