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Hands on: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare review

Short and sweet: testing the new Gunfight mode

What is a hands on review?

Early Verdict

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare looks to take the series away from the Battle Royale craze, and back to its roots of high-paced action. And, we're so here for it.

For

  • Fast-paced action
  • Nvidia ray tracing
  • Gorgeous visuals

Against

  • Won't convince Call of Duty haters
WHAT IS A HANDS ON REVIEW?

"Hands on reviews" are a journalist's first impressions of a game based on spending some time with it ahead of our full review. In this case, we played 15 minutes of Gunfight mode at Gamescom 2019. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to enjoy, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee

Over the last 15 years or so, we've grown used to seeing a new Call of Duty grace our consoles every single year. And, for the last few years, it's felt like the venerable franchise has increasingly been grasping for straws – even including a Battle Royale mode in the most recent entry. 

However, fast forward to 2019, and this soft reboot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare might be bucking this trend of bigger battles, a là Fortnite, in lieu of the smaller, more intense Gunfight game mode. Now, while we do know that a single player campaign is coming to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and that it's especially brutal, we were limited to about 15 minutes of gameplay in the Gunfight mode. 

This is essentially a 2v2 battle to the death: each player has one life, and if you die, you have to wait until the next round to try again. Rounds are fast, frenetic and deadly.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

(Image credit: Activision; Infinity Ward; Nvidia)

Fast and furious

One of the biggest trends over the last couple years is the Battle Royale – or, taking a huge amount of players, dumping them on a single map in a fight to the death. Activision has itself cashed in on this craze with the inclusion of a Battle Royale mode in Call of Duty: WWII, but not this time. 

Gunfight will pit two teams of two players against each other in a frantic fight to the death on extremely small maps. And, don't think you can just camp in a corner and wait it out either – once the timer runs down, you have to capture a flag in order to win, driving any surviving players to the middle of the map to duke it out. 

Not that we ever saw this timer actually appear in our time with the game. In fact, most rounds were over in a matter of seconds: the enemy team either rushing us or sniping us from the other side of the map. At this point, it's Call of Duty tradition to die almost immediately upon seeing an enemy player, and this new game mode doesn't disappoint. If you're looking for a quick game mode that you can sneak in on your lunch break, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has you covered. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

(Image credit: Activision; Infinity Ward; Nvidia)

RTX On

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare demo we got our hands on was played entirely on a night-time version of the King map. This map is tiny, dark and filled with shadows, making for an amazing experience both to play and look at. 

It doesn't hurt that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is using Nvidia Turing technology to implement both ray traced shadows and ambient occlusion. In a map filled with dim light sources and shadow, this made for a great showcase for what the Nvidia Turing-backed technology can do. 

Now, if you play fast-paced shooters online, you likely prefer high frame rates over some extra eye candy, but the game felt incredibly smooth even with all the RTX effects enabled. We didn't see a frame rate counter, and we didn't see what resolution the game was running at, but we think you'll be able to have all the eye candy turned on, while still being able to top the leaderboards – provided you have at least an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, of course. 

This ray tracing functionality does have one critical effect on the game, though: this is clearly the best looking Call of Duty game yet. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

(Image credit: Activision; Infinity Ward; Nvidia)

Early Verdict

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is still very much a Call of Duty game. The core DNA of the franchise is very much alive, and it may be stronger than ever thanks to this new Gunfight mode. 

Now, don't get us wrong: if you haven't been a fan of the franchise, this game probably won't change your mind. However, if you've been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for Call of Duty to return to its roots – if you consider Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to be its roots – you might want to check this one out. 

We know we can't wait to see what's in store for us when the full game hits store shelves on October 25, for Xbox One, PS4 and PC

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.