I often reflect on the irony of me reviewing a Call of Duty game. Why is it ironic? Let me tell you about myself. I’m 36 years old. I’m 6’4″ and vastly overweight. I am a father of 4 children. I have never joined or have been a part of the military. My experience is through media outlets, movies, television shows, and video games. And yet I’m the one who wants to talk about realism when I never experienced anything that a military member would. But with Modern Warfare, I can’t help but believe that the latest iteration in the franchise is the closest thing to realistic military action that I can think of.
Realism in military games is important. There is a massive audience who will call out the developers and publishers if details aren’t correct. Weapon types, attachments, and sounds must be accurate. Weapon types vary with different military groups, and those need to be accurate as well. Vehicles, environments, call signs and code words – these are all aspects that need to be accurate. All of these things factor into creating a realistic story campaign. Without them, and the player becomes disengaged. Modern Warfare does a masterful job juggling all of these pieces while creating a story that is believable and thought-provoking.
The franchise has never shied away from covering uncomfortable portrayals of warfare. From taking on the role of a terrorist in an airport to watching countless teammates lose their lives on the beaches of Normandy, Call of Duty has always attempted to show both sides of the spectrum. And Modern Warfare is no different. In the latest Call of Duty, you will play military operatives that are working to stop stolen poisonous gas from being decimating the world’s population. The campaign jumps into areas that I haven’t seen covered in the franchise, including ethnic genocide and what you would do to turn the tides of war. The way Modern Warfare covers these topics can be very uncomfortable. There are three distinct areas that I want to cover. I’ll do my best not to spoil how the missions play out, but through very different roles, you experience how different characters survive these atrocities.
One of the first levels in the campaign has you accompanying a freedom fighter as you set out to sabotage an occupying force of Russian soldiers. Your task is to blend in while you work your way to your destination. The sheer horrors on display are very disturbing. Innocent people are shot down or hanged. Soldiers verbally abusing civilians. There is a moment where you must hide among bodies as soldiers pass you buy. Having this level so early in the campaign kept me on edge for the rest of my playthrough.
Another campaign mission requires you to go into a 3 story house to track down information about terrorists. Your military prowess is on full display as you slowly clear each room of the house under the cover of darkness. As you walk carefully and slowly through the level, you hear the muffled voices of enemy preparing for you, willing to fight and die for their cause. This includes men and women, but with some innocent civilians mixed in. My heart was racing while I entered each door, not knowing if my shot will hit its true target or an innocent bystander.
But these missions, albeit intense and disturbing, don’t compare to your portrayal of a 10-year-old caught in the middle of a warzone. The scene sees the death of a family member, your ability to survive a soldier hell-bent on killing you, and your attempt to escape the warzone. As a father, this was undoubtedly the most difficult level for me. It’s hard to imagine your daughter fighting for her life and being forced to kill.
Despite the uncomfortable nature of these missions, I can’t help but feel appreciation for not being afraid to push the envelope. We may not have experienced these things personally, but these types of situations get reported by the news on a regular basis. It’s also interesting that these missions, while thematically relevant, aren’t exactly the strongest showing of Modern Warfare’s gameplay. Aspects of these missions are so set in stone that any deviation results in death. They can be rigid and a little too linear, yet I’m happy that I was able to experience them.
There is plenty of typical Call of Duty missions that fit the standard that the franchise has established for many years. Most are objective-based with plenty of enemies to kill on your way. Yet these missions stick out because of pacing. For years, I have experienced missions where you can sprint your way through. But the standard movement of your character is slower than previous installments. You move with precision, and moving at a slow pace allows you to see enemy engagement and plan accordingly. I love the mix of slower standard movement speed mixed with the intense battles we all know and love.
The movement is one of the main changes that stuck with me. The other is the weapon customization. In the single-player campaign, enemies will have a variety of attachments that can change the effectiveness of the weapon. This customization is critical in the multiplayer modes as well. One of my favorite features allows you to temporarily use the loadout of an enemy that kills you. Typically it takes me forever to decide on a weapon that fits my playstyle. In Modern Warfare, I learned about different types of weapons and attachments at a much faster pace.
Speaking of multiplayer, the maps and modes that are present at launch are a bit divisive. A perfect multiplayer experience allows for a variety of playing styles. Whether you run and gun or camp, a proper map allows you to be successful no matter which playstyle you pick. As of right now, I can confirm what others have said and say that multiplayer favors the camper. I can see the effort by the development team to expand the maps and provide multiple areas to navigate. But right now, camping will net you the most kills, especially if you spawn camp.
Is this a bad thing? Maybe! I either accept camping or hate it, depending on my mood. All I know is Modern Warfare, like every other Call of Duty, will have new maps, modes, and patches that will change multiplayer. Multiplayer is constantly balanced, so I can only assume that things won’t stay the same forever. In the meantime, there is still fun to be had. Ground War is chaotic, and new modes like Realism can be fun depending on who you play with and your opponents.
Spec Ops is the other mode in Modern Warfare. This offers a continuation of sorts from the single-player campaign (which ended on such a cool note that made the fanboy in me squeal with delight). I found myself sticking with multiplayer after experiencing Spec Ops because the difficulty is pretty high in my opinion. The purpose is to give you some extra co-op experiences that are best played with friends. You have objectives to complete and waves of difficult enemies to vanquish. It’s not bad, but as someone who usually plays with strangers, it’s hard to master without communication.
The last thing I want to mention is the graphics and sound design. Modern Warfare is built on a new engine and looks phenomenal. There are so much detail and clarity, and I was playing on a regular Playstation. The game runs beautifully on PC and on the Pro. And the sound levels and war sounds are great as usual. I will say that the majority of my playthrough was smooth on a technical level. The only hiccup involved textures being slow to load. It happened a few times during the single-player campaign and multiplayer.
Modern Warfare is a reimagining of arguably the franchise’s best games. And I hope that it is the first step in a new direction for the series in terms of quality. The graphics and sound are the best in the entire series. The single-player campaign is exhilarating, exhausting, and moving in some instances. The multiplayer and Spec Ops are a little weak at launch, but will no doubt be bolstered with more fan feedback and continued support by the development team. Modern Warfare is a game for a modern generation, and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.
Note: GameOctane editor Ryan Welch received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Exhilarating single-player campaign
Improved graphics and sound
Great experience friends
Camping (for better or worse)
Spec ops with randoms