As a reboot-cum-prequel of one of the most widely-acclaimed shooter franchises in history, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare certainly has its work cut out for it. There's a legacy that it has to live up to in terms of story, characters and realism, not to mention the standards it has to surpass as a next-gen FPS in and of itself.
However, let's just say it has done a fantastic job across the board. But talk is cheap, so we're here to discuss the why.
There's a myriad of reasons, but the main contributor is definitely the story, and the ideals it attempts to portray. Simply put, it's no longer about who's the good or the bad guy - it's about doing whatever it takes to win the war, no matter how underhanded or cruel the act. Be prepared to cross any and all ethical lines in your book, friend - in this game, YOU decide where they're drawn.
Right from the get-go, the game paints you a grim, brutal picture of the world, which is actually something I'm not very used to seeing outside of zombie titles such as The Last of Us. I don't mean just showing you a post-apocalyptic cityscape or background - it's nothing quite so meek or direct. The bulk of the brutality actually comes from the actions you and the other characters take.
The game doesn't intend to hold your hand from day one, and it makes it very clear, since there is no longer a tutorial where there should be one! Apart from a few button prompts and objective markers, the game's approach actually resembles that of Dark Souls - you need to get the job done, but how you do it is of no relevance.
So, toss out all notions of being the near-immortal one-man-army you were in previous titles. MW ditches the first and third words - you're just a "man", and the game treats you as such. Fire, poison gas, bullet wounds - don't expect to take all that and return to the fight in a heartbeat. You die much faster than before, and everything is done slower to boot.
Yup. From climbing ladders to aiming down sights, even the very act of moving has been dialed down several notches. In fact, my initial thought was that the slow movement speed was due to my controller bugging out and not registering commands. But after trying to fix the "issue" with no success, it hit me that perhaps MW isn't meant to be merely "immersive", but its own borderline-frightening brand of "real".
Let's move away from the dark philosophical debate for a bit - graphics, aesthetics and general controller schemes in MW are what you would expect from a next-gen FPS. Everything is impressively rendered, although it might be a little laggy if you're running the game on the base PlayStation 4 like mine.
Of course, most of it is still status quo, in the sense that essentials such as the minimap, blurring when you're injured, muzzle flashes, ammo and magazine counts are all where they should be - there's not much to say. As for the actual cutscenes and animations, those are very near movie-level. It's one of those games where if you stitched the cutscenes together, it could actually pass for a decent movie.
That being said, there's no denying that the developers have poured amazing amounts of detail into the environments too. From pitch-dark stealth engagements to city-wide firefights and dingy POW camps, the surroundings are chosen to match the context - both emotionally and physically.
I found that this attention to realism a whole step up from titles I've played before. It really helps set the stage for what the game wants you to feel - the claustrophobia of navigating a dark, enemy-infested tunnel, a child's fear of dying in an actual war - it's all there in one magnificent aesthetic package.