Why MW 2019 is still the best looking Call of Duty to date

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare was released back in 2019 as a reboot of the series following the Warfare games spending a few years in space. MW 2019 took Call of Duty back to its glory days of the late 2000s with titles such as Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 helping to make the franchise the biggest FPS IP in gaming. Despite releasing five years ago and being released on the last-generation PS4 and Xbox One, MW 2019 is still the best-looking entry in the series. If you don’t believe me, check out the PC version on Steam or Battle.net cranked up to max settings, now let’s talk about it.

MW 2019 is the best-looking Call of Duty game despite its age

Image via Activision

If I had to show a new Call of Duty player a game from the series to wow them, if it was from a gameplay perspective it would likely be the original Modern Warfare 2 from 2009. But, if it was based on visuals alone, it would without a doubt be MW 2019. The opening sequence of the campaign pushes its IW engine to the limits, seamlessly transitioning between pre-rendered cutscenes and gameplay as well as switching between first-person and third-person perspectives. The environment, character movements, animations for vehicles, weapons, destruction, etc, are smooth and fluid and it felt like Activision knew they had to deliver with this game and bring the series back to where it could be, and the team at Infinity Ward delivered.

Despite being a last-gen game, MW 2019 is the best-looking entry in the series, which on paper makes no sense considering Modern Warfare II and III were released in 2022 and 2023 respectively, and on newer hardware. But, this is because they share an engine with Warzone Mobile, meaning it has more limitations as it is designed to also run on mobile hardware. This doesn’t mean that Modern Warfare II and III look like mobile games, they still look good, but they can’t quite take advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X hardware quite like MW 2019 could with the PS4 and Xbox One.

It is worth pointing out that the Vanguard, released two years later, also uses the IW 8.0 engine, which has been upgraded to allow for photorealistic details, a texture damage layer system, tactical destruction, VRS, and support for AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution. This game also looks fantastic and is another great way to showcase to a new player how good the series can look. The title sandwiched in between these two, Black Ops Cold War, uses its own dedicated engine which is a modified version of the Black Ops 4 engine while also cherry-picking technology from the IW 8.0 engine. This allowed for real-time lighting, as well as ray tracing and DLSS support. Black Ops Cold War also looks great, but I would still say MW 2019 slightly edges out Treyarch’s offering at the time. With Treyarch now having a four-year gap between releases to work on its new title, I am expecting big things from the 2024 release.

Although some multiplayer maps are mid, MW 2019 has the best modern campaign

Special forces team in tactical gear preparing to breach a building, holding weapons, illuminated by dim light filtering through smoke in the visually stunning game MW 2019.
Image via Activision

When it comes to Call of Duty campaigns, MW 2019 is one of the best in the series, and certainly of the modern entries. The campaign sees a CIA officer and the British SAS forces team up with a group of rebels from the Republic of Urzikstan as they take on the Russian Armed Forces. Whenever I think of the campaign I immediately think of the level based in London, England, and remember just being blown away at how great the streets looked and it felt like I was in the city. I won’t spoil the rest of the campaign, but if you’re ever a loose end and fancy playing through a Call of Duty game, you won’t be disappointed with the MW 2019 campaign.

Moving over the multiplayer, it is perhaps the weakest part of the game, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a fun time. Some of the maps are lacking and not as enjoyable as some maps in other games. But, when it comes to the game’s Search and Destroy mode, these are the best maps ever seen in a Call of Duty game. There are better instances of other modes across the franchise, but if Search and Destroy is your thing, MW 2019 is the best it has ever been.

MW 2019 is not only the best-looking Call of Duty game, but it is also the best entry in the series in the past decade

A soldier in tactical gear holding a rifle crouches in a dark, debris-filled room with sparks flying in the background, exemplifying why MW 2019 is still the best looking Call of Duty
Image via Activision

As I am typing these words I am also looking at the Call of Duty Wikipedia page and looking back at the past decade of games which brings back a lot of memories, and not all of them good. In the past decade we have seen the following games be released;

  • Advanced Warfare
  • Black Ops 3
  • Infinite Warfare
  • WWII
  • Black Ops 4
  • Modern Warfare
  • Black Ops Cold War
  • Vanguard
  • Modern Warfare II
  • Modern Warfare III

There are some dark times in that list. Although some people do like Black Ops 3, and it is the best entry of this era pre-MW 2019, if I could erase 2014-2018 Call of Duty from my memory I would. Thankfully, MW 2019 did bring with it a revitalized Call of Duty which has largely been good, with Vanguard and Modern Warfare III being the low points but still pretty good games. When it comes to graphics, animations, movement, audio, multiplayer, and early Warzone, MW 2019 is simply the better game when compared to any others on the list above. With the next Call of Duty releasing later this year and expected to be revealed in June 2024, this could change. But at least right now, MW 2019 is the pinnacle of modern Call of Duty.

You can read our review of Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2019) here.