“Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.” –Robert Morgan
Long considered to be the best entry in Call of Duty‘s entire franchise, it was to general excitement and then anger when it was revealed that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare would be getting a remastered edition, followed by the caveat that the remaster would only be available with the Infinite Warfare‘s Legacy Edition tier, which sells for 110 CAD normally. Seen as an attempt to drive up Infinite Warfare sales, most individuals resolved to only buy the game once it became available as a standalone, although at the time of writing, there is no news on whether or not Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered will become available as a standalone title. However, this is not particularly relevant, since I’ve gone ahead and purchased Infinite Warfare‘s Legacy Edition during a sale. The sale, I considered to be a reasonable price, since I remarked earlier that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered would be worth paying 40 CAD for, and the sale offered the game at exactly this price. Hence, I now have the opportunity to go through and experience the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare campaign once again in a modernised form. Although the visuals and audio effects have been vastly improved, the core gameplay and story elements remain untouched, creating an authentic experience that has been given a fresh coat of paint while bringing back the mechanics and old-school feel of the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
In the game’s prologue and first act, players are introduced to John “Soap” MacTavish, a new recruit who joins the SAS task force under Captain Price’s command. They are sent to retrieve the manifest for a cargo ship carrying a nuclear device, and later, carry out an operation to rescue an informant, Nikolai, who carries details surrounding the plans of an ultranationalist Russian faction. Although they successfully exfiltrate Nikolai, their helicopter is shot down, forcing them to make their way through the countryside of the Caucasus Mountains to a secondary extraction point, where they are supported by an AC-130 gunship. Meanwhile, in an unspecified country in the Middle East, president Al-Fulani is executed and taken over by a radical, Khaled Al-Asad, prompting the United States to invade. The USMC 1st Force Recon, led by Lieutenant Vasquez, is sent to capture Al-Asad, but are initially unsuccessful. They move on to assist an armoured column, aiding in the defense of an M1 Abrams stuck in a bog, and participate in operations to capture Al-Asad. This operation ends in failure when a nuclear device detonates, killing most of the forces in the area and devastating the city, presumably killing Al-Asad in the process.
Screenshots and Commentary
- In my earlier Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare posts, I did not feature any screenshots from the missions prior to “Blackout”. However, that’s changed: with this series of posts, I am to be a little more comprehensive than any of my earlier talks on Modern Warfare either here at the blog or at my old website: there will be a total of six posts, one for each of the three acts in the campaign, plus a separate pair of posts for “All Ghillied Up” and “One Shot, One Kill” and finally, a discussion on intel in Modern Warfare. I’ve been meaning to go back through in the original Modern Warfare on an intel run for quite some time: collecting intel unlocks cheats that add a different dimension to the game.
- In later instalments of Modern Warfare, intel does very little, and so, there’s no incentive to really collect them. The first real mission of Modern Warfare is titled “Crew Expendable”, referring to the notion that players are to go weapons free in this mission and eliminate all hostile forces. It’s a thrilling start to the game and, completely redone for its 2016 release, looks and sounds like a present-generation game even though some of the movement and shooting mechanics still feel like they’re from 2006.
- “Blackout” is the first mission in Modern Warfare proper, where the goal is to locate an ultranationalist informant, Nikolai. After clandestinely making their way through a village by night, Soap and the others rendezvous with friendly Russian forces. In the original Modern Warfare, there was a distinct reddish-pink hue near the horizon, suggesting that the mission was set on an overcast day shortly after sunset: wisps of cloud can be seen at the interface between the darker parts of the sky.
- By comparison, Modern Warfare Remastered sets “Blackout” on a night with a full moon. The skies are generally clear, with only the odd cloud here and there. Back on the ground, the foliage is lush, and water reflections are detailed. Under a full moon, on cloudless nights, the bright light of the moon fills landscapes with a gentle – it’s quite pleasant to behold, except perhaps for amateur astronomers, for whom the light can wash out fainter stars.
- Soap starts out with the M4A1 SOPMOD setup in the first mission, which comes with a Cobra RDS, suppressor, AN/PEQ-2A infrared laser module and the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher. The addition of a suppressor means that this default weapon is well-suited for covert action: with a high rate of fire and low recoil, it’s one of the most effective weapons in the campaign, being incredibly versatile and useful in a wide range of situations. After meeting up with the Loyalist Russian forces, Soap and company hike up a small hill to a viewpoint overlooking a village below.
- Nikolai is in one of the larger buildings to the right of this position, and here, I wield a suppressed M21, a semi-automatic sniper rifle that has a relatively high rate of fire and low recoil. It is pointed out here that weapons can punch through some forms of cover, such as wood and plaster, allowing players to shoot enemies that are not visible. This feature, I’ve not encountered in Battlefield to the best of my knowledge, and brings to mind the 2015 Mythbusters episode, which demonstrated it is possible to hit targets from the other side of a wall by predicting where an enemy is using a range of cues.
- Modern Warfare holds a special place in the FPS community for its fantastic multiplayer and immersive campaign; even now, fans consider it the most solid installation in the series. I knew of the game and had played through a demo of the “War Pig” mission some years before becoming a post-secondary student, but my interest in the game only was piqued after I found videos of the “All Ghillied Up” mission. By late May/early June of 2012, a friend had asked me a favour, to help him idle for items in Team Fortress 2 while he was on vacation. This only took the course of a day, and I had other days of the week available to play some of the games in the account.
- During the late spring of 2012, I was enrolled in a physics course, and was also preparing for the MCAT. It was the first and only time I took a spring course as a post-secondary student; back then, my days consisted of studying for physics, and studying for the MCAT. I had eschewed my research that summer to do well on both, although it led to many melancholy days where I wished I was back at the lab, instead of sitting at a desk re-learning Newtonian mechanics while the weather was warm and pleasant.
- I will return to this story in a bit more detail at a later date: the outcome of that summer was that, for all of the time I spent at my desk rather than building 3D visualisations of biological systems and under the summer sun, I learned to take exams in ways I never thought possible. For the present, we return to Modern Warfare, where I’ve cleared out the path leading to a transformer station. The game’s suggestions includes making use of the M203 here to clear out groups of enemies: it’s modestly effective in the campaign, but in the multiplayer, the relative ease that one can utilise this attachment as a primary weapon to get kills resulted in the M203 becoming dubbed as the “n00b tube”.
- The last part of “Blackout” is something that I’ve not mentioned in my earlier talks: Soap and the others storm a building shrouded in darkness, making use of their night vision goggles to maintain visibility. The AN/PEQ-2A’s use becomes apparent here: it allows for players to hip-fire with exceptional accuracy, and in a matter of moments, the building is cleared, allowing Nikolai to be extracted.
- The second mission in Act I, titled “Charlie Don’t Surf”, has a completely different feel to it in the remaster: it looks brilliant. Compared to the flat, drab textures of the original, everything in the remaster pops out with the same visual fidelity as that of a contemporary title. The mission’s name is derived from the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now, where one of the characters justifies why they are taking a beach so American forces can surf: the Charlie refers to the Viet Cong (Victor Charlie in NATO phonetic).
- In this mission, players step into the shoes of Sargent Paul Jackson, under the command of Lieutenant Vasquez. The objective is to capture Al-Asad, who is suspected to be broadcasting from a TV station in a Middle Eastern city. USMC forces storm the city, fast-rope down onto the dusty streets below and make their way to the TV station in a manner reminiscent of the events of Black Hawk Down. When I first played through Modern Warfare, the missions set in the Middle East always came across as being a little uninspired, perhaps being a bit plain, but the remastered version brings everything to life and also gives me incentive to explore these levels, in turn resulting in more screenshots.
- While it’s possible to go through the most of the campaign to Modern Warfare without ever switching out one’s starting weapons, some missions will necessitate this. Here, I prepare to make my way up to the top floors of the TV station after clearing out a central room filled with desks and screens: I imagine that the Stock Exchange in Modern Warfare 3‘s “Black Tuesday” mission was largely inspired by this section of the game. However, after shooting through a host of enemies and reaching the top floor, it turns out to be a pre-recorded broadcast, and Al-Asad is nowhere to be found.
- The next mission is also set in the Middle East: it’s titled “The Bog”, involving the reaching and defense of an M1 Abrams tank stuck in difficult terrain. Jackson start with the M4A1 Grenadier, which features a holosight with an uncommonly high magnification. This is the mission that is available for the trial version of Modern Warfare: I played through it and found it unremarkable back during 2008, when I predominantly spent my time in Sim City 4 and the Halo CE Trial, but looking back, this mission is quite enjoyable for its hectic combat in an urban setting, also introducing players to the FGM-148 Javelin, a potent anti-tank weapon in the game.
- While I’m still generally more fond of the missions set in the Caucasus Mountains, Modern Warfare Remastered brings in a new incentive to stop and take a look at just how well-done the new graphics and visual effects are. I’ve swapped out my side-arm for a Dragunov marksman rifle here: a Soviet weapon designated the SVD-63, it is the most common long-range solution in the campaign and can be found carried by ultra-nationalist forces. I generally prefer sticking to a long-range and medium range weapon, counting on automatic hip-fire to save me from certain death in close quarters.
- One of the more amusing things about Call of Duty and Battlefield is that being meleed by an enemy is instant death regardless of difficulty. It’s an aspect that I’m not too accustomed to, since inmost of the games I’ve played previously (except for maybe SUPERHOT), hits usually just cause an impact, but not instant death. This mechanic is likely to discourage players from pushing forwards too aggressively into a group of enemies to take them out.
- After a fierce firefight at the bog, and the elimination of an anti-air gun allows friendlies to land, the second of the Middle Eastern missions in the First Act draws to a close. Here’s a bit of trivia: back in 2012, I played through Modern Warfare at the 1024 by 768 resolution. The effects of having a smaller screen area are especially noticeable, and what this looked like can be seen in my first Call of Duty “Chernobyl Diaries” mini-series posts, or at my old website (which I’ve stopped maintaining ever since Gundam Unicorn‘s finale concluded).
- Back in the Caucaus Mountains, the extraction goes pear-shaped in the mission “Hunted”: Soap’s helicopter is hit by a Stinger missile and crashes into the countryside, necessitating a plan B. While the pilots and some of the soldiers die, Captain Price, Soap, Nikolai and a few others survive. They must evade ultranationalist patrols while awaiting close-air support from an AC-130. Some folks wonder why an AC-130 would be available to British SAS operators, but it’s been made clear that the US and UK have been running joint operations.
- While Soap starts with only a M1911 following the crash, it is wiser to pick up the G36C, which has a good stopping power and for which ammunition is plentiful. A reasonably powerful weapon, the G36C has exceptional hip fire accuracy in the campaign and would be an excellent weapon to go loud with. However, it shares ammunition with the M4A1, making it advisable to select another weapon such that one does not run out during the most inopportune of moments.
- A staple in almost any shooter, the AK-47 is perhaps the most recognisable weapon in existence, known for its legendary durability and reliability. In Modern Warfare‘s campaign, the AK-47 offers superior stopping power compared to most weapons, but is offset by its high recoil. This pattern is similar to that of CS:GO, where the AK-47 is one of the most popular weapons amongst players for its exceptional damage model (one headshot is an instant-kill even against opponents with a helmet), relatively low price and decent accuracy when tap-firing (the weapon’s recoil increases when fired on automatic for long periods).
- “Hunted” marks the first bit of stealth in Modern Warfare: ultranationalist helicopters armed with spotlights patrol the countryside with the aim of finding Soap and his team, requiring a bit of sneaking around between the farmhouses and barns across open countryside. The fields have enough vegetation so that it is possible to get quite far just by sneaking around, and the cover of darkness is an immensely useful ally even if it means the screenshots I’ve got are much darker than usual.
- After reaching a barn just ahead of a tailing helicopter, Soap finds a cache of FIM-92 Stinger missiles and a launcher. It’s time to turn the tables against the enemy helicopters: the Stinger only appears in the campaign, and must acquire a lock before the missiles can be fired. It took me several attempts to get it right, but in the end, one of my shots connected, downing the helicopter. Later incarnations of Modern Warfare make the singer available in the multiplayer, as well, but it is intended for use against killstreak bonuses rather than other players.
- Reaching the end of the level, the AC-130 arrives and provides heavy fire support, demolishing buildings close to Soap and the other’s position: the fireball illuminates the night sky. Players may then wonder, what would it be like to be helming the AC-130’s guns? The answer to this is found subsequently: “Hunted” draws to a close here, and players have the chance to play the role of a Thermal Imaging TV operator on board the AC-130, sitting high above the battlefield to provide some serious firepower for Soap and the others.
- Sitting in the AC-130, raining death onto ultranationalists represents a solid change of pace from the shooting of previous missions. Here, the goal is to clear a path for Price and the others to the extraction point, firing only on authorised targets (typically, those not marked by a strobe). The frequent command to not fire on the church is an allusion to a real-world mission, where an AC-130 crew was ordered to not fire on a mosque to prevent civilian casualties, and caution must be exercised with the 105 mm howitzer, which deals massive damage. The best weapon is the 40 mm Bofors cannon, as it offers good damage and precision.
- While the differences between the original and remastered versions might not be obvious in this mission, the details have improved in Modern Warfare Remastered: buildings collapse after sustaining enough damage, and the assets seem a lot sharper. I recall that, back during 2012, I played Zombie Gunship on iOS during evenings before turning in. The game offers a much more simplistic UI, and the goal is to rescue people while eliminating zombies. While this seems straightforwards enough, large monsters that can absorb multiple 105 shells appear later, making the game more challenging.
- Perspective shifts back to the USMC soldiers after Price and his men are safely extracted: by this point in time, the tank crews are back in business, and it’s a fight to escort the functional M1 Abrams back to its main force, taking out Al-Asad’s forces along the way in “War Pig”. The urban combat is hectic and chaotic, featuring many close-quarters engagements. In spite of this, the secondary weapon that I carried with me in this mission was the SVD-63: having a good marksman weapon makes it easier to take out enemies from a safe distance, and in close quarters, the biggest disadvantage about a shotgun is the low firing rate. Even if I can down an enemy in one shot, there are multiple other enemies to be concerned with.
- A cursory glance at the graphics of the original Modern Warfare really shows just how dated the original game looks when compared against modern titles. The missions set in rural areas have aged the most gracefully, but in urban environments, lower resolution textures, lessened environmental details and simpler lighting effects become more pronounced. There’s less clutter all around, giving the urban centers an emptier feeling: the remastered version gives the cities a much larger feel than comparable environments of the original.
- Likewise, the rudimentary renderings of a Middle Eastern city in “Shock and Awe” have been replaced by a significantly more detailed environment. Jackson start the mission manning the Mark 19, an automatic 40 mm grenade launcher, to provide supporting fire and mop up ground elements threatening their crew. Half of the soldiers are dropped off at a target point, and subsequently, the USMC forces relieve a squad under fire. An aspect I’ve not mentioned until now is Lieutenant Vasquez’s voice: gruff but composed, he’s heard giving squad members orders throughout all of the missions where players are in Jackson’s shoes.
- When one of the helicopters are shot down, it’s time to attempt a Black Hawk Down style rescue. I recall a classmate from primary school who had seen the movie Black Hawk Down shortly after it released in 2001; it’s a fantastic movie, and I had a chance to see it for myself four years ago. It’s definitely not suitable for children owing to its vivid depiction of warfare. While a dangerous gamble, Jackson’s helicopter touches down to rescue the downed chopper’s pilot. They are successful and appear to be home free, but amidst the radio chatter about a possible nuclear device, the weapon goes off.
- Terrifying this moment was in Modern Warfare, to see it with improved visuals is even more sobering. The death of thirty thousand American soldiers here is what leads Modern Warfare 2‘s General Shepard to action. This brings the first act to a close, and I am moving through Modern Warfare Remastered at a reasonably quick pace. In the meantime, the spring 2017 anime season has just begun, so I don’t imagine there will be any posts until the three episode mark, unless something exceptional occurs. A talk on Gabriel Dropout is on the table.
So far, I am thoroughly enjoying the campaign in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered: although it is a 1:1 recreation of the original story and gameplay (complete with the occasional being stuck in level geometry and choppy movements) that I’ve experienced in full several times, to see all of the locales re-done with modern graphics was an absolute treat. Similarly, the new visual effects for the weapons, lighting, particle effects and animations breathe new life into a game that has aged surprisingly well. This year marks the ten year anniversary to when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare first released, and even after a decade, the original game still handles quite well when compared to modern titles. All together, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered is quite similar to Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary Edition – in retaining gameplay while giving the game a new coat of paint, both series’ respective remasters show that some older games are indeed timeless. Consequently, I am looking forwards to pushing through Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered to reach the missions set in Pripyat and see how they’ve been retouched.