Goondu review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare + Season 1

January 29th, 2020 | by Yap Hui Bin
Goondu review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare + Season 1

Want to take part in a battle with modern technology, breathtaking graphics, a well developed story campaign, and  brag-worthy achievements that you can show off in multiplayer?

Don’t miss the action of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (COD MW), a reboot of the original Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare first-person shooter game that was released in 2007, but with a much grimmer setting.

This time, you learn of the protagonists’ moral conflicts during the war as well as their blockbuster worthy cinematic backstories.

In the crosshairs

In the 14-chapter story campaign, American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and British Special Air Service (SAS) forces work together to quell the terrorist threat both in London as well as in the fictitious country of Urzikstan somewhere in the Middle East.

You play Sergeant Kyle Garrick, an SAS soldier accompanying Captain Price in London where a suicide bomber from the Al Qatala – a terrorist group based in Urzikstan – launches an attack in Piccadilly Circus.

While in Urzikstan, you play “Alex”, a CIA agent helping the freedom fighters led by Farah, an Urzikstani woman, in fighting the invading Russian forces led by the cruel General Roman Barkov.

Things get more complicated when a shipment of toxic gas used by the Russians was stolen by a mysterious group with unknown intentions.

Although the game has been under fire for the controversial depiction of events and political elements of its plot, I do find the single-player story campaign very well developed. There’s plenty of innovative and nail-bitingly intense scenarios to play, instead of the regular shooting or sneaking missions. 

COD MW’s innovative missions will have you on the edge of your seat, like this one where you guide a hostage out of a building that is full of patrolling terrorists. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

You get to use drones to attack helicopters, perform an air strike, use security cameras to guide a hostage out of a building swarming with terrorists, play as a child escaping from the invading Russian forces, survive a brutal interrogation, sneak into an enemy compound in darkness to find hostages while avoiding enemy humans and vehicles, storm hostile residential compounds at night and even take down a heavily armoured Juggernaut. 

Most memorable for me in the story campaigns are the situations where you are not sure when to pull the trigger. For instance, during the attack in Piccadilly Circus and also a chase sequence in St Petersburg, terrorists hide among the fleeing civilians running towards you, so you hesitate to take a shot in case you shoot a civilian.

There is another mission where you raid a terrorist hideout at night to take down the terrorists who are hiding among their family members who include women, children and babies.

Even while being shot at, you need to confirm the correct target before shooting to avoid killing a helpless child – not an easy task in pitch darkness with night vision goggles on.

To shoot or not to shoot? COD MW’s missions are very tense when innocent civilians are mixed up with heavily armed terrorist in tight spaces. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

There are also some morally questionable and disturbing sequences where you have to sacrifice innocents, and the only “right” decision is not getting yourself killed.

The game tries to address this issue with Captain Price being the voice of justification on why things have to be this way. Perhaps this is too simplistic for a game that depicts war and the moral questions that come with it.

When a hostage is killed because of deliberate inaction, the game brushes it off with comments like “We’ll get him later” and you reach a “Checkpoint” that saves the game – the “right” choice.

But if you give in to the terrorist’s demands in an attempt to save the hostage, it will force a “game over” and you will have to replay from the last save point – which is the “wrong” choice.

Once the story campaign is complete, the game leads you to play the Special Operations (Spec Ops) Co-op mode online by teasing you with tantalising cutscenes. 

Wage Wars Online
COD MW’s Co-op Spec Ops mode teams you up with three other players online, working together to complete various objectives against overwhelming hordes of enemy AI bots.

Backed by a followup story from the campaign that links the missions to a larger plotline, the Co-op missions take place in interesting locations with challenging objectives.

These include gathering intel on High Value Targets, storming and breaking into a bank vault, and infiltrating an airport and recover cargo from a hijacked aircraft, all the time trying to shoot down enemies and keep your teammates alive. 

You can pick which roles to play, including Heavy, Recon, Demolition, Medic, Assault and Engineer, each with different equipment and specialty abilities. However, the Assault and Engineer roles require the player to level up to Officer levels 19 and 46 respectively before they are unlocked. 

Linking all the missions together with cinematics is a nice touch and gives the Co-op games more depth than just throwing a bunch of people on a map against bots. If you prefer large scale battles, then the Multiplayer mode is right for you.

It’s hard to evade bullets while engaging in close-quarter fighting in Piccadilly Circus. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

COD MW’s online multiplayer mode includes familiar favourites like Capture the Flag, 2v2 and 3v3 Gunfights, and Shoot the Ship which is a Team Deathmatch mode.

What differentiates COD MW’s multiplayer games are the Realism Mosh Pit and Ground War games. To me, the most popular yet the most challenging game mode is the Realism Mosh Pit, which is an objective-based game made more realistic in terms of damage (greater damage for headshots) and reduced heads-up displays so you cannot see where the enemies are on the minimap.

This mode is challenging for newbies who have not leveled up sufficiently to improve their weaponry, but if you are lucky to be grouped with higher level players, you can gain some pretty decent XP simply by staying alive.

For epic warfare, Ground War tosses vehicles in the mix together with a maximum of 64 players for a large-scale battle that makes it dangerous for infantry but fun for those who can use vehicles to their advantage and inflict more damage.

For those who are not fussy about multiplayer game modes or cannot afford to wait around, especially when timed bonus XP tokens are activated, there is a “Quick Play” option that lets you join the games that are already available, and you can even filter out those game types that you don’t like.

With cross-play enabled, you get to play together with other gamers on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, so you usually don’t have to wait too long to be match-made in a multiplayer game, although the Co-op mode seems a lot less popular. 

COD MW’s multiplayer mode, Ground Wars, lets players use vehicles in epic, large-scale battles. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

There is a bit of grinding involved in multiplayer games. Play more and level up and you can get better upgrades for your weapons. Also useful are killstreaks, which can be used when you have achieved sufficient kills during combat.

You can also unlock weapon blueprints that give you some rare weapons in the Armoury. All these are great incentives for playing more multiplayer games but starting out as a low-level newbie is tough, especially if you have not purchased the Season 1 Battle Pass which gives you tokens to double your XP and help you to level up much faster. 

Burn some cash

Like previous COD MW games, there is an in-game currency in the form of COD points. These can be bought with real world money, at US$9.99 for 1,100 COD points. In order to get the Season 1 Battle Pass, you need to spend 1,000 COD points.

This will unlock 100 tiers of rewards that you can gain by playing the game, earning XP, and completing challenges, versus the 20 tiers that everyone will get even if they didn’t buy the Season 1 Battle Pass.

The 100 tiers of rewards include more COD points, tokens to increase your XP gain for a period of time, as well as Epic, Legendary and Rare weapon blueprints, characters skins, weapon charms, stickers, calling cards and other cosmetic accessories.

This is recommended if you intend to play a lot of multiplayer games and want to gain an edge over the others or just look way cooler than others in the game.

If you just want to skip the tiers without grinding, you can skip one tier by paying 150 COD points. So if you have plenty of cash to burn but no time to play, this can be an option. If you don’t intend to play much of the multiplayer games, the investment might not be worthwhile.

COD MW’s Season 1 Battle Pass unlocks 100 tiers of rewards that you can get through playing the game and gaining XP. SCREENSHOT: Activision.

At the moment, the Season 1 Battle Pass has been extended 11 February 11, so it’s good news for those of us who have not unlocked all the rewards. Since the Battle Pass rewards are awarded retroactively, all the tiers you have unlocked in the game will be instantly awarded upon activation. 

Not to be confused with the Battle Pass, Officer Ranks are gained by XP and not COD points, so you can still rise up in ranks level up in multiplayer.

However, the rewards from the Season 1 Battle Pass are pretty sweet, and the best part is, if you level up sufficiently (up to level 74), it should award sufficient COD points for the upcoming Season 2 Battle Pass.

A price to pay

COD MW is a challenging game, not just because of the gameplay but its very demanding requirements on the system. For the PC version, the game requires 12GB of RAM, a decently modern graphics card with updated drivers and 175GB of hard disk space. 

The full recommended specs are:

OS: Windows 10 64 Bit (latest Service Pack)
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K or AMD Ryzen R5 1600X processor
HDD: 175GB hard disk space
Video: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 / GTX 1660 or Radeon R9 390 / AMD RX 580 

It took me some time to install the game and more time to get it to run properly. For me, I needed to upgrade to a new hard disk since I had run out of space in my puny 1TB drive for the 175GB installation.

Fortunately, the game still runs relatively well on Windows 7 except for occasional crashes. Do ensure that you dedicate enough time to do the pre-work of clearing or upgrading hard disk and updating your graphics card drivers before you make a date with your mates to play this game together.

Once the system specs are taken care of, you will need a account to buy and play the game – no problems for Blizzard fans but others will need to install the program and create an account. Once that’s done, you will have to contend with the 175GB download and installation which will take a while. 

Although it takes patience to install and get the game running, the lovely lighting effects and high quality visuals are worth the effort SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Even after all of that, whenever I start up the game, it has to run updates pretty often for “Installing shaders to optimize performance during gameplay”, both for single and multiplayer games.

Reports from various online forums indicate that not waiting for these to download completely can cause the game to crash, so I had to resist the temptation to jump right into the game. Now, I start the game up 15 minutes before actually playing.

Even so, COD MW did crash horribly a couple of times for me, either to desktop or forcing my PC to reboot. This happened both during single-player campaigns and multiplayer sessions. 

A sight for sore eyes

If you are playing on the PC, COD MW’s ultra-realistic graphics and cinematics will put your graphics card to the test but once you get it running, the efforts will pay off.

The game looks truly amazing. With realistic and gritty details of urban warfare in day and night missions, flames from intense fires, realistic lighting and effects like smoke, shrapnel, dust and flashbangs, you will be immersed in the fight.

COD MW’s missions take place in scenic locations like cities in Britain, Russia and war-torn Urkistan. Although it is tempting to stop to admire the view, the urgency of the missions or imminent death by gunshots forces you to push on.

COD MW takes the battle to exotic locales, including the beautiful streets of St Petersburg – which you won’t have time to admire. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin

Even if you get run over by a vehicle, you get to admire the underside of the vehicle before fading to black – a nice (but sad) touch.

The audio effects are also immersive and satisfying – you can hear bullets tearing into the wall above your head, deafening and ground shaking explosions from air strikes, echoing voices in tunnels and screams of people around you during a terrorist attack.

However, you do get a little tired of the chattering teammates after many hours of multiplayer, as they keep saying the same things.

For those who fancy customising your character in multiplayer games, you are in for a treat. From character skins to mods, cute charms and stickers on weapons, to your own calling card, there are endless ways to make your character look unique.

Calling cards are a banner that is displayed during a multiplayer game when when someone mouses over your character and when you perform some special brag-worthy kills in the game.

You need to buy the Battle Pass to have the fancier animated “Epic” ones unlocked as part of the 100 tiers of rewards, so that you can attain them as you rise through the tiers.

They are animated and really satisfying to see next to your name and achievements. Other customisations include emblems, gestures and logos to be sprayed on the map, and even a clan tag if you have one.

COD MW’s Season 1 Battle Pass offers loads of cool stuff but the investment is worthwhile only for those who will play the multiplayer mode a lot. SCREENSHOT: Yap Hui Bin


If you enjoy realism and a story campaign that involves more than just repetitive gun-and-run missions with some questions to consider in regards to your own moral choices, COD MW will impress.

Plus, an impressive multiplayer mode with plenty of options and the promise of more to come will keep the interest going for the game for some time.

The Standard Edition is available for PC on at S$59.99 and on Xbox One (S$74.90) and PlayStation 4 (S$84.50). Don’t forget to budget the US$10 (about S$14) for the Battle Pass if you are into getting loads of rewards in the multiplayer games.


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