“If you can transcend from the dark rut of disempowered thinking to the bright light of an empowered agreement with reality, you will see opportunities, not barriers. You will see the finish line, not the hurdles.” –Steve Maraboli
Having lost their target, Garrick, Alex and Farah coordinate to take The Wolf out in Urzikstan. The ambush is unsuccessful when General Barkov’s forces appear and fire upon both the rebels and Al-Qatala. During the fighting, Farah learns that Hadir had been the one who orchestrated the theft of the Russian chemicals, and he uses it to kill all of Barkov’s soldiers. In a flashback, Farah and Hadir were orphaned during Barkov’s operation and were captured. While imprisoned, Farah eventually became recognised as a commander for the rebels and managed to break out of prison. In the process, she encounters Captain Price. In the present day, Garrick and Alex mount an assault on The Wolf’s Compound, and although they are successful in apprehending The Wolf, Hadir is nowhere to be found. Farah’s organisation is subsequently dubbed a terror group, and Alex decides to remain in Urzikstan, against orders, to fight alongside Farah’s forces. Meanwhile, acting on intelligence that Hadir may have been responsible for a chemical weapons attack in Russia, Garrick and Price head to St. Petersburg, where they meet up with Nikolai, one of Price’s old contacts. Having finally resumed my journey, I’m three quarters of the way through Modern Warfare, and the game’s gritty portrayal of warfare sets it apart from the cinematic set pieces of earlier titles. Here in Modern Warfare, the ugly side of conflict is shown: war isn’t heroic and only serves to perpetuate more conflict. It’s a different thematic direction than the older titles, acting as a sobering reminder of the horrors that can arise from war in a significantly more visceral manner than did the earlier Call of Duty games. Modern Warfare is especially effective in its messaging because of its first person perspectives; through giving players a chance to play as Farah when she witnessed her father’s death, and again as a prisoner in Barkov’s prison, Modern Warfare strips away the agency from players.
When Farah was a child, she lacked the physical strength to take down a Russian soldier in a direct confrontation. The powerlessness is apparent: although Farah has a makeshift knife with her, it takes several attempts, and during the whole ordeal, Farah must hide from the soldier. Until now, players have grown accustomed to being able to expertly sneak up behind a foe and take them down in a single, swift stroke. However, Farah doesn’t have this power as a child, and in this way, eluding the Russian soldier turns Modern Warfare into a game of suspense and patience. Similarly, when Farah does find a revolver, the recoil is so great that missing any shot results in instant death. The first person perspective also gives players a brutal insight into why Barkov is an enemy. At his prison, Farah is powerless to fight Barkov and can only endure as Barkov’s men torture her for information. The inability to do anything to better her situation in this moment speaks to the sort of despair and resilience she and her fellow rebels must have experienced until they had the opportunity to break out and fight back against their oppressors. Depriving agency from the player, when done in moderation, is an especially effective storytelling mechanism: in a game where players have the power and tools to make a difference, taking this away really emphasises the abject terror of being unable to defend oneself. This approach is known in liberal arts as a “disempowerment fantasy” by denying freedom and creates the impression that goals cannot be achieved. Although some folks are of the mind that disempowerment fantasies make for superior games by forcing players to feel bad about the characters, the reality is that, when poorly executed, disempowerment fantasies force players to acknowledge their perceived inabilities. However, when done well, as is the case in Modern Warfare, showing moments of disempowerment also encourages players to delve further into the story and appreciate what is possible when one is provided with the means of make a difference.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The eighth mission is predominantly a sniping mission, and players will gain access to Hadir’s custom sniper rifle, a bolt-action rifle that fires .338 Lapua Magnum rounds with armour-piercing capabilities out to 600 metres. The mission is an extended version of One Shot, One Kill and similarly requires players to adjust for both wind and bullet drop. To be successful in this mission, Farah’s advice should be taken: she will provide all of the information one needs to estimate distance and projectile deviation, and players will have a chance to get a few practise shots off before The Wolf’s convoy shows up.
- Aside from Hadir’s rifle, Alex also has access to a handful of other weapons. The AK-47 grenadier varaint with a red dot sight is also provided, and with its large magazine, it’s a suitable weapon for short and medium ranges. Picking off the Al-Qatala fighters from range is straightforward enough, especially since they will take cover among the structures in the town below: hitting moving targets when the wind shifts is tricky, but for the most part, the Al-Qatala fighters stand still, giving one a chance to line up their shots.
- It’s now been two weeks since I installed the RTX 3060 Ti, and having now had the time to test its performance, I’ve found that the card has proven to be exceptionally capable with the tasks I’ve sent at it. Modern Warfare handles extremely well, and the rendering artefacts that had been present previously are absent now. Weapon models therefore look extremely polished and sharp. The GTX 1060 had no problem with framerates, but I imagine that it might’ve had trouble rendering some of the textures. The RTX 3060 Ti is about 133 percent faster and is better able to handle lighting effects, so this isn’t too surprising.
- From a temperature perspective, my RTX 3060 Ti idles at around 50° and reaches 65°C under load. Altogether, I am very satisfied with the video card’s performance: the improvement is roughly similar to when I made the upgrade to the GTX 1060 from the GTX 660, which was present in my original build from 2013. That machine had been built for moderate gaming, and while it couldn’t run period titles with everything set to ultra at 60 FPS and 1080p (for instance, the GTX 660 struggled with Battlefield 4), it had proven to be more than enough for the games I’d been interested in.
- The release of DOOM in 2016 was eventually what convinced me to upgrade, and for six years, the GTX 1060 had continued to be my workhorse GPU, handling everything I tasked it with, including Metro Exodus and DOOM Eternal. While the old GTX 1060 is still in fighting shape, my decision to upgrade came from the fact that I was looking to get something that could handle VR more effectively on top of being able to mess with real-time ray tracing. In this way, much as how DOOM led me to upgrade to the GTX 1060, it is fair to say that DOOM Eternal and Half-Life: Alyx encouraged me to step up to the RTX 3060 Ti.
- Back in Modern Warfare, the mission to apprehend The Wolf gives players a chance to experience Zero Dark Thirty for themselves: after cutting the lights to The Wolf’s hideout, the Infrared Night Vision (IRNV) goggles come on. In this state, players cannot aim down sight, but instead, make use of a special laser sight that’s only visible when IRNV is enabled. This mission’s emphasis on room clearing and stealth brought back memories of Zero Dark Thirty‘s portrayal of Operation Neptune Spear, where JSOC coordinated a successful raid at Waziristan Haveli to neutralise Osama bin Laden.
- Similarly to Zero Dark Thirty, I waited for teammates to breach the parameter before entering, clearing out each room with caution: women and children are present on site, and some women will reach for nearby weapons. While it’s a snap decision to fire upon any combatant who’s armed, seeing unarmed women initially can throw players off. These aspects of warfare are conveyed to players through this mission, and it is in this way that Modern Warfare is able to excel as a game, by giving players a glimpse of how difficult it is to make decisions in the moment.
- For this mission, as Garrick, players are equipped with the M13, which is outfitted with a reflex sight, suppressor and 1 mW laser, which can only be seen with the IRNV goggles. The M13 in Modern Warfare is based on the SIG MCX and while it’s a select-fire weapon chambered for the 5.56 mm NATO round, in the campaign, it’s configured to only fire in semi-automatic. The choice to constrain players to semi-automatic in the campaign is deliberate, meant to remind players to pick their shots carefully.
- The lights momentarily come on after the first building is cleared, and a sweep of the premises finds that The Wolf is nowhere to be seen. Here, I look back into the electrical room, where a hot water heater can also be seen. The composition of this photo actually reminds me of the basement to the building that housed my first start-up, a former nurses’ quarters that had been around since the 1920s. A year ago, I revisited the site with a friend and found the building to be demolished: it must’ve sat empty since we’d closed up shop during the September of four years earlier.
- Here, I pass through a room filled with computer equipment, storage media and physical files. Such a room would represent a treasure trove of information surrounding terror cells, but in this moment, the mission’s objective is to locate The Wolf. Moving through the cramped hallways and dark rooms in this mission was quite claustrophobic, and there are several moments where I used my flashbang grenades to buy myself some breathing room before entering a room with an unknown number of occupants.
- As I climb the stairwell to the final floor, I noticed that it turns to the right, and in a moment of déjà vu, I gripped my mouse a little more tightly in anticipation of an unseen foe that was almost certainly around the corner. Moments later, the operator in front of me double-tapped an enemy combatant, and then shot him a few more times for good measure, bringing to mind a moment in Zero Dark Thirty that almost certainly inspired this scene. However, unlike Zero Dark Thirty, The Wolf isn’t on the final floor, and with the second building cleared, orders are given to turn the lights back on.
- In a scene reminiscent of Zero Dark Thirty, the other operators immediately begin taking the place apart and recovering everything of value – even though The Wolf isn’t present, the communications The Wolf have with his cells could provide valuable intelligence on what Al-Qatala could have planned for the future and stop them ahead of time. Typically, once the material is recovered, it is passed along to intelligence analysts, who then pick everything apart, turn it into reports that then impact what operations the government and armed forces subsequently action.
- The mission’s perspective switches over to that of Alex, who accompanies Farah in pursuit of The Wolf through a subterranean network of tunnels. While a relatively small map compared to Call of Duty‘s larger missions, the urgency is still felt in this second half. The tunnels are filled with makeshift traps that Alex must disarm – Bad Company 2 had done something similar in its missions, where tripwires would set off explosives that could injure or kill the player, and this forces one to be mindful of their surroundings.
- Alex starts with a pistol and shotgun, so I immediately looted an AK-47 from a defeated Al-Qatala fighter. The starting Model 680 (an 870 MCS) is a solid shotgun in the tunnels’ close quarters, as every pull of the trigger fires off a deadly cone of buckshot that will shred foes. However, as a pump-action weapon, missing in the narrow tunnels can prove fatal. This particular Model 680 is armed with a red dot sight, although traditionally, I’ve found that shotguns can be fired from the hip with reasonable accuracy and don’t need to be aimed,
- One of the aspects about campaigns that I’ve not been terribly fond of in campaigns is how there’s almost no options for weapon customisation. One game that did a fantastic job of this was 2015’s Battlefield Hardline: the campaign was extensive and thoughtfully done, and as players completed assignments in the story missions, they could unlock accessories and attachment for their weapons the same way they could for the multiplayer. In this way, the game allowed players to kit weapons out precisely to their liking, and while players were rewarded for stealth, players can always revisit the game and go loud in every mission.
- As I pass by a lamp in the tunnels, the Model 860’s smooth textures become thrown into sharp relief. I’ve enabled ray tracing simply for kicks, and while the effects are subtle, it is nice to see light effects being rendered in real time. If disabled, games will use baked lighting, and there are a few areas in Modern Warfare where these effects are most pronounced. I still remember a conversation with a coworker at my first start up. Back then, real-time ray-tracing was still a novel technology – the techniques had existed to do it, but it remained out of reach for most consumers because of the incredibly high hardware requirements.
- NVIDIA’s Turing cards brought real-time ray-tracing to consumers two years later – these cards have dedicated hardware for ray-tracing, which carries out calculations in parallel with the tensor cores to improve performance. The Turing cards were revolutionary, and while the gains in performance haven’t been quite as impressive as the gap between the Pascal and Maxwell cards, modern cards mean that real-time ray-tracing will continue to be more common in games as a bonus feature for those looking to really immerse themselves.
- The merits of having an RTX series video card are most apparent when one plays games with real-time ray-tracing, and shortly after the Turing cards were released, developers began releasing updates to their games to add real-time ray-tracing. Games like DOOM Eternal, Metro: Exodus and Battlefield V greatly benefit from this technology, and having seen the comparisons for myself, I feel that it would be worthwhile to go back and play these games again, front-to-back – the differences are so significant that these games feel like entirely new entries.
- Having said this, even games without real-time ray-tracing benefit from the new GPUs. As I’ve found, Ghost Recon: Wildlands can now be cranked up to maximum at1080p and still maintain a consistently high framerate. With the RTX 3060 Ti, I’ve not had any concerns about whether or not certain areas of Modern Warfare, such as the part where the timber framing is set on fire as a result of exploding fuel barrels, would give my machine trouble.
- The real-time ray-tracing effects in Modern Warfare are a ways more subtle than something like DOOM Eternal, and I imagine that, had I been playing the multiplayer or Warzone battle royale modes, I’d leave real-time ray-tracing off. However, in campaigns, where exploration and marvelling at the graphics is a part of the experience, I prefer to have everything cranked up as high as it goes. Here, as I make my way deeper into the tunnels, I couldn’t help but get Metro vibes. I was introduced to that series when NVIDIA was doing a promotion with their Kepler GPUs and got Metro: Last Light for free with my GTX 660.
- At the time, the GTX 660 was counted as a solid value GPU for 1080p gaming back in 2012, although it wasn’t going to run everything in Metro: Last Light at maximum settings (if memory serves, achieving this required a single GTX 690 or a pair of GTX 680s in SLI). I don’t think I ever ended up revisiting Metro: Last Light with my GTX 1060, but in benchmarks, this card would’ve given me excellent frame rates. With this in mind, I feel that playing through Metro: Exodus with the RTX 3060 Ti would be a fantastic choice, and return to Modern Warfare, where I finally apprehend The Wolf and subsequently disarm his suicide vest with seconds to spare.
- With The Wolf’s death, Modern Warfare flashes back to a time when Farah and Hadir were Barkov’s prisoners. Hadir sets in motion a prison break, and while the mission initially has players completely unable to respond to anything Barkov does, once an explosion outside forces Barkov to investigate, Farah is given a chance to escape. One of the challenges in this mission is determining what can be interacted with, but once players figure out how to escape the prison block and confiscates a sidearm after killing one of the guards, Modern Warfare returns to form – it’s time to dispense some payback.
- As helpful as a pistol is, Farah and the other prisoners can deal some real damage once she unlocks a weapons case. It turns out the key Hadir handed her was for such a purpose, and while all of the AK-47s available are in their base configuration, they’re more than enough to get the job done. By this point in time, iron sights are no longer a problem for me, and I had no trouble in using them to cut down all of the guards blocking Farah’s escape.
- Real-time volumetric lighting has been a topic of interest since the late 2000s, during a time when games still largely depended on baked lighting. However, while graphics technology has improved wildly in the past decade, the heart of what makes a game worthwhile is gameplay and immersion. This is why older games are still engaging and worthwhile even if they are inferior from a visual standpoint; of late, games have relied increasingly on micro-transactions and cosmetics to continue driving profits, and this comes at the expense of game mechanics and immersion.
- However, when a base game offers a good experience, I have no problems with picking up additional content for that game – Ace Combat 7, The Division 2, Ghost Recon: Wildlands and DOOM Eternal are examples of games where the downloadable content proved fun and engaging, extending my enjoyment of a title further. I appreciate that as production values in games increase, there has to be some way of ensuring developers can keep working on their craft, so for titles I really enjoy, I do not object to dropping a bit more coin.
- Eventually, after making my way outside, I managed to pick up an AK-47 with optics, helping me to pick off foes from a longer range with increased confidence. Out here, Farah and the other rebels find themselves pinned down by a sniper. While there’s no way to kill the sniper directly, firing on the scope glint will force the sniper to temporarily retreat, buying Farah and the rebels enough time to move from cover to cover. During this process, additional guards will appear, and at these ranges, I found myself wishing for a good submachine gun or PDW – traditionally, submachine guns excel with hipfire and are a great choice for surprise close-quarters battles.
- During the fighting, Barkov can be seen evacuating the area on a helicopter. One interesting piece that Modern Warfare chooses to portray here in this mission is Farah’s inexperience with various firearms – reloading times are longer and have different animations. Moreover, Farah can’t reload while aiming down sights, and recoil is much more aggressive. Attention to detail had previously been Battlefield‘s forte, and during the Battlefield 1 days, YouTubers were fond of showing off subtle things Battlefield did that were absent in Call of Duty. Today, the tables have turned – Battlefield 2042 lacks the same nuance as its predecessors, and Call of Duty games actually have superior detail.
- Eventually, Farah and her compatriots will reach the warehouse. She takes down the sniper, and although her group is surrounded by Russian forces, who’ve regrouped, Captain Price and SAS operators arrive. They dispatch the Russians and accompany Farah’s group deeper into the complex. At this point, there’s no more firefights to deal with, leaving Farah to try and find Hadir. This mission sets in motion Farah’s leadership of the resistance forces in Urzikstan, and marks the first time where Price, then a leftenant, meets her.
- In the end, Farah rescues Hadir with Price’s help – it turns out the Russians had been working on their chemical weapons programme even back during this time. I imagine that Hadir’s exposure to the gas is why he’d been so keen on turning these same weapons back against the Russians. With this knowledge, we enter the final act of Modern Warfare knowing what the stakes are, and I am hoping that there will be a chance to go loud as players work to stop both Barkov and the chemical weapons that are still loose in the wild.
- We’re now halfway through September, and on the gaming front, I’ve been spending more time with Battlefield 2042 – between the start of the seasons back in June and the fact my machine can actually run the game at reasonable frame rates, I’ve found the game to be reasonably fun despite its deviations from previous titles. The game is in a significantly better spot than it had been when it launched, and I’m finding it to be a fairly engaging experience; I could think of worse ways of spending an evening than playing round or two to unwind.
Three-quarters of the way into Modern Warfare, it becomes clear that this instalment in the Call of Duty franchise is quite unconventional and shows how the first person perspective can be utilised to create an especially visceral story. The missions are significantly more tactical and smaller in scale compared to its predecessors, and the pacing is considerably slower. Engagements are tighter and more focused, demanding one pay more attention to smaller details. While lacking the bombastic set-pieces of the older titles, Modern Warfare manages to remain engaging precisely because of its more methodical approach towards storytelling and showing the measured patience that goes into each operation, as well as how hectic firefights become when plans fall by the wayside. The slower pacing in Modern Warfare will likely continue into the campaign’s final quarter, although here, it is worth noting that all other aspects of Modern Warfare are faster-paced, whether it be the close-quarters frenzy of multiplayer, or the pure chaos that happens in Warzone. This represents a pleasant, more introspective way of playing a Call of Duty game, and in this way, Modern Warfare shows how even in a world where multiplayer games gain considerably more attention than single player campaigns, the campaign continues to remain relevant by utilising the same tools and elements in a game to present a completely different experience, one that is worth going through. I was quite surprised to learn that Hadir had been responsible for the theft of the chemical weapons, and as I head over to St. Petersburg, I am now curious to learn how this story concludes.