Call of Duty: Modern Warfare PC technical review

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Call of Duty gives the Frostbite engine a run for its money…

Call of Duty has always prioritized its console ports, and understandably so. PC has always felt like more of an afterthought and is often characterized by poor optimization despite its sub-par visuals. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, however, series mainstay Infinity Ward set out to craft the most realistic war game on the market for its PC players — and it did just that.

Holy moly, this game looks incredible — if you’ve got the space to keep it. Perhaps Modern Warfare should have included a hard drive as a preorder bonus, as it requires a massive 175 GB of free hard drive space to download (over double what the previous release required). Regardless, how will the PC port of Modern Warfare run on your machine?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare PC technical review - Is this real life?

System requirements and specs

Minimum:

  • Requires DirectX 12 compatible system
  • OS: Windows 7 64-Bit or Windows 10 64-Bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i3 4340 or AMD FX-6300
  • Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 / GeForce 1650 or Radeon HD 7950
  • RAM: 8GB RAM
  • HDD: 175GB HD space
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Sound Card: DirectX Compatible

Recommended:

Here are Recommended Specs to run at 60 FPS in most situations with all options set to medium:

  • Requires DirectX 12 compatible system
  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit (latest update)
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K or AMD Ryzen R5 1600X processor
  • Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / GTX 1660 or Radeon R9 390 / AMD RX 580
  • RAM: 12GB RAM
  • HDD: 175GB HD space
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Sound Card: DirectX Compatible

Competitive:

Here are the Competitive specs to run at a high FPS for use with a high-refresh monitor:

  • Requires DirectX 12 compatible system
  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit (latest update)
  • CPU: Intel i7-8700K or AMD Ryzen 1800X
  • Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 / RTX 2070 SUPER or Radeon RX Vega 64 Graphics
  • RAM: 16GB RAM
  • HDD: 175GB HD space
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Sound Card: DirectX Compatible

Author (1080p/144hz monitor):

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i7 6700k @ 4.2GHz
  • Video: AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4
  • Storage: 500GB Kingston A400 SSD

The minimum required specs of Modern Warfare are incredibly forgiving, requiring a setup straight out of 2012 to run. What this points to is Modern Warfare‘s incredible optimization, which we’ll get back to in a bit.

This Activision blog post offers a few additional configurations for those who want to experience the game with ray tracing enabled, but for now let’s take a look at the “vanilla” Modern Warfare experience, and boy is there a lot to look at.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare PC technical review - Is this real life?

Graphics settings and uncapped frame rates

Infinity Ward truly pulled out all the stops when it came to the PC port of Modern Warfare, including a head-spinning amount of customization options.

Graphics1_modernwarfare

The basic stuff is here: display, resolution, etc.

Graphics2

Classic texture settings include very low, low, normal, and high.

Graphics3

Filmic strength supposedly alleviates the fuzzy textures when no antialiasing is present, but I found that disabling depth of field works the same.

Frame rates are unexpectedly solid. I admit that my PC isn’t what it used to be, particularly being bottlenecked by the 4 GB frame buffer on my RX 570. Nevertheless, I was able to consistently hit a frame rate between 80-110 during the campaign, and consistently over 70 during multiplayer. This is with a mix of normal/high settings. This is much better performance than I saw with similar settings in Black Ops 4 and is similar to that of WWII a few years back.

Even with the highest graphical settings enabled (minus antialiasing), I was able to consistently hit 60 FPS in the campaign. Color me impressed.

Multiplayer graphics comparisons

tank_low_graphics

Low graphics settings make the textures on this tank look bland; let’s spruce them up!

Tank High

That’s a bit better! (high settings)

Outside Low

Low settings become especially apparent when lots of shadows appear on screen.

Train Repair High

high settings (this screenshot resulted in a crash somehow)

PC controls and keybinds

Modern Warfare is a typical first-person shooter: WASD to move, Shift to sprint, R to reload, and so forth. Although if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, Infinity Ward has given you the option to remap everything to your desire. Yes, I prefer using the mouse wheel to jump — sue me.

Keyboardbindings

Nothing special here, but that’s exactly how it should be

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare PC technical review - Is this real life?

Mouse settings will allow you to adjust every aspect of your aim.

Welcome, controller users!

To this point in the Call of Duty series, playing with a controller on PC was definitely a worse way to play. Simply put, there is no way for a player using a controller to be as good as a player using a mouse and keyboard. But sometimes, you’d rather just lay back on the couch and play with a controller rather than as god intended.

Fortunately, controller users will no longer be at a competitive disadvantage with the addition of crossplay. Opting in to the crossplay feature in Modern Warfare allows console and PC players to live in harmony, matching players together based on their preferred input device. This means that players using mouse and keyboard will be matched against other mouse and keyboard players, and the same with controller, regardless of platform.

controller2modernwarfare

All the essentially controller options are here such as layout and button remapping.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare PC technical review - Is this real life?

Even adjust your aim assist if you need it (don’t be ashamed).

A match made in heaven

Matchmaking in Modern Warfare is seamless. Granted, there were a few bugs with the servers upon launch, but that’s to be expected from a game with this much hype. Sharing servers among PS4, Xbox One, and PC allows for instantaneous matchmaking and has me wondering why we’re only just now thinking of this stuff. PC purists can also choose to ignore console players altogether by disabling crossplay.

Performance issues and crashes

The cut scenes during Modern Warfare‘s campaign are plagued with a nasty frame rate issue that reduces the game to little more than a slideshow. Just prior to writing this I actually had one freeze so long I thought the game had crashed, the result of which was a lip syncing nightmare. It doesn’t appear that changing any graphics settings resolves this issue, but patch 1.04 may rectify this.

Other than that, I’m genuinely surprised by how solid the performance of Modern Warfare is, with my 5+ hours of gameplay resulting in only a few crashes (turns out I needed to install the beta version of my GPU driver). There also appear to be crashes in multiplayer that are linked to exceeding GPU memory, so keep that in mind, fellow 4 GB GPU owners.

There have additionally been some complaints about “shadow noise” appearing around certain textures, but turning off Depth of Field appears to alleviate the issue.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare PC technical review - Is this real life?

Final thoughts

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare propels the series into the next generation with stunning visuals and groundbreaking features like crossplay. With rock-solid optimization in both campaign and multiplayer, even the most modest systems should be enough to help you relive the good old days of Call of Duty in stunning fashion. Infinity Ward has clearly prioritized their PC release with Modern Warfare, and it shows.

Here’s a bit of 4K gameplay featuring ray-tracing, for those of you who want to see Modern Warfare in all of its glory.

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