After several years of looking into the future, Activision's Call of Duty franchise is going back to its own past. This year's installment of the massively popular shooter series is a reimagining of the game that, arguably, made it what it is today: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Developer Infinity Ward made the announcement of the game's title with a trailer that highlights the gritty, more authentic angle it is taking with this installment. In a press release, Infinity Ward also noted two major changes Modern Warfare is making to the series. First, its competitive multiplayer mode will allow cross-play between platforms, meaning that no matter whether players buy the game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC, they'll be able to play with (and against) all other Modern Warfare players.
Secondly, Modern Warfare will do away with the "season pass" system the series has utilized for years. With previous Call of Duty games, players could purchase the pass in addition to the base game, which gave them new multiplayer levels to play at set intervals throughout the year after the game's release. The trouble with the system was that it fragmented players somewhat, because players who didn't purchase the new levels couldn't play with those who did. In Modern Warfare, all post-release multiplayer levels will be free to all players.
Infinity Ward originally released Modern Warfare in 2007, bringing the series out of the World War II era for the first time and kicking off a trilogy of games that would end in 2011. This year's Modern Warfare is revisiting some of the same concepts as the original, but while it includes some of the same characters, Infinity Ward is creating an entirely new story for the game.
In returning to Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward developers said during a presentation for journalists that they're hoping to make the game "more relevant" to the modern world. Studio narrative director Taylor Kurosaki told GameSpot the developers are taking inspiration from Hollywood movies such as "The Hurt Locker," "American Sniper," "Lone Survivor" and "Sicario," as well as documentaries such as "Last Men In Aleppo" and real-world events such as the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Syrian civil war.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is attempting to tell a more mature war story than the games have in the past, Kurosaki said, with a bigger push for authenticity and a move away from superhero caricature. The game will explore the gray area of morality in warfare, asking players where they draw their personal lines as to what they will or will not do in order to successfully complete a mission.
"The world we live in right now is more complex than the world was in 2007, or 2009, or even 2011," Kurosaki said during the presentation. "Even now the world that we live in, the battlefield is less defined than it's ever been, and because it's less defined and because enemies no longer really wear uniforms a lot of the time, that means that civilian collateral damage is a greater part of the equation more so now than it's ever been. So what does that mean? It means we're creating circumstances where, as storytellers, we are taking these characters, and we are putting them into complex situations with a lot of pressure on them, and how they respond to that pressure reveals their true nature."
Levels Infinity Ward showed to journalists demonstrated the more mature, potentially controversial subject matter Modern Warfare looks to explore. In one mission, players took on the role of a member of a British SAS team as it stormed a London townhouse in search of a terror cell. Players were tasked with eliminating hostiles, while also being careful not to injure any civilians, adding an additional degree of tension to the situation. At one moment, soldiers burst into a room where a woman hid with a baby and had to eliminate a nearby armed terrorist.
Another level found players taking on the role of a child named Farrah in the game's fictional Middle Eastern country, Urzikstan. The mission started with rescuers digging Farrah out of rubble after a bombing. Moments later, she raced through the city as Russian soldiers appeared on trucks and started opening fire on civilians. Eventually, Farrah and her brother, Hadir, were forced to stab and kill a Russian soldier, then sneak past the remaining enemy troops as deadly gas swept through the city. Farrah and Hadir grow up to be rebel fighters in Urzikstan because of their experiences, and players will fight alongside them.
"Every character in this game goes through that journey where they ask themselves, 'How far am I willing to go in order to achieve my own greater good?'" Kurosaki told GameSpot. "And the answer for each and every character is different, and it depends on their own perspective. And we wouldn't be kind of utilizing the platform of game-making if only the story was about that, but the gameplay was just kind of generic shooter gameplay. That not only do these characters have to ask themselves, 'How far am I willing to go?' But the player that's playing this game has to ask themselves, 'How far am I willing to go?' That's the true kind of magic of storytelling in games, is that players get to occupy the shoes of these characters. They get to be in their skin and we get to put them in tough situations that mimic the kind of tough situations that those characters are put in."
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is slated for release on October 25. Watch the official trailer below.