Call of Duty's campaigns have always strived for big, blockbuster action. This year's entry, Modern Warfare, tones things down a bit in an attempt to tell a more grounded story filled with more personal, realistic drama.
Most of the time the change in tone works; the main cast of characters are believable and grow throughout the campaign. It falls flat in a few ways, however. To highlight the best and the worst of this single-player mode, the following list will rank the fourteen missions from worst to best. Fortunately, even the weakest levels manage to entertain. They just don't reach an exceptional level of quality.
14 The Embassy
The first half of this mission is compelling; players defend the US Embassy in Urzikstan from Al-Qatala's assault. It is when the characters leave and hold their ground at the Ambassador's estate where the level runs out of gas. Defending the position lasts too long, making it feel like a horde mode rather than an honest to goodness mission. If this segment had been cut down and the majority of it took place in the Embassy, it would have ranked higher.
13 Fog Of War
The introductory level is short, sweet, and throws players right into the action. The only objective is securing a shipment of chemical weapons, which soon becomes a major plot device. The level is also used as a multiplayer map. It is completely harmless, but there's also nothing remarkable found within, serving as a shooting gallery.
Gamification of torture aside, "Captive" doesn't serve enough of a purpose in the story to feel necessary. It is one of Barkov's only appearances before the final level, which leads to one of the story's biggest problems- the lackluster villain. The general is given no characterization throughout, coming off as a cartoonishly evil Russian one would expect to see in a an '80s action movie. The waterboarding segment only serves to turn people off even more from the level.
11 Proxy War
In Proxy War, Alex fights side by side with Farah's army in an assault on Barkov's base. What makes this a notch above any other old assault is the use of RC strapped with bombs to destroy helicopters. Once inside, the fight can get hairy, so it never feels like a walk in the park. At the end, Alex gets air support, leading to a rail shooting segment harking back to "Death From Above" from 2007's Modern Warfare.
The second level details a terrorist attack in London. It is a short burst of action ending with the game's first real dramatic moment. As Price and Garrick rescue several hostages, they notice one with a bomb strapped to his chest.
With mere seconds to act, Price throws the civilian over the railing and he explodes away from harm's way. The level feels refreshing and unique, since most of the game takes place in the Middle East or Eastern Europe.
"Embedded" is a signature Call of Duty level. Players are first guided through Urzikstan by Farah, where they witness a number of atrocities committed by Barkov's troops. Afterwards, they sneak around and blow up two helicopters. It is a perfect mixture of guided cinematic moments and game play. Alex follows Farah for the duration of the mission, but the player still needs accuracy and sneaking skills to get through.
8 Hunting Party
This one isn't beloved simply because of Sgt. Griggs' inclusion, but it certainly helps. Alex rides with the US military on this search for Al-Qatala's leader. It starts out in the streets and ends up in a hospital. This is the closest the game comes to feeling like the original 2007 Modern Warfare. The mixture of open areas with corridor segments means the level has something for everyone.
7 Into The Furnace
The last mission is an outlier for the series, with no giant set pieces or winning by the skin of their teeth. Instead, it is an assault on a chemical weapons factory, topped off with Farah finally getting her vengeance on Barkov. The juggernaut boss fight is a highlight, with the intense bout taking place in a tight space, making dodging his minigun fire a challenge. In addition, the character moments like Alex's grand sacrifice make it a worthy final level.
6 Clean House
Nearly the whole mission takes place in a single building, tasking players with distinguishing threats from civilians.
The night vision effects are simply staggering and could easily fool someone into thinking this was a game for the PS5 or Project Scarlett. For such a guided experience, it also manages to avoid feeling like it is simply taking players by the hand.
5 Old Comrades
The St. Petersburg streets serve as a nice palette cleanser to the Middle Eastern environments predominantly featured throughout the campaign. For anybody knowledgeable in the Russian language, it is also a treat to read the signs and posters on the walls. Chasing the Butcher throughout the streets is an intense ride, and things get dark when Price threatens the terrorist's family for information.
4 Highway Of Death
"Highway of Death" takes place in one area, so it's astonishing how Infinity Ward managed to craft such a compelling mission around it. The opening sniping segment forces players to consider wind speed and drop distance into their shots. Afterwards, Russian forces storm the area, and Alex must shoot out the tires of armored transports. It all ends with the stunning revelation that Hadir, Farah's brother, stole the gas in the first level.
This flashback mission proved the most controversial. Certain elements don't mesh well with the game play, like Farah's traumatic experience with her first kill being a boss fight, but the more cinematic moments hit their mark.
It comes right after Hadir's apparent betrayal, making the memory more impactful. Despite its flaws, what does work really shines.
2 The Wolf's Den
The opening infiltration segments are even more tense than the "Cleaning House" mission, and the latter half in the caves is a manhunt through darkness. The night vision part plays host to one of the game's most shocking moments. A woman raises her gun at the player and is taken out, leading to a young boy crawling over to her and sobbing uncontrollably.
1 Going Dark
The series isn't known for open ended design, but "Going Dark" is all about letting players sneak around a huge estate. The player must search in three houses, but can tackle it any order they see fit. It is something that feels more like Metal Gear Solid than Call of Duty, but it makes for the game's best level. It still ends in a bombastic fashion, with the mansion going down in flames.