Technical issues and questionable game design take away from Modern Warfare’s impressive new engine and great campaign.
Developer – Infinity Ward
Publisher – Activision
Release Date – October 25th, 2019
Platforms – PC – Reviewed, PS4, Xbox One
Another Fall season, another Call of Duty. For well over a decade Activision and an assortment of studios deliver a new Call of Duty title that tries to give a fresh spin on the long running franchise.
Sometimes this works out great, such as Advanced Warfare or Black Ops. Sometimes this approach ends in disaster, such as Ghost’s or Modern Warfare 3. Infinity Ward tried to truly shake things up with Infinite Warfare, and after several games since, they’re back with the the biggest change to Call of Duty since Modern Warfare launched many years ago.
Infinity Ward has taken some big steps with their latest title. Creating a new title and giving it the Modern Warfare name carries a lot of promise. It also brings a lot of expectations to live up too. If they were to drop the ball, the fabled Modern Warfare name could be sullied permanently. With a brand new engine in tow, Modern Warfare seeks to unite old ideals with new tech to revitalize this tried and true series.
Outside of Captain Price and the title itself, not much else is brought over from the original game. The emphasis on grounded, modern combat and a campaign story ripped from the headlines is all here. The campaign will see players helping out rebels and engaging in combat on a global scale. The campaign is one of the best in years, with great character moments and a some fantastic set pieces.
Helping the campaign come to life are the absolutely drop dead gorgeous visuals. Call of Duty could look nice at times, but it was never a visual spectacle before. This changes with the brand new engine Modern Warfare is sporting. Ray tracing and other state of the art effects immediately make this game stand out. Great models and animations help sell the atmosphere across every mode. Every gun looks sleek and more importantly the power of each shot is seen and felt every time you use them. Once again Infinity Ward pushes the entire series forward by embracing new technology.
Multiplayer is bigger, but not always better than previous installments. The multiplayer suite is large and expansive, with great weapon selection and some stunning maps. Ground War and 10 vs 10 Domination matches are my new favorites, with Gunfight being a quick burst of two vs two action. Most of the game design feels built around these handful of modes, and unfortunately the rest of the modes feel like they suffer as a result.
The modern realism angle naturally lends itself to a high a time to kill. The lethality combined with huge maps containing tons of hiding spots can lead to disaster. Most of the game’s problems stem from two issues. Player visibility, and a terrible spawning system. It’s not uncommon in a match to get spawned in the exact same corner of the map with four players all shooting at once without any reprieve.
Add to that the absurd number of kill streaks, UAV’s, and most matches can feel like a snowball. It creates a losing situation both ways. I’ve won more games than I’ve lost, and either way it comes across as unsatisfying. Ground War and the larger game types are more dynamic, simply because they allow for a choice of spawn and that alone can alleviate much of the games core issues.
Rounding out the package is the return of Spec Ops. No zombies, no battle royale, instead the co-op focused mission structure from Modern Warfare 2 is back. Instead of the micro mission structure of that game however, Spec Ops instead opts for a more open experience. A handful of missions that take place in huge sprawling maps can lead to some intense firefights.
Spec Ops isn’t all good however, as some severe difficulty spikes and endless waves of enemies can harken back to the older campaign days of Call of Duty. It’s frustrating, and the rewards for going through these hour long missions are paltry compared to a five minute death match.
The game also suffers from various technical issues. On PC, the campaign is still problematic due to severe audio and visual hitches during the games pre-rendered cutscenes. I had to watch Youtube videos of the story as I played this for review just to hit my deadlines. This is the biggest franchise in gaming, with billions of dollars in revenue. It’s inexcusable and five days after launch it still hasn’t been fixed yet.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has elements of a great game, and in the technology moves the franchise forward in big ways. Unfortunately technical issues and some questionable design elements prevent it from being an all time classic. In a few months those issues may vanish, but as of right now they exist, and all we can do is hope for improvements.