The new trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare released Tuesday during Sony's State of Play places emphasis on the story, with only a small portion saying anything about multiplayer. The game looks as if its campaign is the focal point, a huge change from recent Call of Duty titles. The previous game, 2018's Black Ops 4, didn't even have a campaign mode, so this is a welcome change. But why is it happening now?
The Call of Duty series used to be known more for its campaign than its multiplayer when the franchise debuted in 2003. The original Call of Duty won Game of the Year awards based mostly on its single-layer campaign; it even received an expansion pack in which a second, smaller campaign was made. When Call of Duty 2 was released for the Xbox 360 and PC, the campaign was what garnered the most attention. Players loved the varied missions and the variety in locales.
Of course, 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the release that garnered the most attention, for its multiplayer but also for its campaign. Those who played it through will remember the ghillie suit mission, and setting a nuclear bomb. Modern Warfare 2 also continued the story from Modern Warfare 1 with the controversial "No Russian" mission. It was optional, yes, but it's still mentioned among the most controversial moments in gaming.
However, as time went on, the campaign in a Call of Duty title started to become less important as the multiplayer mode hit its stride and the Zombies mode was introduced. Modern Warfare 3 finished the story from the previous two, providing a lukewarm, if satisfying, end to the tale. The Black Ops story debuted strong but began to lose its way after the second game. Afterward, the series stuck to one-off tales that focused more on the voice actors, such as Kit Harington and Kevin Spacey, than an actual narrative.
From that point on, the campaign became little more than an excuse to show off a big set piece being destroyed and the story devolving into military jargon with no real incentive to play differently. The game is set during World War II? Nothing here to change. Futuristic missions? Same mechanics. Let's add a jet pack, a celebrity, and call it a day. The campaigns, unfortunately, stopped receiving the love that previous installments did.
Now a new Modern Warfare is coming, and it looks like it's focusing on heavy drama. Captain Price is back from the original series, and it seems the political side of military conflicts is going to play a larger role. So why is a deeper, story-heavy game being released now? Call of Duty hasn't had a big seller since Call of Duty: Ghosts in 2013, and this generation has seen the series further decline in sales. This may be a play to regain players who liked the campaigns of older games. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare arrives Oct. 25, so we'll soon see how well this push does.