“Another year, another Call of Duty” is a common phrase to hear due to the regularity with which Activision releases new additions to the shooter franchise. This could create some initial bias against Call of Duty: Modern Warfare earning a spot among the year’s best games. However, developer Infinity Ward, along with help from other Activision studios, set out to reimagine a beloved franchise, and they certainly achieved that goal with both the gritty campaign and the addicting multiplayer modes, and I can’t get enough.
The game’s story follows the “ripped from the headlines” style that is popular among modern media, and it delivers a tense few hours set all over the world. Admittedly, the re-imagining of the Highway of Death incident from the Gulf War caused some controversy after Infinity Ward changed a devastating historical event to fit the game’s narrative -- instead of U.S. forces bombing a highway of retreating combatants and, reportedly, civilians, the Russians are portrayed as the ones carrying out this attack. It is... not a good look.
Apart from this moment, however, Modern Warfare’s campaign does deliver. Viewing the action from multiple protagonists – and even a child – gives the story an excellent level of depth, and there are even a few moments that make you genuinely examine your morality. Specifically, one mission set at night forces you to make a series of gut-wrenching decisions about who can be considered a combatant in the heat of the moment. Yes, they have a gun, but do they deserve to die? The improved graphics only make these decisions more difficult given the level of detail in each character model.
Of course, this is Call of Duty, so the multiplayer modes are arguably the most important, and Spec Ops makes its long-awaited return after lying dormant for many years. Similar to previous games in the series, there are a multitude of modes available for fans of multiplayer. Domination, Team Deathmatch, and Free-for-All make a return, and they are joined by Headquarters. However, the modes are not limited to a precious few. Infinity Ward also brought in a large-scale mode called Ground War, which tasks players with capturing control points in massive arenas. Vehicles are in play to create even more havoc on the battlefield.
As someone that prefers small-scale battles, I was overjoyed to see that Modern Warfare had other modes that cater to my preferences. Shoot House 24/7, which is a rotating playlist of modes set in the tiny training facility, and Gunfight, which pits two teams of two against each other in quick battles to the death, are both hectic experiences that offer the opportunity to improve with each match.
Infinity Ward hasn’t been content with simply relying on these modes, however. Over my many hours in multiplayer, I have seen new modes rotate in and out with regularity, including one that makes some players “infected” while others try to survive the onslaught. There have been constant updates to the playlists, and the fan-favorite Crash map even made a return. There are so many options at this point that I find it easy to spend my evenings bouncing between modes. Although the realism playlist may be my current favorite due to the inclusion of night maps and the lack of a HUD.
That being said, the best addition to Call of Duty is the Gunsmith option that lets you customize each individual weapon. You can change the barrels, scopes, grips, stocks, and ammunition types of the majority of weapons in order to gain an advantage over online foes. Leveling up your gun with more and more kills just unlocks even more parts to tinker with. I have found endless entertainment with swapping out parts on my various guns before painting them ridiculous colors.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare may not have revolutionized the shooter in 2019, but it certainly got back to basics in the best possible way. The extra fluff was stripped away while an emphasis was put on nailing the gunplay and creating entertaining maps. This is the most joy I have found in multiplayer since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and I plan on playing for another few dozen hours at keast. Pairing that with the return of Spec Ops, as well as a gritty campaign that sets up future games, only makes Modern Warfare one of the best games of the year in my opinion.