June 20, 2019 by Paul Curtin
This year’s behind-closed-doors demo of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare at E3 was shocking to say the least. After last year’s Black Ops 4 was the first in the franchise to not have a singleplayer campaign, we weren’t expecting gameplay for the reboot to be so different… and we were shocked, not so much by the controversial narrative, but more so just by how good everything looks.
Although Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare remake is bringing back familiar faces like Captain Price, the latest installment in the annual franchise isn’t just a remaster with upgraded visuals for current-gen consoles. It’s an entirely new game and from what we’ve seen so far almost doesn’t feel like a Call of Duty game at all.
Modern Warfare seems to be going back to its roots with a much slower pace that you would find in more tactical games like Rainbow Six and taking inspiration from more mature war films like Zero Dark Thirty. As hard as is it to believe, at times, there’s even a bit of an eerie Silent Hills/Resident Evil 7 vibe while in first-person and slowly opening doors in complete darkness with no idea what could be lurking on the other side.
Now featuring ray tracing, improved shading, HDR, and many more technical upgrades, this year’s new CoD might have finally caught back up to the rest of the industry in terms of visuals. Just like the very first Modern Warfare that was one of the best-looking games at the time, MW’s fluid first-person action sequences looked better than any other shooter we saw at this year’s E3.
In the demo we saw, a team of Tier 1 Ops worked their way up a four-story London townhouse filled with suspected terrorists. Rather than racing through the level killing hundreds of bad guys in completely forgettable shootouts (a format that has given most gamers CoD fatigue), the operatives took their time methodically moving through the house and eliminating foes one-by-one.
While there wasn’t as much shooting as other popular FPS games, each shootout felt more meaningful where as the player you need to make every bullet count. By taking breaks between each enemy encounter, when the shit did hit the fan, it created a much more hectic situation. Each gun shot had more impact, ripping through walls, destroying the environment around the player, and creating a new sense of fear that even just one stray bullet could result in the death of the player at any time.
Unlike the more open spaces in previous Call of Duty games, Infinity Ward has brilliantly reduced the scale of everything to create a realistic and claustrophobic feel — just like you would experience as a decked-out soldier trying to squeeze through a tiny British flat. The developers have even cleverly positioned the team of friendly NPC Ops around the player to help dictate the slower pacing and prevent players from sprinting ahead or running away during critical heart-pounding moments.
Similar to Naughty Dog’s show-stealing first-look at The Last of Us’ gameplay back at E3 2012, each enemy encounter during Modern Warfare’s demo felt unique – which isn’t just a coincidence — because Infinity Ward has enlisted some ex-Naughty Dog employees who are now working on the new MW campaign.
With all the gameplay upgrades, the enemy A.I. was probably the most impressive part of the entire demo. Peaking around corners and running away when realizing they’re outnumbered, shooting through walls, hiding under beds, taking cover behind furniture, and even taking their own allies as human shields, everything looked so good that’s it hard to believe the enemy A.I.’s movements weren’t pre-rendered.
But not everyone in the townhouse was a terrorist trying to kill the Ops and Infinity Ward teased that it will be up to the player to decide how they deal with each person who might just be stuck in the crossfire – creating a moral dilemma for the player that will likely create controversy in the news just as the series first did with the infamous No Russian level back in 2009’s MW2.
At one point in the demo, a woman runs towards a crib in the house where she grabs a baby and the Ops make the quick decision to take her into custody. A similar encounter plays out later in the demo with a woman running towards something else in the dark. In the moment, it’s not clear exactly what she’s doing, leading to the player taking the shot in the demo we saw and executing the woman.
At the very end, it’s revealed that the Ops made the right decision as she was trying to grab some sort of detonation device that was placed alongside plans detailing another terrorist attack. What happens if you don’t shoot the woman? We don’t know, and unfortunately, the devs wouldn’t go into detail behind-closed-doors.
Based on everything we saw, there’s no question that Infinity Ward is looking to manipulate players’ emotions here. Typically, behind-closed-doors at E3, the devs will actually play the game in their demo room to confirm everything you’re seeing is real. But the “demo” we saw this year was a pre-recorded video to ensure nothing went wrong and no moment was missed.
The developers teased that players will have the freedom to deal with each terrorist encounter however they want, but didn’t go into detail on what exactly happens when the player makes the “wrong” choice. With Infinity Ward shooting for the moral gray area here, hopefully the campaign allows for both good and bad choices to be made and forces the player to live with the consequences of their actions just as soldiers must do every day in real life.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is set for release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 25, 2019.