Modern Warfare Remastered Review | Best of the Best


On November 5, 2007, Infinity Ward released its third game and the fourth entry in the Call of Duty franchise: Modern Warfare. The first three Call of Duty games did fine, but Modern Warfare blew them out of the water, selling around 7 million copies in its first two months. A sales record that would only be broken by its own sequels. In many people's eyes, COD4 was the game that earned Call of Duty its "King of First-Person Shooters" crown. Over the last decade, I've played a lot of Call of Duty games, but Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the game that made Call of Duty a household name, was not one of them. I did sink a few hours into its multiplayer back in 2016, when I picked up the Legacy Edition of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare which came bundled with Modern Warfare Remastered, but I didn't touch the campaign. Now in 2020, as I make my way through the Quarantine Backlog, with Sleeping Dogs and Titanfall 2 already crossed off the list, I decided to go back and play the game that defined so many childhoods in 2007.

Modern Warfare Remastered takes place amidst a civil war between the Russian government and the Ultranationalists. In typical Modern Warfare fashion (I have played Modern Warfare 3 and Modern Warfare 2019) you jump around the world, playing as different characters whose actions are intertwined in the scope of the narrative. Modern Warfare isn't really a character study and most missions are a series of "go there, shoot them and retrieve that" errands. But, let's be honest, no one goes into a Call of Duty game for catharsis. They go in for the spectacle and Modern Warfare is packed with set piece after set piece stitched together with tight gameplay. Even after 13 years the campaign for Modern Warfare is still fun and intense, packed with enough Russian bad guys and close calls to compete with the best action blockbusters. Having avoided most spoilers over the years I found myself pleasantly surprised with the narrative and experiencing iconic moments like "WE ARE LEAVING" and "now it's a ghost town" for the first time was exciting.

I'm never one to shy away from a challenge (or a trophy for that matter) so I played through Modern Warfare Remastered on Veteran difficulty. The first thing I will say about this is that certain missions like "Crew Expendable" and "All Ghillied Up" are definitely enhanced when played on the highest difficulty setting. Laying down on that field in my ghillie suit and watching as unsuspecting enemies and tanks moved past me, knowing that if I were spotted I truly had no chance of fighting back, was intense. However, and there's always a however, then I got to the infamous "One Shot, One Kill" mission. I had heard about this mission being tough on Veteran but MY GOD was I not expecting this. I died more times than I could count and I am not afraid to admit that I ended up hiding in a concession stand to make it through that alive. I won't blame the game for my lack of "getting gud" but that's also not to say that it's perfect.

This brings me to my biggest gripe with Modern Warfare Remastered. While the campaign has aged gracefully, the same cannot be said for the AI. There are some ridiculous AI quirks in this game, with enemies just charging out of cover to kill you specifically and your teammates often blocking the paths and cover. This was made even more frustrating given the difficulty I was playing on. In the heat of the moment, I found it absurd that I somehow died when peeking from cover while my comrade next to me was alive in the middle of the hallway presumably selling hotcakes for all I cared. And in my entire playthrough of the game, after facing near-endless waves of bad guys, I can count on my hand the times I've seen my teammates actually kill enemies. While the thought of Captain Price adopting a Desmond T. Doss-like commitment to not killing anyone amuses me now, I failed to see the humor when I died 30 times during "No Fighting in the War Room." There is a saving grace to this, and that is that if you die frequently between two checkpoints, like me, the game will eventually show mercy on you and add additional checkpoints to stop you from rage quitting.


Whether it's because of a lack of jet packs or futuristic settings, over the last few years, every new Call of Duty announcement has been met with headlines saying the series is headed "back to its roots." (And with rumors of the 2020 Call of Duty game taking place during the Cold War it seems the headlines won't go away just yet.) But what exactly does that entail? What constitutes going back to a series' roots? How was Black Ops 4 taking the series back to its roots when World War II supposedly did it the year prior? Well, having played the game that those proverbial roots stemmed from, I can say that Call of Duty has gone back to its roots. (Wow I'm sick of that phrase.) But not in 2017 or 2018. In 2019, with Infinity Ward's own Modern Warfare. As I played Modern Warfare 2019, I was shocked at the grittiness in which the story unfolded. It was only after I played Modern Warfare Remastered that I realized that the 2019 iteration wasn't breaking new storytelling ground, it was returning to it. At the end of "Blackout," as I was walking into a pitch-black house with night vision as enemies clung to the walls and brandished their pistols at their invisible assailants, I was reminded of "Clean House" from the 2019 game that garnered a lot of attention for its realism and brutality. The mission "Aftermath" showed an event (which I won't state here because I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't played the game already) that took me by surprise and "Piccadilly" kicks off with just as shocking (if not as drastic) of an event. In fact, the real differentiator between the two Modern Warfare games is that with the latest technology and a three-year development cycle Infinity Ward was able to make a game that played like their third game but had the visual fidelity to make that gameplay feel visceral. It was very much so a (bear with me here) return to its roots for a developer who went to space in their last two games.

Gameplay in the remaster is as solid as ever, with gunplay feeling responsive and smooth. I did say that the game was a bunch of "go there, shoot them and retrieve that" errands but the gameplay variety manages to prevent the regular boots on the ground gunplay from getting too stale. Over the course of the 8-hour campaign, I had manned a machine gun in a helicopter, provided air support in an AC-130, carried a wounded partner to evac, and more. Pair that with the ever-escalating threat present in the campaign, and the game's pace hits breakneck speed before hitting its crescendo. The only problem I have with the gameplay is that the flinch when your character takes a shot is so dramatic that it's near impossible to recover from it.


Visually, this remaster by Raven Software is one of the best I've seen to date. Much of Modern Warfare Remastered was built from the ground up for the latest generation of consoles with dynamic lighting, smooth animations, updated textures, and more. The game knows that it looks good too because if you stand idle for a few moments the hud disappears and you can enjoy the stunning landscapes and detailed weapon models in full screen with no obstructions. While sound design is good overall, with footsteps being spacially accurate and flashbangs clanging as they hit the floor, the guns themselves sound pretty tinny with none of them having enough bass to pack a punch (no pun intended). In fact, going back to COD4, I found that the sound design on the weapons was much better in the original game, though the remaster undeniably has a more convincing 3D soundscape. With that in mind, Modern Warfare Remastered is still a high bar for remastered games, and the work done to retain the familiarity to the original while overhauling the game on a technical front is truly commendable.

For the trophy hunters, completing the campaign on Veteran should pop most of the trophies in Modern Warfare Remastered. As I said earlier, some of the missions on Veteran are a huge pain in the ass, but most of the missions are better for the increased difficulty. After that, you can go back and do the other miscellaneous trophies in mission select and on Recruit difficulty. To spice things up when doing tedious tasks such as collecting all the intel with a guide, you can turn on intel cheats that add a nice variety to the gameplay. From my experience some trophies, like the "Weapon Master," don't seem to pop when you have cheats on, so keep that in mind if some trophies aren't popping even though you did the task. Speaking of cheating, while I am proud of completing the game on Veteran, for my own mental sanity I decided to use the level loading glitch to get the infamous "Mile High Club" trophy which requires you to "sky drive to safety on Veteran difficulty." Other than that one trophy, the rest of the game is very manageable and even the "Best of the Best" trophy I was able to get within a half-hour of running the ship training course (my time was 14.85 seconds). It took me three days of moderate playing to get the Platinum trophy: Just another day at the office!

In the end, it's clear even after all these years why Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is so iconic. The game's story is over the top and fun as hell with set pieces that have since become a series staple. This 2016 remaster does a fantastic job of bringing the last-gen game to current-gen audiences with impressive visuals. Back in 2007 Call of Duty 4 set a standard for first-person shooter campaigns and a decade later, Modern Warfare Remastered sets just as high of a standard for remasters. Whether you're a fan of Call of Duty or not, Modern Warfare Remastered shows just how pivotal the series was in shaping the genre as it stands today.

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