Everything You Need To Know About The New ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’
Activision’s plans for the 2019 Call of Duty game are now locked. Scheduled for an Oct. 25 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is set to take fans back to the start of one of the franchise’s most iconic trilogies, reimagining its inspiration from the ground up.
Prior to the announcement, Mashable visited developer Infinity Ward’s headquarters in Woodland Hills, California to get a sneak peek at the work-in-progress. Direct from our ears to your eyes (or as close to that as we could feasibly get), here’s everything we’ve been told about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare so far.
Players expecting a beat-by-beat remake of the original 2007 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare may be excited or disappointed to learn that the 2019 game will stray far from its source material. While Captain Price (with his impressive facial hair) and other personalities will return, the installment’s overarching narrative should be mostly, if not entirely, new.
Set across a number of European cities and parts of the Middle East, Modern Warfare 2019 aims to recenter the combat-driven franchise with what the developers describe as a more grounded and authentic experience, designed for play within a modern context. Of course, there will be multiplayer — and after that Black Ops IIII hiatus, the single-player campaign has returned.
Fans of the 2019 game’s namesake and its brutal depictions of war in the modern era might want to pay attention. Likening Modern Warfare‘s return-to-edgy approach to cinematic reboots like The Dark Knight and Casino Royale, campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff said the tone-shift away from futuristic battlefields will bring the franchise back to Earth, raising the stakes along with its believability.
“We took Modern Warfare and made it the most grounded and realistic thing we could,” said Minkoff. “Somehow, we needed to make something that felt as seminal and as paradigm shifting to gaming as Modern Warfare felt, with a new Modern Warfare twelve years later and without retreading any of the content.”
Bearing in mind that Infinity Ward only showed two fairly tame snippets of the campaign, how that game plan will manifest itself is anyone’s guess at this point. But considering how much the words “raw” and “gritty” were thrown around during our visit (definitely fewer than 100, but way more than 30), we’re betting Call of Duty is going all-in on a return to No Russian.
Those familiar with the controversial No Russian level in Modern Warfare 2 know that when Call of Duty decides to get provocative, it tends to go big. Arguably, too big.
Modern Warfare 2019 seems primed to possibly do the same, taking a “ripped from the headlines” approach that sets up its narrative to tackle the sensitive and current subject matter. Of course, we can’t be sure how that will play out since we’ve seen so little of the game, and none of what was shown seemed outrageously inflammatory.
The first preview is shown to press depicted a Spec Ops raid on a local townhouse harboring members of a terrorist group behind a recent attack in London. (To the best of our knowledge, we were not shown the entirety of the terror attack as it appears in-game, but we did see part of it for context. It was aggressive, but nothing stood out as particularly excessive or insensitive.)
The short sequence shown inside the house follows special forces stealthily moving room to room, taking out enemies one-by-one. It’s intense, intimate, and compelling, not to mention an excellent display of the game’s impressive technical features.
For the next demo, we watched a playthrough of a flashback level, chronicling the childhood of a future operator growing up in a war-torn country. Rushing home with her father after an attack by Russian subversives, the young girl witnesses the aftermath of the devastation. It’s brutal, but generally par for the Call of Duty course.
None of that was too over-the-top, or otherwise a call for alarm. But beyond those specific previews, we know much of the morally gray in-game plot points will center on power imbalances and misperception between Tier One operators and local guerilla combatants — a perfect breeding ground for potentially problematic missteps.
Emphasizing the old adage “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” and whipping out a diagram to demonstrate the realities of uneven combat, Minkoff and studio narrative director Taylor Kurosaki dangled the possibility of the ethical complexities their story could pose but did not dive into specifics.
“There are a lot of ways that [that approach] could go wrong, and there are a lot of ways that you could end up being disrespectful or handling the material in the wrong way,” Minkoff said, noting the sensitive nature of portraying terrorism specifically.
“Yes, it’s terrifying to touch those topics. But if you don’t, it feels inauthentic and disrespectful. It feels like you’re white-washing and making light of what war actually is. So, we just have to stand behind that and we have to go with it,” he continued.
“Across the board, as we decided to engage in any individual topics we got consultants who could speak to us as primary sources, and we always stepped back and said, ‘What is the genuine, authentic thing that we can stand behind?'”
In his opening remarks to press, creative director and co-Studio Head of Infinity Ward Patrick Kelly asserted that Modern Warfare would not be “two separate games,” emphasizing his hopes that the single-player and multiplayer camps that have emerged throughout the franchise’s history could come together as an integrated fanbase for the new installment.
Kelly promised a substantial amount of narrative overlap between gameplay types but declined to explain how that would be achieved specifically. But even outside of the narrative, Modern Warfare is aiming to unite its players.
Call of Duty is eliminating the traditional season pass so they can deliver freer, post-launch content and maps to players — a move that will definitely increase the overall accessibility of the game.
More importantly, there will be cross-play — a series first for Call of Duty. Here’s Infinity Ward’s official word:
“With the launch of Modern Warfare, the team is taking steps to unite the community. [T]he team plans for Modern Warfare to be played together across PC and console through cross-play support.”
First reaction: !!!! Second reaction: Hmmm… “plans.”
Unfortunately, specifics on Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer side are still under wraps, so we probably won’t get specifics on what they can and can’t make happen for you and your team as far as cross-play goes until June’s annual E3 trade show, at the earliest.
Its boundary-pushing storytelling, inventive multiplayer design, and immersive qualities were so effective and so compelling at the time of release that they formed a large part of the fundamental Call of Duty formula as we know it today — a tried-and-true recipe that has allowed for numerous successful releases in the past decade.
Across the industry, the 2007 Modern Warfare changed how many developers and players saw the limits of games, and paved the way for new experiences to be conceived of and created. It’s a landmark achievement in the medium and a memorable high point in the franchise’s history.
So yeah, everyone’s really hoping this “soft reboot” doesn’t screw that up.
At the beginning of the reveal session before even announcing the game’s title, Kelly turned to his room of spectators and asked that everyone simply “judge it for what it is.”
Whether that was an effort to distance this newly imagined chapter from the rest of the series’ bumpy track record or an earnest plea for honest feedback, it’s clear that the pressure put on this release is greatly increased by the meaning and standards of its 2007 inspiration.
But if this is Modern Warfare, then it has to be the 2019 kind of modern. Ready or not, a new take on a genre classic is overdue and headed our way this October.