Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – Single-player Review
[Editor’s Note: This review zeroes in exclusively on the single-player campaign for Call of Duty Modern Warfare. We’ll have the multiplayer review and the overall review coming up soon.]After taking a year off in 2018, Call of Duty’s single-player campaign has come roaring back in the revival of the Modern Warfare name. For my money, this is the best campaign the series has seen since 2010’s Black Ops; and if that sounds like a backhanded compliment, I don’t mean it as one. Though it stops short of being as provocative and button-pushing as it seemed poised to be, it is nevertheless an extremely well-designed first-person shooter that refreshes the franchise format just enough with a few cool new ideas and some smart new takes on others we haven’t seen in years.The plot of Modern Warfare’s rebooted storyline starts out trying to blur the lines between good and bad, but it ends up quickly establishing the good guys as very clearly good. The US team is led by memorably mustachioed fan-favorite Captain John Price, while the sister and brother duo of Farah and Hamir head up an insurgency movement fighting to push Russian forces out of their fictional home country of Urzikstan. That’s right: it’s cool to shoot at Russia again.Every IGN Call of Duty ReviewThat’s not to say that uncomfortable, morally gray things don’t happen in this campaign; they do, and sometimes those events are directly in your control. Unarmed women die. Children are shot. Civilians can catch bullets. Suicide bombers are a threat. But even in Modern Warfare’s biggest moment – a showdown with a generically named enemy lieutenant called The Butcher – Infinity Ward wanders near the moral line but never actually steps up to or over it. That’s disappointing, because I’d really hoped this story would really have something meaningful to say about the soul-affecting nature of war in a time when the United States has been involved in so many conflicts for so long.Post-Modern WarfareThis is one of the best linear first-person shooter campaigns I’ve played in a good while.“Still, just because Modern Warfare doesn’t have a lot of bite behind its bark doesn’t mean it’s not a great action ride. It is one of the best linear first-person shooter campaigns I’ve played in a good while, thanks to an exciting pace across its five-ish-hour story that, notably, is always mixing up the gameplay. Sure, we’ve done the run-of-the-mill street battles a million times before in this series, but here you’re never doing them for very long without something unexpected happening. Modern Warfare delights most when it surprises, like when you have to engage in tense close-quarters combat to clean out the enemy from small, multi-story houses – often when it’s pitch-black outside of your night-vision goggles. Or when you fly explosive-rigged drones into enemy helicopters or paint targets for missile strikes.Meanwhile, the enemy AI is perfectly average. They’re not cannon fodder, but they don’t exactly rival Half-Life’s “flock” behavior either. I managed to break the AI once, when I went up a ladder straight to the third floor of a building, got noticed by a guy in the hallway outside the room I was in, and he yelled just before I gunned him down with my silenced shotgun. His yell summoned literally everyone else in the house, one by one, who I gunned down like fish in a barrel as soon as they appeared in the doorway.Another highlight was a boss fight of sorts in which you play as a child, and…well, I won’t say any more for spoiler reasons, but you can read about it in my original Modern Warfare preview if you like. It’s even got dialogue choices in key scenes, and those added a few welcome moments of feeling like I had a real impact on the story, even if you ultimately don’t.This Call of Duty even throws a smart curveball at you about halfway through by taking the gun out of your hands completely and switching to stealth as you guide a civilian through a terrorist-overrun embassy. In this sequence, you use the surveillance cameras to survey each room and tell her where and when to move over the phone. It’s something we’ve never seen in the series before, and it’s a clever flip of the script that helps make Modern Warfare more tense and interesting by taking the action down a notch or two so that it can then ratchet it up again for greater effect.Ghillied Back UpInfinity Ward wanders near the moral line but never actually steps up to or over it.“But perhaps my favorite mission is also its biggest: an “All Ghillied Up” homage that has you and Captain Price skulking through a small town, silencers ready, taking out bad guys with single shots to the head. Thwip! The freedom to tackle the buildings in any order you choose makes it feel full of possibilities: you can take any entrance in each one, and optionally search the outside to find the electrical main to kill the lights and enhance your stealthy hunting capabilities. I savored every moment of that mission; I took out every last bad guy on the grounds and in the buildings, and I cut the power to every building. The original Modern Warfare was the first Call of Duty to learn that the quiet moments only helped enhance the loud ones and vice versa, and this reboot applies the lesson well.Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Campaign Trailer Slideshow2019’s Modern Warfare is also stunningly gorgeous. The lighting – particularly in the outdoor forest areas at nighttime – looks dazzling, and it’s especially impressive on the characters themselves. These faces and their animations are among the most lifelike I’ve ever seen in a game. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. These are some seriously impressive character models – and not just in cutscenes. Audio shines as well, particularly with thundering weapon sounds punctuated by the bouncing of expended bullet casings on the ground. Though I will note that, while I appreciated the multitude of sound option packages in the Audio Settings menu, I wasn’t completely happy with any of them using my Dolby-enabled Astro A40 headset. Thankfully, though, you can customize individual audio settings and aren’t just stuck with the presets. The point is: play it in 4K with a good sound setup if you can.VerdictAs someone who’s played every single Call of Duty campaign and really missed it last year, the new Modern Warfare is exactly the kind of single-player revival I’ve been looking for. It introduces welcome new kinds of gameplay moments while executing familiar ones exceptionally well. Sure, its story may not be as provocative as it seems to want to be, but it reestablishes a strong identity for this 16-year-old franchise with a showcase solo shooter experience. Amidst a growing pile of battle royales and looter shooters that just don’t scratch that same itchy trigger finger, it felt just like old times.