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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a 2019 first-person shooter game developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. Serving as the sixteenth overall installment in the Call of Duty series, as well as a reboot of the Modern Warfare sub-series, it was released on October 25, 2019, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

The game takes place in a realistic and modern setting. The campaign follows a CIA officer and British SAS forces as they team up with rebels from the fictional country of Urzikstan, combating together against Russian forces who have invaded the country and the terrorist group Al-Qatala. The game’s Special Ops mode features cooperative play missions that follow on from the campaign. The multiplayer mode supports cross-platform multiplayer and cross-platform progression for the first time in the series. It has been reworked for gameplay to be more tactical and introduces new features, such as a Realism mode that removes the HUD as well as a form of the Ground War mode that now supports 64 players. A post-launch update introduces a free-to-play battle royale mode, Warzone, which was also marketed as a standalone title.

Infinity Ward began working on the game soon after the release of their 2016 title Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. They introduced an entirely new engine for the game, which allows for new performance enhancements such as more detailed environments and ray-tracing capabilities. For the campaign, they took influence from real-life conflicts, such as the Syrian Civil War and terrorist incidents that have occurred in London. For the multiplayer, they scrapped the franchise’s traditional season pass and removed loot boxes, enabling them to distribute free post-launch content to the playerbase in the form of “Seasons”.

Modern Warfare received praise for its gameplay, campaign, multiplayer, graphics, and dark and realistic tone compared to previous entries; criticism focused on the handling of the campaign’s subject matter, including the depiction of the Russian military, as well as balancing issues in the multiplayer. A sequel was announced by Activision and will be released in 2022.


Modern Warfare is a first-person shooter game. Its single-player campaign focuses on realism and features tactically-based moral choices whereupon the player is evaluated and assigned a score at the end of each level; players have to quickly ascertain whether NPCs are a threat or not, such as a civilian woman who is believed to be reaching for a gun, but then simply grabs her baby from a crib. This collateral damage score, referred to as a threat assessment, is based on how many civilians the player injures or kills and ranges from rank A to F. Rewards are introduced to those who score higher. Character dialogue will differ depending on the choices the player makes in the game. Tactical decisions are also included, such as the player using a sniper rifle in a large environment to approach objectives in a non-linear order, and choosing to shoot out lights in favor of using night-vision goggles during breaching and clearing.

The game’s multiplayer has been revised from its predecessors to allow for a more tactical gameplay style, including a focus on map exploration, door breaching, and a Hardcore “Realism” mode that removes the HUD. The mini-map was originally removed in favor of a compass-style marker, with visual cues to detect friendlies and opponents. Following feedback from the multiplayer beta test, Infinity Ward re-implemented the mini-map but removed the appearance of red dots representing enemy players (except for when the UAV killstreak is used). Multiplayer also features the return of Killstreaks (rewards based on kills), with more recent Call of Duty titles having used Scorestreaks (rewards based on score) instead. Killstreaks can, however, be converted into Scorestreaks with the use of an in-game perk called “Pointman”. The online modes allow for a larger range of players within a map than previous installments, with a new mode called “Ground War” featuring over 100 players, while conversely another new mode, “Gunfight”, tasks two teams of two players against each other in small matches lasting forty seconds per round. The game includes an extensive weapons customization system, presenting most guns with a range of up to 60 attachments to choose from (five of which can be equipped at any one time). The introduction at the start of multiplayer matches has also been revamped; while in previous titles players would remain motionless on the map as a timer would countdown to zero, players will instead be transported into the battle zone as part of various animations.

Modern Warfare is the first game in the series since 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts not to feature a Zombies mode, instead featuring the cooperative “Special Ops” mode previously present in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Spec Ops shares its narrative with both the campaign and multiplayer. It includes a “Survival” mode, which is a timed exclusive to the PlayStation 4 release until October 2020. At launch, Special Ops features four Operations, which are multi-objective missions that take place in a large open map requiring mandatory 4-player cooperation; and Classic Special Ops, which features smaller scale missions, similar to the original Spec Ops mode.

The game also includes a battle royale game mode called Call of Duty: Warzone, introduced during Season 2. The mode features 150 players, battling either in teams of four, three, two, or solo. Warzone is released as a free standalone game which can be downloaded independently. The map combines several locations featured prominently in Multiplayer and Special Ops modes. Weapon balancing is maintained with parity to Multiplayer modes, with the exception of higher headshot damage to reward aiming. Similar to other battle royale games, Warzone also features looting as a core aspect, but weapon customization is limited as players can only pick up weapon variants with preset, unchangeable attachments. Looting is also simplified compared to other battle royale games in general, including Call of Duty: Black Ops 4′s Blackout mode in particular: instead of browsing via inventory, all loot items are situated across the map for players to view and pick up. Players can use armor plates to increase damage protection, and can carry up to five armor plates to swap out and repair at any given point. Upon being defeated, instead of dying permanently, players are taken to the “Gulag”, a prison area where defeated players can compete in 1v1 scenarios and gain a second chance to return to the main map. Players can also loot and stock up cash, which are used at buy stations to buy load out drops, killstreaks, equipment and revive tokens for downed teammates.



In 2019, during a covert operation in Verdansk, Kastovia to recover shipments of dangerous chemical gas headed for Urzikstan, CIA SAC/SOG Officer “Alex” is intercepted by unknown hostiles who kill the Marine Raiders accompanying him, and escape with the gas. Alex’s handler, Station Chief Kate Laswell, requests the assistance of SAS Captain John Price in recovering the chemicals and de-escalating the situation with Russia. Twenty-four hours later, a group of suicide bombers, affiliated with the terrorist organization Al-Qatala, attack Piccadilly Circus in London. SAS Sergeant Kyle Garrick, who has been following the suspected terrorists with his team, is dispatched to contain the situation with the assistance of Price and local police forces. Afterwards, Alex is sent to Urzikstan to meet up with rebel leader Farah Karim. She agrees to join forces in tracking down the chemicals, in exchange for his aid in overthrowing Russian forces led by General Roman Barkov.

SAS forces led by Price and Garrick raid an Al-Qatala-occupied townhouse in London, where they learn the location of their leader, Omar “The Wolf” Sulaman. Alex, accompanied by Sergeant Marcus Griggs and his squad of Marines, move on Ramaza Hospital in Urzikstan and capture the Wolf. Later, the Wolf’s right-hand man, Jamal “The Butcher” Rahar, launches an attack on the United States Embassy in Urzikstan in an attempt to free the Wolf. Price, Garrick, Alex, Farah and the embassy’s defense forces work together to secure the Wolf, but ultimately fail. Farah later comes up with a plan to ambush the Wolf’s men in the “Highway of Death” in Urzikstan. Her plan goes awry when Barkov’s men attack both the rebel forces and Al-Qatala militants. Farah’s brother and second in command, Hadir, is revealed to be the thief who stole the chemical shipment; in an attempt to drive off the hostile forces, Hadir sets off the chemicals in the area, killing all of Barkov’s men and Al-Qatala forces, with Farah and Alex narrowly escaping death.

At this point, the motivations behind the Karim siblings’ animosity with Barkov are revealed. In 1999, the siblings were left orphaned during Barkov’s invasion. The two attempted to escape the country, but were captured by Barkov himself and imprisoned for the next ten years. While in captivity, Farah rose to the rank of Commander of the rebel forces, and eventually executed a breakout from Barkov’s prison camp with the help of a young Price. Back in the present day, Hadir has seemingly joined forces with Al-Qatala, forcing Farah and Price’s team to take action. They infiltrate the Wolf’s hidden base and manage to kill him, though fail to locate Hadir. With the gas still at large, the United States Government declares Farah’s liberation army a foreign terrorist threat. Disgusted with his government, Alex stays in Urzikstan to fight as part of Farah’s army.

Following intel on a possible attack in Russia orchestrated by Hadir, Price and Garrick head to St. Petersburg and meet up with one of Price’s old contacts, Nikolai. They manage to intercept an Al-Qatala meeting and apprehend the Butcher. As the Butcher refuses to give in to interrogation, Price resorts to using his wife and son, forcing him to comply. Garrick is given the choice to either execute the Butcher or let him live. They learn that Hadir plans to attack Barkov at his estate in Baurci, Moldova, and proceed to intercept him. At the estate, the two learn from Hadir of the location of Barkov’s gas factory in Borjomi, Georgia, and narrowly escape. However, Laswell arrives, informing Price that Russia demands Hadir be handed over to them. Price begrudgingly complies, on the condition that they keep the intel on the gas factory. Price and Garrick meet up with Farah and Alex at Urzikstan, then plan their attack on the factory. Alongside assistance from Laswell, the team advances on the factory, and attempts to use explosives provided by Nikolai to demolish the facility. However, the detonator is damaged in the fight, and Alex volunteers to set up the explosives manually, seemingly sacrificing his own life. As Barkov attempts to escape the facility by helicopter, Farah ambushes and kills him. Farah’s forces and Price’s team evacuate as the factory is destroyed.

With Barkov dead and disowned by Russia, Price meets with Laswell to discuss the creation of Task Force 141 in preparation against the Russian terrorist Victor Zakhaev. Price reviews the files of potential recruits with Laswell: Garrick (revealed to be nicknamed “Gaz”), John “Soap” MacTavish, and Simon “Ghost” Riley.

Special Ops

Following the death of the Wolf, Al-Qatala re-emerges with a new leader, who poses a dangerous threat to Russian forces in Verdansk. Laswell, alongside Sergeant Kamarov of the FSB, authorizes a joint operation, enlisting many of the world’s best operators in fighting against the new unidentified threat. The joint faction, named the Armistice, takes on various Al-Qatala operations in Verdansk, taking out several key figures within the organization: Almalik, the Landlord; “El Traficanté”, the Smuggler; and AQ’s head of financial operations, the Banker. Following a hostage rescue operation, the Armistice learns that Al-Qatala has been dealing in arms trade with Zakhaev, who is revealed to have been the benefactor behind Al-Qatala’s recent resurgence, and their new leader is identified as Khaled Al-Asad.


Following the initial operations in Verdansk, the Armistice continues to dispatch agents on various missions against Al-Qatala forces. The alliance between Allegiance and Coalition factions begin to fracture when operators from both sides come into conflict while intercepting an Al-Qatala chemical shipment in Urzikstan. Some time later, Al-Qatala unleashes chemical attacks across Verdansk, causing the two factions to fight against each other, as well as among themselves, for survival as toxic gas surrounds the city. Amidst the chaos of Armistice’s fall and Verdansk’s destruction, Task Force 141 member Ghost requests Price to send in reliable reinforcements. Having survived the ordeal at General Barkov’s factory, Alex re-emerges and is sent to Verdansk to assist Ghost.

After intercepting a phone call between Al-Asad and Zakhaev, the Armistice leaders learn that Al-Qatala has been shipping armaments to various bunkers located throughout Verdansk, from experimental weapon prototypes to nuclear warheads. Price and Garrick are deployed to Verdansk to assist the ongoing war effort. However, frustrated with the lack of results from the Armistice, a private military company called Shadow Company sends forces to Verdansk to hunt down Zakhaev. An SC squad led by Marcus “Lerch” Ortega infiltrates the city’s stadium, where they believe Zakhaev is located, after Allegiance forces intercepted radio chatter coming from the stadium.

After learning that Zakhaev has been using Verdansk’s subway tunnels to move around undetected, Price sends Farah and Nikolai to infiltrate and reclaim the tunnels, restoring power to the metro system. Eventually, Task Force 141 hacks into Zakhaev’s comms locating him at a nuclear silo in Bunker 10. At the bunker, Zakhaev has armed the nuke and is preparing to launch but is shot by Price and then thrown down the silo, killing him. Price manages to terminate the missile launch just in time with Nikolai’s help. As the battle in Verdansk continues to rage on, Price is contacted by Soap, requesting backup “half a kilometer off the coast”.


The game was developed by Infinity Ward, following their 2016 entry Infinite Warfare, and continuing in the “three year development cycle” tradition for the franchise. High Moon Studios, Beenox, Raven Software, and Sledgehammer Games all provided additional development. The game uses a brand-new engine for the series, allowing for the use of more detailed environments, advanced photogrammetry and rendering, better volumetric lighting, and the use of ray tracing. The new engine had been in development five years prior to the release of the game, and was a collaborative effort between the main Infinity Ward studio in California and the new studio in Poland. On May 30, the game’s official trailer and release date were unveiled. According to narrative director Taylor Kurosaki, Captain Price will be featured in a retconned narrative “where the events in the previous Modern Warfare timeline have not occurred.”

Studio art director Joel Emslie described the game’s narrative as “much more grown-up mature”, designed to elicit a more intimate and emotional response from players through a depiction of conflict based on contemporary events (such as terror attacks in London and the Syrian Civil War) rather than the original trilogy’s reliance on bombastic set pieces. Campaign gameplay director Jacob Minkoff expressed his desire for video games to go further in exploring otherwise traditionally taboo topics in the medium, noting that television series and films such as HomelandAmerican Sniper, and Sicario told “relatable, realistic, relevant, and provocative stories that really touch people.” In avoiding telling such stories insensitively, consultants were brought in from multiple cultures; for example, conflict related to the Middle East in the game is located in the fictional country Urzikstan rather than based on any specific real-life location. Half of the game has been described as having morally complex choices, and the narrative has resulted in making several playtesters cry.

The story is inspired by real events and conflicts, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iraq War, the Arab Spring, and the Syrian Civil War. Some controversial aspects of the game were removed prior to its release as the developers were unsure of how much potential emotional discomfort they wanted to effect; this included a line in which a Russian soldier ponders handing over a captured girl to his commanding officer, implying pedophilia. Retired U.S. Navy SEALs Mitch Hall and Steve Sanders served as consultants for the game.

Post-launch content

For the first time in the franchise history, Modern Warfare ditches the previous downloadable content model of paid map packs and season passes. Instead, all post-launch maps and modes are added for free, while Activision focuses on the distribution of microtransactions. The in-game Store sells a variety of bundles, containing cosmetic items such as Operator characters, outfits, weapon blueprints, and more. All items and bundles are bought using the COD Points currency, featured in previous Call of Duty titles.

Similar to Black Ops 4′s Operations, the game’s content packs are released in “Seasons”, each lasting roughly eight weeks. The game features the battle pass model, which grants 100 tiers of cosmetic items that unlock just by playing the game. New weapons are introduced via the Battle Pass, as well as through in-game challenges and Store bundles.

In preparation for Halloween and part of Season 6, new content dropped featuring the “Haunting of Verdansk”. New game modes and operator bundles were released based on the theatrical films Saw and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The event included an in game opportunity to earn personalization rewards through a “Trick or Treat” loot system. The event lasted from October 20 to November 3.



Following previews at E3 2019, the game was subject to some controversy in response to it tackling realistic and mature subject matter, such as presenting child soldiers and the ability to shoot civilians (including infants). Escapist Magazines Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw described the gameplay demonstration as “fifteen minutes of cold intense ruthless killing” and IGN felt it was the most divisive game of the event.

Other critics also gave mixed opinions. Recalling the past successes of video games as a medium to provide social commentary on war and conflict, such as Spec Ops: The LineThis War of Mine, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Emma Kent of Eurogamer criticized a level in which the player apparently controls a child soldier, which she felt inappropriately merged sensitive subject matter and over-dramatized violence into a boss fight, creating “a Frankensteinian, dissonant mess.” Kent described another level involving a stealth operation inside a building as having a “heavy-handed” emphasis on avoiding civilian collateral damage, although praised it as “a good exploration of the way terrorists are embedded within civilian communities.” Cade Onder of GameZone similarly commented on the civilian collateral damage and child soldier level, opining that the former lacked tension because there was only one civilian present, thereby only granting the illusion of choice, and the latter turning “an otherwise very real and grounded moment into a very video game-y moment.” Also comparing it to Spec Ops: The Line, Onder reflected on whether killing too many civilians would merely result in a game over, causing ludonarrative dissonance, and how the linearity of the game may prevent it from reaching its narrative ambitions.

The game’s multiplayer beta in September 2019 was withdrawn for unknown reasons from the PlayStation Store in Russia. A prominent theory posits that this is because the Russian media had been critical of the game’s campaign’s reportedly favorable portrayal of the White Helmets, a volunteer organisation that operates in parts of opposition-controlled and Turkish-occupied Syria. In October 2019, Sony announced that Modern Warfare would not be sold on the PlayStation Store in Russia.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare received “generally favorable reviews” on all platforms according to review aggregator site Metacritic. The game was praised for its gameplay, campaign (being considered by critics as one of the best in the franchise), multiplayer, graphics, and overall improvements to the Call of Duty formula. However, the campaign received some criticism for aspects in the handling of its subject matter, as well as minor balancing issues with some of the online modes.


Modern Warfare earned over $600 million within its first three days of release, making it the highest-selling game in the franchise during the current console generation and breaking several sales records, including the best digital opening in Activision’s history, the most digital copies sold for a game in three days on PlayStation 4, and the best Call of Duty launch on PC. In Japan, it was released in the top 20 video games chart with 117,670 copies sold in the first week. On December 18, 2019, Activision confirmed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare had earned over $1 billion in revenue.

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