REVIEW: The new Call of Duty mixes drama and action

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 / rated M / $59.99 / released October 2019 OFFICIAL SITE: callofduty.com FINAL: You WANT this game. 4 out of 5 stars The “Call of Duty” series has not missed a year since 2005, leapfrogging between historical, contemporary and outright fantastical fields of war. This […]

The story unfolds in an intense series of missions, as counter-terrorism agents circle the globe on the trail of The Wolf and The Butcher. The evil pair plans to use deadly gas bombs to… do something? Prove something? Kill people? It’s honestly not very memorable. The story involves a lot of immaculately bearded tough guys yelling at a lot of other immaculately bearded tough guys, without any deep thought on the topic. Between missions, one tough guy will say, in a dramatic tone, something like “We get dirty so the world can stay clean.” It’s a plot told through the kind of t-shirts you see for sale at truck stops.

To drive home the point that counter-terrorism efforts can take place anywhere, there are many missions set in busy cities and houses. This allows the game to test your video game trigger finger and see if you’re willing to shoot before assessing who’s an enemy and who’s not. You’ll come across families and random occupants, some of which may actually pull a gun on you anyway after pleading for their lives. “Modern Warfare” tries to stress that War Is Bad, attempting “gotchas” where you’re supposed to feel bad for the woman you shot down after kicking in her apartment door. But given how many virtual people you just killed in the prior five minutes, it’s tough for a crucial moment like that to have much effect.

Over in the online mode, “Modern Warfare” drops the pretense. The glamour of video game combat rules the day, with no concessions to the ethical questions of conflict. Drive a tank, send in an air strike, pilot a spy drone, customize your rifle, even (um, yikes?) deploy a white phosphorus attack. Everything is dumbed down to a game of kill or be killed (and then come right back.) And it works. It’s fast and tense, and offers plenty of variety in maps and modes. You can even play across different platforms, so you can meet up with friends across PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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