The annual release of Activision’s first-person shooter blockbuster is always a big deal. The arrival of a new Call of Duty means fans get to dive back into one of gaming’s biggest, most beloved franchises, while also being treated to fresh stories, features, modes, and other cool content that continue to evolve the series.

This year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is no different. In fact, it’s raising the bar higher than usual, ratcheting the realism and delivering an ambitious, cutting-edge reboot of what many fans consider the series’ best entry. Here are four reasons you’ll want to lock, load, and lay waste to evil-doers in what looks to be Call of Duty’s finest hour.

Refined and Redefined

Despite sharing a near-identical name with 2007’s groundbreaking Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the military shooter’s latest is less a remake than a reboot or re-imagining. A brand new game, built from the ground up with the latest tech, this fresh take borrows some of its predecessor’s best elements – including fan-favorite character Captain Price – but is primarily focused on revolutionizing the franchise much like Modern Warfare 4 did over ten years ago.

Beautiful and Brutal

Much of that ambition is delivered through stunning visuals and the sort of immersive audio that’ll have you peering over your shoulder to identify even the subtlest of sounds. Of course, this breathtaking presentation is being fully leveraged to bring battles to life with brutal, unflinching realism. The fear and horror – as well as all the unnerving physical and emotional fallout that comes with it – play a significant, sometimes uncomfortable, role in the game’s cinematic, story-driven campaign.

Welcome Tweaks

It wouldn’t be a new Call of Duty game without some new tweaks to the gameplay formula. As with previous entries, Modern Warfare has refined some systems and mechanics to deliver a more immersive, authentic experience that might also give you an edge on the competitive battlefield. In addition to featuring a deeper, more intuitive progression system, the game now lets players rest guns on sturdy surfaces to improve stability and accuracy. The new ability to haul hide in short bursts also aids quick evasions and rushing attacks.

More Ways to Play

Modern Warfare is going all-in on its cinema-rivaling campaign, delivering a gritty, emotional tale complemented by epic combat. But the story mode is just the beginning. The series’ staple competitive multiplayer modes – supporting up to 64 players – are back, combining classic offerings – like Team Death Match and Domination – with new options, such as the adrenaline-pumping, 2-versus-2 Gunfight.

Players who’d rather get their friend’s back than stab it, will want to sign up for Special Ops. Spanning three cooperative-focused challenges – Missions, Operations, and Survival (a PlayStation 4 exclusive at launch) – Spec Ops lets you enjoy the game’s best elements, while giving you the opportunity to save your buddies’ bacon…and hopefully have yours saved in return.

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