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‘Call of Duty WWII’ – Once More Unto the Beach, as Activision Takes the Series Back to Basics

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Call of Duty has always had a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, it’s one that has been unoccupied for many years. Over the course of the last decade — two gaming generations — and ten main series entries, this venerable franchise, once adored by fans for its re-imagining of some of the most tragic and triumphant events of the Second World War, became little more than a frat boy gadget-fest where K/D ratio is king, and to the gulag with everything else. That’s not a value judgment; it’s just a fact that the target demographic shifted, and the series was altered accordingly. The beauty of the game industry is that there’s something for everyone, from casual mobile gamers like my very own mother, all the way up to the twitchiest of 360 no-scopers.

Each successive Call of Duty title has seemingly competed against the last for the most outrageous kill streak, the most bombastic missions, and most convoluted plot, so I can understand why Activision and the various development studios responsible for the series made the decision to change it so drastically. In an FPS market that was and largely still is dominated by only two intellectual properties (Battlefield and Call of Duty) something had to be done in order to differentiate the franchises. It was, for all intents and purposes, a prudent decision — one that proved far more profitable than the accountants at Activision probably ever imagined.

Since the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 2007, the series has grown to be one of the most commercially successful that has ever existed, and is largely responsible for Activision being in the prominent industry position that it presently enjoys. Old school fans such as myself may have fallen by the wayside over the years, left in the dust and mud to bleed out, but the new formula attracted and retained a larger audience (and more money) than ever before. Whatever the series may have gained from its transformation, it also lost something: its heart. For better and for worse, the Second World War, even seventy-two years after it concluded with the razing of Berlin and the nuclear obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, remains alongside World War One as one of the most momentous conflicts of the last century. The lessons etched in blood onto the pages of history that such conflicts serve to teach us as a species should never be forgotten, and yet relentless, hawkish lobbying from those who have forgotten the meaning of “lest we forget” constantly threaten to make history repeat itself.

Thankfully, with the campaign of Call of Duty: WWII, Sledgehammer Studios have taken the series back to its roots to serve as a reminder of not only what made the series so good in the first place, but also of exactly how much mankind suffered during what could arguably be considered the last “good” war. Or at least, the last war fought for entirely good reasons.

The inclusion of campaign modes in first-person shooters is largely viewed as an anachronism by most gamers and by the industry itself; at best they’re considered a holdover to cater to the tastes of older gamers, like me, and at worst they’re viewed as a waste of resources that could be better spent on more multiplayer content. However, as EA DICE realized too late when they released Star Wars Battlefront without a single player campaign in 2015, there is still significant consumer demand for them. The demand is so great in fact that I suspect that EA was all but forced to include just such a campaign mode in the upcoming sequel, or else face the near complete abandonment of the freshly rebooted series.

No matter how desperately the big publishers would like to scrap any commitment to single-player narratives in order to facilitate a “games as service” market where individual titles are designed to be perpetually monetized to ensure maximum profits for the least actual effort, it’s obvious that gamers aren’t willing to surrender on this matter. Not yet, at least. Realizing how important single player campaigns are to a significant proportion of players, Glen Schofield and his writing/design team were keen not to make the same mistake. An inordinate amount of careful planning and research went into the creation of the campaign in Call of Duty WW2, and the results are plain for all to see. Not only have Sledgehammer Studios managed to recapture some of the essence of what made the first three games so popular, but they have also reaffirmed why these single player elements are so fundamental to the genre.

At roughly six hours long, the campaign of Call of Duty: WWII is no more substantial than those found in most of the previous games, but even in such a short space of time it manages to tell a heartfelt and heartbreaking story of sacrifice and survival, whilst simultaneously not skimping on Hollywood spectacle. Centered around the experiences of Ronald “Red” Daniels, a soldier in the 16th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army, the campaign takes players from the blasted beaches of Normandy on D-Day, through the frost-bitten forests of the Belgian-German border, and all the way to the fortified banks of the river Rhine. As the front line advances, Daniels’ squad participates in several major battles of the war, including the Battle of Aachen, the liberation of Paris, and the Battle of the Bulge.

There are eleven campaign chapters that take place from June 1944 up to March 1945, each of which has its own individual structure that acts to complement and reinforce the dynamics of the overall narrative. For example, ‘The Battle of the Bulge’ mission begins with players delivering a crate of ammunition to a fellow soldier further up the defensive line, but rapidly deteriorates into a pitched battle beneath the boughs of the snow-smothered forest, culminating in a vicious standoff between infantry emplacements and an armored column as Nazi soldiers pour out of the smoke and mist like monsters from an ancient legend. The peaks and troughs of this mission, among others that have a similar internal escalation of action, all help to add much needed variation to the pace of the campaign. They make it so that each mission is as enjoyable whether played in isolation, or as considered a part of the greater whole.

The obligatory tank and aircraft sections are self-contained components of various missions, and allow players to see how their actions in the trenches and foxholes are but tiny parts of a conflict taking place across a much larger theater of war. These sections, underpinned by a superb Holst-inspired score provided by William Roget II, never fail to get the adrenaline pumping. There’s an infiltration mission with players bluffing their way into a foreboding Nazi barracks in the heart of occupied Paris that evokes the spirit of Agent Carter on more than one occasion, and is arguably the most interesting sequence of the entire game. If the focus had been placed entirely on stunning set piece moments (the explosive derailment of an armored train springs immediately to mind) then the underlying themes of the campaign may have been lost beneath the constant barrage of bullets and bombs.

As the campaign advances, Daniels and his squad are forced to endure personal losses that make them question the likelihood of their survival, as well as facing up to the psychological and emotional impact that the constant threat of imminent death has on them as soldiers and as men. Although the members of the “greatest generation” are largely considered to be heroes by default, what the campaign here shows us is that they weren’t. The horrors they had to endure on a daily basis, and the fact that any of them even survived to return home at all, made them heroic. The ensemble cast does a sterling job of conveying the realities of warfare without ever becoming overly maudlin or jingoistic, and at no point did I ever feel like I was playing through a recruitment pitch for the US military — a factor of more recent entries in the series that I have always considered abhorrent by its very nature.

On the whole however, the campaign suffers from what I like to think of as a form of “Netflix Syndrome” with regards to its content. It tries to cover so much ground over such a short space of time in order to conform to the established format that, whilst in a general sense it hits all the right notes and goes out of its way to offer players a more grounded, recognizable, and ultimately more human glimpse at the nature of war, it’s never really given the chance to expand on its themes or characters.

The pacing is well-managed not just in individual missions, but also across the campaign as a whole. Excellent as it is, it still feels very by-the-numbers and could have done so much more to showcase the true effects of war. That said, the epilogue has to be one of the most outstanding sequences to be found in any game of this type produced in recent years. In the aftermath of the war, Daniels and his squad set out to search for one of their number who was captured in an earlier mission. As they begin to sweep work camps in the surrounding area, they — and by extension the player — are forced to confront the true horror of war, and indeed the inhumanity that men can demonstrate when given free rein. It’s a very short segment, but offers an invaluable and harrowing peek behind that particular curtain.

As for multiplayer, there’s obviously plenty of that, and it’s all the standard Call of Duty fare. I was hoping that a return to World War II would promote a more considered and measured approach to multiplayer combat, but unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. It’s still aimed almost exclusively at those who have regular energy drink transfusions and have played nothing other than Call of Duty for the last ten years. There’s little to no explanation of anything in either the regular multiplayer or the fan favorite Nazi Zombie mode which deters newcomers like me right the from the start. The matchmaking seems slightly absurd, with low-ranking players thrown in alongside gamers who already have invested hours in the game. I can only imagine this was done to expose new players to the fancy equipment that higher-ranked players have unlocked to boost sales of loot boxes. That might make sense from a business point of view, but from the perspective of someone like me it just makes one not bother, as you essentially become a points pinata for those who don’t even need it.

Don’t get me wrong — I can see the quality. There is a broad range of weapons, attachments, and various cosmetic options to personalize your soldier. Progression does feel tangible and rewarding, the map design and overall level of presentation for the multiplayer elements is just as impressive as that present in the campaign. If this is your sort of thing, then you’ll doubtless get endless hours of entertainment out of it. With the exception of War mode, which pits Allies against Axis in a objective-based struggle for map control, it doesn’t do anything new, however, and just feels like more of the same. On top of that, the intrusive loot boxes seem specifically designed to exert passive psychological pressure on players in a way that stops being simply obnoxious and becomes aggressive panhandling. Multiplayer veterans will no doubt find more than enough here to keep them occupied, but I couldn’t help but feel that the experience rapidly grew stale, and found myself wishing that the developers had taken cues from more co-operative shooters such as Overwatch.

So, is Call of Duty WWII actually any good? Yes, undoubtedly. Could it have been better? Of course. However, it’s important to note that Sledgehammer Studios have taken the series, (for this entry at least) back to the very basics, and as such the developers can no longer depend on the gadgets, gizmos, and gimmicks that made even gamers who play nothing but these titles turn away from the franchise. It does suffer from a reliance on quick time events and A-to-B-to-C gameplay, but going back to what made the series so great to begin with, even on such an elementary level, gives Activision a chance to encourage fans who may have given up on the series to return, all while offering the long term fans a taste of something relatively fresh. Call of Duty: WWII may not be the absolute victory that some were hoping for, but at least its release will not be a day that lives in infamy.

Chris is a Cambridge, UK based freelance writer and reviewer. A graduate of English Literature from Goldsmiths College in London he has been composing poetry and prose for most of his life. More than partial to real ale/craft beer and a general fan of sci-fi and fantasy. He first started gaming on a borrowed Mega Drive as a child and has been a passionate enthusiast of the hobby and art form ever since. Never afraid to speak his mind he always aims to tell the unvarnished truth about a game. Favourite genres: RPGs, action adventure and MMOs. Least favourite genre: anything EA Sports related (they're the same games every year!)

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Game Reviews

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ Review: Moon’s Haunted but Still Shines

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ returns to a familiar destination but Bungie is reworking Destiny with each expansion and Shadowkeep is no exception.

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Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep may be a return to a familiar destination, the Moon, but Bungie continues the trend of reworking Destiny with each new expansion, and Shadowkeep is no exception. Replete with a reworked season pass system, progression systems, customization options, sandbox re-tuning and quest interface, Shadowkeep is both a welcome iteration and extension of the existing Destiny 2 experience offering more RPG-esque player agency than Destiny has ever seen before. While the game is still haunted by some overly familiar issues, Shadowkeep is a welcome expansion and a promising start to the third year of Destiny 2.

Old Haunting Grounds

The Moon isn’t the only familiar face in Shadowkeep. Keeping with tradition, Eris Morn has returned from a long absence for another dark, lunar expansion (the first being D1′s The Dark Below when the character was first introduced) as she investigates a disturbance deep within the Moon. Quite literally haunted by the past, Eris has called upon the Guardians to assist her in finding the source of the phantoms plaguing the Moon and vanquishing “Nightmare” versions of familiar visages from the past.

All is not entirely as old players might remember. An immense hive structure, the Scarlet Keep, now overshadows previously unexplored territory on the Lunar surface. New Lost Sectors hide in the depths of the Moon, and new secrets a la the Dreadnaught or the Dreaming City lie waiting to be discovered by inquisitive players. And at the very center of the expansion an ancient, unknown threat lies in wait, an ominous foreshadowing of the trials ahead.

While the expansion does a decent job ensuring the familiar haunts don’t feel overly recycled, it’s hard to say Shadowkeep makes the most of the Moon. The campaign opens on such a high note as players storm the moon in an unexpectedly matchmade sequence before individual Fireteams independently uncover an unanticipated twist that absolutely shatters expectation. Unfortunately, the narrative quickly devolves into uninteresting fetch quests that fail to live up to the intrigue of the initial mission nor live up to the narrative heights of some of the most memorable missions the Moon previously housed including fan favorites The Sword of Crota and Lost to Light to name a few. That’s tough company to keep, and Shadowkeep fails to measure up.

Similarly, a bit of that intrigue is reintroduced in Shadowkeep‘s final mission, but, like the campaign as a whole, it’s over before the player knows it and fails to live up to the precedent set by previous, lengthier campaign conclusions. More mileage is gotten out of the narrative and destination in the post-game in the way of a new weapon farming system, a new activity known as Nightmare hunts that play like mini Strikes, and a Strike proper, but that does little to alleviate the disappointment of an overly terse campaign that reads like a teaser for what’s to come over a distinct, fleshed-out story.

A New Era, a New Season

Part of that is presumably courtesy of a shift in Bungie’s approach to content releases. While the previous expansion, Forsaken, similarly opted for procedurally released content over the course of the season, Bungie has doubled down on that strategy with Shadowkeep ensuring there’s something new to be experienced each week that players sign in. While certain activities have alway arrived post-launch including raids, dungeons, and exotic weapon pursuits, Shadowkeep and its “Season of the Undying” has seen new PvE and PvP activities launched after the expansion’s initial drop, adding to an already lengthy list of Destiny to-dos.

Central to the season is the new PvE, matchmade activity, the Vex Offensive, which pits six players against waves of Vex combatants paired and features some minor puzzle elements, all for the sake of earning a series of weapons exclusive to the mode. While the Black Garden locale of the mode is certainly eye-catching, the Offensive, with its recycled mechanics and familiar enemies, doesn’t leave much of an impression beyond that. It might pale in comparison to activities introduced in past seasons (like Warmind‘s Escalation Protocol, or last season’s Menagerie), but is intentionally terse, intended to match this new seasonal philosophy, and will be removed from the game after Season of the Undying (though the exclusive arsenal will still be available in the loot pool obtainable through undisclosed means). Like the Vex themselves, the Vex Offensive might not seem like much independently, but collectively is a piece of a greater whole challenging and rewarding players for participating within the specific season.

Bungie is further defining each season with the inclusion of a seasonal artifact and a season pass system. The artifact, again only available for the season, offers players an avenue for additional, limitless Power gains while also offering unlockable gameplay mods encouraging players to utilize specific classes and builds. The Oppressive Darkness mod, for example, debuffs enemies hit by void grenades, encouraging players to construct discipline-oriented, void builds. Another mod, Thunder Coil, increases the power of arc melee attacks by fifty percent, giving all new life to the Hunter’s Arcstrider subclass. Meanwhile, the season pass operates similar to that of Fortnite or any number of games and replaces the previous cosmetic only level up system of Destiny 2‘s past. From the season’s outset, any and all experience goes toward unlocking rewards from the pass including new armor, armor ornaments, exclusive weapons and exotics, and engrams. The experience requirement for each level is static, meaning progress is fair and steady throughout and never feels throttled. Both seasonal systems are fantastic new additions that reward players for playing the game while making experience gains more purposeful than any other time in Destiny‘s endgame.

New Duds to Boot

Shadowkeep also marks the debut of Armor 2.0, a new system that allows players more agency in character customization than ever before. Whereas armor previously rolled with random perks and a roll of only three stats (Mobility, Recovery, and Resilience), Armor 2.0 comes with no perks and six stats as Destiny 1‘s Intellect, Discipline, and Strength (determining the charge rates of player’s super, grenade, and melee abilities) make their triumphant return. Instead, Armor 2.0 has slots for modifiers so players can pick and choose whatever perks they want just as long as they’ve unlocked those mods. Mods are acquired from most activities, while enhanced mods (better versions of certain traditional mods) are exclusive to some of the game’s more challenging content. While the grind for mods seems excessive in the face of the rest of the game’s grind, it’s a one-time affair, some of the best mods are unlocked via the seasonal artifact, and the payoff is astounding, providing customization like never before.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Axe to Grind

Speaking to the grind, Destiny has often struggled and failed to find the perfect balance of meaningful power climb and tedious grinds recycling the same old activities. Luckily, at the outset of the climb towards max power, Shadowkeep strikes a much better balance centered on beloved ritual and new and or seasonal activities. Power drops now operate on a clearly labeled, tiered system, incentivizing players to prioritize new or challenging activities for maximum gains. Ritual activities (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit), though tier one, retain their relevance by offering multiple weekly powerful drops for match completions, vendor bounties completed, and rank progression. Previous, otherwise irrelevant avenues towards power have been retired, but this is a welcome reduction and there is no shortage of powerful drops in the climb to max power. That isn’t to say that the grind couldn’t be shorter ensuring more players can participate in endgame activities when they first arrive, but progression generally feels smoother than any time in Destiny‘s past.

Conversely, content flow might overwhelm casual and even dedicated players as there’s simply too much to do and grind for players tight on time. Bungie now considers Destiny and MMO with proper RPG mechanics, and, in terms of time commitment, that really shows with Shadowkeep. On a certain week, a player might have an accomplished week in-game after sinking only three to five hours into the game. Other weeks the game seems to demand closer to the ten to twenty-hour range. One week, for example, saw the release of the new dungeon, a new Crucible game mode, an exotic quest, a new public event, and the start of the Festival of the Lost, a limited time, Halloween event. That’s simply too much, feels like poor pacing, and favors streamers, Destiny content creators, and hardcore players for whom Destiny is their exclusive hobby, a burgeoning theme with Season of the Undying. While it’s certainly exciting that there’s always something to do in D2, it doesn’t seem true to the game’s roots as a hybrid, a shooter with MMO elements, that could be taken at a more casual pace but still offered an engaging endgame for the dedicated audience. Now, there’s only an endgame with no end in sight.

A Better Destiny Awaits

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for players who want to pay a minimal price for seemingly unending content, and in that regard, Shadowkeep is a steal. A sensational new raid (minus some finicky new mechanics), a foreboding dungeon, an immense new arsenal to grind for, and a better tuned PvP and PvE sandbox in which to enjoy them mean Shadowkeep will keep Guardians’ attention the whole season long and is an excellent proof of concept for the seasonal structure going forward. If Bungie can keep this pace up, year three of Destiny 2 could easily be the best year in franchise history. As a general caution though, Destiny 2 now clearly caters to the hardcore, requires MMO levels of commitment, and is best enjoyed with a regular group; casual, time-restricted, and solo players beware. It might not be the best single expansion release in franchise history (that’s still a toss-up between The Taken King and Forsaken), but, beginning with Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, the third year of D2 is the closest the tumultuous title has ever come to Bungie’s ambitious vision for the shared-world shooter and the game fans have been waiting for these past five years.

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Game Reviews

‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ Multiplayer Offers Classic Gameplay with a Couple of Twists

Love it or hate it, ‘Modern Warfare’ multiplayer is back and as nostalgic as ever, with a few twists.

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Call of Duty Multiplayer

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare often gets a bad rap as a formulaic franchise, especially when it comes to multiplayer. From the original Modern Warfare to more recent titles like WW2, the experience has often felt like a fresh coat of paint on an old, yet addicting, model.

This approach is not always a bad thing though. For fans of the series, the nostalgia and consistency is often the main selling point, and they are always ready to bring the same skills back into a new title’s running and gunning action.

So when Infinity Ward announced that the campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would focus on revolutionizing the franchise with realistic gameplay, no one was really sure what to expect. Naturally, fans were eager to see how this new combat and action would translate to a multiplayer experience but also wary of whether a radical change would ruin the experience they craved.

Well—love it or hate it—Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer is back and just as nostalgic and familiar as ever, although the update brings a couple of new twists. While it’s light years away from perfect, this newest installment in the franchise still offers up classic gameplay with a couple of interesting alterations. For longtime fans, these changes might be positive or negative, but Infinity Ward at least deserves some credit for trying.

Getting tactical

To put it simply, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer gameplay leans more towards what some would call a tactical, cover-based style of combat. In theory, this sounds like a fairly fresh approach to the run and gun style of the past. This new style forces teams to work together to slowly climb up the map, holding various chokeholds while pushing up on enemy positions.

With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare taking a more realistic approach to combat, it’s natural the multiplayer strategies will change as well. Like the campaign, guns feel more realistic and powerful, resulting in quicker kills and more damage taken. Combined with the new “mount” cover system, this often means that players get mowed down pretty quickly.

But—full disclosure—this new multiplayer gameplay generally means that the game rewards staying in one place for a majority of a match. For lack of a better word, camping. While past COD games placed a heavy emphasis on speed and movement, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare wants players to find a strong, defensible position and hold it.

Modern Warfare Multiplayer

Sure, running and gunning still have a place in Modern Warfare, but it’s definitely not as functional as it has been in the past. Often times, it means just blindly stumbling into the same quick death and missing out on those killstreaks. While not perfect—and a little unbalanced—switching the style up is an interesting move that could be successful with future updates, although no promises.

There’s no list like the quick playlist

It should come as no surprise that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer’s best quality is its Quick Play maps. While the gameplay has shifted to a certain extent, this mode still is a grab-bag of the old nostalgic favorites that pretty much sum up the past decade or more of Call of Duty online. This option has all the old favorites—the traditional Team Deathmatch, Control, and Kill Confirmed—plus a few new additions.

For most COD veterans, these modes are the bread-and-butter of the franchise, and Infinity Ward has really boiled FPS fun down to a science. It’s that perfect video game balance of being both incredibly frustrating and insanely addicting at the same time, sucking players into a cycle of “yeah, okay, one more game.” The lobby keeps the matches coming, the ranks keep the unlocks rolling, and the stats make it all feel worthwhile.

No trouble with doubles

The newest Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer element, Gunfight, is absolutely a highlight of the experience. In this new mode, two teams of two duke it out in a close arena-style, last-team-standing match. Every player starts with the same gun and class and spawns in identical positions, and the first team to six wins takes the match. It’s a great example of leveling the playing field and letting the most skilled team win, and it is absolutely intense.

Like the rest of the gameplay, this mode seems to reward patience and teamwork. While running headfirst into danger is always an option, staying back and letting the enemy make the first move seems to be the best tactic and leads to the highest success rate.

While playing with a friend is always the best way to go, Gunfight is still an intense and fast-paced mode with a random partner. Yeah, it can be frustrating at times if players are paired with inexperienced or uncooperative teammates, but Infinity Ward seems to understand matchmaking fairly well.

Not all is perfect

Trying to keep up with other franchises, one of the major selling points for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer was the introduction of the new modes Special Ops and Ground War. While these ideas work on paper, they don’t exactly play out in practice.

Special Ops, the newest coop mode, feels a lot like Infinity Ward’s answer to the social shooter “Strikes” of games like Destiny 2. In teams of 4, players must work together to battle through waves of enemy bots and bosses to achieve different mission objectives and unlock more of the “story” (sort-of). In theory, it sounds awesome, but it’s mind-numbingly awful in execution.

In Special Ops, every objective is incredibly far apart, enemy bots feel both endless and worthless, and the incentive to keep continuing is nonexistent. Unlike Destiny 2 “Strikes,” there is no real coherent narrative that moves players from one objective to the next. Instead, it’s just cookie-cutter “shoot this character” or “stand by this area” quests that feel like huge wastes of time. Combine that with a large empty map and boring enemies, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Modern Warfare Multiplayer

Similarly, Ground War—while a little more interesting—is just as much of a swing-and-a-miss. Taking a few pages out of the Battlefield franchise’s playbook, this mode has 32-man teams and vehicles fighting for control of strategic positions. Again, great in theory, but terrible in execution.

With this Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer game type, it isn’t that everything works poorly. It just doesn’t really sync up into a coherent experience. Ground War plays out exactly as one would expect with vehicles and a larger map, but it still somehow devolves into a convoluted mess of hallways shooting and rapid, almost random deaths. Simply put, its biggest issue is just an incompatibility between the Call of Duty and Battlefield models. The combat just does not feel well-suited to the style of gameplay and the mode just lacks the polish and balance of the Battlefield games.

Where’s the royale?

While many may still disagree, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer feels like it needs a Battle Royal mode to round the whole experience out. As always, multiplayer quickplay is fun for a time, but having something else to break up the repetitive team deathmatch routine would be a welcome addition.

Infinity Ward could even try to mix their experience up a little bit by making a duos Gunfight-style mode the highlight of their BR offering. While single-player is probably the simplest way to play, adding an element of cooperation might make for an interesting and fresh experience.

Rumor has it that this multiplayer mode is in the works and coming in a later update, and it feels like a natural fit. The way that guns are upgraded in the class menu makes finding weapon parts a logical next step. Hopefully, this mode can revitalize the player base of Call of Duty once the holidays roll around.

More of the same

Overall, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer is a slight variation of the traditional Quick Play-style gameplay that the franchise is known for, and that’s not always a bad thing. For diehard fans of the franchise, it’s the same old Modern Warfare package with a fresh coat of paint. Sure, the gunplay and combat changes do take a while to get used to, but after a few hours of mindlessly running through maps, players should be well on their way to 20 kill games.  

For those looking for a fairly basic Call of Duty multiplayer experience with some slight gameplay tweaks, this one is for you. But if you want something new and revolutionary, take a different route.

Check out our review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s campaign mode.

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Game Reviews

‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ Campaign: Finally Shooting in the Right Direction

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Modern Warfare campaign

Let’s face it, not many people buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles for the story anymore. With the dominance of the multiplayer modes, it’s almost like the campaign has become a tacked-on bonus to play if there is ever a problem with the WiFi connection.

A lot of that has to do with the narrative direction of the franchise—it has felt downright cookie-cutter in the past. Every year, COD offers the same old thing. Some generic serviceman is sent to a war-torn 3rd world country to save the free world from a random insurgent leader, military dictator, or rebel group. Sprinkle in some nuclear launch codes, chemical weapons, and futuristic military technology, and there’s the go-to formula for the series.  

With that said, imagine everyone’s surprise when Infinity Ward announced that they were reimagining the Modern Warfare franchise by rebooting its defining title. To establish this entry as a turning point, their new vision for the game would be bold, unapologetic, gritty, and realistic. By moving in this new and unexplored direction, the veteran developer believed that this was THE opportunity to create a new title that could change the landscape of AAA narratives forever.

So how did they do with this fresh direction for the Modern Warfare campaign? Actually, surprisingly well given the franchise’s history of forgettable stories and lackluster single-player experiences. The new 2019 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign is actually an interesting and inventive take on the series and sets the table for some killer opportunities for future success if handled correctly. While it’s not without a few missteps along the way, overall Infinity Ward delivers on their promise and serves up a unique war experience unlike any in recent memory.

Finally, a story worth playing

Taking place in fictional Urzikstan, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s campaign puts players in the tough moral situations of war, asking them to consider what makes a “righteous” cause, an enemy combatant, or a war crime. Initially, the story seemed to follow the traditional COD trajectory, as players start as a CIA ghost tasked with finding a stolen shipment of chemical gas, but the story takes a quick turn into uncharted territory. This usually translates to showing gamers a glimpse of the much darker world of the present day, having players respond to a major terror attack, protect a stormed embassy, or stalk terrorist ringleaders through tunnel mazes.

Sure, these plot devices may feel a bit similar to past campaigns, but it’s Modern Warfare’s murkier presentation that elevates these elements to new heights. Instead of having the feeling of mowing down hundreds of faceless, generic computer bots to advance to the next mission, there is a weight to the combat and atmosphere that adds a certain gravity to the narrative. It could be because of the new focus on characters or just the general atmosphere, but this new aesthetic goes a long way in creating a more immersive Modern Warfare campaign experience.

That being said, while the campaign is solid, it’s no Black Hawk Down or Homeland. The story arc of the main characters, Alex and Kyle, play out far too abruptly and lack the nuance of deep development. It almost feels like a few things were cut for time from the original script or just got lost in translation to favor gameplay. As a result, some of the larger “critical” points about terrorism and morality fall a little flat as the story progresses. Sure, Infinity Ward deserves some credit for ambitiously trying to make some deep statements in video game form, no small feat for a AAA dev, but these complex issues require complex stories to flesh them out and do them justice.

Mostly killer, a little filler

What really sets this title apart from past entries is its willingness to experiment with level design, making for some really unique gameplay moments. Of course, the campaign has all the COD staples—the generic sniper mission, the protect the base objectives, etc, etc. But it’s the new stuff that creates some excitement for the future of the franchise.

Most memorable of these Modern Warfare campaign levels were the missions involving nighttime raids on suspected terrorist cells. As players slowly move from floor to floor with their tactical squad, they are forced to quickly assess whether characters are enemies or civilians. When corners are quickly turned, some of the people react in fear, some pull weapons, and others make a long con to distract while danger lurks nearby. To make things even better, these whole missions take place in dead silence and through night vision, giving it a vaguely Outlast-ey feel. Hopefully, Infinity Ward will be brave enough to bring more of these types of levels into the future of the series.

Modern Warfare campaign

Also, the Modern Warfare campaign seems to be less afraid of letting players choose their own path through the mission. Varying weapon types are available from the get-go and objectives can often be addressed in multiple ways, giving players more freedom. While the narrative doesn’t exactly feel non-linear (although that would have been even more interesting), it certainly opens up possibilities for a little more replayability than previous campaigns.

The devil is in the details

There was a healthy skepticism when Infinity Ward first promised that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign would be gritty and realistic, but they truly lived up to their word. Civilians and enemies both drop at a similar rate, takedowns are visceral and brutal, and the subject matter of the game can be downright sickening. There are times that will actually have players think, “I’m too soft for war,” which is absolutely the feeling that Infinity Ward is going for.

To achieve this depth, all the assets and cinematics work well in tandem. The gunplay is visceral and realistic, giving some of the best FPS feelings in the current-gen. The cinematics is also awe-inspiring, literally light years away from the Uncanny Valley. To be quite honest, it actually makes one wish that there were more cinematics in the game. 

Finally shooting in the right direction

Although not a perfect game, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign might be one of the bigger surprises of the year in terms of expectations. With a franchise that has been running this long on such half-hearted narrative experiences, the stakes for the title were incredibly low. But Infinity Ward has delivered something worth playing that truly feels like the vision that they promised. Sure, the campaign is not without flaws, as it would be great to see a tighter story and even more diverse gameplay elements, but it is absolutely worth a play just to experience its better moments.

Even though the Modern Warfare campaign is no Game of the Year contender, it’s nice to know that the franchise is finally headed back in the right direction. Who knows? Maybe one day people will pick the game up for the campaign over the multiplayer, instead of vice-versa.

Speaking of multiplayer, check out our review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer mode.

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