“I think second place is the first loser in the competition.” –Wade Barrett
Following the terrorist attack in London, Captain Price and Garrick raid an Al-Qatala safehouse and, after clearing it out, locate intel on the location of Omar “The Wolf” Sulama. This information is passed to the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Marcus Griggs participates in the attack on Ramaza Hospital in Urzikstan to secure The Wolf. While the hospital is filled with civilians, the Marines manage to clear out the hostiles without any collateral damage. Griggs disarms a trap and captures The Wolf. Once captured, his second-in-command, Jamal “The Butcher” Rahar leads a mob in attacking the American Embassy in Urzikstan. Price and Garrick work together with Farah and agent Alex to repel the attack, but the embassy’s defenses are overwhelmed by The Wolf’s men and the angry mob outside. They breach the embassy, and this forces Garrick to help the ambassador’s aide, Stacy, get to safety after the attackers kill the ambassador. Once Stacy escapes, Garrick heads back outside to fend off the attackers. Using a flare to illuminate the ground and a laser designator to mark targets for close air support, Garrick helps to keep The Wolf’s men at bay. Upon returning to the embassy’s saferoom, however, The Wolf has managed to escape amidst the chaos. Three more missions into Modern Warfare, the story becomes a little clearer – the game feels more like an interactive, visual retelling of the foreign presence in the Middle East, and when players see things from the eyes of the soldiers rather than from a well-practised newscaster, the impact of the seemingly unending conflict resulting from over a century of foreign intervention resulting from foreign nations/ desire to control the incredibly vast reserves of oil underneath the desert sands. The consequences have been far-reaching and devastating, and games like Modern Warfare becomes a powerful, visceral means of portraying the conflict well beyond the simple delineation of suggesting that the foreign presence in the Middle East is purely to stamp out terrorism and then offering no explanation of why extremism and terrorism exists to begin with. As Modern Warfare progresses, it does appear that this game is taking Call of Duty in new directions, adding a much-appreciated human side to what had previously been a bombastic romp across the globe (and even space) to stave off total warfare.
Here at Modern Warfare‘s halfway point, the game has shown a remarkable departure from the previous titles: besides the conflicts being fought over issues that are more relevant to contemporary politics rather than grandiose plans surrounding nuclear weapons and sweeping geopolitical demands, Modern Warfare presents a much slower pacing with respect to firefights. The fourth mission represents an excellent example of this: Garrick’s participation in a raid on an Al-Qatala safehouse demands slow, methodical movements as players accompany Price on a room-by-room exercise to render the safehouse safe. There is no room for impatience or impulsiveness: blindly rushing into a room results in being ambushed at by terrorists from underneath a bed or hidden behind a doorway. This gives players a chance to appreciate that with rare exceptions, special forces operations are almost always slow, calculated and methodical. Operators fire with precision rather than wild abandon, and firefights are often decided without the enemy even firing a single shot in retaliation. Similarly, in situations where foes are dug in, they will not be fighting with any sort of integrity; Al-Qatala has no qualms in using civilians as shields, and careless weapon selection can leave players at a huge disadvantage. For instance, curious players thinking it clever to utilise a shotgun when raiding Ramaza Hospital will find themselves civilians in the process. Details like these, in conjunction with the fact that there’s no additional information beyond subtle cues for discerning where foes are serves to create an atmosphere of constant vigilance. In order to succeed in Modern Warfare‘s campaign, patience and focus is demanded of players – this is a far cry from the quick trigger finger and swift reflexes that dominate the run-and-gun tactics of the game’s more hectic and close-quarters multiplayer.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Captain Price has commented that the use of IRNV goggles makes it “too easy” in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but here in Modern Warfare, he has no qualms in using whatever tools are available to get the job done. With the goggles equipped, one is unable to aim down sights, and in the tight quarters of the Al-Qatala safehouse, it’s a slow going. This mission has the same aesthetic as the final assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty, when DEVGRU members and SAD operatives carry out Operation Neptune Spear.
- Playing through this mission was able to convey the suspense that accompanies such a mission: while the night-vision goggles offer good visibility, the uncertainty of what lies around the corner made for a very slow going. Since I’ve no experience in this sort of thing, the mission felt quite suffocating, and I don’t mind admitting that I died on several occasions because I didn’t properly check a room to see if it were clear before entering it. In the end, though, I got things right, and my appreciation for the sort of work that Special Forces do increases.
- The pacing in this mission meant it felt more like reading a book about such an operation, rather than playing it. Games typically do not portray missions of this sort precisely because it’s so slow and methodical that typically, it wouldn’t make for good gameplay. Battlefield 3, for instance, has a similar mission in which soldiers breach an apartment to capture a HVT, but players take on the role of a marksman providing support from a distance.
- Once The Wolf’s location is known, Modern Warfare changes perspectives to that of a US Marine, who’s got boots on the ground in Urzikstan. The phrase “boots on the ground” was a significant part of Modern Warfare‘s marketting campaign – it simply means that the game was marking a return to its roots and focusing on infantry combat with a traditional movement system. Previously, 2016’s Infinite Warfare and 2017’s Call of Duty: World War II had not been too successful. The latter was criticised for being unremarkable, especially in comparison to Battlefield 1, while the former’s movement system was counted as being a knock-off of Titanfall‘s.
- Conversely, in Modern Warfare, everything about the game is a return to the game’s roots, and improving what was already respected. The end result speaks for itself – the gunplay and movement in Modern Warfare is incredibly smooth and polished, while at the same time, adding a few new features here and there. Having now played Modern Warfare and returning to try out Modern Warfare: Remastered, the differences are quite subtle, but still noticeable. This both speaks to the improvements the newer games make, as well as how well-done things were originally.
- For this mission, players start with the M4A1 with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher. This grenade launcher was introduced in 1970 to replace the M79 and fires a 40 mm round. Although games like Battlefield 3 would later swap out the M203 for the newer M320, the M203 remains in use, as the M320 only began seeing use in 2017. In video games, under-barrel grenade launchers add additional anti-personnel firepower at the expense equipping a foregrip, which improves handling and mobility. In a game setting, the choice of a foregrip or under-barrel launcher is purely dependent on the situation – the extra firepower is useful for the campaign, but for medium range engagements in something like Warzone, a foregrip would be more beneficial.
- The brown skies and ground gives this mission a distinct post-apocalyptic feel – there’s a distinctly Mad Max style about things as I head towards the hospital itself. Without 3D spotting or a radar, I’m left to carefully pick my shots and ensure I’m only hitting hostile forces. The lack of visual indicators means that foes blend in quite well with the background, and this does make for situations where leaving an enemy standing can prove disastrous.
- Again, this setup means that players must move slowly and methodically, looking down-range and ensuring the area is clear before pressing forwards. The minimalist UI in Modern Warfare means spotting foes is tricky, but a clean HUD also means information is immediately clear to players. Previous Call of Duty games had a graphics-based UI, which had made it difficult to ascertain just how much ammunition or resources one had left to them, but since Call of Duty: WWII, the game has taken to displaying amounts with numbers, which makes things significantly easier.
- During the combat, I find an EBR-14, a battle rifle chambered for the 7.62 mm round. Firing on semi-automatic, this rifle is a reliable choice for medium to long range combat, and typically fares best in situations with open spaces. Here, it is equipped with a holographic sight rather than longer-range optics, and with its semi-automatic rate of fire, is surprisingly well-suited for dealing with the interior of the hospital, where enemy combatants conceal themselves amidst actual patients. The semi-automatic fire means less chance of hitting a civilian.
- While civilians must be avoided, there are some sections of the hospital where the enemy has set up machine gun placements. These lock down an entire hallway, and one must make use of the side rooms to sneak up close and drop the operator. As one closes in on The Wolf, soldiers will make use of a snake camera to see what The Wolf is up to, and the urgency in the moment increases – The Wolf is preparing to execute American soldiers, prompting one to speed up their attack.
- Once the hospital is clear, players will capture The Wolf, bringing the mission to a close: the American marines are saved, and with a pivotal character in custody, Modern Warfare enters its next stage. Throughout Modern Warfare, I have been noticing that my GPU appears to have trouble with rendering the play of light off one’s weapon under certain conditions. Those spots become pixelated and rough, standing in contrast with the smooth and crisp lighting everywhere else in Modern Warfare. This has previously happened with Cold War, and I’m not too sure if it’s a consequence of my running an older GPU: updating GPU drivers doesn’t seem to have an impact on this.
- While having strange lighting textures is a little jarring, this bit of visual discontinuity does not otherwise impact gameplay, and overall, Modern Warfare handles very well even on a six-year-old GPU. The GTX 1060 I purchased back in 2016 still manages to hold up, which is impressive: this mid-range card might not be able to run today’s most demanding titles at full resolution and settings, but at 1080p, it remains viable. Of late, GPUs have finally begin sliding back towards the MSRPs, and moreover, stock for GPUs has begun returning: my local retailer now has both the RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti in stock again, and the latter had been a GPU I originally considered kitting out my current desktop with, being a solid upgrade to the GTX 1060 for 1080p gaming.
- With performance hovering around that of the RTX 2080 Super for half the cost, the RTX 3060 Ti is an enticing card that fits my requirements: when I built my machine, I’d been looking for a GPU that would beat the RTX 2070 Super. However, while it is tempting to go out and pick up a 3060 Ti right now, Nvidia’s next generation GPUs are on the horizon: it is speculated that the high-end Lovelace series could be out before this year is over, and by mid-2023, the RTX 4060 could be available. Since my 1060 continues to perform in a satisfactory manner, there’s no rush for me to go out and upgrade.
- The exact performance and specifications surrounding the RTX 4060 are unknown at present, and similarly, there’s been no word of a MSRP, either. However, if trends are anything to go by, the RTX 4060 could offer near-3080 level performance in some cases, much as how the 1060 was only about 5 percent slower than the 980 despite costing half as much. Assuming this holds true, the RTX 4060 would truly be a suitable upgrade for the aging GTX 1060 and allow my desktop some longevity. Having said this, my gaming habits are shifting as other priorities become more prominent: I’ve not played anywhere nearly as much multiplayer as I would’ve even compared to five years earlier.
- Since DICE dropped support for Battlefield V, I’ve found more enjoyment in single-player experiences. Similarly, there’s more fun to be had in being outside for a good summer’s day compared to sitting inside in what is colloquially referred to a “sweat lobby” and getting nowhere. However, while I do not intend on spending anything approaching a substantial amount of time in multiplayer portions of games, having a reasonable GPU means being able to play single-player titles at my own pace, especially on cold winter days where being outside is uncomfortable.
- Back in Modern Warfare, I’ve gotten through the embassy itself and helped navigate Stacey to safety, so things return to a more conventional mode of gameplay – I ended up ditching my pistol for an Uzi submachine gun. Contrary to my remarks in the last Modern Warfare post, unless a mission demands stealth, I will almost always change off a pistol for another weapon to increase versatility. Usually, a marksman rifle or submachine gun will fulfil this role: assault rifles are solid all-around weapons for medium range combat but can be tap-fired to reach out further, so depending on the mission, having a weapon to act as backup at close quarters, or reliably pick off long-range targets means being prepared for more situations.
- If memory serves, Halo popularised the idea of being able to carry two weapons at once. This trend has since stuck with modern games, with the inevitable result that versatile weapons like carbines and assault rifles become an indispensable part of one’s loadout. Prior to this, in games like Half-Life and DOOM, one could carry their entire arsenal with them and be instantly prepared for any situation. Both approaches emphasise a different play-style: having every weapon available means the weapons themselves become more specialised, while limiting one’s arsenal means one must make split-second decisions about what to carry and then live with the consequences of their choices.
- This approach is why weapon accessories and attachments have become so popular in games – in multiplayer, it allows one to tune a weapon to match a specific play-style, and while unavailable in older campaigns, more recent shooters have given players weapon variants that subtly alter the weapon handles. Here, for instance, I’ve got the M4A1 with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher: the added anti-personnel firepower is great for crowd control, and this particular M4A1 has a fifty round magazine which, while increasing aiming down sight time, allows me to stay in a firefight for longer before needing to reload.
- Having good weapons becomes absolutely vital during the second half of the mission, as one must now repel hordes of Al-Qatala forces. The fight starts with use of a mortar flare to illuminate the dark grounds, and here, I’ve picked up the EBR-14, which is outfitted with telescopic sights for picking off distant foes. With a large magazine and good rate of fire, the EBR-14 proved to be an immensely effective weapon for this segment of the mission. The flares used here are not unlimited in supply, and after expending them, one must contend with Al-Qatala fighters hidden in the darkness.
- When I first played Call of Duty 4 back in 2012, I was impressed with how the game conveyed a sense of vulnerability and need for tactical play, since until then, I’d grown accustomed to having the Master Chief’s Mjolnir Mark VI and its recharging energy shields, which allowed me to soak up damage long enough to return fire, as well as having exceptionally powerful anti-tank weapons. Call of Duty 4 lacked these and forced me to play more slowly, but looking back, it’s still a pretty high-paced game. Modern Warfare‘s 2019 iteration, on the other hand, encourages smart, tactical play even during heavy firefights; this game does indeed follow in respecting its predecessor’s footsteps while at the same time, improving things.
- As the fighting became more chaotic, I ended up ditching the M4A1’s grenadier variant for one outfitted for slightly longer range combat. After the Al-Qatala fighters rushing the embassy begin lessening in number, I receive an update: fighters have now hidden themselves in the construction site adjacent to the rooftop I’d been defending from, and what’s more, their numbers are overwhelming.
- Initially, I’d picked up a light machine gun in anticipation of a protracted firefight. Light machine guns were my go-to early in my Battlefield 3 career because they had a high capacity, making them great for spray-and-pray play-styles befitting of a novice. However, light machine guns are balanced by making them heftier: aiming down sights and reloading take longer, and moreover, their recoil is heavier unless one is using a bipod. They still have their uses, and in games like Battlefield, they’re an excellent choice for suppressive fire. In close quarters environments, on the other hand, they’re less viable.
- For this mission, one doesn’t actually have to fall back on engaging hostiles in the construction site: players will be given a laser designator which marks enemy positions for close air support (CAS). The entire aesthetic of this moment brought back to mind a scene from 2001’s Black Hawk Down, during which a pair of Little Birds provide CAS for a group of Marines pinned down by hostiles. After a Marine braves enemy fire to properly mark the enemy’s position using a strobe beacon, the Little Birds unload with their M134s and Hydra 70s.
- As long as one has access to the laser designator, it makes sense to continue marking enemy positions for CAS to conserve on ammunition, as well as swiftly down multiple enemies at once. With the fire support, even the technicals that the Al-Qatala field are quickly destroyed. Once the pilots announces that they’re bingo fuel (a term which means “we’re at the point where we have enough fuel to return safely to base without running into trouble”, this is basically a safety factor), CAS heads off, but by this point in time, there’s only a few stragglers left to pick off.
- There’s something about this level’s aesthetic that brings to mind precisely the sort of environment that I saw on television during the opening days of the Iraq War, when America began a bombardment of Baghdad in March 2003 by firing forty Tomahawk cruise missiles at the government buildings as a part of their Shock and Awe campaign. As of 2022, each Tomahawk missile costs two million USD – to fire forty missiles means burning through eighty million over the course of several hours. Sun Tzu’s Art of War states that war is inherently expensive, and historically, a protracted campaign increases the odds that a nation will lose said war.
- The costs of war mean that nations usually do not wage it unless the gains resulting from warfare are sufficient to justify it. The campaigns in the Middle East don’t appear to have much strategic value at first glance, and a country won’t fight a war over something of insignificance. Although it’s easy to suggest that resources like fossil fuels are the driver here, Modern Warfare gives the conflict a more human side by showing Farah and her brother as fighting for their homeland, but this conflict is compounded by the fighting from various factions. So far, I’ve not engaged any Russian forces yet.
- Once most of the hostile forces are down, Garrick is tasked with taking out a mortar position. At this point in time, the intense firefights have left me down to my last magazine, and I was left struggling to find a suitable weapon to take over for the M4A1 in my hands. Once the mortar is dealt with, the final task is returning to the embassy and securing The Wolf. The mission here at Modern Warfare‘s halfway point is much longer than any of the previous missions – this felt like the first real level in the game, and I was left excited to see what was coming next at every turn.
- In general, I find that missions lasting between a quarter hour to half an hour to be the sweet spot, giving me enough time to immerse myself in the objectives and take everything in, while not being so long that I begin wondering when things will conclude so I can put the brakes on – I game for comparatively short sessions of half an hour to an hour, and are happiest when I can play a few missions before setting the game down and taking off to do other things like housework.
- In the end, I ended up looting a heavily-modified AK-47 off a defeated foe. Like the AK-47 from Cold War, Modern Warfare‘s AK-47 is an incredibly satisfying weapon to use, although generally speaking, I tend to avoid the AK and its derivatives in campaigns simply because the recoil is intense; in a scenario where I can’t easily see where my foes are coming from, I’d rather have a weapon with controllable recoil so when I do place my targets, I can reliably hit them.
- Upon returning to the embassy, to Price and Garrick’s horror, The Wolf is gone, having been whisked away by his men while Garrick and the others were occupied by the counterattack. With things escalating here at Modern Warfare‘s halfway point, I’ve chosen a curious point to put the brakes on: admittedly, I’ve been moving through Modern Warfare‘s campaign at a much slower pace than before. This is because August is seeing me host Jon’s Creative Showcase, and on top of this, I’m also working on a large number of posts left in the month. As it stands, I’ve got enough time for everything, and while I fully intend to make my way through Modern Warfare, it’s presently a game of balancing everything on my plate and ensuring that I can keep pace with everything in the works.
Representing a refreshing change of pace from previous Call of Duty games, Modern Warfare is the latest Call of Duty title to join my library. It is not lost on me that, despite being no proponent of the multiplayer, I play a great deal of Call of Duty titles. In fact, it is fair to say that for me personally, I am a fan of Call of Duty as much as I am of Battlefield. Battlefield has traditionally been my go-to for its large-scale sandbox experience, since the scope of conflict allows me to contribute in my own way. However, Battlefield campaigns are typically weaker, and while iconic Battlefield campaigns are still quite enjoyable in their own right (Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 1 are outstanding), Call of Duty generally excels at creating an immersive, cinematic experience that really connects players with the characters (consider that Captain Price is so well-liked that Modern Warfare 2019 brings him back). In recent years, since the failure of Infinite Warfare, Infinity Ward had gone and rebuilt their game engine entirely, resulting in significant improvements to visual effects and physics – the new engine is said to be something that Infinity Ward is trying to standardise, such that all future Call of Duty games offer a consistent experience. Assuming this to be the case, Call of Duty is in excellent hands: Modern Warfare‘s gun-play is satisfying, responsive and powerful, and the same could be said of Black Ops: Cold War. Ironically, Battlefield‘s Frostbite Engine is beginning to show its age, and despite DICE continuing to try and improve it, its complexity has meant that games developed in Frostbite have become highly inconsistent. It does appear that at, after almost a decade of DICE and Frostbite dominating, Infinity Ward’s own technology has caught up, and Call of Duty is now on top again, speaking to how nothing lasts forever, and that today’s leaders won’t always remain at the top – to recapture the upper hand, the only solution is to keep innovating and daring to push the envelope further.