Campaigns in Call of Duty have always held a special place in my gaming history. The remake of the original Modern Warfare is still one of the greatest challenges when you play it on veteran difficulty. This latest Modern Warfare isn’t as difficult but is just as thrilling when played on the highest difficulty.
This campaign reintroduces players to the antihero of the original trilogy, Captain Price. Set before the events of the original but in current day setting, this Price is a heightened version of the already over the top original. He appears when needed most to assist your characters as they travel across the globe to retrieve weapons of mass destruction from various terrorist entities and of course some Russians. If you sense some sarcasm there it is purely intentional as the story while good, just seems to be a reflection of the current mood among world powers.
Into the action and the addition of realism as a difficulty removes most of the HUD elements while keeping the veteran difficulty. Veteran difficulty basically allows your character to take two hits before they die but even this is patchy with sometimes one decent hit kills you outright. With no HUD you really start to appreciate the fantastic lighting and 4k visuals on display even on PS4 Pro. The first level set at night pops to life and guides you along at a brisk pace.
The main gameplay innovation is the ability to mount your gun to a corner or surface while aiming. It reduces spray and makes it equivalent to a mounted gun. In practice, there are few times when this can be used outside the multiplayer as on veteran the AI are sharpshooters. The real joy in playing on this difficulty is the new routes you discover through levels. On a lower difficulty, you can be running around like one of the Expendables and just take the quickest route from a to b. On Veteran, you really begin to look for flanking and advancement opportunities as like most COD’s the enemies only stop spawning when you have advanced to their position and cleared them out. This is not as pronounced as previous years but it can still be found in certain levels.
Grenades become precious as do smoke and flashbangs, just to give you a chance to advance and let your AI buddies advance and take some of the focus away from you. The moment to moment gameplay of this is addictive as ever as generous checkpoints allow you to make progress yard by yard. What sets any COD campaign apart is the set-piece levels and how they are affected by the difficulty.
The standout here is when you are forced to defend your sniper nest in the desert. On normal difficulty, this could turn into a turkey shoot and very few of the enemies would even approach your position before you picked them off. On realism difficulty, you are only able to take out a few of the advancing enemies and soon are properly holed up in your position using every piece of scenery to hide behind and pick off enemies who are trying to flush you out with Molotov cocktails. It is equal parts thrilling and frustrating but eventually, you stay alive long enough to trigger another checkpoint and keep advancing.
Another later level sees you playing cat and mouse with a heavily armoured enemy. This reminded me of the classic cat and mouse level on Doom 64 as you sneaked around them, flanking and getting in as much damage as you can before retreating. It feels like a properly epic confrontation in one of the later levels.
Of course, there isn’t much originality in this campaign or in the multiplayer. Unlike say Infinite Warfare, where the campaign was an excellent departure or last years Black Ops 4 where the multiplayer was enough to make up for the lack of a campaign. This is Modern Warfare as you would expect and if you are a veteran of the series you can slip back into it with ease. Nowhere is this more apparent than the online game. I am a clearly lapsed player having not been able to keep a decent K/D ratio since MW3, yet within a few games on the slightly bigger maps, I was able to easily make a dent in this stat. It is sharp and above all sensible and clearly leans towards old-style tactics as opposed to modern battle royale games. Checking your corners, walking at a slow pace, avoiding hotspots and staying inside when the enemy has a killstreak active are all valid, common sense tactics that reap rewards. Clearly, the modern games have removed these simple rules from players skillsets as too often they charge back to the site where they were killed only to meet the same fate. In fact, this may be the game that older players who can’t stand Fortnite or were disappointed by the last Battlefield turn to. You will die a lot but others will die as well and you will always feel involved in the game.
So Modern Warfare is a bit of a triumph then for older COD players. A nostalgic and well-made campaign accompanied by the return of Spec-Ops and a sensible multiplayer. It may not advance the series or genre any but it is polished to a high degree and remains a favourite.