For Anyone Still Curious About Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (The Campaign)

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DISCLAIMER: Not caring that much about multiplayer shooters these days, I’m just talking about the campaign right now. Plus, I played this game on PC, and the PC multiplayer base for Call of Duty has been vanishing for years now, probably due to much more competition for multiplayer shooters existing on PC compared to consoles (Counter-Strike for instance).

I imagine since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered is still as of this writing only available as part of the $80 USD Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition a lot of people possibly interested in playing it haven’t hopped on yet. I got it as a gift some time ago and finally found the time to go through the campaign after also taking another run through the original 2007 version (in 4K, modern PCs can do that for games that old). Despite the visual overhaul Infinity Ward and Raven Software (and a few other teams I think) put into this remaster already having been apparent in pre-release videos, it was still surprising and dramatic enough to draw me back into the campaign just as much as I had been almost 10 years ago.

Modern Warfare Remastered is dope both because the original Call of Duty 4 is still dope and because it took the right balance between an extensive visual enhancement and faithfulness to the original game.

In case you still don’t understand just what was done here, it’s sort of like the difference between the NES versions of the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3, and the Super NES remakes of those games featured in Super Mario All-Stars. Or maybe more akin to what 343 Industries did with the anniversary editions of the first two Halo games. In all cases the graphics were brought forward an entire console generation while leaving the underlying game identical to the original version. MWR isn’t just set to a higher resolution like most other PS4 and Xbox One remasters of PS3 and Xbox 360 games, it looks like a PS4 or Xbox One game. IW and Raven did this while maintaining pretty much the exact same art direction as 10 years ago. Some scenes are lit differently due to advances in game lighting technology in the last decade, but the tone is completely faithful.

What actually surprised me the most was how extensively IW and Raven redid the audio in MWR. That might be the reason why the “game feel” in MWR feels a whole level above the original version — the guns sound and thus feel a lot more powerful. I think back in the day people had pointed out how weak COD’s guns sounded compared to those in contemporary competitors like Battlefield Bad Company 2. MWR covering that goes a long way in upgrading the overall experience.

And that’s kind of it I guess as far as upgrades to the singleplayer campaign go. I imagine it’s great if you play COD on consoles and don’t have your PS3 or 360 anymore.

On PC though I’ll add that I didn’t have that great an experience performance-wise. My GTX 1070 Windforce was able to stay above 60 frames per second at 1080p, but I had to do some serious grappling with vertical sync and frame rate limiters to make the experience as smooth as I could get it. The in-game vsync often dropped me into the 40’s so I deactivated it in favor of capping the framerate through RivaTuner. Of course that led to some pretty bad screen tearing which I was only able to mitigate with triple buffering in the Nvidia control panel. Still very playable, but honestly far from the performance the game should be showing. Maybe other people had a different experience though, PC is like that. Come to think of it though, I had a similar experience with the original version on PC. I actually don’t think I’ve ever used COD4’s in-game vsync.

And despite my feelings on that I do have to give MWR props for its extensive selection of graphics features. In particular I should applaud how it handles resolution scaling. Most new big PC games these days are letting players scale up from a resolution lower than their display’s native to improve performance, or scale down from a higher resolution for better image quality. The other ones I’ve seen do it though like DOOMGears of War 4, and Dishonored 2, just give you percentages of your current resolution. MWR lists percentages alongside whatever resolution that corresponds to. So now instead of just “200%” at the top end you see “200% (3840 x 2160).” Though MWR doesn’t seem to have a dynamic resolution feature.

And of course, MWR having left the original game’s missions and weapons completely untouched makes its still arguably the best COD campaign. Replaying the original and going through MWR revealed some real contrast between that 2007 game and everything that tried to hang onto its coat tails.

What if I told you COD4 wasn’t quite as ultra-linear and scripted as it’s seemingly made out to be? Linear shooters influenced by COD4 tend to want players to stick to an exact script: run here at this moment, shoot this guy with the sniper rifle at this moment, etc. The most egregious example possibly being the Battlefield 3 campaign which at one point just arbitrarily kills the player if they step out of line even a little. COD4 always implied this by displaying all the non-player characters performing scenes like a movie in front of players, but never directly tells you how much it will actually tolerate players breaking from that script.

I was surprised to see parts in probably almost every level where I could do something other than what the characters told me to do and still make it through an unplanned battle alive. This past week I ended up discovering what might qualify as alternate paths through missions for the first time. I bet most people don’t even realize you can go into the famous “All Ghillied Up” mission guns blazing and it still works.

What’s ultimately so amazing about COD4’s campaign is that it manages to get the feeling of a well-scripted rollercoaster without actually being fully on-rails, and it’s actually quite subtle about it. It’s a level of balance between player freedom and tight storylines I don’t think any linear military shooter has achieved since. This makes MWR stand out among even brand new shooters a decade later while not having the problem of aged graphics.

Still, I can’t really give a definitive opinion on whether this is worth $80 along with Infinite Warfare. Personally I like Infinite Warfare. This is coming from someone however who actually prefers the campaigns of Advanced Warfare and Ghosts over the Black Ops games, so take this as you will. I played through Infinite Warfare on PS4 last year and thought that while its missions are varied enough with some neat space and sci-fi-oriented surprises, it doesn’t bring THAT much new to the table outside the fully-realized space ship interior. Both games in this package are good-to-great if you ask me though.

BULLETS:

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