It really has been a while since I played a Call of Duty game. While keeping up with them for a while, the relentless grind of an annual franchise ended up becoming detriment to my enjoyment of it. Which is rich coming from someone who plays as much Destiny as I do, the irony is not lost on me.
But it wasn’t just me that felt like they were getting burned out on the constant iteration of the franchise. It seemed like it was grating on the development teams too, given the gradual decay of the quality of the games over the years. This year though, for reasons compleatly beyond me, I decided to make my return to the franchise and see what it’d been up to in the eight years since I decided to walk away from it.
My burnout on the Call of Duty might have been a problem of my own creation. I personally discovered the franchise in 2009 with Modern Warfare 2. I enjoyed the hell out of both the campaign, for its highly curated, cinematic feel and the multiplayer for its fast paced, nonsense fun.
Of course I found myself rushing back to pick up the first Modern Warfare and World at War almost simultaneously. Playing so much in so little time might have been the reason why I only made it two more games into the franchise before falling off pretty much completely with Modern Warfare 3. Although that game in itself might have contributed a little.
Those five games in three years (including the first Black Ops) both drew me in and then drove me away from the Call of Duty franchise in a relatively short span of time, as well as creating my apprehension when it came to annualised franchise releases from that point onward. It’s been eight years of ups and downs for Activision and their Call of Duty franchise. For the most part, I was happy to stay away, finding my fix for these styles of shooters elsewhere.
Like Ex-Call of Duty developer’s Titanfall series for example, or Apex Legends that followed that. For some reason though, the new Call of Duty just made me want to pick it up. It might be my reverence for the first two games to have this title, or the setting itself. But I ended up being the extra premium video game price reserved for this and Fifa every year to dive back into the series.
Much to my shock, all those reasons I enjoyed the first couple of Modern Warfare’s so much came flooding back.
I think a modern, current day military setting might be my favourite setting for this franchise. There are so many games injecting science fiction into their first person shooters already, that seeing a game double down on “realism”, as real as these games can be, is refreshing. Talking the inevitable drama and controversy that comes from any game that mirrors real world events out of the equation.
The thing I’ve always appreciated about the Call of Duty games is how curated their campaigns end up being. While there are so many other first person shooters out there that pride themselves on the amount of moving parts they have, and how they bang them all together with only minimal jank and immersion breaking hitches, the Call of Duty campaigns have always been great a telling a very linear story.
The game constantly transitions between action and cut scene at a lightning fast pace, making the games feel incredibly cinematic. While the actual contents of the story often gets lost in the mix of it all, the shock, the grittiness and the drama of what is unfolding in front of can’t help but grab your attention.
And this new Modern Warfare is a perfect example of this. Switching between multiple characters and never really having the player do the same thing twice. Modern Warfare has open military conflicts, enclosed breaching scenarios, sniping missions, open ended stealth operations and vehicle segments too.
For all the complaining I’ve done about how Call of Duty could feel overly iterative at times, it’s rare that this game has you doing the same thing more than once. If there is one thing the series has always excelled at, it’s making their campaign levels feel larger and more open than they really ever are.
The gameplay is so fast paced and frantic that you never really notice how bottlenecked your progression actually is. The developers manage to keep you away from the edges in perfect ways to keep the action and story beats right in front of you, while also giving clever context clues to let the player know where to go during the less shooty sections. Making the world seem far more open than it actually is.
I have been playing the multiplayer as well, but I’m so deep in first person shooters right now, I’m not sure if it’ll keep my attention anywhere near as long as Modern Warfare 2 did back in the day. Although, I already seem to be falling into the very same trap that I did back in 2009.
After finishing Modern Warfare, I went out and picked up a second hand copy of Infinite Warfare, which I also heard had a good campaign, which just so happened to come bundled with a copy of the first Modern Warfare remake. I very well might find myself in the same situation I did last time round and end up burning myself out on Call of Duty for the better part of another decade.
But I’ll just have to keep my eyes open. The console shooter environment feels more crowded than it ever has before, primarily thanks to Call of Duty reinventing it back with the first Modern Warfare, and how PUBG and Fortnite have since.
This game was a nice and welcome throwback for me personally. I’m not going to make any grand statements about the franchise being able to reach the peaks that it did a decade ago, but for just this year, it it was nice to remind myself of why I liked these games so much back in the day.