REVIEW – Call of Duty is a cyclical franchise, and for many, the Infinity Ward games, released every three years, are the real Call of Duty games. With many finding Black Ops Cold War a bit disappointing and Vanguard’s World War II-ness rather familiar, 2019’s Modern Warfare is the one most people remember fondly. Unsurprisingly, many eagerly awaited Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as the messiah to restore some glory to this long-running and often self-repeating franchise.
The story of Modern Warfare II picks up three years after Modern Warfare when Captain Price’s Task Force 141 is up and running and tackling global threats. One of these is General Ghorbrani, the leader of Al-Qatala, who is soon followed (after the opening scene) by the vengeful Hassan Zyani. He joins forces with a drug cartel whose plan is to attack the United States with stolen missiles. Naturally, it’s up to the 141 to stop him.
The campaign is long, jumping between Mexico, Amsterdam, and fictional places like Al Mazrah and Las Almas. One thing I really enjoyed about playing through the campaign was the pacing. The missions are smooth, never boring, and there’s an expert balance between fast action and slower moments in missions like “Recon By Fire” and the original Modern Warfare’s “All Ghillied Up” homage.
The familiar battles fought in the field are interspersed with novel and interesting mechanics. In one mission, you control the Ghost via CCTV, and there’s another harking back to previous Modern Warfare games where you’re tasked with providing cover for the rest of the 141 in an AC-130. There are even sniper sections in the later levels. Sure, they’ve done a lot of things before, but they still packed in the more or less familiar elements well.
The AI has become stronger
The difficulty seems to have increased a bit, so while you can take down enemy soldiers more easily, they’ll come for you in places you wouldn’t expect them to. In one mission, I snuck up on a guard and killed him, only to be radioed in moments later by another guard, but got no response. Such attention to detail is unheard of in any other stealth action game. We do find plenty of self-repetitive or frustrating parts, certain segments are a little frustrating when you can’t get past a heavily scripted solution. You have to pay more attention to enemy AI, instead of rushing forward like in older games.
In addition to the returning characters, I must highlight the newcomer Alejandro Vargas, a first level member of the Mexican Special Forces, who will be teaming up with Price’s 141 during the campaign. He’s a fantastic addition to the player base who immediately fits into the game as a man willing to do the right thing, no matter the cost, but at the risk of his own well-being. The range of his actor, Alain Mesa, and the emotion he brought to the role were great!
OI was a little disappointed about the reduction of the role of Farah Karim as Claudia Doumi. She played a major role in Modern Warfare 2019, so it felt like a waste that she was limited to appearing in just one mission in the sequel. He even had a significant role in part of the story after the release of Warzone, so it feels a bit misguided as he was a great character but still wasted here.
Ghost and Soap are the real stars again
Otherwise, the other characters all return in full force, with a little more depth in their personalities and some relationships developed. It was quite fun watching the macho friendship between Ghost and Soap deepen over the course of a few missions. Now there are even dialogue options when the characters talk to each other. This has no impact on the story or missions, but it’s cool to be able to choose how you react in certain situations.
Graphically speaking, we can be satisfied with Modern Warfare 2 overall. The photorealistic walkthroughs were jaw-dropping because they looked simply stunning, and some of the maps (Amsterdam, for example) are truly majestic. Infinity Ward clearly didn’t skimp on the impeccable look of Modern Warfare 2. I played the campaign on PS5 and had no issues at all with framerate or lag – the game ran smoothly as a mirror.
The campaign in Modern Warfare 2, while not as good or groundbreaking as its predecessor, is a fun, exciting adventure from start to finish. I will play through it again one day to experience the frankly excellent scenery. I should add, though, that the story is pretty flat.
Of course, the biggest part of the Call of Duty experience has long been multiplayer, and while Modern Warfare 2 has done its best to build on previous versions of CoD, it’s not without its flaws.
The multi-part of Modern Warfare 2 looks a bit bare at launch. Basic things are missing, like operator skins and the ability to change executions, which were present in the last Modern Warfare. In addition, the menu system is a bit of a step backward, often slowing the game down or just feeling simplistic in general – it’s particularly annoying when it freezes occasionally while loading during match play. Getting to other modes can be confusing, as you must scroll down to find them. In Modern Warfare 2019, this part was simply better.
The way weapons and accessories are unlocked has also changed, with unlock conditions being tied behind certain weapons and then wrapped into progress tracking I can see why this might be a good idea, encouraging players to try a bit of everything. At the same time, not everyone might be thrilled with the idea of using weapons they don’t want just to get access to other, better weapons and tools.
A new element has been added in the form of weapon tuning once you’re at max level, which allows you to make small adjustments to your weapon’s accessories, fine-tuning areas of that weapon’s performance. One of the more interesting things here is how close the optics are to the screen when you’re aiming downward with your sight.
There’s also the usual array of CoD multiplayer modes, from the usual Team Deathmatch to Hardpoint, Domination, and the larger-scale Ground War modes. Two new game modes have also been added to the game, the first being Knock Out, in which you and your team fight for a bag of money or until one side is completely knocked out – where respawning is also possible. The second is Prisoner Rescue, which is basically the same mode but instead of money you have to rescue prisoners or prevent them from being rescued. Both modes feel like alternative versions of Search and Destroy, and in turn, they simply cover the same ground.
COD Modern Warfare 2 Spec Ops
Finally, you can sink your teeth into three cooperative missions, which feel like a side quest to the main campaign, with Kate Laswell sending you and a friend on various missions to help in the war effort. You can choose a Kit – Medic, Assault or Recon – which comes with a selection of Field Upgrades, Perks and Killstreaks to use during missions. The Medic, for example, has access to a weapon that instantly revives a downed teammate but can only use two armor plates, while the Assault can stack three armor plates.
The missions are generally fun, and it’s very commendable that there are checkpoints so you don’t have to be sent back to the beginning if you both die. The first mission was fairly short, which didn’t prepare you for how big the second mission would be, in which you had to use vehicles just to get to the other side of the mission map. The third is closer to horde mode as you defend against waves of enemies.
At some point in the future, this will be expanded with a three-player mission, drawing inspiration from Destiny-style Raids to mix story and combat. These will provide a nice variety to the intensity of multiplayer, but still something you can do with your companions.
Overall a satisfying experience
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II has a few glitches that make it fall short of the overwhelming quality of Modern Warfare 2019, although most of the bugs can or will be fixed with patches. Still, there’s an action-packed campaign with a fairly average story, plenty of multiplayer, and a loose little co-op mode, promising more to come. In the meantime, Warzone 2.0 is here, so they’re reinforcing each other with Modern Warfare 2.
+ Solid, well-paced campaign
+ Nice graphics, technically ok
+ A nice selection of multiplayer modes, cooperative mode
– Unlocking menus and weapons seems like a step backward
– Lots of crashes at the start
– The story and especially the ending are a bit flat
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Style: War FPS
Release: October 27, 2022.