What is a "remaster"? The moniker implies an older game that has been updated to adequately match the technological standards of the present day in numerous ways, such as with polished assets, minor alterations to gameplay, and so forth. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Twilight Princess HD are excellent examples, but what about titles like Ratchet & Clank and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary? These are usually called remakes because most or all of the original games' assets have been remade, including other aspects like the music and sound. So where does Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered fall? It occupies a nebulous realm in between, simultaneously being a full-on remake and a ridiculously faithful remaster. What we can conclude is that it sets a new bar for remasters to meet with a slew of remarkable changes, making it feel like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is being released for the first time again.
From the moment you're given command of Soap MacTavish at the S.A.S. training facility, you'll understand what we mean. Key visual elements of the armoury look the same as Gaz tells you to pick up your rifle, such as the posters on the walls and the general layout of the space that you're occupying, but you'll notice that the concrete floor is no longer a drab, plain gray. Instead, it has yellow caution lines and the S.A.S. logo painted on it now, with black scuff marks from soldiers' shoes and even wet footprints from recent visitors outside.
Instead of one, lonely NPC managing the station where you pick up your G36C, a couple more are roaming around inside, with one checking a clipboard and another walking into the back storage room, which wasn't in the original game. When you take your rifle and aim down the shooting range, lights come on one by one to reveal your targets in an expansive room enlivened with cool, blue tones and more precise lighting, whereas the original game only has messy concrete walls to be seen. This is just the first minute of the tutorial, and it only gets better from there.
Once we stepped outside, our mouth hit the floor. When you go back and examine this scene from 2007, all you do is make your way to Captain Price down a stretch of road that's empty of activity. There are some random cars, other hangers to see, and a mountain range in the distance below a moody, grey sky. The Remastered version initiates a brief cutscene with Soap opening the door, greeting you to a bright sun casting down its beams on the pavement and reflective puddles. Tanks roll by, jets fly over head with thunderous booms, and soldiers run by during their daily drills.
If you walk around enough, there are even two completely new areas to train in, with one instructor testing your abilities with explosives, and the other your proficiency in movement. While these tutorials aren't necessary, it makes sense to include them as options for completely new players, rather than having these mechanics being introduced in the thick of battle. It shows how primary developer Raven Software hasn't been afraid to rationally tweak and add things to make the game better than before while retaining the purity of its classic gameplay. This is more obvious as you play on.
When Captain Price greets you and while you're sitting in a helicopter preparing to board the freighter in Crew Expendable, you'll notice redone motion capture for characters, which are lip-synced perfectly with the original voice acting. Cloth effects are evident as the straps on Captain Price's mask flap in the wind, and you'll notice rippling effects with their sleeves and even the hoodie that Sgt. Giguere is wearing. Water droplets decorate your MP5 from the torrential storm at sea, and when the freighter starts to go down, embers and a vibrant glow from the explosion of a missile impact will fill the air as your team attempts to escape. Your vision is even altered with cracked glass from the blast, so you can tell you're wearing a gas mask with damaged goggles, especially since the screen is outlined in a round, blurred black colour.
In the following mission where you play as the soon-to-be-assassinated President Al-Fulani, one detail that bothered us nearly a decade ago is when you're being transported in the car to your doom. If you look down, you don't have a body. This isn't a big deal during combat, but you truly feel like a disembodied head during this sequence. However, the remastered version goes to the trouble of showing your body and your hands tied up. You even observe Al-Fulani quickly plead for mercy before he gets hit by the soldier who throws him in the car, saying something in Arabic while motioning his hands. Once you finish your car ride and are approached by Al-Assad with his Desert Eagle in hand, the perspective actually blurs him out and the background with depth of field as Al-Fulani's eyes focus on the pistol's barrel.
These are just a few examples of the game providing a greater sense of immersion throughout the campaign's missions with nuanced and major details that continually impressed us. And we haven't even mentioned the reworked audio that results in bigger-sounding explosions, dynamic footsteps, high-quality weapon fire, and more. Even the reloading sounds of weapons are softly fed through the DualShock 4's speaker, which was a neat feature we didn't expect.
We could go on mentioning how the sway of your weapons has been changed compared to the static version of the original, and how crawling now shows you moving your arms back and forth compared to, well, your arms and weapon disappearing back then. We could talk about how the character models have been recreated in painstaking realism, too, but without a doubt, we can tell you that from the first few levels alone, Modern Warfare Remastered is among the finest and most lovingly crafted remasters and remakes in video game history, shooting past recent remasters like BioShock: The Collection. We're now eager to finish the campaign, and seriously look forward to providing a full review next month, which will, more than likely, give this care package the praise it rightly deserves.
It makes it a sure shame that something this wonderful will not only be exclusive with the purchase of Infinite Warfare, but also be playable only with its physical disc in November. We hope for a standalone release at some point so all can experience this legendary campaign anew, but in the meantime, what a disastrous situation this unparalleled remaster finds itself in.
What are your impressions of Modern Warfare Remastered if you've played or seen it? Are you biting the bullet to get your hands on it with the Legacy Edition of Infinite Warfare, or will you be skipping out on the quintessential first-person shooter until it hopefully releases on its own? Switch to your pistols and load up the comments section with your thoughts.