Call of Duty Launch Showdown: Modern Warfare vs. Black Ops 4

It’s that time of the year where players set down one Call of Duty in favor of the latest entry. 2018 saw the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, the most recent entrant in Treyarch’s massively-popular series. This year, Infinity Ward is back in the developers chair. Rather than delivering sequels to Ghosts or Infinite Warfare, the studio has gone back to its roots with a rebooted Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 offered up a significant boost to the number of weapons and maps available at launch compared to its predecessor, WWII. It also offered a community pleasing Create-a-Class system and a Battle Royale mode.

Now that the dust has settled and we’ve been able to digest everything that has launched with Modern Warfare, let’s take a look at how its launch content compares to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.


Story

Though Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 lacks a single player campaign, it would be disingenuous to say that it doesn’t have a story. Specialist training missions provide numerous cutscenes and performing certain actions unlocks additional intel that fills in the rest of the story. The game takes place in 2043 and deals with the formation of the Specialists program. The Specialists learn it was all a setup by Savannah Mason-Green for Project Blackout, which is implied to be researching ways to resurrect the dead for unknown purposes.

Cryptic in typical Treyarch fashion, Black Ops 4 does have a story. Without a campaign, however, it’s likely most players skipped over it at launch. It also doesn’t help that the content was locked behind training missions, something most players may have skipped.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare features a traditional campaign that’ll last players around six hours on the standard difficulty. A reboot, the game features no connections to the original trilogy outside of a few re-imagined characters. The story takes place in modern times where the line between good and evil is blurred. Players take control of British and American soldiers as they attempt to put down a terrorist cell before it can wreak havoc on the world.

On the nose and often quite brutal, Modern Warfare is a story told through a traditional campaign. Infinity Ward doesn’t try to play games with players or purposely keep details cryptic. Those who want a straightforward plot will want to check out Modern Warfare.


Multiplayer

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare offers a stark contrast to Black Ops 4’s multiplayer suite. While many of the underlying mechanics remain the same, how each game uses them is vastly different.

Black Ops 4 takes a more arcadey approach to its gameplay. Movement is fast and fluid with players able to climb nearly any object, clamber over walls, and swim. Healing isn’t automatic, but is instead triggered by player input. The unique gameplay hook of Black Ops 4 are the Specialist characters (more on that below) that provide unique playstyles via special abilities and equipment.

Modern Warfare takes a more grounded approach to multiplayer. While still faster than many of Call of Duty’s contemporaries, Modern Warfare places more emphasis on a tactical approach to combat. Players can still clamber over objects, but not at the same speed as Black Ops 4. The unique gameplay hook is Gunsmith, a powerful customization tool that allows players to tool guns to their needs. With a wide range of attachments, scopes and weapon perks, Gunsmith allows players to create weapons that fit their playstyle.

No matter what gameplay style you prefer, it doesn’t matter if the game doesn’t have enough content to keep players busy. Here’s how both games break down.

Weapons

Weapon Type Modern Warfare Black Ops 4
Assault Rifles 8 5
SMGs 6 5
LMGs 4 3
Tactical Rifles N/A 3
Marksman Rifles 3 N/A
Shotguns 4 2
Sniper Rifles 3 4
Launchers 4 1
Pistols 5 3
Total 37 26

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has more than ten additional weapons compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 at launch. Modern Warfare beats out Black Ops 4 in nearly all categories with the notable exception of Sniper Rifles.


Maps

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 launched with 14 maps, though that number is a bit deceiving. When broken down, only ten of those maps are new. The remaining four are remasters of classic maps from Black Ops and Black Ops II. It was still a healthy amount of maps, especially compared to WWII, but those hoping for more new maps were left disappointed. A fifteenth map, Nuketown, was added a month after release.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launched with a much more impressive 23 maps, but once again, that number is deceiving. When it comes to the core multiplayer modes, Modern Warfare only has ten maps. Of the remainder, four of them are night versions of core maps, seven are for gunfight and two are exclusively for Ground War.

Ten puts it on par with Black Ops 4’s initial offering, but there could have been more. Aniyah Palace, one of three Ground War maps, also works for large Team Deathmatch. Why the other two Ground War maps didn’t get a similar treatment is unknown. The quality of Modern Warfare’s maps are good, but Black Ops 4 offered up more for those just wanting to engage in the core multiplayer.


Customization

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 brought back the much beloved Pick 10 system. With this system, players are given ten slots that they can fill with any combination of primary weapons, secondary weapons, attachments, perks, and wildcards. It’s a flexible, yet balanced system that really allows players to tailor their classes to their playstyle. Black Ops 4 also offered a wide array of skins players could unlock for their guns (not tied to monetization).

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare introduces the Gunsmith, a suite of attachments and perks players can equip to their primary and secondary weapons. Within Gunsmith, players get five points to attach an array of sights, magazines, stocks, underbarrel, grips and perks to their gun. It’s almost like a mini-Pick 10. Outside of Gunsmith, players can choose their three perks and equipment. Like Black Ops 4, Modern Warfare features a large array of skins to customize their guns with.


Specialists vs. Operators

Both Black Ops 4 and Modern Warfare offer players unique characters to play as in multiplayer. Their functionality, however, is completely different.

Specialists in Black Ops 4 are hero units. Each Specialist has their own piece of equipment they can use and a Special Ability. Matches can change drastically depending on the Specialists in play at any given time. For example, Recon can highlight and tag enemies on the map, which makes him perfect for game modes like Search and Destroy. Meanwhile, Battery’s explosive grenade launcher is excellent at crowd control game modes like Domination.

Operators in Modern Warfare don’t alter gameplay in any way and are purely cosmetic. Some abilities, including Stopping Rounds and Dead Silence, are now Field Upgrades that players can select, but aren’t tied to any specific Operator.


Scorestreaks vs. Killstreaks

Since Black Ops II, all Call of Duty games have utilized Scorestreaks that build up as players earn score through playing the objective or racking up kills. Black Ops 4 utilizes Scorestreaks. Modern Warfare returns the franchise back to its roots with Killstreaks where only kills count towards rewards.

Scorestreaks ultimately replaced Killstreaks to get players to work as a team and play the objective. Whether that worked or not remains questionable, but it was at least nice knowing that you could rack up score towards a Scorestreak by playing the game. How well players adapt to Modern Warfare’s killstreaks remains to be seen.


Big-Game Modes

Both Black Ops 4 and Modern Warfare offer their take on big game modes. Here, up to 100 players can engage with each other in open conflict.

Black Ops 4 shipped with a Battle Royale mode called Blackout. Here, 88-100 players dropped onto a large map, collected weaponry and gear, and battled it out to be the last player/squad standing. It was a rather intense mode that placed an emphasis on tactical play. With only one life, players had to be careful or else risk elimination. The giant map was populated with famous Black Ops locales.

Modern Warfare’s big game mode is a new take on a classic game mode, Ground War. Up to 100 players converge on three maps specifically created for Ground War in a tug-of-war over control points. On the surface, Ground War looks a lot like Battlefield’s Conquest game mode, but it still plays very much like a Call of Duty game.


Co-Op

Like with the big game modes, the co-op offerings in Black Ops 4 and Modern Warfare are vastly different. Black Ops 4 saw the return of classic Zombies, a mode that Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have tried to incorporate into their previous games. Still, Treyarch proved once again with Black Ops 4 that no one makes Zombies like they can. For Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward opted to bring back their beloved Spec Ops mode.

Zombies launched with three maps available for all players, and a fourth for owners of the Black Ops Pass. Owners of the base game got ‘Voyage of Despair,’ ‘IX,’ and ‘Blood of the Dead’ (a remake of Black Ops II’s ‘Mob of the Dead’). Black Ops Pass owners got the additional ‘Classified’ map, a remake of Black Ops’ ‘Five.’

Modern Warfare’s Spec Ops mode is split into two separate categories. Classic Spec Ops missions are highly curated tasks similar to the missions in Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3. Operations are multi-objective set in an open-world and are quite brutal for even well-prepared teams. At launch, Modern Warfare had only one Classic Spec Ops mission and four Operations.


Monetization

Both Black Ops 4 and Modern Warfare launched without any additional microtransactions, though that quickly changed after launch. For Black Ops 4, increased levels on Monetization took only weeks to appear.

Black Ops 4 received the Contraband Stream, Treyarch’s take on the increasingly common Battle Pass. With 100 achievable ranks, players could earn face paints, stickers, sprays, weapon skins, and unfortunately, new weapons. Progress was earned through total time played, and earning a rank usually took about an hour. Black Ops 4 also employed a $49.99 Season Pass dubbed the Black Ops Pass. Additional forms of monetization were added throughout the year.

Modern Warfare starts its lifecycle in a better position that Black Ops 4. Infinity Ward has eliminated the Season Pass and are offering all post-launch multiplayer maps and Spec Ops missions for free. Paid monetization is coming in the form of a Battle Pass. There will be a Free Stream and a Paid Stream where players have to opportunity to earn CoD Points. New weapons will be earned through gameplay, though Infinity Ward has yet to elaborate how that will work. Infinity Ward has also committed to not including Loot Boxes.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.