Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Release date: October 25, 2019, on PS4, Xbox One and PC
Rather than continue the franchise’s escalation into science fiction (see: Advanced Warfare and Infinite Warfare), the story leads at Infinity Ward wanted to bring things back to the here and now, rooting the game more in the wrenching decisions made by soldiers in modern-day armed conflict than in spiffy, super-futuristic weaponry. In their minds, the definition of “modern warfare” has changed significantly since the series was first introduced in 2007. Back then, the geopolitical concept still centered around nation states slamming armies into one another, invading other countries and engaging in a global conflict that culminated in “Modern Warfare 3.”
In the time since, the real world has changed, with rogue elements like terrorist networks, ISIS or separatist movements inciting most of the armed conflicts of this era, fighting battles in a more guerrilla fashion than what we saw in a war like Desert Storm. Now, countries like the United States rely more on Special Forces conducting strategic actions than a full-scale mobilization of the U.S. military.
The result for Modern Warfare, according to Infinity Ward Studio Narrative Director Taylor Kurosaki, will be a gritty look at the gray area Special Forces units must operate in to fulfill their missions.
And that brings us to our protagonist for Modern Warfare ...
The mainstay from all three previous Modern Warfare titles will play a role in this one, as well. Based on comments by Kurosaki, however, this will not be the same Captain Price from the series but, rather, a retconned version where the events in the previous Modern Warfare timeline have not occurred.
“Like ‘Casino Royale’ or ‘Batman Begins’, this is a more mature reimagining of Modern Warfare set in today’s world,” Infinity Ward Campaign Gameplay Director, Jacob Minkoff said. "Characters from the original trilogy, Capt. Price for example, will face a more complex, realistic and morally gray world where lines between enemy, ally, and innocent are not clearly drawn.”
It’s unclear if we’ll also get to see a return/resurrection of Soap, Ghost, Roach and other Modern Warfare favorites, but the trailer ends with a tease of Price saying his team consists of “some old comrades.”
We will get an introduction to a group of freedom fighters based off the Kurdish YPJ, otherwise known as the Women’s Defense Unit, a real-world group of female soldiers fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The setting for these characters will be a series of engagements across Europe and “volatile expanses of Middle East."
Your decisions in the campaign will have consequences
While all players will experience the same major plot points, Minkoff says actions in specific missions will have consequences.
“Players’ choices will affect the events of each mission, and allies will branch their reactions accordingly,” he says. “We believe that player agency is extremely important on a tactical and strategic, moment-to-moment gameplay basis, but traditional linear storytelling is still the most powerful driver of emotion.”
Players of recent Call of Duty titles know well that the game has traditionally augmented the maps and content of the initial release with multiple downloadable add-ons over the course of the following year. Those add-ons all cost extra, with Activision traditionally offering a season pass for about $40 to get all of the updates when they landed. According to the fact sheet for Modern Warfare, that’s going away and anyone who purchases Modern Warfare will get the updates without an additional purchase.
An Activision spokesman declined to comment on whether that would lead to a price increase for the initial release, which has usually priced out around $60.
Per an Activision release, Modern Warfare will feature crossplay between PC and consoles. While that should be a good thing in terms of reducing wait times for matchmaking, it may also raise issues for players using a controller taking on an adversary using a (usually) faster and more accurate keyboard-and-mouse approach.
There’s no battle royal mode (that we know of)
According to details provided by Activision, the game features a campaign (which was lacking from last year’s release, Black Ops 4), multiplayer and a co-op mode. It does not list a battle royal option. An Activision spokesman declined to comment when asked to confirm there would not be a battle royal.
Blackout’s future is a little unclear
The spokesman likewise declined to comment about whether Activision would continue to support Black Ops 4′s battle royal mode, Blackout, with new content.
It could just be that Activision doesn’t want to take focus away from the Modern Warfare reveal, and given a solid player base and the potential revenue around in-game purchases, it seems unlikely the company will just drop the mode altogether. It is a question worth asking though, given that Black Ops 4 developer Treyarch is now tasked with the 2020 installment of Call of Duty.
There’s a new game engine
Activision is touting a brand-new engine for Modern Warfare, promising a “photo-realistic” experience. From the fact sheet:
The new technology utilizes the latest advancements in visual engineering, including a physically-based material system allowing for state-of-the-art photogrammetry, a new hybrid tile based streaming system, new PBR decal rendering system, world volumetric lighting, 4K HDR, DirectX Raytracing (PC) and more, as well as a new GPU geometry pipeline. Spectral rendering delivers thermal heat radiation and infrared identification for both thermal and night-vision in-game imaging.Activision
Campaign XP will count toward player progression in all modes
The game promises “a unified narrative experience and progression across campaign, multiplayer and co-op.” On one hand, Kurosaki says this means the aesthetic and “fiction of the game world” will translate across modes and that “all are set in a realistic, believable universe that closely mimics how the real world works, in 2019.”
Perhaps more interesting is that experience points earned in campaign missions will help players level up faster in other modes of the game.
It’s pretty clear that Infinity Ward is emphasizing the storytelling aspect of Modern Warfare, and rewarding players for time spent playing the campaign is a good way to incentivize those who spend the vast majority of their time in multiplayer modes to not overlook the story.
There’s still much to learn about Modern Warfare, with Activision declining to answer additional questions about pricing, whether PlayStation owners will get early access to new content — as they have in the past — or if there will be any kind of in-game purchases for items like new skins and weapons.
More details should filter out at E3, where Activision will hold a panel discussion with Infinity Ward at 3 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, June 11. The game is not expected to have a presence on the showroom floor, however.