Published on November 6th, 2019 | by Sean Warhurst
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare PS4 Review
Summary: Although not quite the return to greatness that many fans were hoping for, this reboot of the Modern Warfare series manages to hold its own against the glut of online shooters currently available and offers enough tweaks and revisions to the core gameplay to justify dipping into yet another annual instalment.
Go Dark Once Again
Despite what appears to be the general consensus amongst fans, I actually enjoyed Infinity Ward’s previous Call of Duty title Infinite Warfare; although I felt that the multiplayer component didn’t do quite enough to differentiate itself from that of the previous entry, Black Ops III, the strength of the campaign and the charming Zombies mode inspired by different eras of film all worked together to create a cohesive package that served to ensure that it became one of the more recent CoD titles that I poured the most hours into, second only to Black Ops IV’s Blackout mode.
As such, I was eagerly anticipating Infinity Ward’s latest effort, hoping that they’d recapture the magic of their previous release’s campaign in particular, as I felt that the exclusion of such a mode in last year’s entry was one of the few areas where Treyarch dropped the ball.
Out of all of the different sub-series’ in the franchise, I’d wager that the Modern Warfare entries are the ones that generally carry the most weight and reverence from a large portion of the fanbase, with both CoD 4: Modern Warfare and MW2 often topping the lists of best overall Call of Duty games.
This means that the latest iteration, simply title Modern Warfare, has fairly lofty standards to reach if it has any chance of being mentioned in the same sentence as these perceived pinnacles of the genre.
So, the question is, has Infinity Ward managed to reach expectations or does this reboot of the series land with all of the impact of a wet squib?
Firstly, let’s address the giant pink Elephant in the room – The lack of both a dedicated Battle Royale mode and the removal of Zombies, a series staple for many years. Rumours abound that the former will be coming to the game at some point in the future after dataminers found files with BR attached to them, but removing the dedicated Zombies mode seems to be a permanent thing, at least for this year’s entry.
This is a bit of a shame, as the horde mode littered with esoteric quests to complete were where myself and many of my online friends frittered away our hours; for those looking for the thrill of holding off wave based attacks there is the new Special Operations mode but, in all honesty, it feels a little uninspired and, more importantly, lacks the balance and character that the Zombie modes offered up.
Survival Mode is the Horde mode equivalent on offer here, but, and this is a major BUT, it’s a PlayStation exclusive for an entire year, so unless you’re the proud owner of the little black parallelogram, you’re shite out of luck.
There are four missions currently available in Special Ops, each offering up a series of objectives to complete, such as taking out jammers and destroying ground forces using aerial attacks; the variety of things to complete for each mission offers up enough to keep players engaged, but the difficulty really needs to be tweaked as it stands in its current incarnation. You’ll often find yourself and your teammates quickly overran by enemy forces and the spawns seem to be kind of all over the place and never in favour of the player.
The campaign, which was by far the mode I was most looking forward to sinking my teeth into, was honestly a little bit of a letdown. It’s solid enough from a gameplay perspective but far too short and lacking in the kind of flashy setpieces that have become the norm in this series.
Walking moustache Captain Price makes a return here but the rest of the cast is comprised of new characters that all come off as bland and dry as plain white toast; freedom fighter Farah accompanies the player controlled character Alex as he completes missions in the fictional Middle-Eastern country of Urzikstan and comes the closest to having a compelling character arc but overall both Alex and the SAS Sergeant Kyle are completely interchangeable and lack the personality of someone like Soap MacTavish.
The narrative follows two distinct storylines that coalesce as the game goes on – In an attempt to put a halt to the machinations of a Russian dictator, Alex and militia leader Farah undertake a series of covert missions while Kyle and ‘he of the impeccable cookie crumb catcher’ get caught up in a terrorist attack in London’s Piccadilly Circus and then attempt to hunt down the remaining members of the terrorist cell, eventually leading them to the very same enemies that Farah and her fighters are attempting to wipe out.
The narrative honestly just comes off as overly earnest at times and feels secondary to the more grounded and realistic take on the action, which is admittedly fairly solid throughout even without all of the whizz bang, gung ho nonsense that has become de rigueur for the series.
The gunplay is top notch here, offering satisfactory weight and impact to your shots, and this element is easily what will keep you playing through the story even if the characters and plot fail to hook you in; shooting bad guys in the face is always fun and never has that been more evident than when enjoying the refined combat of this entry’s new gameplay engine, narrative be damned.
This leads into the meat and gristle of the package, the multiplayer; after all, who needs a compelling three act structure narrative when you’re shooting your online buddies in the dick from the opposite side of the map?
The multiplayer generally treads familiar ground in terms of whats on offer in the classic modes such as Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, Domination and the like, with the old adage “If it ain’t broke then why fix it?” seemingly the credo in the Infinity Ward offices. New additions, such as Cyber attack and Gunfight are much more measured approaches to online combat, with smaller teams and limited lives making for some super intense battles.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Ground War, which is Call of Duty’s take on Battlefield’s Conquest mode; allowing for up to 64 players and a bevy of vehicles, it’s a chaotic experience that doesn’t exactly fit the standard CoD template but makes for some fast-paced fun nonetheless. For a more in-depth look at the multiplayer, scope out our Beta impressions here.
The selection of maps on offer are all well constructed and easy to memorise, something I found the last few titles weren’t as accommodating with, and progression paths and upgrades make sense and don’t feel like too much of a grind; of course, as has become the norm with titles like this, there are currently no live microtransactions but you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be coming at some point in the future.
I’ve criticised this practise before, as publishers wait for the glowing reviews to come out before they start nickel and diming their fanbase as they know that adding them in during the initial reviewing period would likely negatively affect their final score as the implementation becomes more and more predatory and the backlash becomes more pronounced; they also know that most reviewers won’t retroactively amend their reviews once the hype bubble has burst, and even if they did it wouldn’t affect their precious metacritic score anyway.
It’s an incredibly shady way to go about things and is something I’ll continue to call out whenever it’s obvious that this is route that the publisher is taking. Activision are to be commended to a degree for removing the season pass from this year’s entry, but to me all that means is that MTX’s are a definite eventuality as they’re going to be even more desperate to recoup the revenue lost through making that decision… Sigh.
Graphics and Audio
As is the norm, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is an absolutely gorgeous beast of a game, especially when it comes to the campaign. Multiplayer and Ground War in particular look a little more rough around the edges but it’s nonetheless obvious that a lot of care to attention and detail has gone into making this one of the best looking releases of the year and providing a visual spectacle worthy of being one of the publisher’s tentpole franchises.
Sound design is also stellar, offering up an almost uncomfortable level of realism in both the sound of the weapons and the resulting wails from your downed enemies and citizens caught up in the gunfire. Directionality is also on point here, making it easy for anybody with a decent set of headphones to identify the points of attack and approaching enemies merely on the sound of their footsteps alone.
Although not quite the return to greatness that many fans were hoping for, this reboot of the Modern Warfare series manages to hold its own against the glut of online shooters currently available and offers enough tweaks and revisions to the core gameplay to justify dipping into yet another annual instalment.
I say this almost every year, but the gunplay seriously feels the best it ever has with this iteration, and the new multiplayer modes offer up some variation on the tried and true formula; the campaign was weaker than expected from a narrative standpoint but the missions themselves are engaging enough from a gameplay perspective to justify a playthrough.
It’s a shame that Zombies and, for now at least, Battle Royale have been excised from the modes on offer, and to be honest neither the handful of new modes or Ground War really make up for their exclusion, but ultimately if you’re a fan of the series, you’re likely going to enjoy much of what’s on offer here, whilst undoubtedly lamenting what’s missing this time around.
Primary Format – PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Game Genre – First Person Shooter
Rating – MA15+
Game Developer – Infinity Ward
Game Publisher – Activision
Reviewer – Sean Warhurst