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.
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.
Tagged with Call of Duty