Republished on Wednesday 27th February 2019: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of March's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
When you boot up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered's multiplayer, it greets you with a message welcoming you back to the "seminal" first-person shooter. It's a fitting descriptor because the unforgettable campaign and multiplayer have had rippling effects throughout its genre in the near-decade since its release, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree. Why does its impact endure? We were reminded why with this remaster – no, this remake – due to the exemplary overhaul it has undergone. Its aging is more apparent as a result, but nevertheless, what a relief it is to breathe in an old-school shooter that stands the test of time.
It's strange how so few Call of Duty entries have managed to capture the memorability of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's campaign, but we know exactly why it persists in excellence. The opening levels cement a radical terrorism that goes far deeper than you suspect, eventually revealing the consequences of extreme interventionalism with a growing threat that pulls you in with high and personal stakes. The suave SAS operatives and boisterous USMC soldiers you fight alongside inspire camaraderie, bolstered by brilliant mission objectives and design that emphasise teamwork, such as in 'Shock and Awe' and 'One Shot, One Kill'.
Most importantly, there's tension and gravity shot through the experience, as if the world is on your shoulders to push past every enemy line with explosive bravado or exacting stealth. This game may have been a watershed moment for big set-pieces and intense action in shooters, but it didn't come off as flippant or dumb fun. It's like the game subtly demands you to approach missions with senses of restraint and seriousness, which is definitely reflected in the somber, heavy soundtrack as well. There's a grounded feel to player characters that make you another cog in the machine with the abilities and limitations of an ordinary soldier, not a supernatural saviour. We felt that again as our boots hit familiar soil with this game, and we missed it.
At the same time, we underwent a bizarre déjà vu playing this. Original shooting mechanics, quirks, and weapon behaviour remain intact, but since the visuals and sound have been reworked to an unbelievably thorough degree, we were reliving old moments in ways that felt entirely new. We mean to say that Modern Warfare Remastered looks and sounds like a fresh game on par with today's graphical and aural standards, but gives its age away with classic gameplay you know and love.
This isn't a mere remaster, but a ridiculously faithful remake. There are new cloth and weather effects and overhauled motion capture; there are remade character, weapon, and environmental assets. Explosions and weapon sounds have been re-recorded, not to mention realistic changes made to the first-person animation with weapon sway and crawling. Whether the alterations are subtle or obvious, all of them are carefully implemented while fully preserving the original game's feel. It's nothing short of a profound feat, and Raven Software and its assisting developers deserve to be commended for arguably delivering the most substantial, masterful remake we have ever experienced.
With this admirable devotion to authenticity comes resistance to fixing flaws and making improvements or additions. So while we still hold Modern Warfare in high regard, there are lingering AI issues. Teammates will annoyingly block your path, jump into your line of sight, and demonstrate utter incompetence when they ignore or fail to kill enemies within their jurisdiction.
The opposition can also be confusing when it decides to bum-rush or ignore you on occasion. A few missions that were jaw-droppers have lost some oomph and their ability to enthrall like 'Death From Above' and 'War Pig'. There's even a sense of plodding here and there we don't remember from before, but despite these telling signs of age, there's plenty of vigour and personality left in the seasoned shooter that would still make it a runaway success if it were coming out for the first time today.
For those wondering if the same thoughts can be extended to the multiplayer, we're happy to share you can relive the glory days anew. With a revamped user interface, character models, maps, and more, we were grinning from ear to ear jumping back into old maps like Crash with an M16 and USP .45 in hand. All of the weapons and perks that you love and hate are untouched, and spawning in large game modes or in Free-For-All can be just as infuriating as it used to be. However, in contrasting the sheer simplicity of this multiplayer with Infinite Warfare's overwhelmingly packed version, you realise just how much Call of Duty has changed over time – and how less can be more.
But there are surface level additions derived from modern titles. Medals can be earned that recognise minor achievements like getting a first kill or coming back from a deathstreak. Callsigns, emblems, more camos, character patches, and weapon stickers are unlockable for completing challenges, which are neat cosmetic additions that give a bit more to strive for this time around.
Kill Confirmed is the only new mode (though not for the series) and more variations of Old School and Hardcore modes have been implemented, too. While we'd honestly like to see more populate the game in the near future with some entirely new maps in tow, what stands here is a beautifully touched-up, nostalgic multiplayer that's – like the campaign – just as you remember with warts and all.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has a lofty reputation, and aside from some telltale signs of age, it remains thoroughly impressive even today. This game remains a legend to be revered for its grounded, focused gameplay that will scratch an itch for anyone longing for simpler, purer shooters. Modern Warfare Remastered celebrates this legacy with updated visuals and sound that really go above and beyond the call of duty, sprucing up an old care package for a more modern age to near-perfection.