Giant Bomb Review

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review

4
  • PC
  • XONE
  • PS4

Modern Warfare makes meaningful tech upgrades to the Call of Duty franchise, making it look and sound better than ever while still maintaining its crisp, exciting gameplay.

Qualitatively, the Call of Duty franchise has been on a bit of a roll lately. WWII felt like that first attempt at hitting the panic button with its back-to-basics approach. Black Ops 4 seemed like a different type of panic might have plagued its development, but the franchise's first foray into the battle royale genre was pretty good and the competitive multiplayer made good on the whole operators/abilities angle Treyarch started trying back in Black Ops 3. So where does that leave Call of Duty: Modern Warfare? Is it... back-to-back-to-basics, perhaps? Yes and no.

Sure, yeah, it's a game that attempts to recapture the magic of that first really massive Call of Duty game by taking its name and a few of its characters and integrating them into an all-new campaign. If you were looking for some kind of analogy here, it kind of reminds me of that Star Trek reboot. It's going to occasionally reference events that came from Modern Warfare's past, but it's a different universe and, assuming they continue down the line to make a sequel, it'll maybe even retell some of the stories from those old games. The campaign is pretty solid, gameplay-wise, with plenty of the standard move-and-shoot gameplay that you’d expect along with a handful of fun little diversions and tools to play around with. Yes, you’ll rain down shots from above on helpless enemies below, but you’ll also use RC planes strapped to C4 to knock down helicopters. The game even manages to make its obligatory sniper mission feel pretty fun while still forcing you to account for wind and distance when lining up your shots.

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Modern Warfare takes an action movie approach to its story, which occasionally comes off as reckless when paired with the game’s often-grim subject matter. Also, the game’s length (probably around six-to-eight hours for most players, though you could certainly shoot through it faster than that) means that every facet of the story feels abbreviated. Two characters develop something of a personal attachment to each other, but before any of that goes anywhere, the game ends. The game does still find time for some flashbacks, though, which have you doing “fun” things like playing as a small girl who survives a Russian invasion and subsequent gas attack and grows up in captivity only to be featured in a waterboarding minigame. The game doesn’t necessarily play things up for shock value, but at the same time it doesn’t really linger on any of its heavier moments to give them much weight. As such, I found it hard to get too worked up one way or the other. It’s a fun video game, but its hook of “how bad will the good guys have to become in order to catch the actual bad guys” doesn’t especially hold up to critical scrutiny.

The competitive multiplayer feels bigger and better than its predecessors, though this is mostly achieved via a bunch of smart tweaks that don’t initially sound like a big deal. You can now mount to corners and low walls, giving you a way to keep most of your body behind a wall and peek out, letting you enter rooms a little more tactically. The modes have been given a bit of an overhaul, with Headquarters returning to the fold. Most of the game’s modes are now placed into a centralized hopper that you can filter down if you, for example, don’t ever way to play Search & Destroy but are fine with any Team Deathmatch, Cyber War, or Domination match that might be available. This is pretty similar to Titanfall 2’s mode selection interface, which also worked well. Some modes also get broken out of that main quick play list, so you can easily line up a Ground War match. Ground War has even more of a Battlefield-esque feel this time out, with 64-player matches on larger maps that hold five control points. You can parachute off of high buildings here, there are a few vehicles, and all of the killstreaks that players keep calling in make things feel ridiculously chaotic. It’s a weird, fun experience, seeing Call of Duty at this larger scale. Realism mode is also cool as it sort of splits the difference between regular matches and the traditional hardcore match. Realism more or less eliminates the HUD, forcing you to focus more on what’s in front of you and only giving you tactical information when your team has a UAV up in the air. There are also night versions of some multiplayer maps, which is a fun twist, but I haven’t seen these pop up in the game’s public matchmaking yet.

Unlocking items and options in multiplayer often feels like it changes for change’s sake from year to year, but Modern Warfare’s take on perks and attachments both feels new and better than what’s come before. Instead of a big, crazy pick 10 system, you can pick your three perks--these are things that might make you run faster, or perhaps become invisible to enemy radar—and level up as normal. But you’ll also select a field upgrade, which is a new ability that charges on a meter. These might be something as simple as throwing down an ammo box or you might opt for Dead Silence, which appears in this year’s game as an active ability rather than as a perk. This silences your footsteps, which seems more useful this year since enemy footsteps are weirdly loud… making them more tactically important in the process.

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Gun attachments move to a sort of “pick 5” system, where guns have multiple attachment spots and you can put, say, a scope on there for one point, an extended magazine on there for more bullets, stocks, grips, and so on. Guns also have a perk slot on them, so a lot of gun-specific perks that would have previously existed in the traditional perk slots show up here, along with some new ones. So you could take one that increases your melee speed, or full metal jacket bullets that do extra damage to vehicles and killstreaks, and so on. Most attachments have trade-offs to them, like fitting a scope on a weapon might make aiming down sights take slightly longer, and so on, which makes gun customization feel like a more thoughtful process than it has in years past. Overall it feels like you have more control over how your particular version of a gun will handle, which is nice.

There's also a new two-on-two mode called gunfight. It's designed to be a quick, round-based experience that takes place on its own small maps. The premise is simple--eliminate the other team or, should a game go to overtime, try to capture a flag in the center of the map. Loadouts of guns and items are predetermined and rotate multiple times through a match, giving it some variety as you go. It's a neat idea that evokes both fighting games and the old, great Rocket Arena mod for Quake.

The third main mode in Modern Warfare is a co-op mode, and it’s bad. This was billed as something that would potentially resemble the Spec Ops mode found in Modern Warfare 2, but the main mode is just a mess. These are four-player operations set in large, wide-open levels. Objectives will pop up on your HUD and you’ll have to make your way over there and place some scramblers on a server rack or shoot some guys or whatever. Since people seem to be into quitting this mode mid-mission, most of the time I’d spawn into a mission already in progress, but I’d spawn way back at the beginning, requiring me to waste a ton of time just running over to where the action is. The action itself is awful, too. The maps are open, but enemies just keep magically appearing behind pillars when you turn around, and more or less popping out of thin air, just out of view of the camera. So you’re taking fire from all sides and the whole thing just feels phony. It’s also intensely buggy as of this writing, so at times we’ve fallen through the world, spawned into a broken map that refused to list any objectives or spawn any enemies, and so on. Even if it worked as intended, it doesn’t seem like it’d be much fun.

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The co-op mode also offers a seemingly endless take on the campaign’s sniper mission, where four players fight off waves of enemies until they get bored and quit. The PS4 version also gets an exclusive survival mode where you shoot down waves of enemies on the multiplayer maps. This mode is actually functional, but not much fun, either. It’s a shame to see the Spec Ops name--which was a legendary mode back in the original Modern Warfare--get squandered so thoroughly here.

While Modern Warfare certainly has its issues, I’m having a really terrific time with it. The audiovisual aspects of the game have received significant upgrades. It’s a great-looking game with really strong sound design. That stuff helped make the campaign worth seeing, and it’s part of why I keep coming back to the competitive multiplayer, too. The meaningful tweaks to the leveling process matched up with some solid map design and great modes certainly don’t hurt, either. It’s a real shame that the co-op is pretty much dead on arrival, but the rest of the game is still absolutely worth looking at.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+

41 Comments

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AlmostSwedish

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Man, that's a shame about the co-op. The original spec ops was such a cool thing.

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kalakov

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Reviews are back ?!

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OldeBlueEyes

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Glad to hear our call of duty "authority" at giant bomb is enjoying it overall. It stinks to hear about the spec-ops mode though. I was hoping it would be more along the lines of those in MW2; bite-sized missions that have you participate in setpiece moments, not endless waves of enemies coming out of nowhere. Great review.

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Devon_OO7

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Edited By Devon_OO7

Wasn't Spec Ops not in until MW2? Review says original Modern Warfare

EDIT: Looks like it was updated

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WightnNerdy

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MaySun91

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@devon_oo7: i was thinking the same thing but could be remembering it wrong

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SSully

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@devon_oo7: you are correct. The original Modern Warfare didn't have a co-op mode.

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AlwaysBeClothing

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Another Review!?!?!? Wow Jeff has been busy!

I'm sad Spec Ops seems to be broken and relegated to a side affair. That was the main draw for me to play the series, co-op with my buddy

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jred250

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Man, I'm so happy that they are inching back into reviews. I love the giant bomb hot take, but the internet is jam packed with reactionary hot takes but very few can write reviews of this caliber. I think the review process strengthens the dialogue around the game and makes for better discussion on the site. I hope we see more reviews on the site in the future in whatever form they take!

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KgKris

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Thanks Jeff!

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vasperknight

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Thanks Jeff, really enjoy the reviews lately. Keep up the great work!

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mrbubbles

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I both like and hate the ground war mode. It's great because COD did their version of Battlefield and it's terrible because people can just camp on top of building with sniper rifles and kill people as they spawn in their base. Which I feel is never a problem in a Battlefield game.

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Dan_CiTi

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Wasn't Spec Ops not in until MW2? Review says original Modern Warfare

It was new to Modern Warfare 2 (2009), it worked a bit differently than this game's though. Call of Duty 4 had no co-op mode. Otherwise a nice review Jeff, nice to see these comeback.

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bumbletoes

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I never comment on stuff. But hot damn I'm just so happy to see written reviews on the site. Thanks for taking the time Jeff!

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csl316

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Keep these reviews coming, Jeff. The discussions elsewhere are fine and lengthy, but these are a nice distillation of your thoughts.

I checked out of the series after Infinite Warfare (which had a killer campaign but I was done with the multiplayer by that point). This seems well made but I might wait on some co-op stability before getting back into one of these.

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galerian

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The faces are frigging something else. It's kinda mesmerising to see em, and I don't know why.

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CavsFan4Life2

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@mrbubbles: Then quit spawning at your base? You are supposed to capture objectives after all. Also, you can spawn on squad mates as well...

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Sahalarious

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Great review Jeff. This game is weird, I don't necessarily disagree with 8s and 7.5s due to real flaws, but this is the most fun I've had online since Titanfall 2 so I want to give it a 10 for good shooting and running around alone

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s5n8k3

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It's a COD.

I don't wanna play it.

But thanks, Jeff.

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FlipperDesert

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This might be the first COD I'm interested in since MW2, something about it just seems really interesting.

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bathala

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After watching the QL I forgot this has the campaign

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mrbubbles

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Edited By mrbubbles

@cavsfan4life2 said:

@mrbubbles: Then quit spawning at your base? You are supposed to capture objectives after all. Also, you can spawn on squad mates as well...

You can't spawn on dead teammates or ones who are in combat and spawning at another point isn't that helpful when your team only has one point and it's on the other side of the map from your base. And when you spawn at that point and walk out of a building and get sniped. Also if your team has a point and it's being captured you can't spawn on that point. which if your team only has one point means you have to spawn at your base

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Ravelle

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@kalakov: They never went away but they're not back either.

It's something they do when they have extra time to put their thoughts on paper or when they feel like it.

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the_devoid

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Was really hoping spec ops would be as good as it was in MW2, what a bummer. Oh well, thanks for the review.

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sammo21

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Edited By sammo21

I have only put time into the multiplayer but right now I can't really stand that...so much so that I wish I had not gotten the digital copy of the game so I could resell it or straight up return it. The big team mode feels like an afterthought that the developers either didn't care about or didn't really put much testing into and then there are the nonstop campers, dying in spawn, dying as you spawn elsewhere, claymores being overused, and terrible map design. I rarely get super frustrated with multiplayer games these days but with what this game is trying to accomplish I'd get more out of reinstalling Battlefield 4. Maybe the single player is a hot banger but I doubt its enough to make me feel that $60 for this game was worth it (not even counting for how terrible stuff like Spec Ops is).

I'm glad Jeff liked it buts clear what he likes in COD I certainly don't as I think the last pretty good COD was BLOPS III. Shit on that campaign all you want I still thought it was solid AND it was co-op.

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Zerocloned

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I'm really happy GB is starting to do reviews again, dont really know why they stopped.

Been cold on CoD for years now, the beta didnt really change my mind either. Maybe ill pick it up for cheap later down the road. Sounds cool.

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Onemanarmyy

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Edited By Onemanarmyy

now i'm imagining everyone showing up to the table for GOTY all casual like usual and then Jeff walks in. Suit on, briefcase in hand and hands out his reviews to everyone in the room. 'So.. what did you guys do this year?' :D

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Relkin

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Good read, Jeff; thanks for putting in the time! Hope to see the rest of the editorial staff jump back into writing as well.

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kof98

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Woooooooords!

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xbob42

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Another year, another 4-star CoD review.

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mahalo_yall

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Glad written reviews are back. Keep em coming! Good work Jeff.

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CurseTheseMetalHands

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Nice shameless plug for another CBS property. Just kidding.

That they completely botched Spec Ops is rather unforgivable and, I have to admit, makes me way less likely to pick this up. I mean, I've never been the biggest fan of CoD competitive multiplayer - even with them leaning into more Battlefield-esque modes (though, I think we all know those lobbies will be deserted in six months and the only place you'll find other players will be team deathmatch) - and with co-op being the clusterfuck that it is, it drastically reduces the value of the game for someone like me. This is why they should allow people to buy the campaign separately - for no more than $20.

Speaking of back-to-basics, I love that Jeff's getting back into writing reviews. His new parental duties might keep him from being as present in video content these days, but I'll very happily accept more written pieces from him instead, since it's something he can do from home. Now if he can just sneak in the occasional home gaming session here and there...

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ukauka1

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Excellent review Jeff. Sounds like the only thing holding this game back from 5 stars was the botched Spec Ops mode

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TurtleFish

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+1

@jred250 said:

Man, I'm so happy that they are inching back into reviews. I love the giant bomb hot take, but the internet is jam packed with reactionary hot takes but very few can write reviews of this caliber. I think the review process strengthens the dialogue around the game and makes for better discussion on the site. I hope we see more reviews on the site in the future in whatever form they take!

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LeraA

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I like reading these.

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madmatt213

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Gross, reading?!

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Sanjuro_jishin

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I enjoy written reviews and applaud their arrivals on Giant Bomb!

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BladeOfCreation

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I'm sorry, did he say there's a fucking "waterboarding minigame" in the story mode? What the fuck?

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beggary

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AbyssWalker

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AbyssWalker  Online

I'm really loving it so far, it's my #2 GotY honestly. Shame about the coop, but I was planning on playing it with a group of friends so that might make it better.

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LethalPlacebo

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This is a great review, but I have to say it: Spec Ops didn't show up until Modern Warfare 2, it wasn't in the original. Man was that such a great mode. Sad to hear (and see) that it sucks in this year's game.