Nostalgia is everywhere, from cinema (hello Emperor Palpatine) to music and TV. It seems that every company in the world is trying to trade on happy memories rather than a good product.
So when Infinity Ward announced that this year's Call of Duty would be titled "Modern Warfare" it immediately smacked of trying to use nostalgia to keep hype, and sales, around the franchise strong.
After all, Modern Warfare 2 & 3 were the biggest games of their day, the one thing that seemingly everyone played and loved. After a few years of poor user reviews and increased competition from Fortnite, it even hinted at desperation.
Basically, this title would have to deliver in a major way just to get through the cynicism and hard feelings.
After a weekend of play and toying with the features and online modes does the new Modern Warfare live up to the moniker?
The uncanny valley no longer exists. The cut scenes feel like a Hollywood blockbuster, while the missions range from claustrophobic horror to wide-open epic.
FREEDOM: The stunning campaign is a stellar journey
The early stages for the campaign will draw the ire of plenty, but in the purest CoD way ever. Just like "No Russian", the campaign's darker moments show the side of combat that the public rarely sees. The chaos in Piccadilly Circus is not without reason, and focuses the mind like nothing else.
While a lot was made of Captain Price's return in this game, the campaign comes alive when you spend time with the sibling pair of Farah and Hadir, fighting for the liberation of their fictional nation Urzikstan.
Your main avatars, the American Alex and British Kyle Garrick, are far more traditional blank slates for you to jump into and wage war with.
After the backlash of not having a campaign in Black Ops 4, Infinity Ward returned the mode in the best way possible. The story is engaging and the missions never feel like a pointless slog through waves of AI. Tactical thinking, moral nuance, and out-right blood-pumping action are at the fore.
Call of Duty games rarely feel alive, but the multiplayer experience in Modern Warfare is simply outstanding.
REALISM: An uncluttered screen makes for a more immersive experience
The usual Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Free-For-All are all there, but the fresh feel of Cyber Attack and especially the 2v2 Gunfight add a new dimension.
The maps are no longer 3-lane shooting galleries. Instead, there are mazes of corridors, high windows, vehicles to clamber on, and corners to hide in. Each one feels more real than previous games and offers a variety of tactics for players, while the audio is spectacular.
Call of Duty's sound department has made the game all the more immersive. Footsteps are clearer, bullets ricochet in a panic-enducing way. With a quality headset you feel truly thrown into the action like no other shooter.
The range of mods available in the Gunsmith means you can really create the perfect weapon for you, while the perks have a classic feel, with things like Cold-Blooded, Hardline, and Spotter all working to help create uniqueness between players.
MULTIPLAYER: Maps are more varied and exciting than in previous years
While the quick-paced nature of Gunfight is electrifying it is the intense nature of Realism, a stripped-down but not-quite hardcore mode, that has really hooked us and will see the hours melt away while you play thanks to the clean HUD and lack of any pop-up notification that helps to draw you back out of the game.
If this isn't the game of the year it should be very close. It is nostalgia done right, bringing all the intense firefights of the old Modern Warfare game with fresh graphics, amazing audio, and spectacular maps.
There are hundreds of loadout unlockables and gunsmith options, the depth of game modes and of course the planned DLC means this is not a game that will lose its player base quickly.
It will drag older Call of Duty players back to the franchise and stave off the battle royale tidal wave for a while longer. It is a triumph for Infinity Ward and without a doubt the best game I have played this year.
5 stars (out of 5)