Infinity Ward’s seminal first person shooter broke new ground when it launched on November 5th, 2007. It’s hard to think that almost a decade has passed, yet Modern Warfare’s influence can still be felt throughout the genre as well as the video games industry in general. Selling 7 million copies within just a few months, Call of Duty had evolved from a solid series to Activision’s trump card – a powerhouse that continues to garner a mass following despite heated competition.
Like many, Modern Warfare was my gateway into the fantastic, fledgling world of online multiplayer. It’s fluid shooting, addictive progression, and a wealth of maps and modes proved to be a winning combination for Infinity Ward. With the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 slowly trickling their way into living rooms up around the world, it quickly became the must-have game for this new cohort of consoles, and as a much loved game with the series’ fans, remastering it for the current generation was something of a no brainer.
Although it’s easy to get hung up on Modern Warfare’s sublime multiplayer, it was supported by a truly gripping solo campaign – it’s this side of the game that PS4 owners can play if they pre-order Infinite Warfare’s Legacy Editions. Moving away from the series’ focus on World War II, Infinity Ward managed to conjure up a convincing present day backdrop alongside a somewhat memorable cast of characters. I say somewhat, because back then Call of Duty wasn’t as overtly cinematic as it is today. It didn’t need to be. However, characters like Captain Price and Soap are still fondly remembered.
It’s surprising, going back into Modern Warfare after all these years, just how well the campaign holds up. Sure, it’s been given a visual overhaul, but even without the cosmetic touch-up, it proffers an immersive blend of high octane action with some solid pacing. That said, compared to later games in the franchise, combat scenarios definitely feel more akin to shooting galleries, and there are a dozen or so encounters where the player is forced to push against endless waves of insurgents until they find a checkpoint.
Needless to say, COD4’s Veteran difficulty is just as brutal now as it was back in 2007. During the bigger, more intense firefights, the lack of a discernible frontline often means that an enemy will pop up and kill you from behind, usually when you’re within metres of reaching the next safe zone. It still feels a bit cheap, though I would have been more annoyed if the remaster had altered the original game’s AI and spawn patterns.
Something that did surprise me was the amount of variety on show. It’s easy to think of Call of Duty campaigns as an endless series of corridor shoot-outs but that’s never really been the case. From the get go, Modern Warfare offers players a healthy spread of scenarios. Within the first half hour you’re treated to one of gaming’s best tutorial stages, a stealth section, a cinematic escape scene, then a story-heavy introduction to its main antagonists.
It’s hard to ever grow tired of the fast-moving missions as you beam from one location to the next. Great missions such as “Death From Above” and “All Ghillied Up” really help to combat any traces of fatigue that may attempt to trickle in, changing the tone and pace of the game in an instant.
Side-by-side, it’s clear that this wasn’t a cheap cash grab for Activision, despite what some may think. Nearly every character model and environment has been reworked to stunning effect. Although it has some rough spots, these are quickly masked by incredibly detailed textures and some much improved lighting techniques. Even the drabbest, greyest of locales are given more life, dispelling any notion that this remaster was a last minute botch job.
In the end, it’s Modern Warfare’s freshly-polished multiplayer that will determine whether this is worth more than a fleeting revisit, and that will go live alongside the full release of Infinite Warfare in November. That said, if the singleplayer offering is any indication, Modern Warfare’s revival could see it easily standing shoulder to shoulder with 2016’s best online shooters.