For years, Call of Duty campaigns have struggled to innovate and are often marred by too many unrealistic and over-the-top sequences, something that got progressively staler with each new entry. Although there were a few bright spots here and there, like 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, the series’ storytelling prowess has gotten less and less exciting, as it has consistently struggled to tell a decent story with memorable characters. The latest iteration in the long-running series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, was described as a much more grown-up and mature take on the themes it tackles. Unfortunately, this is far from the case, as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare manages to take down the series’ campaign track record to an all-time low.
Don’t get me wrong, Modern Warfare’s campaign begins with a lot of potential, as it introduces interesting characters like Farah, a leader of freedom fighters, the UK-based Sgt. Kyle Garrick, and Alex Echo 3-1, an American soldier. The story involving Farah can be quite depressing and disturbing, and to be honest, downright uncomfortable at times. In one of the flashback sequences that takes place when Farah is a kid, she has to kill an enemy with his own gun. Another shocking sequence shows off a man all wrapped up with a time bomb, and by the time you come to rescue him and other hostages, you have a handful of seconds to do something. And what does the game do in this situation? Captain Price simply throws off the poor guy off the ledge, thereby saving the other hostages while our guy has been blown into smithereens. There is also a case of a horrible waterboarding mini-game, where you just move your head back and forth to survive the torture.
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare manages to take down the series’ campaign track record to an all-time low.“
Sequences like the ones I mentioned are a dime a dozen in Modern Warfare’s campaign. Though on paper it may not look out of place for a game that is all about the realities of war, the problem here is that much of it feels like it’s shoehorned into the experience, existing to serve as nothing but artificial shock value for anyone playing the game. I am all for handling sensitive topics in video games, but the way Modern Warfare handles them feels a bit game-y and unrealistic at times, which does a disservice to the inherent gravity of the topics in question.
The set pieces, too, are some of the weakest the series has ever seen. A number of them are just your classic “player stranded on a terrace or in a compound”, either sniping or defending to hold their ground. This is not to say that every set piece is downright disappointing, as there are indeed some good ones in there- but if you have played previous Call of Duty campaigns, you will definitely get the “been there, done that” feeling every now and then.
Without spoiling anything, if there is one thing the campaign does well, it has to be the overall presentation and production values. The developers are using a new engine for this game and this has resulted in phenomenal looking lighting effects and detailed character models. The visuals, especially during the night, are a sight to behold. Each chapter is introduced through incredibly well-rendered CG visuals that do a great job of portraying the game’s several tension-filled moments. Unfortunately, I faced performance issues while these scenes played, which somewhat impacted my experience with them.
“If you have played previous Call of Duty campaigns, you will definitely get the “been there, done that” feeling every now and then.“
The campaign is a major pillar of Modern Warfare, but just as important is the multiplayer, if not more so. Unfortunately, as of right now, the game’s multiplayer offerings are a bit of a mixed bag. There is the new Ground War mode, which pits two teams of 32 players against each other, who then battle it out for gaining and losing control points. As you may have guessed it by now, this mode takes a leaf out of Battlefield’s book with its large-scale battles, and I am glad to report that it’s been implemented very well, constantly delivering frantic shooting and heart-pumping action. If anything, this mode should serve as a fantastic distraction from the disappointing campaign.
Another interesting new addition is the Gunfight mode, which pits two teams of just two players against each other. Requiring just two kills to win a match, this is by far the most intriguing mode the game has to offer, thanks to how level the playing field is in terms of map design and loadouts. The more fast-paced and bite sized nature of matches thanks to how they’re structured makes them very addictive and accessible.
Also making its return to Call of Duty is the Spec Ops mode, where you and your friends need to strategize together in order to achieve your mission objectives. However, at this point, it feels a bit underwhelming. One of the scenarios I got to play was one where I had to retrieve a nuclear warhead. This sounds simple on paper, but the game makes it extremely hard by throwing waves and waves of enemies after you. The game makes it extremely difficult to progress, as waves becomes harder to the point they no longer actually feel like a wave, just some general random generator for enemies. If the developers can balance this mode in the future, it could very well be the best multiplayer experience the game has to offer. But as of right now, it feels rather unbalanced to play.
“Ground War serves as a fantastic distraction from the disappointing campaign.“
Other modes like Cyber Attack, which is just a replacement for Search and Destroy, and Realism, where they strip out all the HUD elements and where every shot counts, are at best only-okay. But if there is any reason you would be returning to the game’s multiplayer offerings, it’s the classic tried, tested, and tight gunplay. To make it better, you can now upgrade and level up your guns. There are a number of perks and attachments that players can unlock, thereby significantly giving you an advantage as well as a disadvantage on the field. For example, attaching a scope will increase its range but its weight will increase. Smaller things like these add a bit of variety to an already excellent gun gameplay.
Overall, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a largely an okay game. It tries to do something new with its campaign, but ultimately fails to deliver a compelling experience. The multiplayer offerings are a bit of a mixed bag at this point. Ground War is easily the standout mode for me, with Gunfight coming in a close second. Spec Ops needs some work, but there is a potential here to provide players with a long lasting and frantic experience. In the end, veteran Call of Duty fans will probably like what’s on offer here, but for many of us, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will be a game we won’t even remember next year.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Great visuals; Excellent gunplay; Campaign has a decent story; Ground War and Gunfight modes are an absolute blast.
Campaign’s set pieces are mostly underwhelming’ Campaign’s disturbing moments feel very off; Spec Ops mode feels unbalanced.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a disappointing entry in the series, and despite big promises and a lot of potential, it doesn’t do anything special to move the series forward.