The latest instalment in an ever-growing franchise of games, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare may not be the game you were expecting to play. While as expected there is still a lot of run-and-gun missions spread across the campaign, the game attempts to keep itself grounded in reality with a plot that attempts to translate real-world news and events into gameplay. This puts the game into unfamiliar territory as it tries to approach the moral aspects of war, ultimately struggling to understand not who is good or who is bad, but what kind of experience the game wants to deliver.
You see the events of the campaign through the eyes of CIA officer Alex and SAS Sergeant Kyle Garrick. Opening with a covert operation to intercept dangerous chemical gas shipments headed for fictional nation Urzikstan, Alex’s Marine raiders are ambushed and killed as they attempt to secure the shipment. This escalates tensions with Russia, whose own General Roman Barkov is involved in an occupation of Urzikstan. A short time later, the terrorist group Al-Qatala use suicide bombers to attack Piccadilly Circus in London, triggering events that bring the two protagonists together as allied forces join with rebels of Urzikstan to end the Russian occupation as well as the threat of Al-Qatala. The plot is reminiscent of modern action-war thriller films; the heroes are thrust into conflict and forced to make choices that seem to border and blur the lines of ‘good and evil’, but the game doesn’t quite reach those heights. It almost feels as if Call of Duty this time around wants to tread the line that games like Spec Ops: The Line ran so well; providing a morally ambiguous and eventually disturbing scenario that plays out not anywhere near how you expected it to. But Call of Duty wears its influences on its sleeve, and it becomes harder to accept that morality when it focuses heavily on the triumphs of the west, especially utilising conflict against Russia as a key theme.
Discarding the political talk for a moment, there are some amazingly tense set-pieces that really do make you forget you’re playing a Call of Duty game. The ‘Clean House’ mission is one of them; as you and your team sweep a splinter cell house of Al-Qatala located right in London, you’ll be forced to consider the phrase “check your shots” as you clear floor after floor of potential threats. This continues further into the fact that there are no clear ‘enemy’ models – getting into missions further on in the game leads to the potential that you may accidentally shoot civilians instead of enemies, and coupled with dim or dark environments, you may very well start feeling guilt as the person you put down was simply running for their life rather than threatening you.
The other great thing about the campaign is the realism and effort that has gone into creating the characters – the detail in the characters really pushes the boundaries of what the game can do, and while this doesn’t translate one hundred per cent into the gameplay, it really is a testament to how far the studios have come in graphical capability. Playing on a PS4 Pro was great despite the fact that there has been notable fan usage (a couple of times it sounded like a jet engine) and I never copped any buggy or low-quality textures, even in extensive Multiplayer modes.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Call of Duty WITHOUT multiplayer, and let’s face it – that’s what the majority of people are picking the game up for. I cut my teeth on the campaign first, to understand a bit more of the gunplay before throwing myself into a warzone of no-scopes and killstreaks. You will want to try as many loadouts as possible in Multiplayer to find one you like, because each weapon handles completely different, and with a plethora of attachments and modifications that can be made, no two loadouts will be the same. The gunplay itself is a tight and rounded experience; every shot feels weighted and forceful, and every gun handles in its own way rather than being very same-y. For instance, the LMGs pack a lot of firepower and don’t have excessive kickback, but to reload them takes a frustrating amount of time – unlike the assault rifle class which involves popping a mag out and in (even in scoped mode).
Editing your weapons in multiplayer in Gunsmith is a fun if not slightly tedious experience. Each attachment you unlock places a little green marker next to it, and those markers don’t disappear unless you’ve looked at EVERY attachment. Which is great when you want to just sit there and customize, but if you’re trying to edit loadouts before a match, you just don’t get enough time. Additionally, if you’re in a party, every time a match search is underway you’re thrown back to the main menu and have to equip attachments again as they don’t save. You’d think an experienced series like Call of Duty would have learned how to make good menus by now.
Getting into the multiplayer modes, I had a lot of fun in Ground War which, if you ever played MAG on the PS3 back in the day (cue a bunch of fans telling me it was shit) is reminiscent of Domination – a large map with climbable towers, a ton of players, and five capture points. Oh, and vehicles too. The mode has room for improvement though, it isn’t 100% polished and I found myself dying a lot just by not knowing the map all too well. The classics are there, like Team Deathmatch (I swore a lot) but then you also get modes like Cyber Attack – a 6v6 capture point mode that comes with revives, which plays out a bit like a Rainbow Six Siege game. One of my personal favourites was Gunfight – 2v2 in a small-ish area, where everyone has the same loadout and it becomes the first to eliminate the opponents to win. If you’re good with all weapons you’ll excel here, but if you stick to one or two similar loadouts, it will become a challenge.
My biggest gripe with multiplayer was the consistent dying due to being dropped right near an enemy who had the jump on me. Call of Duty doesn’t consider giving players a chance in some respects – and if you don’t have lightning-fast reflexes you can be expected to die a lot. Good thing that I can laugh at my KDR and not actually care, because when you end a game with 4 kills and 24 deaths, you can expect everyone to be laughing at you too.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
As a well-rounded gaming experience, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare takes steps in the right direction to give itself some serious realism. Offering more grounded gameplay than instalments such as the Black Ops or Advanced Warfare games, the gunplay and controls are tight and very balanced for both the experienced and casual player alike. The only thing that the game and Infinity Ward themselves seemed to truly struggle with was the narrative – where it works in some cases, often you’re left feeling like you’re stuck in a half-concocted American political propaganda piece.