E3 2019: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Strives to be More

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare launched in 2007. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered came along in 2016. Now, in 2019, we’re getting Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. It’s a complex chain of games that’s left the Call of Duty community confused. Rather than continue the story as part of a hypothetical Modern Warfare 4, Infinity Ward is approaching this year’s Call of Duty differently. Rather than attempt to expand on the bombastic Modern Warfare Trilogy, the studio plans to take things back to the start and create a new story. A story that pays homage to what came before and establishes where Infinity Ward would like the franchise to go.

Infinity Ward likens Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to Casino Royale and the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. Both the film and game use the titles and characters from previous entries, but tell a new story separate from the past. In doing so, the studio hopes to move away from the Michael Bay-esque tropes they established in Modern Warfare 2. According to the studio, the team worked hard to figure out what players wanted, and the overwhelming answer was a game that’s more authentic and realistic. It’s what they aim to deliver.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare aims for a more realistic and tactical approach to combat and story. To do so, the studio is pulling inspiration from a handful of films, including American Sniper, Sicario and Lone Survivor, all movies that emphasized tactical combat. The goal is to deliver a story that blurs the lines between good and evil, and put players in morally and ethically complex situations.

To deliver on this promise, the campaign’s split into two different perspectives; Tier 1 Operators and Rebel Freedom Fighters. Tier 1 allows players to use the most advanced equipment and weaponry in the world. The Rebels, however, are the underdogs with improvised munitions and older weaponry. Both sides see modern conflict differently and where they draw the line could lead to some intense scenarios.

These situations bleed into the gameplay. Modern Warfare steps back from the arcadey feel of previous entries to deliver tactical gameplay. You’ll check corners, lean over cover, and use different caliber rounds to penetrate various surfaces. Infinity Ward demoed many of these features in a mission called ‘Townhouse.’ A terrorist cell in London unleashed a bomb in Piccadilly Square. Recon tracked the cell back to a townhouse that likely has information on the Wolf, the leader.

The player stealthily moves through the house, taking out lights and dispatching hostiles. Blurring the line between good and evil, some of the men attempt to take female hostages. After they’re taken out, however, some of the women try to take the guns, forcing the player to put down the supposed civilians. The mission area is tight, and it’s easy to get caught off-guard. Enemies hide in closets, under beds and behind corners. Eventually, the player picks up a shotgun to help clear enemies. Finally, they reach a final woman who feigns innocence but ultimately dashes for a detonator. ‘Townhouse’ was intense, but it’s not the only type of mission on offer in Modern Warfare.

A second mission, ‘Hometown,’ took a very different approach. In it, you’re Farrah, a rebel commander who reflects on the moment that changed her life 20 years ago. During the mission, your childhood town is attacked by Russians who suspect the town is aiding the rebels. Without mercy, they begin gunning everyone down. You, the father, and brother hide in your home, but a soldier breaks in and kills your father. What occurs is a stealth sequence that sees Farrah and her brother overpowering the soldier. The mission ends as a typical Call of Duty stealth mission.

Both ‘Townhouse’ and ‘Homeland’ represent different types of mission variety players can expect in Modern Warfare. Now, not all of them will be as tactical as ‘Townhouse,’ or as story driven as ‘Hometown,’ but they’re a good demonstration of what Infinity Ward hopes to accomplish this time around. The studio understands that the franchise has stagnated and hope their new approach makes players feel as excited about the setting as they were back in 2007.

Infinity Ward hasn’t thrown out what they’ve learned over the years. Infinite Warfare’s take on a branching story makes a return in an unlikely mode: Spec Ops. While the single-player campaign is a linear affair, Spec Ops provides the side missions and lore building. It’s all part of a connective experience that aims to unite all three modes.

To bring Modern Warfare to life, Infinity Ward has abandoned the old Call of Duty engine that has served the studio since 2003. For five years, the various Call of Duty developers has worked to develop a new engine capable of delivering all the latest and greatest graphical features. The engine allows for five times the amount of geometry on screen at a single time and allows for the introduction of photogrammetry. Call of Duty has never looked better running in 4K at 60fps on a PS4 Pro, though we weren’t told if it was native 4K, checkerboard 4K, or a dynamic resolution.

There’s no doubt that Call of Duty needs change. With the futuristic era of the franchise over, seeing a modern Call of Duty game again is refreshing. What we got to see is a fresh take on the tried-and-true formula. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare looks set to deliver epic set-piece moments, but aims to provide a smart, emotional story. The new engine delivers a visually-breathtaking experience that the franchise has long-lacked, but only time will tell if the whole narrative will come together. For now, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare looks like a refreshing addition to the Call of Duty franchise.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is out October 25 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.