Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review

Richard Walker

No one really asked for a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot, and fewer still ever expected one. But the result just happens to be one of the best Call of Duty games in years, delivering one of the most intense and interesting campaigns in the series to date. After the sci-fi excesses of the somewhat underappreciated Infinite Warfare, Infinity Ward has made something that's about as grounded as it gets, telling a story that revolves around freedom fighters in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Urzikstan.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's campaign is at times terrifying, thought-provoking, and shocking. And although occasionally it can feel like Infinity Ward presents a handful of rather lurid sights in an effort to elicit a response for the sheer sake of it, there's no denying that you'll be given pause to consider the weight of your actions. Rather than being a polemic on the horrors of war, however, Modern Warfare simply places you in horrific situations and gives you a degree of agency to make your own decisions. It goes without saying, that killing too many innocent civilians will still result in failure.


As a collection of great, memorable moments, Modern Warfare's campaign most definitely delivers, Captain Price returning (with astonishing facial hair) as the only connective tissue between this and the original Modern Warfare trilogy, which has essentially now been retconned. There are echoes of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in the 2019 reboot, with brief moments that recall missions like 'All Ghillied Up', and even if the campaign never quite reaches those heights, it conjures its own series of indelible scenarios.

A nighttime SAS raid on a house in Camden, London, is one particular highlight: a mission executed entirely via the green hue of night vision goggles, slowly stalking claustrophobic stairways and bedrooms, taking out hiding enemies while striving to minimise collateral damage. It's a taut, thrilling sequence that expertly dials back the pace amid shootouts on the streets of Piccadilly Circus and relentless battles against an onslaught of enemies in Urzikstan. Ultimately, as a gritty portrayal of the human cost of conflict and the futility of war, Modern Warfare proves effective, albeit with a few cinematic flourishes.

That’s despite some bending of the truth and painting Russians as one-dimensional baddies - that aspect is not so great. Like, for instance, citing the Highway of Death as a Russian atrocity, which was, in reality, carried out by the U.S. and its allies, but doesn’t fit the story that Infinity Ward wants to tell. It seems like something of a cop-out too, given the attention to detail and narrative nous demonstrated elsewhere in the campaign - it leaves something of a bad taste in the mouth of an otherwise enjoyable narrative.

An excellent (albeit massaged) campaign that occasionally flirts with some well-worn clichés is all well and good, but most players come to Call of Duty for the multiplayer, and thankfully, this year's offering is a barnstormer. As ever, the usual suite of modes are all accounted for, including favourites like Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, Kill Confirmed, Free-For-All, and Domination. Field Upgrades inject a dose of strategy with cooldown abilities, like a handy, controllable recon drone, which can be deployed to lend an edge on the battlefield. That's in addition to the usual Killstreaks and Perks you can choose for your custom loadout.

All of this is joined by new large-scale mode Ground War, a 32v32 affair that does a pretty good impression of Battlefield, throwing vehicles into the mix for sprawling chaotic combat. You may think that CoD should stay in its own lane, but Ground War adds an extra dimension to PvP, while filling a rather large Battle Royale void that Black Ops 4 amply filled. For those craving a smaller, more intimate affair in stark contrast to the madness of Ground War, then the new 2v2 Gunfight mode will see you right, with small, close-quarters maps and fast-paced skirmishes.

Alongside Ground War, both ends of the PvP multiplayer spectrum are catered for in abundance, despite the absence of some modes that are set to be added to the game in free post-launch updates. So, while a staple game-type like Hardpoint not being in the game from the outset seems odd, there's absolutely no shortage of modes to keep you occupied for countless hours. And this being CoD, you already know that the weapon handling and minute-to-minute gameplay is tight as a drum.

Granted, the inherent Call of Duty problems that come part and parcel each and every year persist, like campers whose endeavours are aided by useful hidey-holes on each map, or open kill-zones where you're almost guaranteed to be mown down in a hail of gunfire. Overall, however, this feels like one of the fairest and most balanced Call of Duty multiplayer experiences in a while, and for once, I didn't feel hopelessly out of my depth. Better still, with loot boxes thrown out, progression brings with it a wealth of rewards, so you're constantly unlocking new stuff as you level up. Optional cross-play is a neat addition too, bringing the whole CoD community together. Got a friend playing on a PC? No problem!


The return of Spec Ops caps off the whole thing, providing another bout of co-op in a selection of missions that serve as a campaign post-script. Even with four players all working together, Spec Ops proves remarkably challenging, its objective-driven action made increasingly tough by a constant influx of quite uncompromising enemy resistance. While the campaign epilogue missions take place across several phases with relatively expansive maps, classic Spec Ops hews closer to the old version present in Infinity Ward's previous Modern Warfare titles, meaning you're given practically all of the options.

Put it all together, then, and you've got another reliably well-made lump of raw and unadulterated first-person shootery. With a mature single-player narrative that sets a new benchmark for Call of Duty in terms of almost movie-quality presentation, and multiplayer that remains fast, immediate and irritatingly addictive. Spec Ops is the icing on the cake, providing a stiff co-op challenge with plenty of replay value. All of the bases are well and truly covered. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare might not be the game you expected or necessarily asked for, then, but it's a bloody brilliant one, regardless.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Turns out a reboot is just what the doctor ordered. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the best the series has been in quite some time.

Form widget
85%
Audio
85%

The trademark orchestral Call of Duty pomp is in full effect for the score, but with some moments of relatively quiet subtlety. Vocal performances and weapon sounds are excellent.

Visuals
95%

Gorgeous, realistic cut-scenes lend weight to Modern Warfare's war-torn drama, while multiplayer is slick as ever. A truly stunning game to look at – and it bloody should be given the ludicrous install size. Price's 'tache is glorious too.

Playability
90%

As eminently playable as ever, Modern Warfare polishes the series' trademark gunplay making it the tightest it's ever been. While we're certain that some will find something to gripe about, for what it's worth, we couldn't find anything. And we looked really, really hard too.

Delivery
85%

Modern Warfare's story plays fast and loose with facts, but treat it as a work of fiction (which it is) and you'll enjoy a cinematic ride that ends with a teaser suggesting more Modern Warfare to come. Multiplayer remains utterly essential (Ground War being an interesting new addition) and Spec Ops is a tough but enjoyable slice of co-op.

Achievements
80%

A very good list that dispenses with conventional progression-based objectives in favour of actually completing certain tasks during the campaign. Multiplayer achievements are out, and there's a single Spec Ops one for simply finishing the missions.

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