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They say you can't go home again. But it turns out that, if the foundation is solid and the framework is sound, that saying just doesn't hold true. I found that to be the case with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. Infinity Ward built a game that, 10 years ago, redefined a genre. Now the team at Raven Software has come in and, rather than slap a fresh coat of paint on the walls and call it good, they've basically offered a from the ground up rebuild. The end result feels like a homecoming, but also something totally new.
It's hard to define Modern Warfare Remastered. Remasters of last-gen games usually boil down to some enhanced graphics and maybe a few extra pieces of content to make a re-purchase feel worthwhile. What Raven has done, however, is more akin to what you get out of remakes. Compare The Nathan Drake Collection to Resident Evil HD and that should give you an idea of where the distinction lies.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare first launched back in 2007, making it nearly a decade old at this point. The game was no slouch for the previous generation, but it still needed quite a bit of work to bring it up to current standards. But since it's being given away as a bonus with the upcoming Infinite Warfare, I went in expecting a workmanlike attempt at sprucing up the experience in order to add it as a bullet point on the back of a box. I was so wrong.
I had to go back and re-watch missions from the original Modern Warfare to confirm just how much had been done in the remaster. The way remasters usually work, they clean things up enough so that the new version of the game looks as good as your rose-tinted memory glasses recall. Five seconds into Modern Warfare Remastered, though, and it was clear that so much more had been done to this FPS classic.
From new textures to dynamic lighting, effects and environmental touches, the game looks like it belongs on modern consoles. Plain settings have been given extra details, more realistic models, and so many small touches that they're impossible to count. In the training mission alone, your short walk around the base now includes trucks rolling past, soldiers working through their daily routines, flyovers and more that just wasn't there before. The same happens on the battlefield, where those extra details and events happening in the background make the world feel more lived in. It's a pretty dramatic change, one I appreciate even more since, again, nobody was asking for this much extra work to be poured into the classic campaign.
And speaking of the campaign, that's the only thing I'm reviewing here. As if this fantastic stroll down memory lane wasn't good enough, Modern Warfare Remastered will boast an online mode once the game actually drops this November. Again, that will all be included as an added bonus for folks who pick up the Legacy Edition of Infinite Warfare.
Working through these familiar missions, I was reminded why Modern Warfare became the blueprint for the entire genre. The game still controls great and the remaster even includes improved sound and some new motion capture so, while it might not compare to more recent entries in terms of scope and bombast, it still holds its own nicely.
Actually, I prefer this more grounded experience, especially now that the whole ordeal has been whipped into shape for modern consoles. This campaign is about taking on insane odds with just a handful of tools at your disposal. You heal like Wolverine, sure, but there's no radar to help you find your enemies and definitely no super-soldier powers to turn you into a one-man army. It's kind of quaint by today's norm, which makes it all the more refreshing.
There's a little bit of everything here, with Soap MacTavish and his fellow soldiers hopping across the globe, and even time, to tell the tale of a nuclear threat that's just as relevant today as it was 10 years ago.
You'll need to sneak through night missions, take on sniping sections, hop on a mounted gun for some rail shooting, do plenty of running and gunning through active war zones, rescue your comrades, assassinate high priority targets and more. These types of missions might seem a bit rote by today's standards, but that's only because Modern Warfare basically set those standards; standards that have been mimicked and redone time and time again since 2007.
Familiar as those tropes are, the whole campaign is still a blast to play through. There're still some unfriendly spikes in difficulty, occasionally insufficient direction, occasionally too much direction, and enemies that sometimes feel too eager to run into the line of fire, but none of that is distracting enough to overpower an otherwise fun romp. It turns out that carefully constructed maps and missions can stand the test of time nicely, and Modern Warfare offered both in spades. And once you're done with all of those iconic missions, you'll still have the Arcade Mode open for tackling additional challenges, as well as those Intel Cheats that let you change aspects of the game, such as the visual filter, for picking up hidden items throughout the core experience.
If it isn't abundantly clear at this point, I've been absolutely tickled by what Modern Warfare Remastered has already given me, and I still haven't had a chance to touch that multiplayer content just yet. If you're a long-time fan of the series, this game has turned out to be exactly what you were hoping for but feared wouldn't pan out. If you missed out on Modern Warfare the first time around, then the remaster is the perfect opportunity for a crash course in FPS history.
This review based on a PlayStation 4 download of the game provided by the publisher.