Back to basics
Pretty much everyone remembers the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Even if you didn’t play it, many of your friends probably did, and although GoldenEye 64 and Halo had popularized console shooters far before it, it really brought things into a new era during a more reliable period of online gaming alongside of Gears of War.
Killstreaks, perks, almost everything you know and love (or loathe) in modern shooters, it’s all derived from Modern Warfare, for better or worse. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, Modern Warfare Remastered is a good way to do it.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Infinity Ward, Raven Software
Released: November 4, 2016
MSRP: Bundled with special editions of Infinite Warfare
After booting it up, you’ll get a simple choice of “campaign or multiplayer.” That’s it. There’s no extra zombie modes or chicken love simulators, which will be a relief to many who feel the series has become bloated. It’s for all of you out there who aren’t keen on the constant pushing of the envelope that sends developers to the far reaches of space with Jon Snow, or for those of you who want more grounded shooters, maybe with a less than annual cadence.
But let’s not get too crazy here, as this is still a remaster. A lovely, stable remaster that stays at 60FPS consistently and looks great, but is still ultimately a game from 2007. Its campaign has been met and topped by its competition, but clocking in at seven hours or so at the top end, Modern Warfare‘s story is still worth playing. The supporting cast like Sergeant Jackson and Gaz are nothing more than warm bodies at points, but the crux of the story and the relationship between main protagonist Soap and Captain Price is worth the price of admission. There’s also a sprinkling of vehicular warfare without overdoing it, adding in a level of mission variety that withstands the test of time.
It’s not even nostalgia talking, but having entire missions centered around sneaking and sniping or tactically calling down strikes from afar balances out all of the run and gun Michael Bay action of future installments. Subtle differences have been made with the remaster too, which are all positive and showcase how much effort Raven Software put in. Instead of just leaving things be, textures were added, some zones feel more alive, and there’s even larger atmospheric changes like adding in more details in first-person cinematics.
Multiplayer is just as timeless. It was fun going back into Downpour and Crossfire after years of missing them, and experiencing the original designs felt much more natural than playing them in $15 DLC map pack remakes. That’s partially because a lot of work went into Modern Warfare‘s map design to ensure that every arena feels like it justifies its existence, which impacts how you approach each multiplayer match. The Perk and weapon systems aren’t as detailed as later entries, sure (and I really took to the now-cemented “pick” system in later games that let you basically customize everything), but they’re a comfortable middle ground between arcadey and tactical.
Call of Duty‘s legacy games weren’t as involved as, say, old-school Rainbow Six or even some Ghost Recon titles, or as fast as any arena shooter at the time, but that’s why they became the driving force they are today. There’s a nice, comfortable balance between the two philosophies, to the point where it’s not too alienating for folks who didn’t grow up with twichy FPSes or feel like dedicating the time to learning the ins and outs of breaching and clearing each and every room, knocking on permadeath’s door on every match. That’s still true with the remaster, and although there’s a lot of sweaty perk and build optimization online already, you really are getting in on the ground floor here.
Right now not every map is accessible, as the plan is to have several content drops throughout the holiday season until it’s feature complete. While that’s not ideal, especially since you’re forced into buying Infinite Warfare on top, there’s still more than enough here to keep you busy until that time comes. A lot of love and care went into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered, and I hope other developers (including some of Activision’s own studios, I’m looking at you Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Prototype) take note.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]