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When Activision released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007, it shook the gaming environment around it. The game redefined ideas of how a first-person shooter should play. For ten years, Call of Duty lived solely on this legacy – and now consumer apathy has never been higher.
Still, was the developer, Infinity Ward, successful in turning back the clock to break new ground?
The Seventh Console Generation began with a whisper, but soon enjoyed anticipated titles like Halo 3 (Xbox 360), Uncharted (PS3) and Super Mario Galaxy (Wii). However, Modern Warfare released on all of these platforms, so had a truly unmatched industry impact. It was an even faster, more fluid, instantly accessible and rewarding game than anyone had seen before. The addictive gameplay loop has been often imitated but never superseded, and the allure of the grounded middle-eastern battlefield was undeniable at a time when the War on Terror loomed over the world.
The market needed the adrenaline shot Modern Warfare provided and, wrapped in the perfect storm of political energy, consumer enthusiasm and critical praise; it shattered records. This moment was when Call of Duty began to control the ebb and flow of its competition. It later produced the quintessential World War and Cold War experiences for many gamers and broke milestones when returning to the present. Other games, began to mould their gameplay and style towards the fans of Call of Duty to ride in the wake of the new colossus. However, this annualisation engendered stagnation.
Year-on-year, the differences between games felt more minute. Killstreaks, cinematic campaigns, the survival “zombies” mode; to the average consumer, it all meshed together. There was one period left to explore that could offer hope: one last jump into an entirely fictionalised future. The change to “Black Ops II” and “Advanced Warfare” saw mixed reception, but soon enough the “near-future shooter” a similarly saturated genre. When they revealed“Infinite Warfare”, it became the most disliked trailer in the history of Youtube. There was no way that anything less than a radical move would steadily decline of the series.
Initially, people were excited over speculation that Modern Warfare 2019 would be returning to the present day for the first time. The climate in the real world is, well, bonkers, and only a little less wild than the actual storyline of the Modern Warfare series. Never has there been a time where inserting yourself in an impactful way to shoot the bad guys is more cathartic. The first trailer revealed a brand-new, stunning engine, the tease of a gritty new campaign stacked with familiar characters, and redesigned mechanics that cut away the fat to polish to perfection.
Modern Warfare 2019 was the first Call of Duty game to feel like an event in years, in the confidence of the marketing and the discussion online. So, has Infinity Ward reclaimed the crown they forged for themselves 12 years ago?
Perhaps It’s too early to tell. However, it has been an undeniable success, commercially and critically, and I am finally excited again for where the franchise is heading next.