Preview: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare moves forward by going backward

Back to basics.

After a generation which saw Call of Duty going through a bit of an identity crisis, fans are able to instantly identify Modern Warfare. It’s the point in the series that really kickstarted a new era of multiplayer gaming, a new era of FPS games, and a new era of Call of Duty which catapulted it into an entertainment cornerstone.

9 years after concluding that subfranchise, Modern Warfare is making its long-awaited return. So many things have changed between 2011 and 2019, though. Many feared if Infinity Ward could capture the feeling the original trilogy gave them. I have good news: It’s good, it’s damn good.

While we still have some concerns for the game’s campaign (which still looks good despite those concerns), the multiplayer is the best it has been in close to a decade. One could argue that Infinity Ward has decided to go backward by leaving the futuristic innovations behind in favor of the classic “boots on the ground” gameplay. That’s not a bad thing, though.

By going back to where the series was strongest, Infinity Ward is able to identify what made it so great and then build on those pillars to advance the original formula even further. Back when Modern Warfare 3 came out in 2011, many felt that the series had been run into the ground.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

“It’s the same game as the last one,” cried many fans. They weren’t wrong, MW2 to MW3 was very similar and felt more like a Madden-esque upgrade where it’s just an updated version of the last one. The time in between MW3 and Modern Warfare 2019 has allowed them to truly see what they could do to the “stale” formula.

The important thing about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is that it feels familiar. It gets you into the groove of the old days and makes you feel at home. Some of the paint on the walls has changed, some furniture has been rearranged or removed entirely, but it’s the home you know.

The gunplay already feels masterfully handled and Infinity Ward is only going to continue to fine-tune it up to release. The guns handle like a dream with sprinting into ADS time being smooth and seamless, time-to-kill being balanced to make it feel like gunfights are quick but also allow you a fighting chance, and more. Every time you fire your gun, it just scratches an itch you didn’t really know you had.

The sounds of the gunfire, the bullet casings ringing as they hit the ground, the clicks and clacks as you reload or toggle different weapon functions, it’s music to your ears. On top of all the basics that every FPS has to have, Infinity Ward has brought new touches to the table with Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

You can switch firing rates on various weapons from fully-auto, semi-fire, and burst fire to account for long-range or close-range battles. When playing on a night variant map, you’ll be equipped with night-vision goggles and your character will tilt their gun when ADSing so that they’re not bumping the iron sights or optics against the goggles.

If you’re feeling smart, you can even use light switches in buildings to flash all of the power on (or off) to blind your enemies who are wearing NVGs or catch those who aren’t wearing them in a shadowy ambush.

There are also interactable doors that you can open, close, peak through, or just burst through like the Hulk. While they don’t change much of the flow because your character typically just kicks through it, they can add new layers of strategy. If you’re standing next to a doorway, you can pull a door open and use it to shield you from gunfire. You can also close it instead of peaking out from behind it like an enemy may expect to catch your opposer off-guard.

Everything that Infinity Ward has added, big and small, adds new layers to Call of Duty’s aggressive multiplayer. It feels like you’re allowed to adapt to each new situation on the fly rather than being stuck with whatever you picked before the game even started. Hell, for the first time ever you can even edit your loadout from within the match.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

These quality of life improvements make all the difference and help elevate Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to a new level. Something that seems to be dividing fans across social media is the removal of the mini-map. Modern Warfare’s MP has removed the mini-map in the corner of your screen unless you get a UAV, meaning you won’t be able to quickly identify where firefights are happening by looking for the red dots in the corner of the screen.

There is a compass that points you in the direction of these gunfights but it’s not as direct or specific. Infinity Ward is still experimenting with the map and may add it back in before launch but personally, I don’t mind not having it.

It makes everything feel more intense and I never found that it put me at that much of an extreme disadvantage by not having it. If anything, it makes the UAV feel all the more rewarding as a low-level killstreak.

Fans have also picked apart some of the maps in Modern Warfare for not having the tried and true three-lane map design. Engagements are far more sporadic and players aren’t naturally herded towards key areas of the map for battles, the flow is changed in a much larger way.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

One match may have more firefights on the right side of the map while another may have them on the far left of the map because the map design doesn’t guide you anywhere. You have a lot of different options and with that comes much more vulnerability.

There are a lot of doors, windows, open areas, and various vantage points on these maps. You are going to have so many angles to get shot from, it can begin to feel unfair. You will find it near impossible when sprinting through specific areas to keep your guard up because you have five or more places where you can get killed from at a time.

This will usually lead you to be more cautious and play it a bit slower in certain areas or even go into tighter spaces. Sure, they’re probably a bit more dangerous due to how close they are and you won’t have many options but to fight but at least you will be able to expect where your enemies are going to come from.

It’s a mixed bag and depending on playstyle, it could be a far more negative aspect than it is for others but I personally don’t hate it.

All in all, Infinity Ward has begun to show that they have crafted the most well-refined multiplayer experience for Call of Duty in years. Everything from just simply grounding it in some form of reality to refining the moment to moment gameplay makes Modern Warfare feel like it has truly help Call of Duty find itself again after a multi-year mid-life crisis.