Modern Warfare Remastered: A flawless mix of spectacle, statement, and story

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In 2007, the first-person shooter was in a rut. Games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor had proven extremely popular on the PlayStation 2 and PC, but as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 ushered in a glorious future of high-definition graphics and online gaming, the military shooters failed to keep up. Years of focusing on the historic destruction of World War II were taking their toll. But Infinity Ward, the developer behind the first two WWII-themed Call of Duty games, took a gamble on a new direction, one that would come to define an entire generation of console gaming. For the next Call of Duty, Infinity Ward wouldn’t look to the past for inspiration, but to the gritty (approximate) reality of modern warfare, and the Hollywood films that glamorised it. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was born.

Almost a decade later, it’s easy to forget that Infinity Ward took a risk that ranks alongside that of the original iPhone. Skipping the 20th Century entirely, Modern Warfare transported players to contemporary conflicts. In the place of beach landings and frontline combat, it captured the tension of SAS infiltrations, the organised spectacle of a US invasion, and the end-of-the-world stakes of militarised ultra-nationalism. It even threw in a stray nuke for good measure.

The Modern Warfare remaster—out on November 4 only as a pack-in bonus with the futuristic Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare––not only commemorates an iconic release, it reinforces Modern Warfare’s real-world foresight. The remaster is a testament to the power of a creative idea that revolutionised a genre, and to a game that seems to have predicted, or at least understood, how the geopolitical climate of the Middle East would further destabilise throughout the succeeding decade.

Visually, Modern Warfare was always a lavish, Hollywoodesque production, but it’s surprising just how good it looks today. The technical work behind the update makes this more of a remake than a simple remaster, with a complete rebuild of its weather effects, texture work, lighting models, and character animations creating a game that looks as modern as it did in 2007.

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