Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered Review: Gaming Perfection

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox, Xbox One with 14

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered Review: Gaming Perfection

Available only with the purchase of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is the real prize, featuring a near-perfect single player experience with high-def graphics, HDR lighting, and a gritty realism and tension that’s missing in far too many other games.



In an age in which I am left unsatisfied by far too many games—see my recent reviews of Inside, Firewatch, and Gears of War 4 for good examples—Modern Warfare Remastered—let’s call it MWR from now on—is sublime. And not for nostalgic reasons, though I’ll admit to tearing up a bit at the start of the iconic All Ghillied Up sequence. No, MWR is just a great, great game. And thanks to this respectfully-handled remaster, it’s better than ever.

Note: I was able to access the MWR single-player campaign one month early because I pre-ordered Call of Duty: Infinite Warfaredigitally on PlayStation 4: The multiplayer experience goes live on November 4, when Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is released publicly. And at that point, I’ll be switching right back to Xbox One. So to be clear, I’ve finished the MWR single player campaign on PS4, but I expect it to be identical on Xbox One.


In the off chance that you’re not familiar with this game, let me paraphrase my original review of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for Xbox 360, which you may recall arrived in November 2007, almost a decade ago.

In the single player campaign, you alternate between newcomers to the British SAS and American Marines Corp., respectively, as a modern-era conflict unfolds. The storyline involves Middle Eastern terrorists and nuclear bombs in the former Soviet Union, so the game is both timely and dramatic. It’s also quite realistic, as you move seamlessly through the story arc, back and forth between the two characters.


Those familiar with any previous Call of Duty games will have no problems jumping right back in as the control scheme is instantly familiar and finely-honed. You are usually part of a team, but you’re never a team leader, so there are no instances in which you have to direct teams or control non-player characters. In MWR, you’re the raw recruit, learning the ropes in the worst possible conditions.


Indeed, this leads to some of the best moments in the game, including the absolutely classic All Ghillied Up level, where you and a more experienced comrade head stealthily through enemy territory wearing “ghillie” suits, special brush-coverage camouflage that makes you particularly hard to see. In a stunning and tense sequence, you must crawl through the grass while an enemy squad walks by in staggered formation, looking for you. This fantastic level is also notable for other reasons: It’s a still-rare example of stealth over overt combat in a full-on shooter, and you’ll find the level much easier to complete if you sneak by enemies rather than try and take any of them down. But it’s your choice: You can proceed through this, and most other levels, as you wish.


Indeed, I’ve completed All Ghillied Up using completely different strategies. For my first push through the remastered version, I stuck to my comrade’s guidance and went for stealth. But I’ve played through this game and this level many times, and am struck by the sheer brilliance of its design. It’s a level of sophistication that is missing not just from other games, but from recent COD titles as well.


The only downside to being a recruit is that you’re almost never able to take the lead, and that includes doing such simple things as opening doors. And while the AI is generally excellent, your buddies have an annoying habit of walking into your gunfire while you’re engaged with the enemy. This is a problem that dogs all games like this, of course, even in 2016.

Once you do complete the COD4 single player campaign, you unlock Arcade Mode and cheats, and, more important, the classic Mile High Club post-credits mission. There, you have a limited time frame to fight through a terrorist-filled airplane and save an unnamed VIP. So be sure to sit through the credits. Or, stand and cheer. I get it.

Stick around for some surprises after the credits roll.

Stick around for some surprises after the credits roll.

The reason that WMR—like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare before it—simply works is that Infinity Ward figured out the perfect blend of immersive gameplay, plot, and tension. You care about the outcome, and are always thrilled by the diverse experiences you’re presented with. It’s so well done that it still feels fresh, even though there have been fully eight COD games since this title first appeared. Think about that.


So much of WMR is familiar since much of the game was transformed into equally iconic multiplayer levels that I now cannot wait to play again. But I was also quite taken by the parts of the game that aren’t as familiar, and I’m delighted to say that there wasn’t a single tedious sequence that was more rigmarole than fun. That isn’t just rare, it basically never happens.


This game is almost literally perfect. I mean, nothing is truly perfect. But this is as close as I’ve ever seen. The graphics, the sound, the plot, the gameplay, everything. It’s just … wow.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered isn’t just highly recommended, it’s a no-brainer. Buy Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare just to play this game, and if Infinite Warfare is actually any good, that will just be a nice bonus.


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  1. 0 | Reply
    Lewk Alpha Member #958 - 1 week ago

    I wish I could just buy it by itself and not dish out $90 for the other COD game that I have no interest in at all.

  2. 0 | Reply
    ChristopherCollins Alpha Member # - 1 week ago

    This was my favorite Call of Duty game... I'm looking forward to getting it for my Xbox One.

  3. 0 | Reply
    ErichK Alpha Member # - 1 week ago

    The thing I like about CoD is that it's "accessible," at least to me.  I don't play multiplayer, just the campaigns, but I like how you can just sort of drop yourself into the game, turn off most of your brain and just have fun.  I just started the campaign for Advanced Warfare, and I'm really enjoying it.  Heck, I'll probably play Infinite Warfare too, in addition to the MW remaster.

  4. 0 | Reply
    Matt Lohr Alpha Member #698 - 1 week ago

    Pro: Games are stories just like novels, movies, and TV shows. It is good that these narrative forms are being remastered/rescanned, so that we can revisit them without maintaining an inventory of antiquated hardware.

    Con: Halo, Gears, CoD, Uncharted—all remastered, as if compensating for the lack of something new and interesting. Have we exited a "Golden Age" of narrative gaming?

  5. 0 | Reply
    DWAnderson Alpha Member #730 - 1 week ago

    Paul, a nit: check the use of "WMR" rather than "MWR" in a number of instances.

  6. 0 | Reply
    Chris_Kez Alpha Member #267 - 1 week ago

    Paul, did your PS4 get the firmware update for HDR?  Is that why you said it will look the same on Xbox?

    1. 0 | Reply
      FreeJAC Alpha Member # - 1 week ago
      In reply to Chris_Kez:

      Paul wasn't previously aware of the HDR option that was backported to the OG PS4. I don't there there was any announcement about MWR supporting HDR on the PS4 Pro or X1S let alone the OG PS4.

  7. 0 | Reply
    wbhite Alpha Member #120 - 1 week ago

    I guess I should play CoD sometime to see what all the fuss is about (I'm a Batman Arkham series man, myself).

    1. 0 | Reply
      awright18 Alpha Member #405 - 1 week ago
      In reply to wbhite:

      The Batman games are a lot of fun!  I think all the COD 2 and 3 were pretty awesome in their day, but MW was defintiely special in its own right, it bascially was the first game, at least for me, that made mulitplayer online FPS games tons of fun.   Glad to hear after getting a facelift its even better!

  8. 0 | Reply
    Yeff Alpha Member #1165 - 1 week ago

    " alternate between newcomers to the British SAS and American Marines Corp."...

    Please, tell us more about this Marine Corporation... <g>

    Even this former Zoomie (USAF) knows it's "Marine Corps".  Just recently got a 4K monitor with a graphics card that can push it.  Bring on the realism!

    1. 0 | Reply
      Waethorn Alpha Member #2235 - 1 week ago
      In reply to Yeff:

      At least he didn't put an 'e' on the end of it....