It feels a little odd that Call of Duty has been around long enough to earn its own “Legacy Edition,” but those who plunked down the $80 entry free earlier in November were welcomed with a copy of the brand new Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare bundled with Modern Warfare Remastered – an updated, beautified version of 2007’s legendary Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Usually a “legacy edition” would imply a return to the roots of a franchise, but the earliest Call of Duty games are effectively scrubbed from history. For all intents and purposes, the industry’s biggest franchise begins with British special forces officer “Soap” MacTavish on that sinking battleship somewhere near the Bering Strait.
On the Grim Fandango-to-God of War III scale of rerelease justification, Modern Warfare Remastered sits right in the middle. It’s one of the greatest games of all time, but it’s still a year away from being a decade old. Though Infinity Ward could’ve easily waited a year to reintroduce the game on a proper round number (like Microsoft did with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary in 2011), it makes total sense that it didn’t. Modern Warfare Remastered not only helped sell copies of Infinite Warfare, but it also serves as a kind of mea culpa for the fans that don’t quite love the direction the franchise has taken.
For years, first-person shooters all basically worked the same way. You queued into a match, blew up your friends, and forgot about the results as soon as it was over. Infinity Ward was the first developer to reenvision competitive multiplayer as a persistent, ongoing campaign. The basic language – kill-streaks, experience points, progressive gun and accessory unlocks – were all introduced in Modern Warfare. You’ve undoubtedly seen those features recast in Halo, Battlefield, and adjacent sports franchises like Madden and NBA 2K. It’s hard to think of any game, regardless of genre or medium, with a longer shadow.
Call of Duty is still pretty healthy. The series can claim a number of successes since Modern Warfare – Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops 2, Advanced Warfare – but it’s safe to say that public opinion hasn’t been kind to the franchise this year. Earlier in November, Infinity Ward released Infinite Warfare, the ninth Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare, which takes the formula to outer-space with wall-runs, double-jumps, and robots with built-in automatic machine guns. You may be reminded of Titanfall, another shooter that toyed with acrobatic player movement, and one that was created by much of CoD‘s original development team. It’s clearer than ever in 2016 that Call of Duty is now following and not leading.