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Call of Duty Modern Warfare: It’s about “when you dont pull the trigger,” not when you do

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is about “when you dont pull the trigger,” not when you do (Pic: Infinity Ward)

Im sitting in a dimly lit hotel suite with the blinds closed to check out the new Call of Duty game – an apt environment as any. Joining me is Joel Emslie and Jacob Minkoff, Studio Art Director and Campaign Gameplay Director at Infinity Ward – theyre here to talk about this brazen reboot of Modern Warfare.

I wondered – after reading plenty of previews and looking for a return to form – could Call of Duty really address its own dissonance? Could it skirt edginess and deliver something profound and uncomfortable? After the first demo, I could definitely see what it was trying to do – it made me squirm.

The game wants you to question every single kill – the developers explained that the Modern Warfare trilogy was an “alternate reality by the end” which necessitated the reinvention – they needed to attack the core of what makes Modern Warfare uncomfortable, grafting it into the contemporary milieu with allusions to real-world conflicts and terrorism.

The team wanted to make the game feel “a little more Sicario” – the studio philosophy surrounding violence being “Jaws not Saw” – they seek nuance and affecting gameplay, and it certainly feels in tune with our current set of global crises.

Its about the morally grey nature of war – Minkoff claims that nowadays “One mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist” and that enemies don't wear uniforms – civilians often ending up as unknowns – collateral damage in a wider war.

Minkoff wants to have the player decide who they think is right in any given situation – its about “when you dont pull the trigger” more than when you do.

The game has you swapping between Tier-1 operators and plucky rebel fighters – their advantages and disadvantages are taken into account and played off one another to make for interesting gameplay.

The detail is impressive – Minkoff tells me that they have fully recreated night vision, rendering infrared and deep infrared light spectra to build it from the ground up and make it authentic.

Theyve also grafted in Barry Sloane to play Captain Price, who Emslie calls the Daniel Craig of Modern Warfare – hes been through Navy SEAL BUD/S training and brings a palpable amount of energy to the role.

“You watch your dad die and have to murder a man with a screwdriver in a pseudo-stealth boss battle”

The first demo I see involves Tier-1 operators pulling punters from cars and profiling them – only to see the furthest car, a van, drive off erratically before exploding in a crowd of people at Piccadilly Circus – my heart sank… this is my home country, and it really hurt to watch.

Infinity Ward has certainly succeeded at making me feel something when it comes to Call of Duty – their previous space-bound games have been so off the mark that its good to see something grounded even though it is tremendously harrowing.

Real passports and driving licenses flashed on the screen as we were taken to a photogrammetrically recreated London backstreet – everything was so detailed down to the creak of the back gate as the company invaded the house – the DLR riding above.

The low heartbeat adrenaline of the Tier-1 team is felt in the room as they slowly but surely move their way through the townhouse, dispatching of potential foes with clinical accuracy.

A woman is pulled to the ground after forgetting to turn the kettle off – theyve been taken unawares.

As they move through the house in night-vision, the claustrophobia of it starts to set in. Its oh so quiet – two extremes of audio, the cacophony of bullets and the silence of assassination.

The only point of note for me was the speed with which the three civilians in the dining room pulled out rifles – if the point was to show they were taken unaware, it would have looked a bit better to see them scramble for a weapon rather than instantly pull out three of the same weapons – that pulled me out of the experience a little bit and made me realise this was a Call of Duty game after all.

Infinity Ward has also done something about wall damage and given players full reign to shoot through surfaces and tactically dispatch of enemies like in Rainbow Six: Siege.

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