Visuals, Performance, and RTX

No point in beating around the bush on this: Modern Warfare looks incredible. Prior to the game’s launch, much was made about some of the new approaches to visual design the team was making, specifically heavy use of photogrammetry, universal volumetric lighting, and spectral rendering, namely real-time rendering in multiple spectrums – used primarily for levels in which you heavily use Night Vision Goggles – like Clean House and Going Dark.

This latter element in particular is very effective. Normally I hate using NVGs in games like this, as it drains the image of all its detail and style. But if anything, the missions which utilise the spectral rendering define Modern Warfare’s style – it’s that convincing. The impressive visuals do come at a cost, however, namely a whopping 129GB download size. Modern Warfare has also been touted as one of the big RTX games launching this year, with Nvidia having stated they’re working closely with Activision and Infinity Ward to make the most out of the tech. Being perfectly frank, Modern Warfare is probably not the best game to showcase RTX, certainly not compared to, say, Control.

This is not really Modern Warfare’s fault; it’s simply a consequence of the type of game Modern Warfare is and the types of environment you explore. Modern Warfare has you constantly on the move, so you’re not going to be paying much attention to lights and shadows. When you are moving slowly, you’re usually looking at the world through NVGs, which also doesn’t provide the best opportunity for RTX to shine.

Call of Duty’s world is also much more rugged and granular than the clean and glossy lines of Control, which means that many of the benefits of RTX don’t get the same front-and-centre treatment. You will see dynamic reflections in puddles and more dynamic shadows from lights, and there are specific scenes where RTX gets time to shine, such as just after airstrike in the opening mission. It’s there, and it undoubtedly works; it’s just not that noticeable, because the game is built to look realistic, therefore ensuring things like RTX effects don’t stick out.

That being said, Modern Warfare does have one big advantage over other RTX games released so far, which is that it runs like butter even at 4K. Running on an RTX 2080 Super, we consistently achieved a frame rate of between 45fps and 60fps even in the most visually intense levels with other settings maxed out, and you’ll easily achieve >60fps at 1440p. Considering 4K RTX practically killed frame rates in Control, it’s an impressive step forward for performance, the trade-off being that it's a less immediately impressive implementation.

Final Words

Overall, Modern Warfare is the most comprehensive Call of Duty in some time, if not necessarily the most well rounded. I don’t think the single-player is as fun as that of Infinite Warfare, but it is well-crafted and undoubtedly provocative, albeit not always in a good way. Meanwhile, aside from the slightly duff Spec-Ops mode, the multiplayer offers an impressive range of experiences, including the superb Gunfight. It’s no masterpiece, and there are a few things in it that could have been better handled, but I also didn’t expect a Call of Duty game to linger in my mind the way Modern Warfare has.

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October 14 2021 | 15:04