Rarely does one game have such an impact that an entire genre is changed forever, but that’s exactly the case with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The game was revolutionary on a number of fronts; from its progression-based multiplayer and perks system that has been copied by almost every other shooter since to its amazing campaign that felt like an interactive action film, every section was unbelievably polished. It set a new standard for the genre, and while other shooters have surpassed it in quality, no other FPS has had the impact that Modern Warfare had on the entire gaming industry.
That’s exactly why Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is such a big deal. This isn’t a remastering of just a good shooter, it’s a remastering of the shooter. It’s the game that made Call of Duty the biggest franchise in gaming, and it’s why the series is still at the top of the charts almost a decade later. Few games have this sort of historical value, and even fewer have been released this recently.
Thankfully, after spending plenty of time with Modern Warfare Remastered‘s campaign, and failing repeatedly at getting the Mile High Club trophy, I can confidently say that Raven Software has knocked it out of the park. They had the tough job of updating a masterpiece while not changing what it’s at its core, and they found just the right mix to make it seem like the version of Modern Warfare that was always meant to be played.
The first thing I noticed upon starting up Modern Warfare was how gorgeous it looked. This isn’t a simple remaster by any means, as Raven Software has completely rebuilt the graphics. Despite this, they’ve stayed so faithful to the core vision that I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking minimal work had been done since it really does look how one would remember it through rose-tinted glasses. It’s not until you really look at the amount of detail though that’s been added to the world, be it cola machines or signs, that you realize how much has been changed. Looking at comparison screenshots will demonstrate a night and day difference, even if the amount of work might not be appreciated at first.
The new coat of paint may grab the player’s attention, but it’s the gameplay that really shines here. The shooting still feels as satisfying as ever, which speaks both to the general stagnation of the genre after the massive leap forward that Modern Warfare provided and how masterfully Infinity Ward’s design has held up over time. However, what really sticks out is the level design, as the campaign really shows just how lackluster recent titles like Black Ops 3 have been in that particular area.
Every single mission in Modern Warfare is a memorable one. From the opening mission on a ship to the epic finale on the highway, there’s not a single moment of fluff in the campaign. Even if the story isn’t much more than a showcase of how much of a badass Captain Price is (I can’t remember the last time a Call of Duty character had a name worth remembering), every mission drives the story forward and has a purpose. In fact, it’s so memorable that it was almost disturbing how many set pieces I could recall when I haven’t played the game in well over five years, and how many hidden laptops I knew the exact location of on my first run through a mission.
While it speaks volumes that the core gameplay still feels great, this is still a shooter developed in 2007. Since Raven Software made the (correct) choice to stay faithful to the original gameplay, that means no sliding, map (instead the compass guides the player), or any of the additions that players have gotten used to due to modern shooters. While some will probably be turned off by the simplicity found in Modern Warfare Remastered, I instead found it absolutely refreshing.
It’s a showcase that great design holds up over time, and that a shooter can still be enjoyable without crazy future weaponry or jetpacks (although, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with jetpacks). Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had excelled at the fundamentals, and that’s why it’s still so satisfying to play nine years later. I would’ve never had guessed that simply hiding behind cover and aiming down the sights could still be this much fun.
Beyond the campaign, the multiplayer also makes its triumphant return. At launch there are 10 maps, including personal favorites of mine Downpour and Shipment. A few notable ones are missing at the moment, such as Wet Work, but they’re thankfully coming next month. As far as gameplay is concerned, this is still very much Modern Warfare, and the multiplayer that captivated millions of gamers last generation is still intact. Levelling up is still satisfying, and there aren’t any complicated in-game currencies to get in the way of just pure fun.
All of the memorable modes (such as Search and Destroy and Kill Confirmed) are back as well and I had a great time in each one of them. This is mostly due to the fantastic level layouts, as I had a lot more fun here than I did jump boosting into invisible walls in Infinite Warfare and Black Ops III. While Remastered is a look at the past, it should still be used as a design lesson for modern developers. Nothing in the multiplayer needs to be too crazy, just focus on solid design and players will find ways to have a blast.
While returning gamers will get the most out of this remaster, newcomers should have an incredible time as well. It isn’t due to nostalgia, although that certainly doesn’t hurt, it’s because Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is still a great first-person shooter. Sure, it’s simpler than Infinite Warfare and the rest of its current competition, but that’s also why it feels so refreshing, even despite being nine years old.
This review is based on the PS4 version, which we were provided with.
Raven Software has set a high bar here. Not only is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered faithful to the original, but it gives it a fresh coat of paint that makes it look just as good as any modern PS4 game.