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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2019


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare'

by Redmond Carolipio on July 17, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare engulfs fans in an incredibly raw, gritty, provocative narrative that brings unrivaled intensity and shines a light on the changing nature of modern war.

Pre-order Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

If you say the words "call of duty" together in a sentence, there's a really good chance someone, anyone, will think you're talking about a game. That's what Activision's Call of Duty franchise has become after more than a decade. But, as its presence grew, so has its flair for the ridiculous. From the Cold War and the jungles of Vietnam, we've now been taken to the future, outer space and even places where we fight the undead.

That doesn't mean it hasn't been cool — it's just that hiding in a ghillie suit waiting for the enemy to pass by seems like a long time ago.

Infinity Ward is looking to dial back the bombast with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is a darker, more somber reimagining of the "Modern Warfare" arc, hence the lack of a number after the game's title. At E3 2019, we were told during a presentation of the game that Infinity Ward wanted to aim for the most realistic Call of Duty experience ever designed, with a narrative that felt authentic and relevant to modern times.

From what we saw, Call of Duty's clearest path to a new experience is right through the hearts and minds of the players pulling the trigger. The same moral, on-the-fly decisions that real-world operators make in combat situations are now within reach of those with controllers in their hands, as the line between the enemy and people who just happen to be there has been erased.

Our presentation picked up on the heels of a terror bombing in London, which we witnessed in chilling first-person clarity. The action picks up when the authorities track down the terror cell responsible in a townhome in North London. It's a night operation, and there's no dramatic music or elongated narrative as it happens. It's reminiscent of the infiltration scene in "Zero Dark Thirty," where there's almost no noise except for radio chatter such as "two people in the living room."

Instead of an enemy base or ship full of armed guards, this townhome features people living their lives, wearing everyday clothes, watching TV and milling around the kitchen — some of whom might be terrorists. The tension is extremely palpable, as is the newfound sense of realism. Every encounter with another person is a chance to make a serious mistake, as night vision makes everyone look the same. Some assailants made it a little easier, as they'd come out with a gun or try to shoot through the walls or doors. Dressed in regular clothes, every person picked off by the strike team would fall with disturbing realism, sometimes squirming for a few seconds after being shot.

Other situations dance within the gray area that Infinity Ward wants to buy property in. For instance, the opening on one door showed someone using a woman as a human shield. After a deft shot to the head of the hostage taker, the woman then frantically runs toward a rifle sitting near her and tries to point it at the strike team before being put down herself. There's also another room where a woman starts running right at you, which might trigger someone to shoot her. In this case, she wasn't shot, and she ended up running past the strike team and toward a baby crib. She picks up the baby and then runs off. You get the sense that both the baby and woman could have easily been casualties. The demo ended with another woman, screaming about how she was taken against her will, but backing toward something on a desk. You see it, the rest of the strike team sees it, and eventually the order to take her out crackles through. She gets shot, and the team realizes that the item she was inching toward was some kind of detonator.

This preview of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare isn't the space to get into a debate about what kind of realism people can handle in their games, but in addition to situations like this, there's also the presentation of child soldiers and other chances where civilians can die by your hand. Whether Infinity Ward can maintain this kind of tension and live in this ambitious mature space — not to mention how players will receive it — could be one of the key talking points of the late year. On Oct. 15, we'll see where the discussion goes.

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