Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s second season is almost here and Infinity Ward has revealed what content players can look forward to. Season 2 will include five new maps at launch, and one later in the season, as well as new weapons, new modes and new operators.
Most of Modern Warfare’s new content will arrive on the first day of the season, including the fan-favorite Modern Warfare 2 map Rust. It’s a small desert-set map with multiple levels for players to chase each other, leading to quick fights and perilous escapes. Atlas Superstore, a new map for Modern Warfare, will also arrive on day one, as well two new Gunfight maps, and the new Ground War map, called Zhokov Boneyard. The new Operator, Ghost, as well as the new GRAU 5.56 and Striker 45 weapons are also part of the game’s day one additions.
Later in the season, two new operators will be added to the game called Talon and Mace, as well as a new weapon that Infinity Ward hasn’t revealed yet. There will also be a new map called Khandor Hideout, though there’s no release date for any of that content yet. Season 2 will also include new multiplayer modes like Gunfight Tournament, Infected and Infected Ground War, which will rotate in and out periodically throughout the season.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare season 2 will be available on Feb. 11 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.
When and where players spawn into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer maps has been a point of contention since before the original came out in 2007. But, the reboot of the franchise is having some unique issues all its own. Some players are spawning into the game in mid air, occasionally causing them to fall to their deaths.
Modern Warfare got off to a rocky start. While the gameplay itself was solid, and the servers were stable, weapon imbalance issues were clear from the start. Before long, everyone was running around with one particular shotgun, which had incredible range and stopping power. It took multiple rounds of nerfs to finally bring it under control.
On Tuesday, the team behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfarefinally revealed its campaign trailer. What lies behind the curtain is a fraught military drama, one that sees British and American special forces partnering with Middle Eastern militants to bring down a dangerous terrorist organization.
Along with that narrative, developer Infinity Ward also introduced a new and potentially divisive character to the Call of Duty lore. Her name is Farah Karim. She’s the same woman who, in the game’s opening act, survives a chemical weapons attack on her village. The same woman who watched her father murdered at the hands of a Russian soldier in her own home. Now she leads troops into battle. And, according to snippets of dialogue from the trailer, she shares a country with the same terrorist organization that Western powers are trying to track down.
Except it’s not a real country. It’s a make-believe place called Urzikstan.
Using made-up countries to avoid uncomfortable portrayals is a dodge common to films and television. The legacy of post-World War II action movies is full of enemy combatants transformed into unflattering caricatures, and one way to avoid accusations of insensitivity is to make sure those characters don’t come from real places on the map. You’re not supposed to feel for them, so where they come from is simply obfuscated.
But Modern Warfare wants to do things differently. At E3 this year, the team from Infinity Ward stressed that they want to evoke empathy for combatants on both sides of the battle line. They want players to feel something for their enemies, to see the world through their eyes. And yet the narrative team opted to maintain the status quo of othering the enemy by denying them a real country.
In Modern Warfare the Brits fight for Britain and the Yanks fight for the good ol’ U. S. of A. But Farah’s country, the narrative center of the game, is entirely fictional. So, while Western forces — and Western audiences — get to fight the good fight with a flag on their shoulder, Middle Eastern forces and Middle Eastern players aren’t given the same luxury.
At E3 this year I asked Jacob Minkoff, single-player design director at Infinity Ward, about why that is. Our interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Polygon: These men and women that your team is portraying are just doing their jobs. They’re very good at it. They have their own motivations. They have their own reasons for doing what they do, but they each have value as people and as professionals.
[In your gameplay trailer] it’s clear that there are Russian forces. There are mixed American and British forces on the Western side. So these are flagged soldiers, fictional engagements, but real countries.
Jacob Minkoff: Absolutely.
But the Middle Eastern folks have a fictional country that they’re from and that they’re fighting for. Why give the Western folks, the white folks exploring this battle space, a nation to call their own and not give those Middle Eastern folks a nation as well? Why not place this in a real Middle Eastern country?
So the, the reason is that when you — I’m going to take it from outside in.
So let’s look at Piccadilly.
[Note: Piccadilly is an early level in Modern Warfare, shown to the press for the first time shortly before E3. In that level, British special forces storm a residential building in London to clear out a Middle Eastern terrorist cell. The sequence has not yet been shown to the public, but you can read our impressions.]
Terrorists attack Piccadilly. They perpetrate an attack there. Why do terrorists attack other countries outside their own? In general, it’s because they feel that the governments of those countries are messing with their country. They are either involved in their politics or occupying them or whatever the case may be. So terrorism is generally directed outwards towards these threats that they feel. They want foreign power off their soil, so they say, “I’m going to attack you on your soil so you pay attention to me and feel that, ultimately, it’s not worth your while. You should get off my soil.”
So, that’s why we can have countries like the U.K. being attacked by terrorists. But, now let’s go over to the country that those terrorists come from.
Now, when we’re talking about being in that country, it becomes much more politically fraught, politically complex. You can talk about terrorists attacking a great power to get them off of their soil without specifically talking about the politics of the country from which those terrorists come, because you’re really talking more about the actions of the superpowers against that country. But, when you talk about spending a whole bunch of time in this Middle Eastern country, where we’re going to be tracking down the terrorist leader and working alongside freedom fighters in that country, we just didn’t want to get wrapped up in the politics of any specific real world country. That’s because, number one, we don’t know enough about the politics of any given country to be able to do it respectfully. And, number two, it would tie our hands as developers where we have these ideas of emotionally impactful narrative moments, exciting gameplay moments, and we want to be able to bring those to the screen without having to worry about, “Well, that’s not accurate to this conflict. That thing didn’t really happen. There are actually four different or five different or ten different parties in this country and we really would need to, if we’re going to set it there, talk about a much, much more complex geopolitical environment than we really can in the context of the video game.” So it makes sense for us to fictionalize the Middle Eastern country, but not the places that the Middle Eastern — that the terrorists from that country attack.
How do you view your role as an artist, then, in putting yourself onto the political spectrum and talking about what’s going on in these conflicts, in places like Syria and in Afghanistan, without naming them? How do you create a narrative in the places where these troops, with flags on their shoulders, who are in harm’s way right now, alongside the civilians, and the freedom fighters, and the terrorists that “work” there, too?
Yeah, I mean, ultimately, what we say is that we want you to empathize with the individuals, right? Because it is so complex you can drive yourself insane. You can make yourself completely paralyzed and feel like you can’t touch any of the subject matter at all if you start trying to focus on all the political nuance. But, instead, if you just step back and say, “What do I really want?” I want you to empathize with the individual. I want you to understand that Middle Eastern people suffer from terrorism more than almost anyone else in the world because it’s their soil, it’s happening to them. They’re the ones being hurt. We’re all terrified of ISIS, but they’re the ones who really are suffering the most. And is there a way that we can represent the spirit of those conflicts without the specifics of them?
It feels to me, though, that there is so much narrative and empathic weight on the shoulders of Farah. Do you worry for her and how your audience will see her in the end?
I don’t, because I am really confident that once you see the whole game in context, you will find that Farah is one of the most fully developed characters that we’ve ever created and I think you’ll really appreciate and enjoy playing through her story.
How will you know if she’s been successful? What’s the reaction you want people to have to her?
I want people to look at the story of Modern Warfare as a whole and say, “That is one of the best narrative experiences that I’ve played. I’m attached to these characters and I want to see where they go in the future. And I understand what they fight for, why they fight, and I empathize with them and I want to continue seeing them into the future.”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is coming to PlayStation 4, Windows PC via Battle.net, and Xbox One with cross-platform play. The game will be released on Oct. 25.
The original Modern Warfare changed multiplayer games forever with its out-of-game progression system and unlocks. But if Modern Warfare built the foundation of Call of Duty multiplayer, it was Modern Warfare 2, which sold nearly 10 million more copies than its predecessor, and the very similar Modern Warfare 3, which is still the highest selling game in the series, that cemented it. In these two sequels Infinity Ward kept the first game’s tension but ratcheted up the speed and gave players even more options to customize the loadouts they brought into each multiplayer match. And it’s from these two games that 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare multiplayer seems to draw its inspiration from.
Of all the differences between 2019’s Modern Warfare and 2007’s, the maps may be what stands out the most.
Modern Warfare (2007) featured wide open areas and long sight lines. Even on the smaller maps, chances were good you could see an enemy coming and they could see you, too. On these maps, one player could stand in a window and hold down an entire section on their own with no reason to ever move.
But Modern Warfare 2, and the beta for 2019’s Modern Warfare, aren’t like that at all. The long sight lines are still there, but most of the maps here are broken up with nooks and crannies you can hide in, and tight corners for you to whip around in hopes of seeing an enemy before they realize you’re there. You’re meant to stay mobile, and instant reactions are king.
All this makes for a game that moves at a different speed. It isn’t the constant rushing of the Call of Duty series’ more recent entries, like last year’s Black Ops 4where players can slide around the map at lighting speed, but it’s certainly faster than the 2007 version. The new Modern Warfare is full of a contemplative quickness, if such a thing can be said to exist. You never stand in the same place too long because there’s always a better place to go, but if you rush around the map too quickly, you’re sure to end up in someone’s sights. It’s the kind of pace that can only works with small maps that are easily learned.
After half of a match I already found myself hearing shots and knowing exactly which building they came from, or climbing a box to get an angle on an alley I knew an enemy was running toward. It’s the kind of instant familiarity that Modern Warfare 2 had with its best maps, the ones that were always small enough that you’d never go more than 20 seconds without finding someone, but big enough to never feel too cramped. Situational awareness and knowledge of movement patterns through tight spaces are key to success.
The one problem with these maps in the Modern Warfare beta is that they are sometimes undermined by bad spawning. At its best, Modern Warfare 2’s spawns would make it feel like the battlefield was constantly shifting. As one team pushed from one side of the map to the other, their opponents would start to spawn on the opposite side, turning the battlefield around. The spawns were quick and could sometimes help an enemy get the drop on you, but they rarely felt unfair or completely unpredictable.
In the Modern Warfare beta, unpredictable spawns were the norm. Anytime I went a few seconds without fighting someone it always felt possible that they could spawn in behind me, or in the perfect spot to start shooting. These kinds of spawns are frustrating for everyone involved.
For every time I died to a player who had spawned in behind me from a point that I cleared a moment earlier, I can remember getting kills on freshly revived players that died because they happened to spawn facing away from me. But what else is a beta for if not fixing minor issues like these?
This frenetic-but-thoughtful pace combined with the intricately designed maps made every one of Modern Warfare beta’s matches fun. Whether the previous match was a blow out win or a narrow defeat it was always easy to justify another seven minute round. Playing the new Modern Warfare wasn’t exactly like spending hours on Xbox Live back in 2009, but it was close.
Despite the minor annoyance of some unpredictable spawns, Modern Warfare does feel like a departure from the recent run of Call of Duty games.
Rather than trying to pull in elements of other popular multiplayer games, Modern Warfare feels like Infinity Ward stripping away layers and bringing the series back to the things that make it great. A decade ago, Modern Warfare 2 was the most popular game in the world, and the Modern Warfare beta makes it easy to remember why.
One week ago, Activision and Infinity Ward said “most” post-release content for Call of Duty: Modern Warfarewould launch simultaneously, but that PlayStation 4 players would get “an exciting Day 1 advantage.” We now know that the term “most” excludes the game’s Spec Ops Survival mode, and “Day 1 advantage” means PlayStation 4 players get that exclusive for a full year.
As one might expect, PC and Xbox One players are peeved about this, even more than usual due to Modern Warfare’s support for cross-platform play. The news came during Tuesday’s State of Play showcase for PlayStation, with the yearlong exclusive — until Oct. 1, 2020 — both asterisked and fine-printed.
On Twitter yesterday afternoon, Infinity Ward’s narrative director Taylor Kurosaki stressed that this only applies to the Spec Ops Survival mode (and, importantly, that’s not the full Spec Ops mode, it’s just one type of game within it). Kurosaki said the decision to hold out Spec Ops Survival was a decision “above all of our pay grades.”
It’s all good. We have tried our best to have an open dialogue with our players from day one. We understand letting that trust down. These are complicated decisions that are above our pay grade. Please know we want what’s best for all our players.
Kurosaki also implied that the furor over the yearlong exclusive mode for PS4 seemed somewhat overblown.
Let’s be honest, “ruining” is an exaggeration. Survival is 1% of the game. The other 99% is simultaneous day and date across all platforms. I’d rather have everyone playing 99% of the content at the same time than 100% of the content some time later.
Since 2015, Sony has enjoyed a timed-exclusive, first crack at Call of Duty post-launch downloadable content, picking up that deal after Microsoft offered similar exclusivity for the five years prior. Last week’s announcement made it sound like that arrangement was changing, but the open beta’s two day preview on PlayStation 4, plus an exclusive 2v2 Alpha test on that console, is a reminder that it’s still very much in effect.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is coming to consoles and PC on Oct. 25, with cross-play support across PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. Players will get a taste of cross-platform multiplayer starting Thursday, Sept. 19, with Modern Warfare’s cross-play open beta.
On the official Activision blog, the game’s creators explain how cross-play will work in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and how you’ll be able to hook up with your friends on other platforms.
Two important items to note: Players can opt in or out of cross-platform play, and if they want to play multiplayer, they’ll need a COD Account. Players can sign up for an account using their PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Steam, or Battle.net ID through the Call of Duty website.
According to the blog:
Using your COD Account, you are able to create cross-platform Friends lists and Parties from all three supported platforms. This unites the community by removing barriers, creating platform-agnostic friend groups. Are you a PS4 player with friends on Xbox One and PC, for example? Now you can organize parties and jump into matches with your friends, easily and quickly regardless of platform!
As for keeping the playing field level, matchmaking will be done by input type: controller, or mouse and keyboard. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will support keyboard and mouse on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, if you want to cross-play with PC players. Similarly, PC players can match with console players if all parties are using a controller.
Infinity Ward and Activision will also allow players to join multiplayer lobbies with no control scheme filters whatsoever. If you really want to get wrecked using a controller on PS4 against a player on PC using keyboard and mouse, you have that option.
To keep all platforms in parity, Activision and Infinity Ward say that “most” post-release game content — multiplayer maps, modes, and special ops missions — will be released simultaneously across all platforms. That means no more waiting for PS4 players to get first crack at DLC. That said, PS4 players will still enjoy “an exciting Day 1 advantage,” but developers did not specify what that would be.
Of course, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3didn’t have zombies modes either — that’s mainly been Treyarch’s jam ever since World at War 11 years ago. Ghosts (2013) had an Extinction mode with alien enemies, and Infinity Ward put zombies in 2016’s Infinite Warfare. Otherwise, zip for the undead from them, and none in this particular arc.
What Modern Warfare 2 will have, according to PlayStation Lifestyle, is a “single-player storyline that goes directly into the co-op storyline. No stop.” That’s according to Jacob Minkoff, the director in charge of the main campaign. And that is interesting. It sounds like a departure from the popular Survival co-operative mode offered in 2011’s Modern Warfare 3 (God, how time flies) in which two players fought off waves of enemies. But who knows, as Minkoff said they won’t be talking about co-op multiplayer until later. Modern Warfare launches at the end of October.
At any rate, Minkoff explained that Zombies just don’t fit with the milieu of Modern Warfare. Given Nazis’ history as sci-fi villains in pop culture, they sort of fit for World at War and WWII, and as a campy, grindhouse-themed spinoff in the Black Ops line (who could forget defending a bunker with Nixon, JFK and Robert McNamara, after all). But not in Modern Warfare, because “we’re trying to create an authentic, realistic feeling world,” Minkoff said.
Makes sense. We have some quibbles with whether that’s a good approach to something that, in gameplay and appeal, has been a casual fan’s shooter for quite some time. But Minkoff is right that’s the player expectation set by the Modern Warfare treatment going back to its landmark debut in 2007 — and this will be a series reboot.
It’s becoming progressively difficult to make games in which the player kills their way through realistic scenarios in a world in which it can be hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys at a glance.
You could argue this has always been the case if you’ve spent a few minutes learning about literally any of human history, but the people behind our pop culture representations of that violence want us to know that they, too, understand that solving problems has much more complicated than knowing who to shoot.
This is communicated to the player by putting them in situations in which they have to figure out who to shoot, while the scripted nature of the game makes it clear that they should very conflicted about whoever they’ve decided to shoot. It’s a bizarre tension between wanting to make violence into entertainment — which is a noble pursuit, if you ask me — and wanting to make pop culture that feels important and “authentic.”
And it’s a tension that will likely never be adequately released by the Call of Duty series, even if the first promotional push for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would like to pretend otherwise.
A history of violence
The Call of Duty franchise has been built on tightly scripted stories that give the players almost no say in what’s going on, but also increasingly meditate on the nature of, to coin a phrase, modern warfare. The politics involved in the act of flying somewhere to kill people as part of a military action have never been murkier, or more complicated, and games want in on that perceived moral ambiguity. Nothing is more real!
[Taylor Kurosaki, studio narrative director at Infinity Ward] referenced modern military films like Lone Survivor, American Sniper, Hurt Locker, and Sicario, which he said “are not about black and white” characters, but about people “navigating a tough world,” as influences on his new game.
While I only have a very limited amount of gameplay footage to go from when it comes to describing the upcoming Call of Duty game, the series has historically not let the player “navigate” anything. And I say this as a fan of the single-player campaign in almost every Call of Duty released.
They’re thrill rides, even if the thrill only lasts through the first playthrough, before you know exactly what’s going to happen and when. There might be one or two moments in which you have to make a decision about what to do, but overall the action will always play out in front of you, showing the carnage as if it were a diorama arranged purely for your benefit.
The single-player campaigns are amazing and I always find them thrilling, but they are not complex, nor are they authentic. They present complex issues as a sort of violence tourism, allowing you to feel conflicted about what you’re doing without actually asking you to engage much in your actions or their consequences. Your stomach may turn as you dispassionately kill the enemy using the long-range weapons of a modern gunship, but what’s the point of that provocative moment if the game barely even acknowledges your discomfort? The Call of Duty series, for good or ill, confuses the act of showing something with the act of saying something.
But the games are trapped between the reality of what they do well — linear, often stunning stories with twists and turns that play out the same way every time — and what they feel they must do in the modern industry, which is try to present a conflicted view about picking up a gun and pulling the trigger.
The series has been trying to explore how complicated this world can be, but those efforts are completely hamstrung by the simplicity of what the player is actually asked to do in each mission. Each Call of Duty release paints an increasingly vivid world in which the player does basically the same thing, over and over. No matter which character you play, in whatever part of the chain of command, Call of Duty isn’t decided to offer any player agency in a way that would actually lead to meaningful complexity or choice or consequence. And I doubt the latest entry will be any different.
Call of Duty, as it currently exists, just doesn’t have the design vocabulary to allow that kind of introspection, nor will the players take the idea of a complex world seriously if the only choices they are given boil down to whether to continue playing. If armed conflict is the result of an almost impossibly intricate mixture of social, economic, and political pressures, how can you tackle the subject in a realistic way if you’re always either carrying a gun, or trying to hide from people carrying a gun?
And I want to stress again that I love the Call of Duty campaigns; I play them every year on the biggest TV I can find through the most powerful console or gaming PC I own. I want them loud, splashy, and ridiculous. And the stories tend to deliver on those goals over and over, and it’s due to the talented men and women who love to entertain me with exactly that kind of experience. They’re successful, and I’m happy they do what they do so well.
My biggest complaint is that each year the series tries to convince us that it will be important in some way, or have something to say about the violence it’s selling and, unquestioningly, glorifying.
These aren’t complex games, and they really can’t be unless they switch genres and allow the players to make meaningful decisions that impact the world or address the root causes of the violence that makes Call of Duty what it is. The games can never be complex, even if they keep trying to become narratively sophisticated enough to at least nod at the reality of modern warfare.
But every year the marketing materials will pretend that this Call of Duty will have something to say, even if we all know that statement, in practice, boils down to how much fun it is to shoot beautifully rendered people in games that seem to be saying this is all fine, as long as they do their best to make you feel a bit uncomfortable as you play.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward’s re-imagining of its modern military shooter franchise, will have two very big changes: This year’s game will feature cross-play support for multiplayer on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One, and won’t have a “traditional season pass.”
“With the launch of Modern Warfare, the team is taking steps to unite the community,” Infinity Ward said in a statement. “First, the team plans for Modern Warfare to be played together across PC and console through cross-play support.
“Also, the team is eliminating the traditional season pass, so that they can deliver more free maps and content as well as post-launch events to all players.”
While cross-platform multiplay has become increasingly common, thanks to games like Rocket League, Fortnite, and Dauntless, a franchise like Call of Duty adopting multi-platform play is a major milestone for competitive gaming. Alongside the removal of a traditional paid season pass — how Call of Duty usually delivered new multiplayer maps — the change seems to signal the end of the franchise’s console exclusivity deals.
Activision has long supplemented the Call of Duty games with a paid season pass, which has typically cost about $50 and usually offers exclusive early access to one console platform (originally Xbox, recently PlayStation).
Activision didn’t say how it will supplement the lack of a season pass with some other form of monetization, but Call of Duty games have long had other forms of microtransactions for players to spend their money on.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will be released on Oct. 25.
The annual Call of Duty franchise has reached its reboot stage. This year’s entry, titled plainly Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, will reimagine the 15-year-old franchise, according to developer Infinity Ward.
That back-to-basics branding signals an approach other studios have taken to softly reboot their games this generation — think 2018’s God of War, 2016’s Doom, and 2013’s Tomb Raider. After developing the triaged Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and coolly received and under-appreciated Infinite Warfare, Infinity Ward says it wants to make a Modern Warfare that’s relevant and current.
That means a “morally gray world” where modern is meant quite literally: One mission Infinity Ward showcased during a recent studio visit take place in London this October, the month this new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches.
“By the time Modern Warfare 3 was over, nukes had gone off, the U.S. had been invaded by Russians, and there were no more relatable stakes,” said Taylor Kurosaki, studio narrative director at Infinity Ward. “So we put that storyline to bed, and instead reimagined those characters so they could work in the conflicts of today.
“The world we live in is more complex than the one 10 years ago. Enemies often do not wear uniforms … as a result, civilian collateral damage is a bigger part of the equation.”
Kurosaki likened the Modern Warfare reimagining to Casino Royale, the 2006 film that relaunched the James Bond franchise with a more grounded tone. He referenced modern military films like Lone Survivor, American Sniper, Hurt Locker, and Sicario, which he said “are not about black and white” characters, but about people “navigating a tough world,” as influences on his new game.
Jacob Minkoff, campaign gameplay director on the new Modern Warfare, made reference to another source of inspiration: Infinity Ward’s own Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and its AC-130 mission. In that section of the game, players view the conflict disconnected from above in sterile black and white, raining fire down on faceless enemies. The view from the AC-130 in that game looks nearly identical to real-world footage of such airstrikes.
“I felt genuinely and profoundly uncomfortable in that moment,” Minkoff said. And he wants the new Modern Warfare to deliver the same caliber of “relevant, relatable and provocative moments.”
Based on two missions from the game that we saw, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will have no shortage of provocation.
The first gameplay from Modern Warfare shows the conflict from the perspective of the British SAS. In London, outside Piccadilly Square, a car bomb explodes in a busy city street. The military tracks a suspect to a nearby location, and they stealthily approach an apartment building via a back alley approach. In cover of darkness, SAS soldiers enter the building wearing night vision goggles. It looks like the climactic scene of Zero Dark Thirty, a near-silent assault on an ordinary, rundown flat. They approach the kitchen and gun down two male suspects, then a woman. They creep upstairs and enter a room. A man takes a woman hostage. They shoot him. The hostage grabs the rifle that was just pointed at her and she is instantly shot by the SAS. A suspect takes cover behind a wall. The SAS shoot through drywall. He dies. They clear more floors. A baby is crying in a crib. Another suspect hides underneath a bed, the barrel of his gun visible to the SAS. They spray the mattress with bullets, and he dies too. Another floor. A woman, unarmed, makes a sudden movement. She’s killed. She was “going for a bloody detonator,” an officer says.
The SAS never asks a question. They make no arrests. These are shocking bursts of violence. It’s quick, oddly quiet, and, yes, genuinely and profoundly uncomfortable. It’s not often you see first-person shooters have players kill what look like everyday civilians.
The next segment we’re shown presents gameplay from a very different perspective. It’s set 20 years prior to the events of October, somewhere in the Middle East, and opens underneath rubble. A young girl awakens to the site of a corpse: her mother, killed by a Russian bombing raid and trapped underneath the crumbled rock and rebar. The girl is rescued, and reunited with her father. They head home, sneaking through city streets to avoid the Russian soldiers who are slaughtering their friends and neighbors. Father and daughter make it home, where the son safely awaits them. As they pack to leave, a Russian scout finds them. He shoots the father, but the children sneak away to find hiding spots. A game of cat and mouse ensues, as the Russian taunts the kids, hoping to root them out. The daughter, who is playable, grabs a screwdriver and stabs the Russian. Once, twice, and a third time, eventually snatching his gun away. She pulls the trigger on his Kalashnikov, wildly spraying a hail of bullets. The Russian dies. The girl, hands shaking, drops the rifle.
The horrors don’t stop there, as son and daughter run for safety, witnessing the ongoing decimation of their village. Men, women, and children are gassed and summarily executed. The scene ends when the girl finds a pistol, encounters another patrolman, and fires on him. It’s plainly evident that we’ll see how that decades-old scene results in a modern conflict from that same girl’s perspective as an adult freedom fighter.
She’ll represent one half of Modern Warfare’s campaign. While the game will bring back Tier 1 operators, including SAS operatives Captain John Price and John “Soap” McTavish, both reimagined for Modern Warfare, we’ll also see how war affects rebels and freedom fighters from their first-person perspective.
“We were very strongly influenced by stories of normal people trying to live their lives in the context of war,” said Michal Drobot, principal rendering engineer at Infinity Ward.
To make the conflict feel realistic, Infinity Ward is updating its technology to make Modern Warfare look and sound like its real-world influences. The studio invested in photogrammetry technology, scanning in physical objects (humans, cars, a Russian T-72 tank) to make the game look more realistic than ever before. Modern Warfare will employ a “new purpose-built engine” that includes features like ray-traced shadows, reflections, and audio; spectral rendering for night vision and thermal goggles; dynamic global illumination and reflections; and volumetric lighting.
Shown on a PlayStation 4 Pro at Infinity Ward’s in-house theater, it’s easily the most visually impressive Call of Duty game to date.
That pursuit of realism extends to the game’s guns, the primary means of interaction in Call of Duty games. Motion blur effects on guns and muzzle flare, reloading while aiming down sights, and all-new audio tech will “illustrate how powerful these weapons feel,” according to animation director Mark Grigsby.
“This is a military sim,” Infinity Ward studio co-head David Stohl said. His team is going for “authentic and gritty, not superhero caricature” for the new Modern Warfare. And while modern military shooters are inherently extremely violent, Infinity Ward is aiming for “intense and mature over gratuitous body count and gore.”
“This is the most authentic and realistic game we have ever made,” Minkoff said. “All we want to do as storytellers is make players feel something.”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which is coming to PlayStation 4, Windows PC via Battle.net, and Xbox One with cross-platform play, will be released on Oct. 25.