Call of Duty Goes Modern. Again.

Posted on May 31, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Games with 8 Comments

After a lackluster Black Ops 4 release, Activision is predictably taking the Call of Duty back to its most popular incarnation with the stupidly named Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

So, let’s address the name first.

The original Modern Warfare, named Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, was, as its name suggests the fourth entry in the series. It was also the first to drop the World War II themes on which the series was, to then, based. It was also a smash hit, and its sequels—the creatively titled Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3—each raised the bar, catapulting COD into one of the biggest franchises in gaming history.

COD also saw great success with a second series, Black Ops, but its other titles, each an attempt to jumpstart a new series, were mostly lackluster and failed, at least within the context of COD, to generate much excitement. So Activision has retooled in recent years and has gone back to its roots: The previous two COD titles, Call of Duty: WWII and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, harkened back to great COD series of the past. And it was assumed, correctly, that the next title would be a new entry in the Modern Warfare series.

And that it would be called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4. But it’s not. I guess because of the oddness of the naming of the first MW title, which had a 4 in it.

OK, whatever.

Aside from hitting the same kind of creative brick wall that led to the previous two COD games, it looks like the new MW will differ from those games in at least one important way. Unlike BO4, it will have a single-player campaign, and Activision claims it will be grittier than ever—grittier, even, than the controversial MW2 sequence in which the player was instructed to indiscriminately kill civilians in a Russian airport—and, to my eyes, it appears to use a lot of DOOM 3-style darkness to amp up the tension.

Activision’s David Hodgson published the exact same blog post to Sony’s and Microsoft’s video game blogs, and it is incredibly short on details. Based on the trailer, however, the new MW sees the return of familiar characters, familiar scenarios—including, even the lame “you’re wounded and being dragged by a compadre and must fend off chasing enemies with a pistol—and familiar environments, including the Middle East. There’s night vision, ghillie suits, aircraft strikes of all kinds, and close combat, all the things that COD fans cherished from the original MW series.

And … I don’t know. As I griped previously in Another Black Ops? Call of Duty is Stuck in the Past, Activision’s inability to push COD forward has led to the franchise getting stuck in the past. It’s become the Marvel Universe of gaming, the same thing over and over again.

BO4 was notable almost solely because it introduced a battle royale game mode in response to the success of Fortnite, which is stealing away players, media attention, and dollars, and has jumpstarted the e-sports industry in ways that, frankly, COD should have capitalized on first. Worse, it ruined the year-long value for those of us, like me, who prefer traditional multiplayer and expect regular, and high-quality, map drops. It’s been very light, and many of the “new” maps are just reimagined versions of existing maps with different weather. Come on.

The new MW, meanwhile, promises a more traditional experience of multiplayer, campaign, and co-op gameplay … and that’s about it. If you peruse the Call of Duty website, you’ll discover almost nothing about the new game at all. Other than its release date, October 24, and that it will come in five editions for some reason, three of which are digital.

I assume we’ll learn more at E3. But with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 doing everything it can to drive away traditional COD fans like myself, I’m a bit leery of the next one. Again.

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