Yes, I know I’m late to the party in sharing some thoughts on this one.

Activision released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on Oct. 25 as the 16th title in the main Call of Duty (CoD) franchise and a full reboot of the Modern Warfare sub-series. The fourth title to carry the Modern Warfare subtitle dropped the numeric sequencing to debut with the same title as the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare did back in 2007. The original Modern Warfare was my personal entry point into the CoD series, which had until that point only focused on combat within World War II.

For more than a decade now, I’ve been right there in the virtual trenches with millions of other players each fall, entering “Call of Duty season” with a fridge stocked with Mountain Dew Call of Duty Game Fuel and plans for some late nights engaged in firefights with players around the world. As longtime players know, those years have been a rollercoaster in terms of quality and fun, as Activision assigned the CoD franchise to different developers to keep the momentum flowing. For Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward is back at the helm — as it was in ’07 — and the game is arguably the best since then.

Admittedly, some CoD installments have been occasionally hard for me to get into, as the world was a different place when these games first hit the scene, and aside from Modern Warfare, the franchise has largely played in a sandbox that has either been historical (WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam) or set in the future (Black Ops 3, Infinite Warfare, etc.). That said, it can be emotionally jarring to see military strikes or terrorist attacks in a present-day setting, but if you’re looking for realism, Modern Warfare delivers.

The single-player campaign mode for Modern Warfare pits players against the Russians and a fictional yet familiar-sounding terrorist organization called Al-Qatala in missions that take place throughout Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. The campaign is smooth and detailed with immersive — and award-winning — sound and graphics. The emotional toll begins early on with a suicide bombing at Piccadilly Circus in London. It’s jarring, but not in the same way that Modern Warfare 2‘s infamous “No Russian” level (which depicted a terrorist attack on an airport) was.

As the story unfolds, the detail in which civilian life is shown — particularly in war-torn Middle Eastern villages — is remarkable. We play it as a game, but somewhere in the world there are people really living like this. Civilians live off of scraps while outside forces are scrounging local garages to find oil filters to use as makeshift silencers for their weapons.

In the end, the mission is over, but the war never is. Players are presented with a glimpse into a possible future for the franchise, including some familiar faces from CoD lore.

Multiplayer mode is where most of my time has been spent. It’s the perfect spot to drop in for a quick, 10-minute battle and then drop back out for a return to the real world. Modern Warfare’s multiplayer mode feels better than ever with a multitude of gameplay modes and the opportunity for custom load-0uts, character choice (male and female), and customization of appearance. I’m still a big fan of classic Domination, while Team Deathmatch is another old-school staple. New modes, such as Cyber Attack, put a fresh spin on search-and-destroy gameplay, while Kill Confirmed is another favorite as players have to claim dog tags from both their downed opponents and squadmates. Wanna get creepy? The zombies are back for a new round of Infected, too. And Ground War? An incredible array of large-scale assaults in which dozens of players from around the world can battle (with vehicles). There is a lot to learn.

Having been in release fewer than three months as of this writing, Activision has been quick to react to player feedback with updates to weapons, maps, and even flag placement. (I preferred the pre-move placement of the “B” flag in Piccadilly, FWIW). New maps and gameplay modes continue to be added as downloadable content (DLC) with much more to come. The “Season One” DLC is said to be “the biggest free content drop in COD history,” and the new Battle Pass offers even more opportunity for expansion. Since it’s been out for a bit, you can snag a great deal on the chart-topping game for Xbox One, Playstation 4, or PC if you haven’t picked it up already. There is a unique community that comes together to play these games, and as esports continues to grow, so will Call of Duty.


Photos: Activision