Another year means another Call of Duty, but Activision and developer Infinity Ward are doing something different this year. Rather than continue with the story of Infinite Warfare or ghosts, the series will return to the setting that made it an international sensation: Modern Warfare. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a reinvented take on the series, with the return of one of the franchise’s most beloved characters. It’s the environments, weapons, and equipment you love, but reimagined for a new generation.
Not a remake, but something greater?
Activision isn’t explicitly calling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare a remake of the previous games, or even just the 2007 original. Instead, it is an “epic re-imagining of the iconic Modern Warfare series from the ground up.”
That begins with the game’s new engine, which makes use of a “physically-based material system,” ray tracing for PC players, world volumetric lighting, a new GPU geometry pipeline, and a PBR decal rendering system, among other features. It will also make use of new audio effects and on applicable platforms, will support full Dolby ATMOS. Smaller gameplay-focused changes have also been made, including the ability to reload while still aiming down a weapon’s sights.
We played three hours of multiplayer matches at a preview event and came away thoroughly impressed with both the visuals and sound design.
Infinity Ward and Activision promise that the story will be “raw, gritty, and provocative,” and will deal with how warfare is changing in the modern day. This could be where we see it deviate the most from the original game, because 12 years have passed. No longer do we send in soldiers when an unmanned drone can do the job. Of course, as much as things change, they also stay exactly the same.
The narrative won’t be limited to the single-player campaign. Activision said in a press release that it would be unified across the campaign, competitive multiplayer, and a new cooperative mode, with its story dealing with conflict in the Middle East as well as Europe. Several international special forces operators will be playable, and the iconic hero Captain Price will be making his return, as well.
Iconic moments, and new controversies
The game’s reveal trailer appears to confirm how different the story will be compared to the previous Modern Warfare games, because it features several regions we haven’t seen before. That being said, there are also iconic elements, including green night vision, tanks, and Price’s glowing cigar.
In the trailer, we also see operators breeching a building with a hammer – undoubtedly setting up a cool slow-motion shooting moment – as well as jumping out the back of a plane. This could be a reference to the epilogue in the original Modern Warfare, but it could also be a completely unrelated scene.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will not be shying away from controversy. The original game included a city destroyed by a nuclear bomb, as did the third. The second game infamously included a mission that involved slaughtering civilians, and according to gameplay played by Variety, there will also be unarmed civilians killed in the new game, including a mother holding a child. Additionally, you will be able to control a child at one moment and kill enemies with knives and guns.
The atrocities you yourself are allowed to commit will apparently be limited, with narrative director Taylor Kurosaki telling Variety that you can be punished for doing things not appropriate for a Tier 1 operator. This includes killing civilians, and after being called out by your squad-mates, your game can end.
One new character is a woman named Farrah, who you initially play as a child living in the Middle East during an attack by terrorists. You’ll briefly be asked to fight as this child during the mission, and will otherwise take a stealthier approach in order to rescue captured townspeople.
New modes, but no battle royale?
Battle royale was completely absent from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s announcement, and if previous reports were true, that is because it won’t be included in the game. Back in March, Gaming Intel reported that the mode was being dropped and instead the next Call of Duty would focus on a campaign, multiplayer, and cooperative mode. As it turns out, that is exactly what Activision shared when the game was announced. But never fear, a replacement of similar scope and scale has been added.
Alongside a campaign, there will be competitive multiplayer and a cooperative mode. The competitive multiplayer features match types housing as little as four players and as large as 100-plus players.
One of the new game modes, Gunfight, takes place on small maps and features 2v2 warfare with lightning quick rounds. Each player spawns with the same weapon each round, so there are no custom loadouts. You have to win with the weapons handed to you at the start of the round. Gunfight is first to six wins, with rounds lasting longer than about a minute being halted as draws.
Another new mode, Cyber Attack, sees teams of six work to secure and plant a bomb that destroys the other team’s network center. Reminiscent of CS:GO, Cyber Attack can end either with an explosion or by eliminating the other team’s forces. Downed players can be revived throughout the first-to-five win mode.
Larger maps will hold 100-plus player Ground Wars, a new variant with 20-player teams tasked with securing points on the map. The high player count Ground Wars is essentially a battle royale replacement. More new modes outside of the three announced will be available in Modern Warfare alongside multiplayer staples such as Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Headquarters.
Special Ops co-op
Modern Warfare‘s cooperative mode sounds intriguing. According to a press release, players can team up with friends and work through a series of “elite operations accessible to all skill levels.” Your progression in Special Ops connects to both the single player and online multiplayer. So no matter which mode you’re playing, you’ll always be working towards rewards.
Modern Warfare is bringing back killstreaks, in-game rewards earned after killing multiple enemies in a row. You can have three different killstreaks assigned at once. Killstreaks include care packages, tanks, drone/missile strikes, the Juggernaut, radar, and more. During our time spent previewing the game, we saw that the most basic killstreaks (such as radar) start at three kills, while more useful bonuses require 10 or more kills. For instance, the Juggernaut requires 15 kills to activate.
Rebuilt weapons system
Infinity Ward redesigned the weapons system for Modern Warfare. Expect more accurate recoil, gun design, and more meaningful changes based on attachments. Each weapon can have five attachments equipped at once. Each weapon has 30 to 60 total attachments to unlock, so there’s a ton of room for experimentation when tinkering with loadouts. You can also change attachments mid-game.
In the multiplayer lobby, you can visit the Gunsmith to see 3D-scanned images of each weapon and see how their look and effectiveness in various stat categories changes as you switch attachments.
Along with the new feel and gameplay modes, Modern Warfare introduces some new mechanics. You can open/close doors and breach them slowly or with explosives. Guns can be mounted to both horizontal and vertical barriers, such as ledges and door frames, for increased stability.
Night vision goggles can be used when playing on maps after sunset. With night vision on, the HUD is turned off. Once you draw your weapon, you reveal your location to enemies, so it’s a variant that relies heavily on smart tactics.
Bullet penetration lets players shoot through doors, storage containers, and other structures to deal damage even when an enemy isn’t visible. You can also move quicker across the map with Super Sprint, a new run that raises your weapon in the air to increase speed. Since you’re only holding it with one hand, it takes longer to get back into your aim from Super Sprint.
Cross-play is in, season pass is out
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will be embracing cross-play support between consoles and PC. Activision did not, however, elaborate if this means you will be able to play with both Xbox and PlayStation players at the same time, or if the two groups will remain separate. Regardless, it’s a move we haven’t seen from the series in its entire 16-year history.
In another move that falls in line with its competition, Modern Warfare is ditching the season pass system Call of Duty has been using for over a generation. New maps and post-launch content will be free for all players. Combined with the cross-play support, this will likely keep a greater number of players together for longer.
There’s a beta
Activision will host multiple beta periods throughout September. To kick things off, PlayStation 4 users who pre-order will get early access to the beta September 12-13. All PS4 users can join in September 14-16.
Xbox One and PC users who pre-order can hop into the action September 19-20. PS4 users will still be able to play on these days as well. From September 21 to 23, all users on all three platforms will be able to play the beta with cross-play.
PC players will get a number of performance perks not seen on Xbox One and PS4, including uncapped framerate, HDR support, FOV sliders, widescreen and multi-monitor support, and more customization options for mouse/keyboard players.
Pre-orders and special editions
Activision has stated one of the pre-order bonus items is a Prestige token players will be able to redeem in Black Ops 4, but only if it’s on the platform you’re pre-ordering COD:MW for.
The Precision Edition, also known as the collector’s edition, is exclusive to GameStop and comes with the game, a steelbook, KontrolFreek Modern Warfare branded performance thumbsticks and controller skin, as well as the “All Ghillied Up”, “Crew Expendable”, and “War Pig” Operator Packs. Pre-ordering at GameStop will also earn you an exclusive double-sided poster and animated C.O.D.E. calling card, which donates to the Call of Duty Endowment, a program that helps unemployed veterans find jobs.
The prestige edition is available for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One for $99.99. You can also grab the standard edition for PS4 or Xbox One at $59.99.
Release date and platforms
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 25. The PC release is being handled by Beenox, and is exclusive to Blizzard’s Battle.net.