Modern Warfare is just as flawed as it was upon release in 2007.
The MP5 is still shredding through frustrated opponents. Quickscoping is at peak OP, prompting many a controller throw in angst. The Helicopter killstreak is still far too accurate and devastating, while the Martyrdom perk is still doing a fine job of balancing out the typically bad player’s kill-to-death ratio. The maps are still a tedious combination of long sight lines, countless doorways and broken windows, essentially just a whole lot of clutter.
And yet, almost ten years since its initial release, Modern Warfare feels like an ageless classic.
How Did We Get Here?
Modern Warfare‘s developer, Infinity Ward, is a far cry from the studio it once was. Internal disputes led to a breakup with publisher Activision, creating a fractured development team that eventually led to the formation of Sledgehammer Games, now a series stalwart, and developer of 2017’s as-yet-unnamed Call Of Duty entry. Most of the COD4 and Modern Warfare 2 team went on to form Respawn Entertainment, which has created the fantastic Titanfall series.
While those games feel like more refined and balanced versions of modern Call Of Duty entries, you get a sense there’s plenty of Modern Warfare inspiration there. The whole sensation of having earned a Titan — and utilising it well — is akin to a Modern Warfare killstreak, even one as easily attained as the UAV.
For so many Call Of Duty sympathises, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to support and defend the franchise. I have been called a corporate warrior for having justified the launch of Call Of Duty Elite and subsequent DLC plans, despite genuinely feeling like they offered good value. It’s not the same anymore, and there’s no justifying the means of getting Modern Warfare Remastered, but having taken the plunge and returned to the game — a game that, for me personally, defined the Xbox 360’s early-generation domination — it’s been an exercise is nostalgic reflection of why Call Of Duty is where it is: how it got there, and where it’s headed.
I’ve spent close to 15 hours playing Modern Warfare Remastered‘s multiplayer since launch. I’ve played maybe three hours of Infinity Warfare‘s. Ten years is a long time in gaming, but where could we possibly have expected the franchise to go with yearly iterations? To be honest, I’m surprised Call Of Duty hasn’t evolved into a space exploration RPG. Put simply, Infinite Warfare is such a far cry from what Modern Warfare is — and what it wanted to be — that I think it’s safe to say the Call Of Duty franchise is, as we once knew it, effectively dead.
And Where Are We Going?
For all its critical acclaim, the first Modern Warfare is far from a perfect game, yet it balances its imperfections alongside some strangely real and familiar fundamentals. It’s imperfect yet brilliant. It challenges you and punishes you, making you question every.single.move, before laughing as some troll quickscopes you in what seems like a millisecond. It’s brutal yet beautiful, frustrating yet satisfying, punishing yet rewarding.
No Call Of Duty game of the past five years has even come close. This is Call Of Duty. It died a long time ago.
There is no jetpack-boosting, no wall-running, no EMP grenades, and certainly no anti-gravity action. It’s basic. Plain Jane. And proud. There are three killstreaks and a handful of perks, and don’t expect to go running around dragging a camper-van full of equipment and additional primary weapons. I get it: Call Of Duty had to go somewhere after CoD4, but nothing about Infinite Warfare gives it a hall pass to make up for map design, balancing or spawning issues. That’s because nothing else about it balances out those issues in the same way Modern Warfare fundamentally balances out its own.
Through A Green Lens
Maybe the problem here is that, because I have such fond memories of the game, I’ve been blinded. Maybe that is the case. But getting shredded in Modern Warfare Remastered doesn’t make me feel the same way as it does when I get smashed in Infinite Warfare. That’s because in the latter, the game doesn’t care to make you feel insignificant. It doesn’t care to make you feel significant, either: it’s just a meat market, constantly spawning new soldiers over and over and over again.
In Modern Warfare, it’s almost like there are no second chances. There is coming back from a deficit, sure, but you’re not going into a long-range battle with a quickscoper when you’re packing a M16A4, even with its range and damage. So what are you going to do? You’re going to go around and flank them, because you know they’re sticking to the cause. You know that if you just get close enough, if you can get there without being spotted, you might be within a chance.
Of course, you need to cross that trench, make your way through that building, climb through some windows, avoid the open paddock, all the while avoiding the overpowered helicopter floating above. Don’t you just love that? Isn’t it exhilarating, running through that paddock, knowing you could be sniped at any moment? Nothing in recent Call Of Duty entries even compares.
Long Live COD4
Some of its weapons are overpowered. Some of its perks stink. Some of its maps are just cluttered messes of fractured buildings and sniper paradises. Evidently, this was a game made to be imperfect.
Modern Warfare is still flawed in the same way it was in 2007, but it’s a reflection of the impurity of battle that makes it an ageless classic, and leaves its modern counterparts floating in space without a cause.