SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW DOES MAKE MENTION OF A FEW KEY PLOT POINTS FROM CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2
Even though Modern Warfare was a trilogy where escalation was the key ingredient, it definitely feels like what’s going on in the world today is more bleak and desperate than what befalls Captain Price and company throughout Infinity Ward’s timeless, epic collection of first-person shooters. With nations on their knees at the hands of a cruel, unrelenting virus, it’s almost a small, sick pleasure to set in motion the conflict and force the tensions to breaking point that kicks off Modern Warfare’s exhilarating, international manhunt for a man named Makarov.
Like an old pair of sneakers, it took no time at all to slip back into the comfort of Call of Duty’s old, shatterproof engine that so stoutly endured the test of time. Unlike the first Modern Warfare, this particular remaster ships without the game’s defining multiplayer serving which isn’t a huge surprise, but at least Activision’s avarice has softened over time meaning the player’s outlay more than justifies the return. Even though they’re never long games, the Modern Warfare trilogy always delivered enormous, bombastic set-pieces that lodged in the memories of players long after the credits rolled. This second chapter in the three-piece was, without doubt, the most controversial.
‘No Russian’, just the game’s fourth mission, places calamity at your fingertips, tasking you with going undercover and aiding Makarov, a villain worthy of Bond, with executing innocent bystanders at a Moscow Airport. Though you’re never forced to pull the trigger, it’s this set piece that sets in motion Russia’s invasion of America’s East Coast, as well as launching a mess of espionage, belligerence and betrayal carried out by brittle egoism that isn’t untangled until it’s too late to turn the car around. Though I can count the hours it took to see the credits on one hand, I had white knuckles for most of it. It’s easy to forget Infinity Ward’s aptitude for condensing action down to its most purest, most exciting form. For a game to be over in the blink of an eye but still contain cliffhanging on ice walls, a favela chase, near-space nuclear detonation and storming the rooftop of the White House in ‘Whiskey Hotel’ to retake the city speaks to its ceaseless action.
And I’ll be damned if that action doesn’t feel great in-hand. The game gifts you with the nimbleness of the hips and hand, the soldiers you inhabit are veritable demigods as indicated by the extravagant carnage left in your wake. Call of Duty has forever been a power fantasy, and to dive into the past here and experience that vigour once again feels like nostalgia done right. Though the game’s Georgian-Russian, and especially the suburban American, playspaces tend to remain linear to lend to the game’s focus on scripted action, at times it felt far more open than the previous instalment. One second you’re patrolling a narrow residential street, tagging insurgent nests for the Honey Badger, the next you’re legging it out of a data-hive safehouse while under fire into the dense forests of Georgia. No matter the occasion, Modern Warfare provides the tools. Whether it’s a slow, contemplated knife that silently removes or the faithful SCAR-H, there’s a balance between each of the weapons that makes them all a pleasure to deal death with.
I leeched every single second I could out of the original Modern Warfare 2. From finding the intel scattered through each operation to proving my mettle by conquering the game on Veteran. Though it won’t be evident to everyone, noticing the small, subtle changes Beenox, the developer charged with breathing new life into this classic title, have made to draw even more out of the pivotal moments. ‘Roach’ Sanderson reaching up, confused and desperately clinging to the data drive after suffering a round to the gut from turncoat General Shepherd is a small, emotive touch that, while it doesn’t change the scene in a profound way, deepens the body blow just a little bit. This remaster is full of little moments like that, so to experience them again, as if for the first time, was a delight.
Another casualty of the remaster is Spec Ops, the easily digestible co-op mode that helped the multiplayer bolster the endgame of Modern Warfare 2. Once upon a time, achievements and trophies were the sole rewards for seeking out the hidden intel. Beenox’s gift to players is the creative expression most games deny, so in an attempt to fill the void left by auxiliary modes, you’re now able to modify the game so that everyone has a pineapple for a head and explode into tyres when killed. It’s absolutely bonkers, though it surprisingly pads out the replayability of the game, even if it’s just for shits and giggles.
Barry Sloane might be the new Captain John Price, but the soul of the character was born with the perennial Billy Murray, who embodied the hoarse, boonie-wearing legend throughout the original trilogy. The reboot was fine and Sloane’s award-winning turn as Price was clearly a standout, but Murray is the archetype, the very clay from which his suitor was shaped and his performance especially marks a return to the old times. Lorne Balfe’s tremendously moving score remains intact and acts as the groundswell of emotion that, even ten years on, beats in the heart of every flag-waving patriot that Call of Duty is aimed at.
Given the brevity of the Modern Warfare 2 experience, I was prepared to find it extremely difficult to recommend a return trip. However, the asking price is fair and it’s the same, balls to the wall campaign restored with both care and creative flair. The industry moves fast and with an ever blazing trail, it’s easy to forget who burned brightest.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED ON A PS4 PRO FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Full of ear-splitting energy, Modern Warfare 2's role in pioneering the cinematic, spellbinding first-person shooter can't be understated. With the world at a standstill, and with their careful and scrupulous translation of an undoubted classic, Beenox ignites the flare and call people back to this middle chapter, and where it all began for so many. Turns out Price was right, it's just like old times.
An Excellent Restoration That Honours The Original