A Call of Duty Newcomer’s Opinion on Modern Warfare (2019)

Any person familiar with video games is familiar with the Call of Duty (CoD) franchise. The yearly Activision release that gets millions of players to stop whatever they were doing on the previous game and drop $60 even if nothing new of substance is added; it is frankly a brilliant marketing scheme. It is for that reason, and the fact that support for each title more or less gets dropped with the release of each new title (meaning that every release has an effective life-span of only a year or so which kills any incentive to actually get good at the game), that I have never really expressed an interest in the franchise until the release of the newest edition, Modern Warfare. To be more precise, it was Modern Warfare’s newest game mode, called Warzone, that finally drew me to the series. For readability purposes I will separate the review into each “section” of the game (gameplay, campaign, multiplayer, Warzone, etc.).

Warzone is probably my favorite take on the Battle Royale genre.

Gameplay:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s gameplay is definitely one of its main strengths. The guns and movement feel crisp and responsive, and I am overall a huge fan of the shooting mechanics. There is some recoil to learn and practice, but nothing too difficult especially if one is coming from other shooters (I used to play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds/PUBG, and the guns there kick like mules compared to the guns in Modern Warfare). The attachment system is also cool, where players can customize each gun to fit their needs whether it be adjusting their gun to be more accurate over distances or to be mobile killing machines up close. For the most part, with a few exceptions over the course of the game’s current lifespan, the guns are pretty balanced where most guns can be made competitive with the right attachments and sufficient player skill. The way the game handles sprinting, sliding, jumping, and vaulting is also done really well, allowing me to easily move across the map without any clunkiness whatsoever as well as introducing another factor in winning gunfights outside of pure recoil control and crosshair placement. It does not seem very realistic at all, but I am more of a “gameplay trumps realism” kind of person and I would gladly sacrifice realism for Modern Warfare’s movement. The mechanic that allows players to mount their guns on a surface to improve their recoil is a more controversial one as a lot of people thinks it promotes camping, and that is something I somewhat agree with. Sure, players are immobile while mounted, but that is not a super big issue as it is relatively quick to mount/dismount and good players generally will not mount their guns in areas that are relatively dangerous anyways.

Biggest gripes? Killstreaks and camo challenges. As somebody who did not grow up with the CoD franchise and thus has no nostalgia goggles, I believe killstreaks add nothing of worth to the game. They do nothing but help the winning team stomp even harder, give my screen a seizure from all the different explosives, and encourage players to camp harder to avoid dying to get the more powerful killstreaks available at higher tiers. I’ve seen countless games where half the team leaves because one side spawned a chopper gunner and a VTOL jet in the same air space. Sure, Shipment games can be super funny when there are cluster strikes going off everywhere, but as someone who finds absolutely no fun in one-sided stomps, killstreaks can completely disappear and I would not miss them in any way. As for the camo challenges, I have nothing against the idea of camo challenges as they provide a nice sense of progression for players to play beyond just gameplay reasons, and besides the gold skin looks fantastic on most guns. My main issue with the challenges is that some of them force the player to play in much lamer fashions. Forcing players to rack up mounted kills and longshots is just asking for more campers, and honestly the mounting mechanic as a whole might not be viewed so negatively if it was not part of so many guns’ camo challenges.

Campaign:

I was under the impression that the campaign is usually an afterthought in the CoD games but I was pleasantly surprised by various moments in Modern Warfare’s story. The gameplay is mediocre and the level designs are nothing to write home about, but considering the vast majority of people who play CoD are in it for the multiplayer I can see why they did not make the campaign something like DOOM Eternal’s (which in my opinion is one of the best single-player FPS experiences). The narrative, while not exactly a masterpiece, does have a few intense moments that I was not expecting out of a company that makes a game for the masses. Granted I am no soldier, so I am not an authority on what war is actually like, but the campaign definitely gets across the message that war is brutal and suffering for all sides regardless of who the winner is, and soldiers are often put in situations where they are forced to make decisions that are not always the easy, moral choice. One particular mission has the player raid a house at night that is full of suspected terrorists and take out enemy combatants, but must take care to avoid hurting civilians/non-combatants. The poor visibility and the fact the terrorists know that soldiers are coming for them present a scenario where the player needs to be both cautious and quick to react in order to take out enemies while not accidentally causing unnecessary deaths. My only gripe with the campaign from a story-telling perspective is that despite all the grim atrocities of war the campaign tries to depict, at the end of the day it is up to the West (USA/Great Britain) to save the day from the big bad Russians or the Middle Eastern terrorists. Obviously I can understand why a big studio behind one of the biggest video game franchises in the world would take care to not badmouth the US government, but let’s be real here; the US government has its fair share of skeletons in the closet and it would have actually been interesting to see a video game address those.

Captain Price is easily the story’s biggest star.

Multiplayer:

CoD’s multiplayer (excluding Warzone) has a plethora of options to satisfy players of all demographics, and it even features platform cross-play, allowing PC, Xbox, and Playstation users to all play together, which is great for playing with friends as well as extending the game’s natural lifespan due to effectively tripling the player base. As far as game modes, there is the standard “Core” mode featuring game modes like Team Death Match, Domination, Hardpoint, etc. for pure running/gunning or playing an actual objective. Players who want a more “realistic” experience can opt to play “Hardcore” instead, where all guns are way more lethal with friendly fire, and various HUD elements are disabled which is also a cool experience in its own way. Then there’s Ground War, for people who want a discount Battlefield experience or enjoy sitting in houses with sniper rifles. There is even a co-op mode for players to work together against non-player enemies in various missions, though I personally find them boring and tedious due to most of them being comprised of throwing a ton of braindead AI enemies at the players to try and overwhelm them, which is not my idea of an engaging experience.

The multiplayer is pretty fun, though it is hard carried by its mechanics and gunplay. The map design, arguably the next most important part of the multiplayer experience, is awful. The large majority of maps are a chore to play on because there are so many buildings and windows to clear, which means a ton of hiding spots for people who enjoy sitting in one spot the entire game. Buildings and verticality can add depth to strategy games or single player sequences, but neither of those apply to CoD, and in practice all they do is just drag matches because neither side wants to push. Why bother making an aggressive play when any attempt to cover ground gets neutralized by a camper in a building (or multiple campers in different buildings)? This is further worsened by the spawn points, which completely baffle me. On smaller maps there’s a severe problem with spawn kills (dying upon instantly spawning into the game) due to how terrible the spawn locations can be. How could it possibly be a good idea to have my character spawn right in front of an enemy gun, and why does it happen so often? There are also a few maps that have a pretty cool layout to play on, but are unfortunately ruined by awful visibility and lighting (ex: Rust, a great small map that is unfortunately covered in sand and dust that makes spotting enemies from farther away a massive pain). With the large variety of maps this game has to offer, I can maybe count on one hand the amount of maps I actually enjoy playing on. That said, the few maps I like are incredibly fun and I rarely get tired of them, which begs the question of why a map filter does not exist in this game. I can filter game modes, so why not maps? Afraid that some maps will never see play? Tough luck, maybe try designing better maps next time then.

Warzone:

Warzone is easily Modern Warfare’s crowning achievement, and is probably the first battle royale game since PUBG to actually hold my attention. PUBG is one of the pioneers of the genre, but there were a few notable flaws to it that eventually made me tire of the game, and for the most part Warzone has directly/indirectly addressed those. Thanks to it being part of a mainstream CoD game, Warzone feels super polished; all of the smooth gameplay mechanics from the base game are there in Warzone, compared to the super clunky feel of PUBG. A lot of battle royales have to deal with the issue of the “awkward midgame,” which is the phase after the initial drop and bloodbath but before the last few circles. This phase usually has little to nothing happening, and can often bore players until the smaller circles finally show up. Warzone combats this in a few ways; for one there are way more players (150~ compared to PUBG’s 100) so the map feels smaller in comparison, even if the actual map sizes may be close to each other. There are also different activities outside of looting and shooting Warzone players can participate in to pass the time, in the form of contracts. Warzone features a money mechanic, which players can use to buy equipment from buy stations across the map, from armor plates to full kill streaks. The biggest prize that most players go for is the loadout drop, which outfits them with their standard multiplayer loadout, weapons and perks included. Having a loadout gives a massive advantage since there are a few perks that are super important to the game mode (like Ghost to avoid UAV’s and heartbeat sensors), and it is always nice to wield one’s own customized gun as opposed to whatever’s found in the field. Understandably, loadout drops are expensive, so players need to scrounge together enough cash to buy them, and contracts are the best way to do so. Contracts include hunting other players, picking up various boxes, or securing a location, and reward players for actively playing as opposed to picking a tall building to sit in. Of course, due to the nature of the battle royale game mode, camping will always exist, but Warzone’s contracts do a lot to help move the game pace along.

Another thing I enjoy about Warzone is the second chances at life. Imagine playing a battle royale and surviving the early game, getting some sweet gear, and then getting randomly domed in the head by a sniper across the map. Or you’re playing with friends, and you get unlucky and die early on while the rest of your squad survives which means you’re spending the rest of the game spectating from the sidelines. It is punishing and that can be demoralizing for some players and turn off their interest from the game. Warzone addresses this by giving each player different opportunities to rejoin the game shall they die the first time, either through being bought back by a squad or via the gulag. Now the gulag is easily my favorite new addition to the battle royale game mode. It is where all players go after dying for the first time (at least until late game, where the gulag is closed), and inside players fight each other 1v1 with a randomly selected weapon, with the victor being re-deployed to the battlefield. This is a great way of giving the player another opportunity to play, but it is not free as the player still needs to actually win. Due to these mechanics, all the way until late-game it is common to see random players parachuting in from the sky, either being re-deployed by a squad mate or through gulag victories. This also forces camping players to pay attention, as it is entirely possible for their camping spot to be suddenly raided by someone parachuting in via re-deployment.

If you die there is always the gulag.

Warzone is easily my favorite battle royale, and it being free is honestly a genius move on Activision/Infinity Ward’s part. I did not own the game prior and only played Warzone, and ended up buying the actual base game after seeing how much I enjoyed the free game mode, and I would wager a lot of other people did the same.

Overall/Miscellaneous Thoughts:

My biggest criticism of this game has nothing to do with its gameplay (though the terrible map design does come close), and that is of the game’s storage requirements. With the full game and Warzone, Modern Warfare takes up a whopping 180 gigabytes on my hard drive. That is flat-out unacceptable. Most AAA games do not generally run over 100 gigs, so what is in Modern Warfare that causes it to take up so much space? On PC this problem is made worse by the fact that I cannot uninstall parts of the game I no longer need. Consoles have the option (or workarounds) to do so, yet the same does not seem to exist for PC. Why am I still required to have the campaign installed even though I have beaten it and will never touch it again?

Overall I would say the game is very enjoyable, albeit with some clear flaws. The multiplayer is really fun when it works and the map is good, and Warzone is always great. I do not think this will get me to buy the next CoD however, so this will likely be a one-off purchase from me until I actually see what the next one has to offer, especially while Warzone continues to receive support.

Rating: Especially with Warzone being free, I really cannot recommend this at retail as I think Warzone is an overall better experience than the rest of the game. Definitely worth it if there is a sale however.

Software engineer and gaming enthusiast, writing reviews to share quality media; check out my personal site at www.edmondwu.dev

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