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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019 video game)

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
CallofDutyModernWarfare(2019).jpg
Cover art, featuring Captain Price
Developer(s)Infinity Ward[a]
Publisher(s)Activision
Writer(s)Brian Bloom
Justin Harris
Taylor Kurosaki
Ben Chaney
Composer(s)Sarah Schachner
SeriesCall of Duty
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
ReleaseOctober 25, 2019
Genre(s)First-person shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a first-person shooter video game developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. Serving as the sixteenth overall installment in the Call of Duty series, as well as a reboot of the Modern Warfare sub-series,[1][2][3] it was released on October 25, 2019, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

The game takes place in a realistic and modern setting. The campaign follows a CIA officer and British SAS forces as they team up with rebels from the fictional country of Urzikstan, combating together against Russian forces who have invaded the country. The game's Special Ops mode features cooperative play missions that follow up the campaign's story. The multiplayer mode supports cross-platform multiplayer for the first time in the series. It has been reworked for gameplay to be more tactical and introduces new features, such as a Realism mode that removes the HUD as well as a form of the Ground War mode that now supports 64 players.

Infinity Ward began working on the game soon after the release of their 2016 title Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. They introduced an entirely new engine for the game, which allows for new performance enhancements such as more detailed environments and ray tracing capabilities. For the campaign, they took influence from real-life conflicts, such as the Syrian Civil War and terrorist incidents that have occurred in London. For the multiplayer, they scrapped the franchise's traditional season pass and removed loot boxes, enabling them to distribute free post-launch content to the playerbase.[4]

The game received a mixed pre-release reception for its mature subject matter, but was released to positive reviews. Praise was directed towards the gameplay, story, multiplayer, and graphics, with some criticism being aimed at the handling of the campaign's subject matter as well as balancing issues in the multiplayer. In addition, there was controversy regarding the single-player campaign's depiction of the Russian military.

Gameplay

Modern Warfare's single-player campaign focuses on realism and feature tactically-based moral choices whereupon the player is evaluated and assigned a score at the end of each level; players have to quickly ascertain whether NPCs are a threat or not, such as a civilian woman who is believed to be reaching for a gun, but then simply grabs her baby from a crib. This collateral damage score, referred to as a threat assessment, is based on how many civilians the player injures or kills and ranges from rank A to F. Rewards are introduced to those who score higher.[5] Character dialogue will differ depending on the choices the player makes in the game.[6] Tactical decisions are also included, such as the player using a sniper rifle in a large environment to approach objectives in a non-linear order, and choosing to shoot out lights in favor of using night-vision goggles during breaching and clearing.[5]

The game's multiplayer has been revised to allow for more tactical gameplay, including a focus on map exploration, door breaching, and a "Realism" mode that removes the HUD. The mini-map was originally removed in favor of a compass-style marker, with visual cues to detect friendlies and opponents. Following feedback from the multiplayer beta test, Infinity Ward re-implemented the mini-map but removed the appearance of red dots representing enemy players (except for when the UAV killstreak is used). Multiplayer also features the return of Killstreaks (rewards based on kills), with more recent Call of Duty titles having used Scorestreaks (rewards based on score) instead. Killstreaks can, however, be converted into Scorestreaks with the use of an in-game perk called "Pointman". The online modes allow for a larger range of players within a map than previous installments, with a new mode called "Ground War" featuring over 100 players,[7][8][9] while conversely another new mode, "Gunfight", tasks two teams of two players against each other in small matches lasting forty seconds per round.[10] The game includes an extensive weapons customization system, presenting most guns with a range of up to 60 attachments to choose from (five of which can be equipped at any one time).[11] The introduction at the start of multiplayer matches has also been revamped; while in previous titles players would remain motionless on the map as a timer would countdown to zero, players will instead be transported into the battle zone as part of various animations.[8]

Modern Warfare is the first game in the series since 2013's Call of Duty: Ghosts not to feature a Zombies mode,[12] instead featuring the cooperative "Special Ops" mode previously present in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.[13] Spec Ops shares its narrative with both the campaign and multiplayer.[14] It includes a "Survival" mode, which is a timed exclusive to the PlayStation 4 release until October 2020.[15] At launch, Special Ops features four Operations, which are multi-objective missions that take place in a large open map requiring mandatory 4-player cooperation; and Classic Special Ops, which features Safeguard, a survival-like mode returning from Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Plot

Campaign

In 2019, during a covert operation to recover shipments of dangerous chemical gas headed for Urzikstan, CIA SAC officer “Alex” (Chad Michael Collins) is intercepted by unknown hostiles who kill the Marine Raiders accompanying him, and escape with the gas. Alex's handler, Station Chief Kate Laswell (Rya Kihlstedt), requests the assistance of SAS Captain John Price (Barry Sloane) in recovering the chemicals and de-escalating the situation with Russia. Twenty-four hours later, a group of suicide bombers, affiliated with the terrorist organization Al-Qatala, attack Piccadilly Circus in London. SAS Sergeant Kyle Garrick (Elliot Knight) is dispatched to contain the situation with the assistance of Price and local police forces. Afterwards, Alex is sent to Urzikstan to meet up with rebel leader Farah Karim (Claudia Doumit), who agrees to join forces in tracking down the chemicals, in exchange for his aid in overthrowing Russian forces led by General Roman Barkov (Konstantin Lavysh).

SAS forces led by Price and Garrick raid an Al-Qatala-occupied townhouse, where they learn the location of their leader, Omar "The Wolf" Sulaman (Joel Swetow). Alex, accompanied by Sgt. Griggs’s squad of Marines, move on Ramaza Hospital in Urzikstan and capture the Wolf. Later, the Wolf's right-hand man, Jamal "The Butcher" Rahar (Nick E. Tarabay), launches an attack on the United States Embassy in Urzikstan in an attempt to free the Wolf. Price, Garrick, Alex, Farah and the embassy's defense forces work together to secure the Wolf, but ultimately fail. Farah later comes up with a plan to ambush the Wolf's men in the "Highway of Death" in Urzikstan. Her plan goes awry when Barkov's men attack both the rebel forces and Al-Qatala militants. Farah's brother and second in command, Hadir (Aidan Bristow) is revealed to be the thief who stole the chemical shipment; in an attempt to drive off the hostile forces, Hadir sets off the chemicals in the area, killing all of Barkov's men and Al-Qatala forces, with Farah and Alex narrowly escaping death.

In a flashback to 1999, a young Farah (Sophia Coto) and young Hadir (Roman Coto) were left orphaned when their parents died during Barkov's invasion of Urzikstan. The two attempted to escape the country, but were captured by Barkov himself and imprisoned. In the following years, Farah rose to become "Commander Karim" of the rebel forces. Following another capture in 2009, Farah staged a breakout from Barkov's prison camp, and managed to release Hadir and their rebel brethren with the help of a young Price. Back in the present day, Hadir has seemingly joined forces with Al-Qatala, forcing Farah and Price's team to make a move. They infiltrate the Wolf's hidden base and manage to kill him, though Hadir is nowhere in sight. With the gas still at large, the United States Government declares Farah's liberation army a foreign terrorist threat. Alex, frustrated with the decision and Laswell's inability to help, decides to stay in Urzikstan as part of Farah's army.

Following intel on a possible attack in Russia orchestrated by Hadir, Price and Garrick head to St. Petersburg and meet up with one of Price's old contacts, Nikolai (Stefan Kapičić). They manage to intercept an Al-Qatala meeting and apprehend the Butcher. As the Butcher refuses to give in to interrogation, Price resorts to using his wife and son, forcing him to comply. Garrick is given the choice to either execute the Butcher or let him live. They learn that Hadir plans to attack Barkov at his estate in Moldova, and proceed to intercept him. At the estate, the two learn from Hadir of the location of Barkov's gas factory, and narrowly escape. However, Laswell arrives, informing Price that Russia demands Hadir be handed over to them. Price begrudgingly complies, on the condition that they keep the intel on the gas factory. Price and Garrick meet up with Farah and Alex at Urzikstan, then plan their attack on the factory. Alongside assistance from Laswell, the team advances on the factory, and attempts to use explosives provided by Nikolai to demolish the facility. However, the detonator is damaged and rendered useless when Alex attempts to fight off a heavily armored Spetsnaz soldier. Alex volunteers to set up the explosives manually, sacrificing his own life. As Barkov attempts to escape the facility by helicopter, Farah ambushes and kills him. Farah's forces and Price's team evacuate as the factory is destroyed.

With Barkov dead and disowned by Russia, Price meets with Laswell to discuss the formation of Task Force 141 in preparation against the Russian terrorist Victor Zakhaev. Laswell gives Price files given to her by General Shepard of potential recruits. Price starts with Garrick, John "Soap" MacTavish, and Simon "Ghost" Riley.

Special Ops

Following the death of the Wolf, Al-Qatala re-emerges with a new leader, who poses a dangerous threat to Russian forces in Verdansk. Laswell, alongside Sergeant Kamarov (Gene Farber) of the FSB, authorizes a joint operation, enlisting many of the world's best operators in fighting against the new unidentified threat. The joint faction, named the Armistice, takes on various Al-Qatala operations in Verdansk. Following the first four operations, the Armistice learns that Al-Qatala has been dealing in arms trade with Mr. Z (heavily implied to be Imran Zakhaev), and their new leader is identified as "Khaled Al-Asad".

Development

Promotional booth at Gamescom 2019

The game was developed by Infinity Ward, following their 2016 entry Infinite Warfare, and continuing in the "three year development cycle" tradition for the franchise.[16] High Moon Studios, Beenox, Raven Software, and Sledgehammer Games all provided additional development.[17] The game uses a brand-new engine for the series, allowing for the use of more detailed environments, advanced photogrammetry and rendering, better volumetric lighting, and the use of ray tracing.[18][19] The new engine had been in development five years prior to the release of the game, and was a collaborative effort between the main Infinity Ward studio in California and the new studio in Poland.[20] On May 30, the game's official trailer and release date were unveiled.[21] According to narrative director Taylor Kurosaki, Captain Price will be featured in a retconned narrative "where the events in the previous Modern Warfare timeline have not occurred."[21]

Studio art director Joel Emslie described the game's narrative as "much more grown-up [and] mature", designed to elicit a more intimate and emotional response from players through a depiction of conflict based on contemporary events (such as terror attacks in London and the Syrian Civil War) rather than the original trilogy's reliance on bombastic set pieces. Campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff expressed his desire for video games to go further in exploring otherwise traditionally taboo topics in the medium, noting that television series and films such as Homeland, American Sniper, and Sicario told "relatable, realistic, relevant, and provocative stories that really touch people." In avoiding telling such stories insensitively, consultants were brought in from multiple cultures; for example, conflict related to the Middle East in the game is located in the fictional country Urzikstan rather than based on any specific real-life location.[b] Half of the game has been described as having morally complex choices, and the narrative has resulted in making several playtesters cry.[5]

Some controversial aspects of the game were removed prior to its release as the developers were unsure of how much potential emotional discomfort they wanted to effect; this included a line in which a Russian soldier ponders handing over a captured girl to his commanding officer, implying pedophilia.[24]

Reception

Pre-release

Following previews at E3 2019, the game was subject to some controversy in response to it tackling realistic and mature subject matter, such as presenting child soldiers and the ability to shoot civilians (including infants).[6][24][25] Escapist Magazine's Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw described the gameplay demonstration as "fifteen minutes of cold intense ruthless killing"[26] and IGN felt it was the most divisive game of the event.[27]

Other critics also gave mixed opinions. Recalling the past successes of video games as a medium to provide social commentary on war and conflict, such as Spec Ops: The Line, This War of Mine, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Emma Kent of Eurogamer criticized a level in which the player controls a child soldier, which she felt inappropriately merged sensitive subject matter and over-dramatized violence into a boss fight, creating "a Frankensteinian, dissonant mess." Kent described another level involving a stealth operation inside a building as having a "heavy-handed" emphasis on avoiding civilian collateral damage, although praised it as "a good exploration of the way terrorists are embedded within civilian communities."[28] Cade Onder of GameZone similarly commented on the civilian collateral damage and child soldier level, opining that the former lacked tension because there was only one civilian present, thereby only granting the illusion of choice, and the latter turning "an otherwise very real and grounded moment [...] into a very video game-y moment." Also comparing it to Spec Ops: The Line, Onder reflected on whether killing too many civilians would merely result in a game over, causing ludonarrative dissonance, and how the linearity of the game may prevent it from reaching its narrative ambitions.[29]

The game's multiplayer beta in September 2019 was withdrawn for unknown reasons from the PlayStation Store in Russia. A prominent theory posits that this is because the Russian media had been critical of the game's campaign's reportedly favorable portrayal of the White Helmets, a volunteer organisation that operates in parts of opposition-controlled and Turkish-occupied Syria.[30] In October 2019, Sony announced that Modern Warfare would not be sold on the PlayStation Store in Russia.[31]

Post-release

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic82/100 (XONE)[32]
81/100 (PS4)[33]
81/100 (PC)[34]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Game Informer8.75/10[35]
GameSpot7/10[36]
GamesRadar+4/5 stars[37]
Giant Bomb4/5 stars[38]
Hardcore Gamer4.5/5[39]
IGN8/10[40]
USgamer3/5[41]

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare received "generally favorable reviews" on all platforms according to review aggregator site Metacritic.[33][32][34] The game was praised for its gameplay, story (being considered by critics as one of the best in the franchise), multiplayer, graphics, and overall improvements to the Call of Duty formula, though the campaign received some criticism for aspects in the handling of its subject matter, as well as minor balancing issues with some of the online modes.[42][43][44]

Sales

Modern Warfare earned over $600 million within its first three days of release, making it the highest-selling game in the franchise during the current console generation and breaking several sales records, including the best digital opening in Activision's history, the most digital copies sold for a game in three days on PlayStation 4, and the best Call of Duty launch on PC.[45][46] In Japan, it was released in the top 20 video games chart with 117,670 copies sold in the first week.[47]

Awards

Year Award Category Result Ref
2019 Game Critics Awards Best Action Game Nominated [48]
Best Online Multiplayer Won
Golden Joystick Awards Ultimate Game of the Year Nominated [49]
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Original Score - Video Game Won [50][51]
Titanium Awards Best Action Game Pending [52]
The Game Awards 2019 Best Audio Design Pending [53]
Best Action Game Pending
Best Multiplayer Game Pending

Controversies

Inclusion of white phosphorus

The game has been criticized for its inclusion of white phosphorus strikes as a gameplay mechanic in the multiplayer.[54][55] Use of white phosphorus as an incendiary agent is regulated by international law: the provisions of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, specifically the Protocol on Incendiary Weapons, prohibit the use of incendiary weapons against or near civilian areas.

In a statement to IGN, former U.S. Marine John Phipps criticized the game for failing to realistically portray the effects of the substance, saying "I find Modern Warfare's use as a killstreak reward a nearsighted glorification of what myself and others consider to be a violation of the laws of armed conflict. Contrary to their overall goals towards realism in its campaign, the multiplayer mode in CoD doesn't depict the effect White Phosphorus (WP) has on the human body in any kind of realistic way. I don't object to things like WP being examined in games, so long as we depict them as they truly are".[56] In her review of the game, Kallie Plagge of GameSpot made note of the inclusion of white phosphorus as a killstreak reward in multiplayer and included it in her list of the game's negative aspects, adding that it "goes against everything the campaign stands for".[36]

Depiction of Russians

The game's user score on Metacritic became the subject of review bombing by those who were angered by the campaign's depiction of the Russian military and accused developers Infinity Ward of being Russophobic. The user score for the PlayStation 4 version dropped to 3.0/10,[57][33] while the user score for the Windows version dropped to 2.4/10.[58][34] Sony Interactive Entertainment decided not to sell the game on the PlayStation Store in Russia.[59]

Primary criticism by the users focused on a certain level in the single-player campaign, in which it is revealed that Russian forces previously carried out an attack on an area dubbed the "highway of death", killing many civilians who had been departing a town that was under siege. The real-life Highway of Death is a highway located between Kuwait and Iraq that suffered devastation as a result of an attack led by American forces during the Gulf War in 1991.[60] Consequently, many users felt that Infinity Ward were attempting to rewrite historical events by shifting blame for the attack to Russia. Infinity Ward had previously stated that Modern Warfare's campaign was a work of fiction.[58] In addition, they related it to how in the game's cooperative Special Ops mode, which acts as a sequel to the campaign's story, the playable character and their group eventually ally with Russian forces for one of the missions.[58]

Additional complaints targeted a flashback level in the campaign which saw Farah Karim, one of the protagonists, inspired by female Kurdish fighters who battled Islamic State in northern Syria,[61] have her home invaded by a Russian soldier when she was a child, with her subsequently disarming and killing the soldier. The level's display at E3 2019 drew particular criticism from Polygon's Charlie Hall, who retrospectively labelled the Russian killed as a "grotesque caricature". Infinity Ward studio art director Joel Emslie took blame for the character's appearance, stating that "what I was going for artistically was [...] we’re always trying to work for a cinematic experience. I'm trying to create something really memorable. And I kept thinking, metaphorically, these children are being chased by a monster in a maze, and I kept thinking a Minotaur. It’s ridiculous — but he's almost robotic".[58]

Notes and references

Notes
  1. ^ Additional work by High Moon Studios, Beenox, Raven Software, and Sledgehammer Games
  2. ^ The game depicts several locations, including Urzikstan, a fictional country that draws similarities to Chechnya, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.[22] Furthermore, Georgia and Moldova have also featured in the game.[23]
References
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  3. ^ Phillips, Tom (May 24, 2019). "This year's Call of Duty is called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare". Eurogamer. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
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External links