ConclusionCall of Duty Modern Warfare is the latest iteration in the extremely-long running series that is arguably one of the most successful video game franchises on the planet. While last year's Call of Duty had no single-player mode, Activision returned to their roots and included a highly entertaining single-player story with Call of Duty Modern Warfare.
Not being a big fan of Call of Duty myself, I was skeptical at first, but was reeled in within minutes of playing the single player. I have to admit I haven't had this much fun in a single-player story-driven shooter for a long time. While gameplay is completely linear and 100% scripted, the storytelling is amazing. The whole plot itself isn't much to write home about, but how all the little sequences are arranged together, often depicting things in a very graphic way, does trigger emotions.
While other games have tried to give you the being a "terrorist/insurgent" feeling, Modern Warfare is the first game I have ever played that really managed to achieve that feat. In some missions you are out against an overwhelming occupying force and have to use guerrilla tactics to become more than just a nuisance for the oppressors. Interestingly, the developer managed to put you in that scenario without making you feel like a bad guy and crossing any lines—just getting extremely close to both. Other missions have you play as the "good guys," and things are just as entertaining here thanks to fast-paced action paired with insanely good animations and sound design.
Technical polish of Call of Duty is top-notch; I did encounter some negligible gameplay bugs, and the only thing that really stood out is stuttering in cut scenes, which leads to off-sync speech, too. No idea how they could miss this—A LOT of people are reporting the same issue on varying hardware and software configurations. What I really like is the option to automatically skip the title screens; it would be nice if more developers adopt that.
Graphics are extremely impressive, I'd say better than Battlefield V, probably some of the best I've seen this year. The game not only looks good, but also has a ton of settings that let you fine-tune performance to exactly achieve the fidelity you want, at the framerate you need. For example, for Full HD 1080p at maximum details, a GTX 1060 or RX 570 is sufficient, and for 1440p, a GTX 1660 or Radeon RX Vega is fine. While we usually only see the RTX 2080 Ti capable enough to handle 4K Ultra HD at 60 frames per second, things are different here. The AMD Radeon VII and RX 5700 XT are "close enough" with 53 FPS at 4K, and on the NVIDIA side, a RTX 2070 Super will get you 57 FPS. Outstanding optimization here from both AMD and NVIDIA, who both had Game Ready or day-zero drivers available for launch.
While our memory requirement testing suggests you should have an 8 GB graphics card for even 1080p, the actual performance results can't confirm that. It seems that just like previous Call of Duty titles, the game's memory management will try to fill up whatever VRAM is present on the card, hoping to use that texture or model later. Other games use a more progressive approach that streams in data from the disk as it is needed, which can lead to pop-in when paired with slow storage. While NVIDIA's GTX 1060 3 GB had no problems running all our benchmarks, even at 4K, the AMD Radeon RX 570 4 GB would always crash during loading (we had to test that specific card with textures at "high" and not "extra"). This confirms that GPU driver memory management differs drastically between companies; normally, you'd expect the 4 GB card to do better than the 3 GB variant.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare is one of the few titles with NVIDIA RTX raytracing technology support at launch, and it's working well, I have to say. While the differences are generally subtle, they do add to the immersion, especially when playing the game without trying to pay attention to the details. Things just "look right." Many times, I had to stop playing and turn on RTX because I wondered "how does that look with RTX?" Most of the time, the results were good. Some maps though, especially the later ones, don't benefit that much from RTX. Looking at our comparison screenshots, I can see a lot of people say "that's it?" Yeah, raytracing doesn't fundamentally change the way the game looks, but if you pay attention to little details, you'll be pleasantly surprised. What impressed me the most even though it's a tiny details, is our second-to-last comparison screenshot. To the left of the door frame, a little speck of bright light is visible. At first, I thought it might be some kind of RTX error, but after taking a closer look, I realized it's light from the lamp above the door getting occluded by the door frame, so only a little bit of light can pass through by its side, illuminating only a short length of the wall section—oh, how far we have come.
RTX does have a performance hit of around 20-30%, which I find acceptable given the high FPS the game can deliver on modern hardware. At the highest settings many gamers will have FPS (performance cushion) to spare, and RTX gives them something to spend that FPS on. What's also worth mentioning is that in my opinion, it was a good choice to get rid of "RTX low", "medium", and "high" to give people just "on" and "off", which of course requires a lot of fine-tuning from the developer and NVIDIA, but will be worth it in the end because it simplifies things greatly from a consumer perspective.
Overall, I was very pleased with the single-player experience delivered by Call of Duty—pricing is high for a couple hours of really good entertainment, though. On the other hand, going to the movies will cost you similar $/hour, which is probably the best comparison. Call of Duty Modern Warfare is closer to an interactive movie experience than a classic FPS shooter—which doesn't have to be a bad thing. I haven't tried the multiplayer yet; if you have experiences to share, do let us know in the comments section of this article.