It may sound like an obvious statement, but Call of Duty is a wildly successful franchise. It’s also a franchise that is sure to divide gamers into camps of those who love it and those who hate it.
The same can be said for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Everyone knows where they stand on this franchise. Even though Modern Warfare is something of a soft reboot, it does little to either win over past critics or alienate existing fans.
I’m one of the people who fall somewhere in between the love-it-or-hate-it extremes. I played the original Modern Warfare to death, along with World at War and Black Ops. However, the series grew stale on me, and I stopped playing many years ago.
One of my biggest issues with the series was its tendency to perpetuate stereotypes and a narrow worldview where the United States was always virtuous. Clearly, the world is more complicated than the one in these games.
While Modern Warfare still has its fair share of stereotypes, the game does try to be more balanced with its approach than the series has in the past. The game has you play as a rebel fighter at several points. You experience the misery of living in a war-torn country as a child and the struggles to reclaim your homeland from foreign invaders.
In the single-player, you switch between characters who work for the CIA, the British SAS, and the aforementioned rebels. The story largely takes place in the fictional country of Urzikstan – which is under Russian occupation – as well as levels in London and Russia.
Essentially, the game is drawing inspiration from the Syrian civil war and terror attacks in Europe. The key players involved are the Americans, British, Russians, rebels, and a terrorist organization known as Al-Qatala. The rebels are pretty clearly meant to represent the Kurds, while Al-Qatala is either Al-Qaeda or ISIS.
The single-player campaign has several powerful moments, such as when you take control of a young girl who grows up to be a leading rebel. During this scene, you see family members murdered in cold blood. It’s left up to you and your brother to escape.
Modern Warfare shines in moments where you get an up-close look at the horrors of war. The story falls flat when it goes with over-the-top action sequences that are done better in movies. Some scenes are so unbelievable – like one where terrorists basically overtake London – that it feels like the developers are fearmongering.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the single-player’s variety. You switch between full-on gunfights and stealthier segments, long-range sniping and close-quarters combat, explosive action and character development. In terms of gameplay, this is a well-rounded Call of Duty game.
Of course, a lot of players will skip the single-player entirely in favor of the multi-player options. Modern Warfare basically delivers what you would expect – a nice variety of weapons, custom loadouts, and killstreaks – while introducing a few new elements.
The biggest new addition is the return of Special Ops, which first appeared in MW2 and returned in MW3. Spec Ops features four separate multi-objective missions. These operations take place on large, open maps with four other players playing cooperatively to complete the objectives.
Missing from Modern Warfare is a Zombies Mode. Frankly, I think that Zombies Mode is tired at this point; I don’t really miss it. Spec Ops is a nice replacement, especially if you have competent teammates.
Other new features include player customization and deeper weapon customization. You can customize your character and select a uniform, voiceover quips, and finishing moves. This helps to set your character apart.
You also have the option to add attachments to weapons using the game’s gunsmith system. Among the attachments that you can add to your weapons are new stocks, lasers, optics, barrels, muzzles, grips, and magazines.
The bread and butter of the game – as in any Call of Duty game – is the competitive multiplayer. Modern Warfare has a wide variety of modes to choose from, including pretty standard ones like team deathmatch and free-for-all. My personal favorite is a mode where you play using night vision. This mode eliminates the standard HUD, adding an extra layer of challenge.
The biggest mode is Ground War, which features Battlefield-style vehicles on a behemoth map. This is a team-based 64-player mode where you can fly helicopters and drive armored vehicles. You’ll need to capture and hold objectives for your team to score. Holding objectives also opens up more spawning locations for your team.
Aside from the various modes, there are also daily challenges, which reward you upon completion. For instance, one of the challenges is to get five headshots from a sub-machine gun. Another challenge tasks you with killing 30 enemies using launchers. You won’t come back for these challenges, but they’re nice to have just for the rewards.
In terms of replay value, Modern Warfare is unquestionably packed with content. The good news is that it’s going to get better after launch. Activision has removed the much-maligned Season Pass. Instead, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will have free DLC maps and modes. This is sure to extend the life of what is already a pretty hefty game.
Now, as for the question of whether Modern Warfare is worth $60, that’s entirely dependent on how much you like the franchise. Long-time fans will definitely get their money’s worth. People who have grown tired of the series may even want to give Modern Warfare a look to experience the story, the Spec Ops co-op, and the free DLC coming to the game’s competitive multiplayer.
As a soft reboot, Infinity Ward kept the better aspects of Call of Duty (i.e. tight controls, high production value, loads of content) and smoothed out some of its blemishes (i.e. overly simplistic storytelling and an over-reliance on extreme drama). It’s a solid game that mixes things up a little bit but not too radically.