I’m going to say it right from the start that I’ve been highly cynical of the assembly line that’s the Call of Duty franchise. When every year brings yet another military shooter it’s hard to get any attachment to it for the long term when you know most players will be moving over to the next one in a few months time. I did stick around for a little longer for the campaigns, with Advanced Warfare and WWII being the last I played but eventually it reached a point where I wasn’t getting the same rewards I would from a Halo or Battlefield which (for me) seemed to have longer legs between iterations.
And then the free-to-play Warzone came along. After playing a lot of PUBG plus Fortnite and Apex Legends I was wondering how this take on Battle Royale would compete and it succeeded better than I had expected. The best thing about it is it remains loyal to mechanics of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and leverages much of the main game’s multiplayer too which really makes transitioning over to the rest of the game easier than you’d think. Warzone as well as a couple of free multiplayer weekends has made me give the series a second chance and I ended up buying the full game. To say I’m already enjoying it would be an understatement. It’s been by far my most played game of the last two weeks.
The game itself is a reboot of sorts from the original trilogy that started back with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It’s a military themed shooter set in near future/alternate timeline where the technology is close to what we have now but the world is in an even nastier place. The campaign starts with a team tracking down chemical weapons and then quickly folds into a terrorist attack on London and brings with it a number of set pieces that push hard on both the realism and the technology that’s powering it. When I say “realism” I should add that it does have a strong dose of the Michael Bay escapism to it so expect a lot of things that explode… a lot. But having been away from the series for a while now it’s been a nice escape from the usual day-to-day and a great distraction. There are moments during the campaign that are incredibly atmospheric in how well they get the lighting and animation right and it’s clear that corners are not being cut in favour of the more popular half of the game. They’re also not afraid to show you the worst of war either with a couple of sequences in there for the shock value which I suppose this series was well known for.
The other half of Modern Warfare is of course the multiplayer and it’s what keeps bringing people back. There’s still a lot of familiar modes like deathmatch in rotation which I’m happy seeing as I was worried initially they would be missing so I’m grateful to find that’s not the case. There’s plenty of variety here and all these modes really encourage players to experiment to earn XP and unlock additional weapons and items. Other modes like gun game, which cycle through weapons for every kill you make, are great for testing guns and finding your next favourite. For players not looking for the traditional competitive games there’s also co-op missions allowing a team of four to tackle some larger scale challenges that’ll give everyone plenty to shoot at too. If you’re willing to try out all these modes you might find that it’ll help your skills improve a lot – it’s certainly helped me play more confidently in Warzone which has expanded it’s suite of Battle Royale modes to now include solos and teams from 2-4 players. I’ve also started playing the Plunder mode (collect money to win) which is great for those wanting to experience playing across the full map without the risk of missing out through dying early as you can respawn as many times as needed. It all means there’s something in the game for everyone.
In terms of gameplay what I’m really enjoying about the game is how balanced it feels in play even when you are up against people who are far more skilled than you. When thrown into the mix with PC and PlayStation 4 players (multiplayer is cross platform) the aim assist for console seems to make the playing field fairly even and you can still feel like having a fair chance in a one on one encounter and that’s something I’ve not seen in a very long time. It’s what I really liked about Halo multiplayer where a stray shot or lucky grenade throw can still be a danger. It won’t turn an average player into a skilled one but it might let them score a few points.
The weapons you have available are leveraged in loadouts where players can configure up to ten different weapon and perk combinations allowing them to quickly choose a preferred selection based on the game. As weapons can all have a variety of attachments and perks (up to 3) can tweak your character’s ability it’s possible to have a fair amount of variety in what each player can do. And getting the right tools to fill out those loadouts can sometimes require completing in game mission objectives or earning enough XP in the current “season” Battle Pass. Yep, this game also uses a system much like Fortnite, etc where you pay for a pass that allows you to unlock additional items and cosmetics over the course of a couple of months. Many of the weapons you can earn may also be beneficial to your play style and with the sheer number of them available hopefully you can find something that works for you without having to grind too much XP for it. There’s still a microtransaction model in there too for those wanting even more unique weapon and cosmetic items but it’s all optional. That you need to pay for this extra stuff is something that is not going to appeal to everyone (this is the first “pass” I’ve ever bought) but at least one thing going for Modern Warfare is that it seems a lot easier to work your way up the tiers and earn gear compared to the others. And just about every multiplayer mode will contribute to this too which means everyone has a chance to complete it.
I am genuinely surprised with how much I’ve been enjoying Call of Duty: Modern Warfare but maybe I shouldn’t be. It’s original inspiration was a genre defining game that was an impressive package that faced off against Halo 3 in the multiplayer popularity stakes and won. This game is an impressively complete package that’ll give players plenty to do over a long time. It’s rapidly become my choice if I want a quick game online and even though I was late to the party it’s still easy enough to jump into and enjoy.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Played on an Xbox One X.