In a year with games as big as Cyberpunk 2077 and the Final Fantasy VII Remake, it seems strange to think that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a reimagining of the world-famous video game series by Infinity Ward, was one of the best games to be presented at E3 2019 - but it was. After years and years of lackluster innovation, including an initially promising but otherwise inessential battle royale mode with Blackout, the Call of Duty franchise had lost its footing. That is, until now.
It had been long rumored that Modern Warfare 4 was going to be 2019's Call of Duty, but while that's not exactly the case, it seems the reports weren't too far off. Infinity Ward, the studio known for creating Call of Duty and shepherding the brand through some of its best years, hunkered down after releasing two disappointing titles - Call of Duty: Ghosts in 2013 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in 2016 - and revamped their approach to the next iteration in the long-running franchise, this time letting go of the full throttle action in favor of realism. And the result is IW's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Putting aside space battles and futuristic warfare, Infinity Ward took it upon themselves to redefine what the name Modern Warfare has come to mean to audiences. Beginning with an overhaul of their game engine, moving away from the IW Engine that's come to represent what Call of Duty games look like and towards real-life authenticity, including character, level, and weapon designs, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has achieved what many shooter games this generation have strived to. This was made possible thanks to a brand-new, in-house engine that utilizes photogrammetry, ray tracing, and volumetric lighting, as well as improved rendering. What you see in the trailers is pretty much what you're going to get; no tricks about it.
After playing the reveal trailer one more time, Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare E3 2019 gameplay demo began with a short sequence that showed a bombing in London. And then, the rest of the demo followed a special forces squad as they performed a counter-terrorist attack on a suburban home in the middle of the night. Regular lighting was used for a few minutes before the characters switched on their night vision goggles. The 15-minute gameplay demo was essentially Call of Duty's recreation of the Osama bin Laden raid at the end of Zero Dark Thirty. It's clear that this year's Modern Warfare reimagining is borrowing heavily from some of Hollywood's more realistic military-based films.
Going from room to room, and floor to floor, the player and the rest of his special forces group clear the house of all terrorist operatives. It's in this sequence that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's authentic violence is exposed. Players are forced into situations in which they must choose who to kill and how they kill them. Thanks to a new dynamic system, where you shoot enemies matters. If you hit someone in the arm, they may fall down and attempt to grab ahold of another weapon with their other arm. So if you want them dead and not merely wounded, a headshot would be your best bet - and you'll be doing a lot of those if you want to complete the mission and keep the rest of your team alive.
A point that Infinity Ward is trying to drive home is that players can take the violence as far as they want to go, which is the morally ambiguous pillar that they've been discussing. However, throughout the gameplay demo, it seemed there were little to no moments in which the player can choose to forgo a direct kill. In one sequence, a woman pretends to surrender before reaching for a weapon on the table. Then, a similar thing happens in yet another sequence in which a second woman tries to surrender. After a few moments, though, she attempts to detonate a bomb in the house. Either this demo wasn't a proper illustration of what Infinity Ward has been trying to achieve or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare still needs some tweaks before it can represent all that the studio wants.
One of the terrorists shot a member of the player's squad, and after diving to the ground, the player blew a couple of holes into the door and through a flashbang grenade through it. And in another sequence, the player shot several bullets through the wall, killing the people on the other side. As a bonus, all of the bullets - either on the doors, the walls, and the glass - remained, just as they would in real life, and this is thanks to the all-new game engine, which accounts for real-world physics. Furthermore, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's honest brutality described here is accentuated by the game's mindblowing graphics, which is yet another byproduct of the new engine developed in-house.
While we were only given a very brief demonstration of what Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has to offer, we walked away stunned. Infinity Ward and the people at Activision are on the right track for revitalizing the Call of Duty franchise, just in time for the next generation of consoles to hit the market. If the rest of the campaign, as well as the multiplayer, is at least 75 percent the same as the demo we were shown at E3 2019, then shooter fans may be looking at the best Call of Duty game since the first Modern Warfare.