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Review

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Review - Stay Frosty (Again)

  • First Released Oct 25, 2019
    released
  • Reviewed Oct 24, 2019
  • PC
  • PS4

Modern Warfare stumbles at points, but strong campaign missions and smart multiplayer additions keep it from falling too far.

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The Modern Warfare series has always been about the messiness of modern war--the fundamentally different rules of engagement that come with a battle that has no set battlefield. When the fight could be anywhere at any time, where do you draw the line between doing what's right and doing what has to be done?

Throughout Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's campaign, that line is chemical weapons. It's a safe line to draw; people are largely in agreement that chemical weapons are beyond horrific. But there are other horrors of war, some of which Modern Warfare depicts, starkly, in strong but uncomfortable missions. Just when it could really make a point about any other aspect of modern war, it pulls back. Modern Warfare makes old observations and presents them with new flourishes. Those new flourishes do make for a good campaign and solid multiplayer. But it's when Modern Warfare asks you to think harder that it falls short.

Campaign

In one of the game's most distressing levels, you play Farah, a young girl in a fictional war-torn Middle Eastern country as she hides from both a Russian terrorist and the deadly gas his cohorts have unleashed on her town. To escape, you have to kill a man twice your size with his own gun. It's a deeply uncomfortable experience. But the flashback serves to illustrate why Farah, now the leader of a group of freedom fighters, refuses to use chemical weapons or associate with anyone who does. It is a hard line she won't cross, even though she's had to face a lot of ugliness in the course of defending her country.

In many ways, Farah is Modern Warfare's moral compass. There are a few key players in Modern Warfare's proxy war, and everyone you play as--Sgt. Kyle Garrick from the UK, rogue American soldier Alex "Echo 3-1," and sometimes Farah herself--abides by her one rule. Outside of that, though, the rules are much murkier. In getting pulled into a war between the Russian terrorists, a separatist group from Farah's country, and the freedom fighters, US and UK military personnel disagree on how best to proceed with the situation--matters of disobeying orders, sacrificing some lives to save others, taking civilian hostages, and even torture. And on these matters, the moral compass is Captain Price.

A returning face from the original Modern Warfare and undeniably a problematic fave, Captain Price is the seasoned badass who takes the lead in most Garrick missions. Early levels with Price are among the best. As a rash and impatient Garrick, you follow Price's directions in order to save as many people as possible from terrorists--though more than once that means watching as innocent people die while you wait to make the best possible move.

These missions range from large-scale, high-octane firefights to a carefully planned raid on a terrorist hideout with less than a dozen enemies total. You direct a woman through an embassy under siege using security cameras to make sure her path is clear. You quietly search a compound for an enemy using night vision goggles as Price watches overhead, shooting out lights to keep you hidden. Price guides you through the different approaches you need for each mission, and his mentorship--both in the mechanical skills you need to be successful and the hard choices you have to make along the way--makes these missions memorable.

While Alex's missions don't stick out quite as much in a gameplay sense, he gets a sniping level reminiscent of the original Modern Warfare's "All Ghillied Up"--though with more enemies--and otherwise a few cool gadgets. His dynamic with Farah is strong, though. He follows Farah's lead on her turf and on her terms because he believes in the cause, and they share mutual respect.

It's disappointing, though, that Farah doesn't play more of a role. While she is a key part of Alex's missions and the driving force behind much of the story, you only play as her a few times. On top of the childhood flashback, there is an even more disturbing flashback later on in which you see the full extent of Farah's resolve. Experiencing her suffering this way borders on unnecessary, as it's already established in Alex's missions that she's a respected leader and a strong-willed person in general. While I liked Alex, I would have rather just played as Farah in those missions than get to know her character largely through her trauma.

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I already liked and respected Farah without that context, and despite some questionable decisions, I liked each of the main characters and their small but crucial differences in working toward the same goals. Farah and Alex are principled, whereas Garrick and Price are results-driven. Alex goes so far as to disobey orders in favor of doing what's right, and when he's told that would be illegal, he responds, "I'm pretty sure everything we do is illegal." To Alex, it's a criticism; to Price and Garrick, it's an excuse.

That tension builds up over the course of the campaign, and because the characters are likable, it's easy to at least consider each one's view of what's right. But in the end, all you get is a vague "we all did what we had to do" sentiment rather than anything more substantial or interesting. Quite a bit of what you had to do--as Garrick, as Alex, and as Farah--was unpleasant or distressing, but the questions raised by your actions aren't interrogated further, especially the questionable side of Price's approach. Modern Warfare's ending isn't bad, but it is a safe one, leaving you to think on the harder questions yourself.

If anything, Modern Warfare lets Farah down with the bizarre and much-discussed inclusion of white phosphorus as a killstreak in multiplayer. Given how strong the campaign's emphasis is on chemical weapons being a reprehensible war crime, it's tone-deaf to include one in multiplayer, even though one could argue--much like Alex does--that pretty much all of it is illegal at the end of the day.

Multiplayer

Outside of any thematic contradictions, Modern Warfare's multiplayer is up to par, with a variety of game types for different kinds of players. Across all the modes, maps move away from the obvious three-lane structure in favor of nooks, crannies, and tons of cover; there's generally a balance of close-quarters and long-range approaches. The standard, highly customizable toolkit for your chosen loadouts returns, with a good selection of perks to suit different game types and playstyles. Modern Warfare largely stays within the strong foundations of Call of Duty multiplayer without pushing them much, with the exception of the excellent Realism mode.

Undeniably the highlight of Modern Warfare's multiplayer, Realism mode is somewhere between the familiar Core and Hardcore modes, bridging the gulf between them. Oddly enough, in a mode called "Realism," you can take more damage than in Hardcore, and your health regenerates like it does in Core. But Realism removes the HUD entirely, going beyond Hardcore to strip out the kill feed on top of everything else. In order to confirm a kill, you have to listen for the sound effect that plays upon death, and you also have to listen for NPCs over the comms alerting you to available killstreaks and enemy intel. It's a fantastic balance for those who want more of a chance to survive a scrap, rather than dying in one or two shots like in Hardcore, but with the rest of the challenge intact. It's a smart, satisfying evolution, and as a stubborn Hardcore-only player, it's one I could see myself playing exclusively going forward.

While none of the new game types are earth-shattering, some are better additions than others. TDM 20, a 10v10 version of the classic 6v6 Team Deathmatch mode, is the least inventive or warranted of them, instead functioning as a more bloated version of regular TDM with bigger maps that can make getting back into the action an overly long process. One of the two maps I've tried, Euphrates Bridge, also suffers from balance problems on top of that; of the two spawns, one is much closer to the bridge dividing the map, and the closer side was almost guaranteed victory in every match I played. My team once managed to flip the spawn mid-match after struggling against snipers on the bridge for a while, and from there we were able to gain the lead relatively easily.

Gunfight is the antithesis of TDM 20. It's a one-life, 2v2 mode in which your loadout rotates each round, and the goal is to kill your two opponents with the means available to you before they get you first. Gunfight features small maps with two main routes on each, and quick coordination with your partner--a "you go left, I'll go right" at the beginning, plus callouts over voice chat if things go haywire--can make or break the fight. With a relatively level playing field, battles are often exhilaratingly close, and it's hard to get discouraged by a loss since rounds go by so quickly. There's also a version where you start without any weapons and have to find a gun in the map, which is a fun scramble before the frenzy of Gunfight itself. Either way, the more arcadey bent to Gunfight keeps things light and makes both versions a great addition to the multiplayer suite, if not a huge draw.

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Ground War is somewhere in the middle. Maps are sprawling, with five control points to capture and one safe zone for each team on either end. Unlike in TDM 20, you can pretty easily get back to the fight after dying by respawning at any capture point your team owns, or on vehicles or your teammates (provided they're not actively in a fight). Having objective points is also helpful for keeping such a large game type--it supports 64 players currently--more structured than the free-for-all of TDM. That said, matches can drag on a bit too long, as there isn't anything to break up the constant tug-of-war for capture points.

There's also a night vision mode, NVG, for a different take on the same maps, and by its nature it makes things a bit more tense. It pretty much plays the same as the other game types, but you don't aim down sights in night vision--you have a laser, and that laser is easy to spot. You have to be extra cautious when lining up your shots, paying close attention to sightlines and who might see where your beam is coming from. Like in the campaign, the threatening glow of these beams cutting through the darkness looks excellent, and the slight change of pace NVG affords is enough to keep it interesting and distinct from the daytime modes.

Spec Ops

On paper, Spec Ops is a co-op mode where you and a team complete a set of objectives and are rewarded with some story. You can choose one of several roles at the onset, each with its own ultimate ability--there's a medic, for instance, that can revive fallen teammates--and as a group, you have to work together to overcome enemies while gaining intel, heading to specific objective points, and so on.

In practice, my team of four could barely complete a handful of the objectives on both of the missions we attempted during the review event, and it only got marginally better as I continued to play for the review. This is largely due to frustrating enemy spawning--enemies seem to generate endlessly from all directions, and it's all too easy to get overwhelmed by them. To add insult to injury, there are also no clear waves. It's just enemies, from everywhere, at all times. After struggling to fight them off, reviving each other was we each inevitably died, we would end up running out of ammo and dying for good.

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Experimentation in Spec Ops isn't rewarded, either. Trying different strategies--stealth, dividing and conquering, new loadouts--doesn't really change how many enemies swarm you, so brute force ends up being the best way to actually complete a mission. Even when you do succeed, you don't feel like you got better--you feel like you got lucky. Cooperating with teammates largely comes down to asking for revives or reviving someone else in turn, rather than actually coordinating to improve your chances of victory.

The PS4-exclusive Survival mode fares better. It plays more like Zombies, with kills converted into dollars that you can use to buy upgrades, and it has traditional waves rather than a barrage of enemies. There's a 30-second reprieve between each wave, during which you can upgrade your weapons, refill ammo, or otherwise just steel yourself for the next wave. Mini-boss-like enemies appear during specific waves, too, so if you die at wave 5 in one game, you can go into the next more prepared for wave 5, armed with knowledge and a more powerful gun.

The pitfalls of Spec Ops don't detract from what Modern Warfare does well, though. Realism mode is an excellent addition to the slate, and although not all the new multiplayer modes are great, Gunfight and the Night Vision playlist are refreshing standouts. And while the campaign ends up playing it safe in the end, it's still a memorable one, and it lays a strong foundation for where the Modern Warfare series could go from here.

Back To Top
The Good
Campaign missions vary from large-scale gunfights to incredibly contained, careful operations, with Captain Price's being especially memorable
Each of the main characters is likable and draws you further into the missions and story
Realism mode is an excellent balance between Core and Hardcore, challenging your skill level but with a slightly higher time to kill
Gunfight and NVG are refreshing additions to the multiplayer slate
The Bad
The story raises difficult questions but fails to interrogate them further in favor of playing it safe in the end
Playing as Farah mostly involves reliving her trauma
The inclusion of white phosphorus in multiplayer goes against everything the campaign stands for
Spec Ops is nonsensically difficult and doesn't reward trying new strategies
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kallie played Modern Warfare at a review event hosted by Activision. She completed the campaign on Normal difficulty in around five hours, spending around eight trying all the multiplayer game types and another two in Spec Ops. She then played for another 10 hours on live servers for the final review. Code was provided by Activision.
312 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for sploitz85
sploitz85

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Why is this person writing reviews when she clearly had some weird political prerogative? Diversity hire?

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DEVILTAZ35

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Playing as Farah relives her trauma as a negative? Why a negative when it is a story arc. It's also well done for the most part. I was surprised they put as much effort in as they did.

There is nothing in this game that goes too far in the context of the story it is telling.

Also why wasn't this tested on every platform as there are screen tearing issues on Xbox one X especially which are extremely annoying and just shouldn't be present in a 2019 game.

2 • 
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aiat_gamer

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Edited By aiat_gamer

"7 out of 10, too much gore".

Kallie is the gift that keeps giving. Thank god for her.

3 • 
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quinnd6

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Edited By quinnd6

Here's the problem with the game.

The campaign is too bloody short.

This is 2019.

We expect better.

They give us a campaign that you can finish in one day and expect people to pay 60 for that.

Call of duty games have been too short for a long long time now.

They are too focused on multiplayer for me and that's why I'm not buying it.

Giving a game a low score or high score because of the morality of a story is beyond ridiculous. Gameplay and value are the keys with a game not flipping story or whether the story has a moral meaning or some bs.

People want to have fun. It's a game.

This has been a problem with GameSpot reviewers for quite some time. Too concerned with morality and meaning of a flipping story. Bloody stupid. Bottom line is game is too short and not worth the money.

There's no value or point when you can finish the campaign. People pay 60 dollars give them a game not a half assed 4 hour campaign.

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KiriharaZro

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Edited By KiriharaZro

Isn't this reviewer the one who give Death Stranding a 9? She must have an existencial crisis seeing how she put again her personal feelings in a review.

5 • 
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aiat_gamer

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@KiriharaZro: Well, she is the one and only who started this meme:

https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/too-much-water

So yeah, what did you expect?

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REVIEWLIES

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Much better than Kojima films

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DN

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Awesome game! Nice to see something different than the same old run around and gun as fast as you can. Best COD ever...thanks!

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phili878

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Edited By phili878

@saltymemesoup: sure, lol, keep telling yourself that.

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koolyoe

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Worth buying? OR wait for sale?

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KingKalo

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@koolyoe: Honestly, its fun. Its a little more tactical and slower but worth $60 to me. I would rather get in before all the micro transactions are added.

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phili878

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@koolyoe: none

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saltymemesoup

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@koolyoe: both

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

It's actually good to see a game not shy away from being an adult focused game just because of the ''everything needs to be shielded from children'' mentality we are stuck with today has caused so many other developers to treat everyone as a child as a result.

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proceeder

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proceeder  Online

Lemme get this straight, this game got a 7 since:

1) The reviewer didn't like the story

2) The reviewer didn't like the story

3) The reviewer didn't like the story

4) The game was difficult

Don't get me wrong, I hate COD, I would never buy a COD since Boby Kotick is still the CEO of Activision.

But, how would you start playing the most mainstream of mainstream games and expect Full Metal Jacket?!

Where was every one with their moral standards when BF3 or BF4 featured Iran and China's invasion? I find it a bit hypocritical. The most courageous advocates and defendants of the oppressed rise to their aid when their ideas are unpopular and rare. Not when they are fully accepted.

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phili878

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@proceeder: Get off your high horse. People are bored of playing the same crap over and over since 15 years now. What you expect? A 9 or a 10 ? Even an 8 would be pushing it.

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sploitz85

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@phili878: no, score it whatever makes sense, but be prepared to justify it with legitimate reasons and not "eh, not my kinda game."

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proceeder

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proceeder  Online

@phili878: What high horse?!

I'm just saying, until they fire Bobby and give the studios full control, things wouldn't change.

The fact that they have changed as little as they did despite him being there is impressive.

# Fire Bobby Kotick

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DEVILTAZ35

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@proceeder: I wouldn't bother as they haven't played it to respond like that or they would see it really does try to do things differently to most shooters . It succeeds to a degree.

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phili878

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@deviltaz35: You are a Hypocrite. I really had my respect for your comments until just now. You contradict yourself and you are dishonest. In Death Stranding before you even played the game (since end October) you bashed the living shit out of the game, making accusations and come out with crap, it takes 20 seconds to look all of that up in your posting history. Yet, here you are saying "I wouldn't bother as they haven't played it.....", but you yourself are doing the exact same before and much worse, you keep doing it over and over. Don't even reply mate, stop being a hypocrite. I would understand it maybe a bit if the game you are trying to protect would actually be worth it, but for this??? My God, seriously? Come on....

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qik99

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Anyone have any issues on the xbox 1 version multiplayer?

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Clive-Owen

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I just don't see myself or the majority of people play in Realism mode. CoD multiplayer is highly competitive and I think even the savviest of CoD players need every perk and weapon addition they can get to stay head.

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SJGSpook

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MW actually makes an effort and gets a 7. Black Ops 4 is the laziest entry to the series ever and gets an 8. Cool story bro.

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jerusaelem

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@SJGSpook: So we should start basing the reviews around what you call "effort", should we? How many "effort" points should be awarded then?

"Justice League was hot wet garbage movie, but they just tried to gosh darn hard! 8 out of 10!"

That look more correct to you? Perhaps we could give them a little participation trophy with, "you tried your best!" engraved on it as well.

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guudgidga

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@SJGSpook: Scores are based on the intent of the game. BO4 was only meant to be a multiplayer experience, and it delivered on that front. MW wants to be a dark, controversial entry, and (according to Gamespot), it doesn't always succeed

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SJGSpook

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Edited By SJGSpook

@guudgidga: It delivered a trash game. Fact.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

Don't get this game if you only have Base PS4 or Xbox One as the framerate is atrocious at least if you want to play the campaign. Xbox one is often 30-40 and PS4 is 40-50 most of the time. The game was confirmed as being PS4 Pro as lead console development and it shows as even Xbox one X was just left at 4k resolution with no optimisation or they would have realised either 1800p was a much better fit or dynamic 4k. As soon as alpha effects hit the framerate takes a tumble on Xbox one X due to bandwidth limitations.

It's playable but annoying that there are constant drops. PS4 Pro is 1440p which is half the resolution of Xbox one X. This is a great fit for the console and it only drops frames here and there with a much more consistent 60 fps.

Whether you are fan of Xbox or not it is disgusting that developers are getting away with stealing people's money on one platform by not optimising the product across the board and favouring only the PS4 Pro in this case.

I would love to hear what the developer has to say about this nonsense happening all too often.

At the very least they should offer 1440p or 1800p resolution options on X for those that prefer the 60 fps they are paying for.

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sealionact

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@deviltaz35: Performance is okish on x1x considering the resolution, which makes the game look stunning at double the resolution. They actually do use dynamic scaling on x1x, but I agree there's no way the pro version should perform better, even if it is only around 5fps difference.

Either way, they have a pretty big problem with x1x crashes, so theres a serious update already announced for November which will address "numerous x1x issues".

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@sealionact: I haven't had any issues with crashing and had the console on for 3 days straight but it is the latest Gears V console so maybe that has been the difference?It is also in an open cabinet with plenty of airflow on all sides. Yeah the X recovers ok mostly but it is still silly to waste it all on resolution when there are bottlenecks not addressed before launch is all.

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krazeekhujo05

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@deviltaz35: Where did you get the info on the Xbox versions?

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@krazeekhujo05: VG Tech on youtube mainly they did a comparison . They did a framerate analysis on all console versions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svyfumqPD_w

You can clearly see the Pro is the only one staying near 60 fps almost all the time.

Digital Foundry confirmed Pro was lead console for development as well so favouritsim there anyway seeing it is the weakest of the more powerful ones.

Plus i have it on Xbox one X and can confirm it is less than ideal.

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stealthy1

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@deviltaz35: i have it on ps4 and it bricked my ps4. Runs great on xbox one.

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dynamotnt

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I'm offended the game has guns in it. 3/10 you're expected to shoot back, how stupid.

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KiriharaZro

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Edited By KiriharaZro

@dynamotnt: but she gave 9 to DS because "the message of love" and how the game "rewarded you emotionally". Ridiculous.

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saltymemesoup

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@dynamotnt: thats exactly how this review reads. This is the best call of duty i've ever played.

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JustTheTip

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The campaign is one of the best in any Call of Duty. I think the complaint about white phosphorus being a killstreak in multiplayer is pretty ridiculous. Since when has multiplayer had any connection to the campaign story? Also, it’s a game. What does it matter if there’s chemical warfare? You can’t harm a video game character.

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Theo1971

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@justthetip said:

The campaign is one of the best in any Call of Duty. I think the complaint about white phosphorus being a killstreak in multiplayer is pretty ridiculous. Since when has multiplayer had any connection to the campaign story? Also, it’s a game. What does it matter if there’s chemical warfare? You can’t harm a video game character.

my thoughts exactly!!. The campaign is wonderfully made, visually superb and all the various gameplay mechanics are well thought and work together as a unit (sorry for the pun)

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@Theo1971: I don't get it , did people carry on like this when a nuclear bomb went off and killed the main character you were playing in original Modern Warfare. I think it was original modern warfare anyway lol.

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PETERAKO

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Dute of cally

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare More Info

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  • First Released Oct 25, 2019
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
    6.8
    Average Rating49 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
    Developed by:
    Infinity Ward
    Published by:
    Activision, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Shooter, 3D, Action, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Drugs