The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered- Act II Review and Reflection

“Ignore that load of bollocks. Their counterattack is imminent. Spread out and cover the southern approach.” –Captain Price

Despite the nuclear detonation, Price believes Al-Asad to be alive; with support from Russian Loyalist forces, he strikes at a village in Azerbaijan where Al-Asad is suspected to have a safehouse. After clearing out the village and locating Al-Asad. Price begins to interrogate him with the goal of learning who supplied his nuclear weapon. A ways in, Al-Asad’s phone rings: it turns out to be Imran Zakhaev. Price connects the dots and executes Al-Asad, explaining to the others that fifteen years ago, he and Captain MacMillian had been assigned a mission to eliminate Zakhaev, an arms dealer who had profited tremendously from selling nuclear mateirals to other parties. Sneaking through the abandoned Pripyat, Price and MacMillian wait for Zakhaev at the top of the Hotel Polissya. The mission was unsuccessful despite Price’s placement of a shot that blew off Zakhaev’s arm, and the two were forced to fight their way through hordes of Ultranationalists. MacMillian is injured during their escape, but both manage to escape. Back in the present, Al-Asad’s death causes ultranationalists to converge on the farmhouse: owing to difficulties with the original extraction site, Soap and the others must fight their way back to the bottom of the hill for exfiltration. Price decides the next move is to locate Zakhaev’s son, Viktor, who shares many of Zakhaev’s visions and is actively involved with the ultranationalists, being a field commander. The SAS forces ambush Viktor’s convoy, and while he manages to escape, he is eventually cornered, but commits suicide before Price can interrogate him. His death prompts Zakhaev to seize controls of nuclear missiles in retaliation – while Gaz remarks that they’d lost their only lead, Price surmises that Viktor’s death will only make it easier to find Zakhaev.

Punching through the remote mountains of Azerbaijan to locate Al-Asad, crawling through the fields surrounding Pripyat and the town of Uzlovoy in the Mostovsky District of Russia, Modern Warfare‘s second act is a ways shorter than the first act, but also is where the exposition comes to a close and where the narrative of the game really picks up. The different elements of the second act deal predominantly with Imran Zakhaev and the threat he presents – a classic Soviet villain, Zakhaev longs to return Russia to its former glory through any means necessary. The British government are presented as being well aware of this, and in the game’s most brilliant missions, the story behind how Price knows Zakhaev are told in the form of a flashback that also offered a completely novel turn on gameplay: whereas going loud is the norm in other missions, “All Ghillied Up” is set up in a completely different manner. Price and MacMillian are out-numbered and out-gunned at all points during their assignment, but patience and stealth win the day. The missions set in Pripyat and its surroundings remain some of the most famous, well-received in the world of first person shooters for good reason, conveying a new atmospheric that was unexpected and refreshing in a title like Modern Warfare; to see these levels remastered again was to bring back one of the greatest missions in a first person shooter and breathe new life into it, furthering the sense of immersion that these levels create.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the original “Safehouse” mission, a yellow glow can be seen on the horizon just above the mountains, and wisps of dark are interspersed with the sky. It has the effect of suggesting that Soap and the others are operating during an overcast evening; the days are lengthening again, and given how many cloudy days there have been this month so far, I’ve seen the effect myself. Conversely, the updated graphics in Modern Warfare Remastered firmly present the missions as being set well after sunset.

  • Curiously enough, the remaster of Modern Warfare chooses to depict the strike as happening on a moonlit night, when the original set the mission during a moonless night. The advantage about operating on a moonless night is that one is less visible, so the original games made more sense from a tactical perspective, although for the sake of aesthetics, I can let this slide. One of the Russian loyalist soldiers can be heard saying that the ultranationalists are slaughtering the villagers, but upon arriving in the village itself, no civilians (or any hints that they were present) can be seen. Soap starts this mission with the M4A1 SOPMOD and the M1014 shotgun.

  • Despite being louder and having a slower rate of fire, the M1014’s stopping power in close quarters combat cannot be understated. The mission objectives here, being to clear each building, are stringent, and the waypoints will not update until every enemy inside a building has been neutralised. Hence, it is worth methodically going through every room in a building to make certain that everything that moves, doesn’t move any more.

  • Throughout the mission, the SAS and Loyalist ground forces are assisted by a Mi-28 Havoc gunship that can be called upon periodically to clear out heavily defended positions. Fun it may be to clear out enemy forces, they are present in overwhelming numbers on some occasions, necessitating some close-air support from allied assets. When I played through Modern Warfare for the first time, I was surprised at how little durability my avatar had, having grown accustomed to the recharging energy shields of Halo 2.

  • From 2009 to 2012, I played Halo 2 almost exclusively on PC, spending most of my Friday evenings slagging other players in CTF and Slayer on maps like Lockout, Midship and Coagulation. As a result of concentrating on one game, I became somewhat of a legend in Halo 2 on Windows Vista; there were several servers named after me, and some servers would even kick me on sight. By 2011, Team Fortress 2 became free-to-play, and I spent a bit of time playing that, but I predominantly spent time in Halo 2 until the servers finally shut down in Feubrary 2013.

  • In my original review of Modern Warfare, I featured a similar screenshot of myself standing under a street lamp with the SVD-63. One of the things that stood out most to me in the game compared to the likes of Halo was that players were much more vulnerable and therefore, had to play more tactically in order to ensure survival. Similarly, the arrival of enemy armour was a much more serious challenge; while Modern Warfare conveniently provides players with means to take out armour (usually in the form of the FGM-148 Javelin), in Halo 2, I typically carried a rocket launcher around in conjunction with the Battle Rifle and therefore, feared neither armour or infantry.

  • In Modern Warfare and most of the shooters I’ve since played, dedicated anti-tank weapons are less effectual on infantry, so I’m typically forced to swap weapons out. One thing that I am inclined to do is to go back through Halo 2‘s campaign in the future, but in conjunction with the fact that I’d also like to go through Portal 2Wolfenstein: The New Order‘s Fergus playthrough and Valkyria Chronicles‘ “Behind Her Blue Flame” DLC, this set of endeavours could take quite some time. Back in Modern Warfare, once all of the houses have been confirmed clear, Soap makes his way to the barn (barely visible in this image), where Al-Asad is holed up.

  • It was last week, April Fools’ Day, that I reached “All Ghillied Up” at last. After a morning spent lifting weights, and pushing out the April Fools’ Nyanko Days post, I went out by evening for dinner with family. I ordered a medium-rare sirloin steak topped with garlic shrimps, plus a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley. The steak was tender and delicious, as was the toffee pudding following the main course. It was a quiet evening at the restaurant: evening sunlight streamed through the windows, and service was very quick. After the last of the food was enjoyed, we headed home, and I spun up Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • To see “All Ghillied Up” remastered in all of its glory was a moving moment. The clouds have become much more detailed to really give the sense of a moody overcast day, and the vegetation is much denser, even parting when Price crawls through. By this point, I’ve already finished most of the mission, and having not alerted anyone to my presence (MacMillian will shout that “We’ve been compromised!” if that happens), I unlocked an achievement for this mission, compared to previous playthroughs, where a lack of patience usually led me to go loud, only for MacMillian to reprimand me. Having lost none of its suspense, the renewed graphics makes an already timeless mission something that was even worth the price of the Infinite Warfare: Legacy Edition.

  • The answer for why I’ve only got such a small number of screenshots for what I consider to be the most iconic missions of Modern Warfare, is that I’ve actually got two dedicated posts in the works to be published at the five year anniversary to when I first posted the original Chernobyl Diaries talks for Modern Warfare, having completed these two missions shortly after the ill-received film Chernoyl Diaries was released in theatres back during May 2012. The plan is that I will talk about Chernobyl Diaries in the dedicated “All Ghillied Up” post, exploring what I thought of the movie after deciding to check it out a few weeks ago.

  • For the post “One Shot, One Kill”, I will recall the summer of 2012 and the numerous hours I spent studying, both for introductory physics and for the MCAT, opening with a worked computation of bullet drop and bullet speed for old times’ sake. Here, I’m about halfway through “One Shot, One Kill”, about to fire at the helicopter pursuing Price and MacMillian. It is here that MacMillian is injured, and any misconceptions of him becoming a minor inconvenience are quickly dispelled when players set him down, only for his exceptional marksmanship to deal with enemies efficiently.

  • The placement of landmarks in Modern Warfare‘s Pripyat have previously been noted to be incorrect, but the game accurately and faithfully captures the atmospherics: so immersive is the lighting and details in the environment, whether it be the accumulation of filth on the tile or the dust filling the air, standing inside the Azure Swimming pool in-game made it feel as though I were there for myself. One of the most frenzied firefights proceeds this point, and I will be returning to detail “All Ghillied Up” and “One Shot, One Kill” fully – for the time being, I will continue on with Modern Warfare Remastered‘s second act.

  • In the remaster, the mission “Heat” still appears to be set on an overcast, humid morning as seen in the original Modern Warfare, which reminded me of the days in July 2012; by this point in time, I had concluded my physics course and was wholly dedicated towards studying for my MCAT. I came to campus on some mornings to lift weights, and left afterwards: on one morning, it was humid and grey, brining to mind this mission, although by this point in the summer, I had long completed Modern Warfare and had returned my friend’s Steam account. Instead, my gaming would focus on Team Fortress 2 and MicroVolts, which I played in between studying and revisions.

  • Sun Tzu said that all war is deception, and the SAS forces here capitalise on that, firing on the ultranationalist forces from concealed positions and making use of well-placed explosives to give the impression of their being a much larger force than they are. Soap starts “Heat” with the M21 and the M249 SAW. Both weapons are effectual on this level, and I remark that one of the things I look for in a game, when it comes to light machine guns that are belt-fed, is the animation of bullets being cycled into the chamber. Some games conceal this, and the bullets themselves actually do not move, but it is always a nice touch to begin running dry on ammunition and watching as the belt empties.

  • The large number of enemies means that having an automatic weapon becomes indispensable: LMGs are generally of lesser use in campaign missions, since there are few cases where players are faced with overwhelming numbers, and where suppression effects are not likely to dissuade the AI. Moreover, the long reload times can be a bit of a liability: in multiplayer, being able to suppress other players is a much more viable tactic, and for Battlefield 3 and 4, the M249 became one of my favourite LMGs for its relatively high fire rate. Battlefield 1 has no such equivalent, and as a result, my performance with the support class is not quite as good as it was in earlier Battlefield titles.

  • In Modern Warfare‘s campaign, the M249 is the most effective LMG owing to its higher rate of fire than comparable LMGs, whereas in the multiplayer, the weapon has weaker bullet damage. Coming in from Battlefield, I tend to favour higher RPM LMGs owing to my preference for close-quarters combat; the slower-firing weapons, such as the M240 and PKP are better for medium range encounters. The new reloading animation for Modern Warfare Remastered‘s M249 is a slick-looking one, too.

  • While Gaz and the others shout that things are about to get a lot more difficult on account of incoming ultranationalist helicopters, the overwhelming firepower conferred by the mini-gun allows Soap to turn all five of them into flaming wreckages in a matter of seconds. Firing 7.62 mm rounds, the M134 mini-gun is so-called because it is essentially a miniaturised version of the M61 Vulcan, firing smaller rounds, but its high rate of fire allows it to deal a great deal of damage.

  • Soap sprints up to the tavern to man some detonators, further stalling the ultranationalist forces. I’ve featured a similar screenshot in my older review written last year, during which I remarked on the melancholy this mission evokes. This was in part owing to the section of the track “Game Over”; the original Modern Warfare played a slower, more sombre part of the song, whereas in the remaster, a more harrowing, urgent part of the song is played to create a different atmosphere. Rather than an MCAT-style sense, Modern Warfare Remastered yields a more tense, high-intensity feel as Soap and the others make their way back downhill to the newly designated LZ.

  • With enemy tanks converging on their position, Soap’s tasked with retrieving a Javelin missile launcher from the barn. While the chaos of “Heat” may be overwhelming, the mission is a reversed version of “Safehouse”, bringing to mind the level designs of Halo: Combat Evolved. While it might be done as a result of budget or time constraints, I personally do not mind them quite to the same extent as some folks out there: backtracking missions can allow one to revisit a level under a completely different set of lighting and visual conditions, making visible things that might otherwise be missed or overlooked.

  • Is it realistic for a Javelin missile to one-shot a T-72 tank? For gameplay purposes, this makes sense, and perhaps unsurprisingly, a single missile destroying a T-72 totally is not outside the realm of possibility – the missile is performing a top-down attack, striking the part of the tank with the smallest amount of armour, and T-72s without any defensive measures, such as reactive armour or active interception systems, would be destroyed on short notice.

  • Late into “Heat”, allied airstrikes become another option as the number of enemies becomes staggering. Having close air support buys players enough breathing room to keep moving forward: the extraction team note that the entire area’s become too hot to land safely and move the LZ, much to Gaz’s displeasure. This is a clever parallel with the dynamics of real life, where situations can change without a moment’s notice. Resourcefulness and flexibility are key to survival and success: Price tells Gaz to let it go and push for the new LZ.

  • Three minutes to cover the ground between the farmhouse and the base of the hill may not seem like much, and it is definitely not if one chooses to engage the endless ultranationalists that appear, but there is a way to make it very quickly. In previous play throughs, I would move cover to cover and wait for the others to catch up, but since the game’s timers are dependent on the player’s actions, it is possible to slip away, and armed with an appropriate weapon set, punch through the hills to reach the base on very short order: Price and the others will spawn right behind the player if they do this, and the mission will still be completed.

  • Without making use of additional airstrikes or risking exposure to enemy fire, I reach the bottom of the hill, arriving at the gas station that Soap starts at in “Safehouse” to conclude the mission. In my older reviews, I always mentioned that I would return to Modern Warfare and collect the intel: I will do this with Modern Warfare Remastered and likely have a post out for August. There are 30 pieces of intel in Modern Warfare, and this corresponds nicely with a post of thirty images.

  • Bolt-action rifles have always held an interesting place in a modern military shooter’s campaign: despite their stopping power, campaigns tend to send a larger number of enemies at players. As such, a semi-automatic rifle is almost always preferred, having a larger magazine capacity and higher firing rate that make them more useful against large groups than the more powerful, but slower-firing bolt action rifles. At the beginning of “Sins of the Father”, Soap is equipped with the R700, and will only find limited use for the weapon before its ammunition is depleted.

  • Soap can either pick up an automatic weapon and push into the garage, or else take up an overwatch position and pick enemies off from afar. I chose the latter, equipping the SVD-63. Either method will work well enough, and a checkpoint will be reached as players wait for Viktor’s convoy to arrive. In this time, Soap and the others don ultranationalist gear to conceal themselves. The R700 is also discarded for the RPD.

  • The mission threatens to fall apart when one of the vehicles rams the guard tower Soap is in, causing it to fall over. Unharmed, Zakhaev takes off, prompting Soap to give chase. A legion of ultranationalists stands between Soap and Viktor Zakhaev: the goal is to ensure that Zakhaev does not get too much of a head start in their foot chase and escape. At this point, the RPD is less of an asset, and I immediately switch over to the ever-reliable G36C: its slight magnification and precision allows players to target other soldiers without accidentally opening fire on Zakhaev.

  • For the curious, I have, on numerous occasions, accidentally killed Viktor Zakhaev with a variety of weapons while trying to thin the number of ultranationalist soldiers between myself and him. The only trick here is to check one’s targets before firing, and also to know where Zakhaev is heading: it is also possible to get lost in some of the settlement’s streets, allowing Zakhaev to escape.

  • After turning left on the main road into an alley way, there’s actually no more need to move at an urgent pace, since Soap is getting close to the final destination – instead, it makes more sense to clear out the area before pressing forwards. Aside from the G36C, another good weapon to have is the MP5: I usually overlook this weapon owing to its weaker 9 mm rounds, but it’s reasonably consistent when fired from the hip, making it a fine secondary weapon to resort to in a pinch.

  • A machine gun nest can be found at the top of a five story apartment: players can take it out if they so choose, but supporting fire from a friendly helicopter will eliminate the position. In the close quarters of the apartment, a high RPM weapon is ideal, although a shotgun can also be effective. Owing to their slower rate of fire, it is inadvisable to rush through the building, and instead, carefully pick one’s shots. I normally won’t run with a shotgun in this mission, but for old times’ sake, I decided to do so in order to confront Zakhaev with a shotgun, as I did in my previous talk on Modern Warfare.

  • At this point in time, I’ve decided to try and finish Modern Warfare Remastered in conjunction with Titanfall 2 before May rolls around. There’s a reason for this, that I will share at the appropriate point in the future. In the meantime, I will keep going through Titanfall 2‘s excellent campaign. I’ve heard that Battlefield 1 will also be getting a Spring patch, which I hope will bring some new ribbons into the game. The upcoming DLC, “In the name of the Tsar”, will feature snow maps, and I’m now class rank six for both the assault and scout classes. I’ve decided that, if there are no games worth picking up during the Steam Summer Sale this year, I will make the plunge for Battlefield 1 Premium. I do see myself playing Battlefield 1 for more than a year, and my progress through the game suggests that it is worthwhile to buy the extra content; while some of my favourite YouTubers are expressing some doubt over the game’s future, I am largely enjoying the title and would consider the Premium to be an acceptable purchase for the value I get out of it.

With the two most memorable missions completed, Modern Warfare returns to the present: “Heat” deals predominantly with the intense firefight Soap and the others must survive in order to reach their extraction point, dealing with an overwhelming number of hostile forces. It’s one of the toughest missions in Modern Warfare owing to just how much enemy fire there is, and I’ve seen remarks on how, after the Pripyat missions, returning to the present marks a substantial change in pacing. Having received a complete update to its visuals and sounds, “Heat” and “Sins of the Father” have been far improved to create a completely different environment: it is during the missions set during the day where the remastered Modern Warfare‘s differences from its original incarnation are truly obvious. Foliage is exceptionally detailed, and will move in response to player movements. The improvements in draw distance and visual effects also make the mountains and valleys much more realistic-looking, and under the light of day, the sophistication of the new smoke and other particle effects becomes very obvious. To be able to go back and fight through refreshed, reimagined locales that I first experienced during the summer of 2012 was an incredibly humbling experience, and from a personal perspective, was worth the price of admissions to Modern Warfare: Remastered.

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