Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is an exceptional shooter game that advances the franchise in exciting ways, but it's certainly not without flaws.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is an exceptional Call of Duty game and represents a meaningful step forward for the long-running franchise - despite it effectively being a reboot of the brand's most notable series - but there are still plenty of flaws that prevent it from reaching its true potential. Much of this has to do with the core multiplayer component that seems to have been simultaneously improved and worsened when compared to previous games.
For years, Call of Duty has been the title to beat when it comes to multiplayer shooters. Things have fallen by the wayside with releases such as Advanced Warfare and perhaps even Black Ops 4, which had a battle royale mode that failed to captivate players in the long run, but Call of Duty never truly lost its foothold in the genre. Modern Warfare's multiplayer aims to - and successfully does - recapture the magic the first and second Modern Warfare games had all those years ago. But for every advancement, there's almost an equal amount of regression.
That is evident by the excellent developments made to Modern Warfare's weapons, customization, and movement - the core action aspects of a shooter game - but as a shooter title, it's clear right off the bat that some weapons have fallen through the cracks and need to be re-balanced, such as the infamous 725 shotgun. Anyone who finds themselves in the sights of someone with that weapon can expect to lose the fight, no matter what. It's comically absurd how strong the shotgun is, but perhaps that's in true Modern Warfare fashion as the Model 1887 shotgun in Modern Warfare 2 was just as overpowered.
Beyond the weapons, one of the other focal points of Modern Warfare's multiplayer is the modes. In addition to bringing back Call of Duty classics like Domination, Headquarters, and Search and Destroy, Modern Warfare aims to expand the franchise's reach with Gunfight - a mellow yet somewhat hasty 2 vs. 2 mode that takes inspiration from duos in other titles - with Ground War expanding upon what makes a Call of Duty game a Call of Duty game. With 32 players on each team, vehicles spawning throughout the area, and the largest map in Modern Warfare history, Ground War wants to be Activision's version of Battlefield. Unfortunately, it's only a poor imitation; all of the central elements that make a large-scale arena special have been lost in the making of this game mode and it's missing so many essential basics from Battlefield that it feels half-baked.
What's interesting is that some of the fundamental flaws that plagued the previous Call of Duty games, once again, have managed to creep into 2019's Modern Warfare. Sure, it's a shooter game so of course, shooting the enemy would be the priority. But the majority of modes are still objective-based, and for some reason, Modern Warfare has reverted to effectively punishing those who prioritize completing the objective over getting kills. It's been this way for years, but recent installments attempted to balance out the scoring system. At some point, all of that was thrown out the window.
Some of that could be said for the maps as well. Overall, Modern Warfare's multiplayer maps are well thought out and well laid out, but not for all modes. For Team Deathmatch, Headquarters, and Search and Destroy, each map is nearly perfect, but for Domination, as an example, playing on a map like Euphrates Bridge is rather pointless. Not even one minute after beginning the match, the imbalance becomes painfully clear. What truly makes Modern Warfare's multiplayer stand out from the crowd, though, is its crossplay capabilities. After all these years, a triple-A title - one especially on the scale of Call of Duty - has finally implemented seamless crossplay. It'll end up saving the community in the long run, and Infinity Ward knows that.
Aside from the multiplayer, one of the most exciting parts of the game is its campaign. Modern Warfare's story brings back the brutal, unethical, and uncomfortable-ness established in the first two series installments in a truly engaging way - bouncing around between outdoor missions that require sniper rifles to indoor missions that utilize cubicles for cover. But the popcorn-like campaign fails to properly represent the true events that inspired virtually every mission. What's demonstrated instead are events that are essentially told through rose-colored glasses, albeit with hints of savagery sprinkled throughout. Having said that, the story is captivating and the ending will surely excite fans of the Modern Warfare story. But above all, the Modern Warfare campaign introduces new concepts into the Call of Duty franchise and takes leaps - truly, huge leaps - in graphics, especially in the nighttime missions. It's a Call of Duty game at heart but something else entirely in practically every other way.
Overall, Modern Warfare hasn't lost the Call of Duty touch, and it's broken through a ceiling that's held the franchise back over these past few years. Whereas other shooter games have excelled, Call of Duty tried to retain what made the franchise special in the first place - but it did so in all the wrong ways. There's an underlying level of awareness of that fact represented in Modern Warfare, and the latest installment does take the right steps forward in both the campaign and multiplayer modes. Yet, it's not all the way there.
There are still quite a few things that haven't been suitably developed, not to mention missing, namely from the Spec Ops mode. Plus, the promise of a Battle Pass is discouraging, and so is the potential for more in-game purchases. As long as those things are held back and the rollout of new maps and new Spec Ops missions are done in a proper way, then Call of Duty: Modern Warfare stands to be one of the better shooters this generation, though certainly not the best. Its fundamental gameplay, its graphics, and its daring new modes - like NVG - are quite promising... and entertaining, after all.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Screen Rant was provided with an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.