Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Finally… It’s Here

The long-awaited Call of Duty installment has arrived, and the community has mixed opinions

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare drops with Captain  Price at the helm

Courtesy of Playstation

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare drops with Captain Price at the helm

Vincent Towne and Staff Reporter

In an era of gaming where big titles often don’t know what to be, the latest Call of Duty is a game that knows what it wants to accomplish, and focuses all its attention on achieving that goal.

There’s no battle royale mode, no “season pass” coaxing the player to spend more and no loot system or treasure chests raining a literal endless supply of purple-colored gear at the buyer. There’s that gritty, realistic return to single-player storytelling and a more muscular, lean multiplayer offering that dials back the high-speed theatrics of the last few years. The result is a Call of Duty that’s worth the price of admission out of the box, a game that reminds us why we don’t play with toy soldiers anymore.

It’s understandable to be skeptical and cynical about Infinity Ward’s earnest attempts to pay tribute to what war is “really like.” Granted, the studio’s been saying this since the original trilogy. In a 2011, ahead of the ridiculous Modern Warfare 3 campaign that chronicled World War III, Sledgehammer creative director Brett Robbins said the game “can’t just be gratuitous, it can’t just be fantasy,” yet this was a game that had you shooting out the back of a crashing airplane. The series eventually evolved into one involving Kevin Spacey’s robot army, evil AI and interplanetary space travel.

This finally feels a little closer to that years-old promise. Spec Ops: The Line, a 2012 game developed by Yager Development, is often considered the game that best addressed the “horrors of war,” a seemingly bog-standard shooter that revealed itself as psychological horror.

Infinity Ward doesn’t hit those heights, but they don’t seem to be aiming at them either, and that’s fine. However, it remains curious why Infinity Ward insists on using a fictional Middle Eastern country (“Urzikstan”) while making Russians overly villainous, all the while basing several levels off recent events. The campaign includes: The 2005 London Bombings that killed 52 people, including 26 on a Piccadilly line train (They even named a multiplayer map Piccadilly); the Russia-backed Syrian civil war; and the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

Courtesy of Playstation
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s version of the 2005 London Bombings

While it’s tacky for any corporate entertainment product to try depicting these events, even if it’s an adaptation, it doesn’t mean Infinity Ward’s writers didn’t handle with care. The story’s highlight revolves a sibling pair of freedom fighters, Farah and Hadir. The two of them give more perspective on this otherwise Bruckheimer-flavored tale for military fetishists, particularly given some late-game plot points on how global powers can view those in similar situations as the siblings.

Yes, there’s a mission that echoes the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, but it all comes after the player witnesses a similar invasion play out through the eyes of a small child. In this context, the American heroes equipped with four-eyed night-vision goggles, look like alien invaders conducting a grim procession inside the darkness of these homes. And in these environments, the player is liable to shoot everyone, since often there is little or no distinction between bad guy and civilian. It’s not a clean, cut-and-dry game, innocent people get in the way and dirty up clean shots. One mission forces you to throw a civilian with a bomb strapped to his chest off a balcony to save the other hostages, all the while he begs the player to disarm the vest.

Only Captain Price and his gruff humor is there to mostly remind us that we’re still playing out a comic book fantasy. I know, this Call of Duty game may be problematic, but they all are. This is the current climate in video game storytelling: politically charged tales with writers who insist they’re not being political. Looking at the countless war crimes, atrocities and morally ambiguous decisions in the campaign, the No Russian mission in Modern Warfare 3 pales in comparison.

To say the least, the campaign isn’t for the light of heart. Its multiplayer counterpart exists for the sheer reason to blow off some steam with friends, however.

When it comes to the multiplayer, it seems people have mixed feelings about it. Many long time Call of Duty fans see it as too much of a change with the minimal HUD, and arguably realistic time to kill. In my opinion, it’s the CoDest CoD to ever CoD. Despite the stark contrast with previous iterations of the franchise, Modern Warfare’s multiplayer is chalk full with high sensitivity wielding sweats flicking around with M4s and the reincarnated Olympia, which is exactly what one would expect from the FPS giant. When a baddie is gunned down, the opposition’s mic can be momentarily heard, allowing for some hilariously vulgar responses from prepubescent boys, not old enough to have experienced the horrors of the Xbox 360 chats from the golden age.

Courtesy of Forbes
Multiplayer Night Vision mode in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Still, I’m not so impressed that I will suspend my dislikes for the game. The multiplayer population has, once again, fallen ill to campers and claymores, along with the new game mechanic which allows players to mount their firearm on a nearby object, effectively cancelling recoil. Games seem to be strictly about kills, with few players actually capping points or defending objectives. Everyone just wants to rack up their K/D ratio and show it off with expensive kill streaks. I’m not even going to discuss killstreaks. As a long time Battlefield guy, I think it makes the rich richer.

All in all, the game is well worth the $60 price. It has a beefy multiplayer, paired with a gruesome, solemn single-player story. Even though I’m not too happy with a few of the broken mechanics, the overall experience is smooth and mostly bug-free. Four-and-a-half stars out of five for the campaign, three stars for the frustrating, but addicting, multiplayer.