It’s easy to feel nostalgic for the time when playing a new release meant cracking open a plastic box and slotting a cartridge into your console. It’s even easier when you’ve been watching the “download” bar crawl upwards for three hours. By hour four, you’re pulling your hair out.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is fun as hell, but it took me well over four hours before I could find that out. The process for getting the dang thing to run was one small misery after another, a perfect illustration of how jagged and frustrating the install experience for highly anticipated AAA games can be.
The game, released October 25, requires 128 GB of storage on PC. (It functionally takes up 108 GB.) That’s twice the size of World of Warcraft. To carve out some legroom, I uninstalled Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (80 GB), Apex Legends (40 GB), and several indie games on Steam that I know I’m never going to finish. Then, the great Call of Duty download initiated. My computer, a gaming PC connected by a LAN cable to very expensive internet, reared and fought and emitted big, sad sighs. Throughout the three-hour game download, it refused to run any other game and could barely even render an entire sentence in Slack without pauses (i.e. “the CoD file is enormous”).
It should be no surprise to anyone that some newer games are bigger than some older games. A recent IGN article graphs out a 10 GB growth between Call of Duty games every year since 2013’s Ghosts. Before then, the games oscillated between 8 and 10 GB. But Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a third larger than Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. That’s significant. It’s got some new stuff, of course, like crossplay between PC, PS4, and Xbox One; some fresh game modes; and a single-player campaign, which Black Ops 4 did not have. But there’s also no Zombies or battle royale mode. Is it the ray tracing? The shaders?
A little over three hours after hitting the “Download” button on Battle.net, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare had installed—but it wasn’t quite over. There were the patches. HDR support and something about using NVIDIA Highlight in multiplayer matches. Some bug fixes, some big, new game modes. Downloading patches 1.03 and 1.04, over 7 GB in total, took another 30 minutes to an hour. Maybe if I were the kind of person who really cared about ray tracing, hour four of download hell would make Call of Duty worth the wait.
When all that was done, I excitedly hit “Play.” It was time to hop into some multiplayer and click heads. But wait—I had to update my drivers, the game informed me. NVIDIA did a whole blog post about this, explaining that:
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare brings gamers multiple modes of play, upgraded graphics, enhanced technology, and on PC, support for ray-traced shadows, NVIDIA Ansel, and NVIDIA Highlights. Together with the PC’s fast framerates and higher-resolution effects and graphics, GeForce RTX gamers will get the Ultimate Modern Warfare experience on PC.”
Great, NVIDIA, thanks. But when, exactly? To update my drivers, I had to launch and log into Nvidia’s proprietary software and wait 10 minutes for the 575 MB download. Then, afterwards, Battle.net had to update. Surely, now, it was Call of Duty time, right? The loading screen appeared, and moody music resonated.
Nope. I was prompted to make an Activision account (Why!) and log into Activision’s Battle.net account system. Then, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare had a big old shaders update for me. It felt uniquely rude to hide this huge update in-game, right after I thought the bulk of the update onslaught was over. That install paused, jerked, and crashed about 15 minutes in. I had to close out and restart the game. (Apparently that’s a known bug.) Several times over, Call of Duty would pause and wait for a shaders update, once again crashing my computer.
In total, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took about four and a half hours to install in close-to-ideal PC gaming conditions. Somewhere within this comedy of download errors and update bugs, I did learn a lesson: I need more RAM if I’m gonna game in 2019.