A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Parts of the game -- a terrorist attack in London, torture scenes, brutal attacks on civilians in a fictional Arab country -- feel plucked from the headlines and are meant to convey a sense of timeliness, authenticity, moral ambiguity. Players are constantly and strongly incentivized to avoid civilian casualties, but sometimes it's impossible. Overarching message, based on themes of loyalty, principles, and determination, is that war is awful and takes a deep emotional toll, but that combat can also be strangely exhilarating.
Positive Role Models
Playable characters -- male and female, who are of varying nationalities and ethnicities -- have moral compasses that can be influenced by the player, such as whether or not to take part in torture of brutal enemy by using his family as leverage to get him to talk. Heroes show revulsion for what they must do in battle, but also display a resolve to see it done for the greater good. They feel very much like real soldiers, for better and worse.
Ease of Play
Multiple difficulty levels allow players to set a challenge that fits their skill and experience in the campaign mode. Success in multiplayer mode depends entirely on player's skill and that of his or her teammates and opponents. Controls are traditional for first-person shooters, but understanding broad array of multiplayer options and growth systems takes time, patience.
Violence & Scariness
Viewed from first-person perspective, players kill human enemies -- and, if they're not careful, also civilians -- using variety of military weapons, including rifles, pistols, shotguns, machine guns, grenades, Molotov cocktails, rocket launchers, mounted guns, tanks, drones. Enemies cry out in pain, gush blood, contort and sprawl realistically when struck, their bodies coming to rest and remaining on the ground. Disturbing scenes show torture by waterboarding; execution by pistol and hanging; gas attacks that kill men, women, children, animals; suicide bombings; children being chased and potentially killed by a raging soldier. Some violence can be avoided by selecting to turn it off at the outset of the game and through decisions made during the story.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
No scenes or characters of a sexual nature, but cartoonish illustrations depict deep cleavage and exposed backsides.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Very strong language, including "f--k" and "s--t," is used in voiced dialogue.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Players can purchase downloadable content and spend real money on cosmetic items that don't affect game balance. Latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Images of cannabis leaves appear as customization options. Several characters -- including heroes -- smoke and drink beer.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a graphic and gritty military first-person shooter for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs. Players take on the roles of several soldiers ranging in gender, nationality, and ethnicity who are fighting a global terrorist threat with events that seem plucked from current headlines, including a terrorist attack in London; men, women and children slaughtered in a fictional Arab nation; orphaned kids attempting to hide from a raging, murderous soldier; scenes of torture and execution; and the use of a highly controversial chemical agent called white phosphorous. Players are strongly incentivized to avoid civilian casualties and exercise "trigger discipline," but the deaths of some bystanders are impossible to avoid -- as in one case in which an innocent man is strapped into a suicide vest with a short-lived timer. Some scenes call on the player to make moral decisions, such as whether or not to participate in the torture of a brutal enemy by using his family as leverage. The heroes are loyal to each other and determined to succeed, repulsed by the evils of war, but sometimes also willing to step into morally gray areas in order to accomplish what they perceive as a greater good. Combat involves a broad range of realistic military guns and explosives that cause enemies to bleed, burn, cry out in pain, and flail and sprawl in authentic ways. The experience is designed to be harrowing and hair raising, but the game's developers have also glorified the violence, and want players to feel exhilarated by the rush of battle. Parents should note that very strong language is heard throughout the campaign, that several characters smoke and drink, and that images of cannabis leaves and deep cleavage can be seen in multiplayer modes.
Is It Any Good?
This one isn't for the faint of heart. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's campaign is among the darkest and grittiest the franchise has yet produced, thrusting players into a first-person perspective to experience such things as horrific waterboarding torture and the terror of being a little girl chased by a murderous Russian soldier intent on exterminating every man, woman, and child in her village. And by making us carefully select targets prior to pulling the trigger, developer Infinity Ward has taken its simulation of the modern military experience one step further, forcing players to do the moral -- and life-threatening -- thing by hesitating until we are certain that targets are enemies. It makes for a harrowing, yet also strangely compelling, experience – assuming you have the stomach for it. It's worth noting, though, that the game's message and sense of authenticity is undercut, to a degree, by its glorification of violence. While some scenes are so horrific that most players will be glad when they end, others are undeniably thrilling. This is the seemingly unavoidable conflict based in military first-person shooters.
Of course, any sense of authenticity is pretty much thrown out the window once you move into multiplayer, which is where the vast bulk of players will spend most of their time. The new four-player Special Ops cooperative game type, while story-based in theory, is essentially a run-and-gun mode that serves up fast-paced action with a focus on teamwork and little in the way of any serious moral quandaries. It's undeniably fun, but not nearly as emotional as the campaign. And competitive multiplayer, which is just as entertaining, essentially abandons any pretense of battlefield realism. From its wildly fast-paced combat to its chaotic and large scale new Ground War mode to its reliance on fun-first mechanics -- including kill streaks that unlock special abilities (including the controversial white phosphorous chemical attack) -- it's designed for competition and esports rather than simulating a war experience. It's as finely tuned as any competitive shooter and will be wildly popular among avid genre fans -- and probably furiously challenging for the rookies and casual players who go up against them. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare succeeds very well in being the game it wants to be. Now it's up to individual players to decide whether it's what they want.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.