It’s been a long while since we’ve had a Call of Duty title that doesn’t involve jet thrusting yourself through windows and above people’s heads. Boots on the ground gameplay is what seemingly the majority of CoD’s fan-base has been clamouring for. And whilst it’s not a ‘new’ release per se, that’s what we’ve got.
Modern Warfare Remastered has been created from the ground up with nothing other than fan service at the forefront of development. The goal of recreating the original’s gameplay in every sense is admirable, especially when it’s regarding one of gaming’s most influential and successful shooters. Getting it wrong would’ve resulted in a torrent of backlash from the community and inevitably tarnished Raven Software’s reputation amongst fans. Fortunately for them, and the hardcore fans of the original, their recreation is pretty much spot on; what does that mean for the more casual crowd though?
Well, in terms of the campaign, we’re back to a simpler, more cohesive time. Besides the fantastical visual overhaul, nothing’s changed. You’ll still hunt down Zakhaev, crawl through legions of soldiers in the fan favourite ‘All Ghillied Up’ mission, and take that impossibly satisfying sniper shot that requires you taking wind speeds into account. Featuring approximately half the bombastic offerings of a modern Call of Duty, the campaign still holds strong for the most part. The lack of future tech involved helps put a greater focus on the storytelling of a select few soldiers too; especially opposed to a superhuman running amok about the planet. Don’t let the lack of a Michael Bay oriented explos-a-fest put you off though; as the epic moments in MWR’s campaign often feel much more dramatic than you might’ve remembered. The rarer the explosions, the easier it is to draw focus to the ones that matter.
Despite the narrative holding up well, the mechanics themselves are somewhat showing their age. Infinitely spawning enemies often ruin any form of immersion and sadly show up much more often than you’d like. There’s an infuriating amount of flinch at times when you’re getting shot at, and if you’re a fan of attachments on weapons, you’d better keep a hold of your starting loadout. Friendly AI teammates will gate your progress whilst you wait for them to advance and you’ll also struggle to get past them in doorways if you’re of the impatient disposition. Having said that, there are of course great things about MWR too. Weapons feel crisp and punchy, the variance between them is defined, and the astounding work on the visuals all help create a refreshingly slow yet tactical experience.
After you’ve had your nostalgia fix alleviated by the campaign, it’s time to dip your toes into the fiercely competitive realm of online multiplayer. For those who’ve only recently started playing Call of Duty in the past three years, say during Advanced Warfare or Black Ops 3, this will be quite the culture shock. Of course gone are any 3D movement systems like wall-running, sliding or gracefully boosting through the air. It’s simply boots on the ground. Gun-skill, map knowledge, sight lines and experience is what’ll set you aside here.
Those who’ve played the original when it first came out in 2007 could potentially have nearly a decade’s worth of experience under their belt. Going up against such people is bound to end in heartache! For those who’re new to Modern Warfare, the enormously influential create a class system will pose some frustrations. Obviously predating the pick 10 system, you simply get a primary, secondary, some equipment and up to three perks.
The simplicity of creating a class has both its ups and downs; it forces a more level playing field in that you’ll largely have the same set up as the majority of other online players. However it does mean you’ll likely end up using certain things you’d perhaps rather not, just in order to stay competitive. For example, the perk 2 slot has everything you’d want, yet you can only really pick between two. Quicker reloading, appearing off the radar and even increasing your fire rate all sound appealing, but sadly you’ll rarely use any of them in favour of the infamous duo of Juggernaut and Stopping Power. One essentially lets you survive an extra bullet; the other makes it so you need one less bullet to kill. And the entire game is inundated with people using one of these two. Aside from the almost forced use of the perk 2 slot, Modern Warfare Remastered also brings with it some more infamous perks of the past. Martyrdom, 3x Frags and Last Stand all return in their ‘glory’. It’s a far cry from today’s, arguably more balanced, version of the ‘create a class’ system and certainly shows its age in comparison.
All things perk related aside, the maps generally hold up well. Ten of the original sixteen are included at launch, with the remaining six being added as free DLC by the end of the year. Depending on the map, and the might of Snipers back in the day, you’ll encounter a few different experiences. Playing on Bog without a Sniper is often infuriating, even when wielding the mighty M16, which is exactly as overpowered as you might remember. The map usually dictates how the game’s going to be played too, whether it be the many Assault Rifle oriented maps, or the cluster-fu(cough) that is Shipment. Camping is unfortunately something you’ll often come across too due to how quickly you die; you’re certainly more fragile than I remembered! Another reason for the incessant camping might be to do with the (unalterable) killstreaks, ‘just’ seven kills in a row will net you a UAV, an Airstrike and a Helicopter.
It’s a simpler, yet frustrating time for MWR. The lack of being able to traverse the map in 3 seconds lends itself to a much slower, more deliberate style; having boots firmly on the ground is an enormous relief. Not constantly having to think about someone boost jumping over your head means you can play more tactically; I think CoD greatly benefits from that. The problems lie within the faithfully recreated perks, weapons and maps. Dealing with people throwing three grenades every time they spawn, killing you in one M16 burst from across the map and then dropping another grenade upon dying can surprisingly get tiresome! Frustrations aside however, MWR couldn’t have come at a better time. While the newer releases focus on 3D movement and supply drops, it’s very, very refreshing to play an old ‘proper’ Call of Duty; I think it shows how successful a modern, well balanced, ‘boots on the ground’ could be.