Play me the classics
It’s no secret that when a game franchise makes it big and dominates a market, it isn’t long before consumers turn against it. A recent example of this is the Assassin’s Creed series. Frequent releases (sometimes less than a year apart) and inconsistent quality levels left Ubisoft to take a year off and re-evaluate the franchise itself after consumer backlash and weaker than anticipated sales. While Call Of Duty may suffer the former, the latter hasn’t been the case until recently. The Call Of Duty franchise seems to be stuck in-between shaking up its formula or sticking with what is tried and tested. With that in mind, I find it interesting that it is with Infinite Warfare, which sees the series at its most fantastical, that Modern Warfare Remastered arrives.
Before we get into the meat of the campaign, this is remaster so let’s get the technicals out of the way. Modern Warfare Remastered looks great; no detail is missed in this surprising high-end new coat of paint. On top of new textures, models and particle effects are all the other graphical bells and whistles you’d expect from a 2016 title; supersampling, depth-of-field effects, reflections and smooth anti-aliasing. With most of the settings at high or ultra it ran at a smooth 60 fps at 1080p on a modest mid-range PC. The only technical drawback being inexplicably long load times.
So, onto that famous campaign then. Compared to the bombastic, Michael Bay inspired fetishistic games that would follow it Modern Warfare’s story is relatively tame. Before even starting to talk about it, one might come in with something resembling a disclaimer: “Remember, this game came out almost nine years ago” etc. Frankly, I think no disclaimer is required; a linear corridor shooter is exactly that.
What worked so well for Modern Warfare in 2007 is almost taken for granted now. The polish and attention to detail in every element of its presentation is easy to miss with what we’ve played in those nine years since. I’m talking about the little things; the way we zoom into a characters brain from space, the grainy night vision and thick green laser sights, the cold infrared drone sequence.
Modern Warfare is a game of moments you remember. The standard gameplay involves progression through forward momentum, as opposed to sheer number of enemies killed. Within the games forests, warehouses and Middle-Eastern streets are beautifully detailed ‘spawn cupboards’. Play the game too long and you may experience someone emerging from a room you just cleared, seemingly out of the ether. These low health cannon fodder enemies are crucial in dictating Modern Warfare’s intention of having you feel completely overwhelmed. The only real difference between these Russian ultra-nationalists and the zombies of the Left 4 Dead series are the balaclavas and AK-whatevers.
On the one hand, Modern Warfare strives to accurately detail military means in a realistic way. The guns are authentic, the patter (down to the casualness of your drone co-pilot) and the way soldiers clear rooms feels researched. However, surrounding these moments are ridiculous Bond villains, a black sidekick who plays hip-shop and says ‘sheeeiiiyyyt’ and mission after mission where four SAS soldiers will kill literally thousands of enemies, most of whom run at them in a straight line. The most noticeable thing playing Modern Warfare again is just how tonally all over the map it is. It wants to be solemn and then callous on a moment by moment basis. What is Modern Warfare trying to say when it tells me the cost of a Jet Fighter ($190mil) after I die? You might make the argument that Modern Warfare is actually a really clever satire. That it puts on a Hollywood jingoistic bloodbath, only to remind us of how trivial this is, but it’s not that smart and if any evidence of this were needed, just look at the sequels.
This is campaign that while memorable and fun, is ultimately incredibly shallow. It’s like seeing Avatar for the first time in 3D and being blown away and then remembering what it was actually about. This isn’t to say that Modern Warfare isn’t good, but perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we overrated it somewhat (something I discovered I was guilty of).
If Modern Warfare did one thing for the FPS genre it was the creation of so many modern shooter tropes. It’s ironic that since these sort-of-innovations, the series is now playing catch-up with others who have built on them and introduced new essentials, like Battlefield’s scale or Titanfall’s verticality and freedom of movement. This obviously figures into the multiplayer. The result is a feeling of vulnerability, as you can’t slide or double jump yourself out of trouble. While this may sound limiting, it does create a white knuckle tension that each encounter with another player is hectic and heavy on quick reactions, as opposed to evasive movement. Modern Warfare Remastered’s multiplayer feels like Counter-Strike without the steep skill curve and punishment. It’s satisfying but perhaps slightly antiquated now.
Overall, Modern Warfare Remastered is an enjoyable way to experience a game whose impact on the genre is hard to overstate. It’s fair to say it shows its age with the simplistic spawn cupboard enemies and corridor level design but there is undeniable nostalgic enjoyment in replaying those memorable moments of Call Of Duty past. With the modern shooter era seemingly passing and its tropes along with, Modern Warfare Remastered is, in some ways, a reminder of how and why it worked but ultimately of how far we’re come since.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) , PS4, Xbox One ; Publisher: Activision ; Developer: Raven Software/Infinity Ward ; Players: 1-18 ; Released: November 4th 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $79.99 (Bundled with Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare)
This review is based off of a copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered purchased by Hey Poor Player.