This is the single player/campaign portion of our Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review with our multiplayer/full review to come following the game’s launch this weekend.
Despite still emerging as the best-selling game of last year, the disappointment around Vanguard was profound. So, as has happened a few times before, the eggs have returned to the safety of the Modern Warfare basket. And in delivering a follow-up to 2019’s reboot of the franchise’s most popular sub-series, Infinity Ward has played a rather safe hand. It delivers a familiarity and fan service only they’re capable of, built upon the bones of the original Modern Warfare 2 while telling a starkly different story.
Modern Warfare feels like a snapshot of the last two decades of geopolitical tensions, but the line it walks has never been more grey. Not that it ever has, but the conflict Task Force 141 finds tangled up in doesn’t have archetypal heroes and villains. It’s men and women doing what they believe is right, regardless of their alignment within the bigger picture. Though it’s tough to follow at times with its tiny moving parts, the idea of “the team” is really sold throughout. I felt the choice to have Ghost be something of a pointman for the story, emerging from the quiet mysterious type to a slightly louder mysterious type, is inspired. I was actually surprised with how often Price, who is often seen as the series’ lead, took a backseat to let the remainder of the team shine.
Not only do Gaz, Soap and Ghost all shine, I particularly grew attached to both Alejandro and Rodolfo. Their sub-plot, which saw them trying to wrestle control of Mexico back from the weapon-smuggling cartel aiding Al-Qatala, was an engrossing distraction from the bigger picture.
We’re introduced to twisted versions of the characters we think we know, and our expectations of the narrative to be are subverted deftly in yet another globetrotting, geopolitical Mission: Impossible-like romp. It’s semi-grounded by real-world technologies, which I appreciate, but it certainly still lets loose like only a Call of Duty can.
It’s also amazingly nostalgic for the “original trilogy,” for want of a better term. There are some surprisingly wonderful character moments, full to the brim of the bravado and brotherly love you’d expect to see on an episode of Sons of Anarchy. There are also many callbacks to missions held dear, including storming a rain-slick freight ship, a prison break, and the obligatory aerial overwatch op. These aside, Modern Warfare 2’s campaign has tremendous variety, even if not all of the game’s seventeen levels hit the same. I felt the levels that served to showcase the shiny features in the game’s multiplayer were bottom-rung, especially ‘Violence and Timing’—a vehicular convoy mission which is meant to get players excited for driving jeeps in competitive modes. That said, there are some great open-ended stealth missions—‘El Sin Nombre’ for one—that felt almost like Hitman in their execution.
This newest instalment of Call of Duty continues the franchise’s consistent delivery of industry-leading mechanics, to the point where it’s hardly fair at this point. As a shooter it’s exceptionally tight, and it’s not easy to fault the game’s feel. I didn’t quite get a sense that the A.I. had improved out of sight, despite the team’s focus on creating a greater sense of immersion with enemies that were still easily duped and companions that, despite keeping their heads on a swivel, pathed rather awkwardly. Despite its clear strengths as a run and gun shooter, this game spent a lot of time turning the player into a vulnerable glass cannon in a handful of stealth missions. I’d never baulked at the slow burn ops historically, in fact I adore ‘All Ghillied Up’ from the first Modern Warfare, but the team’s decision to include mandatory crafting felt ill-considered. Scavenging for materials to cobble together smoke bombs and pry bars never feels as interesting as the covert stalking through enemy territory.
The fidelity of the game’s pre-rendered scenes, much like Black Ops Cold War, is unbelievable. There were moments of such intense expression, captured in such detail, that I found myself questioning whether the scenes had been filmed live-action or not. It’s more or less matched by the in-game visuals, although there were noticeable pop-in issues in some of the larger open areas.
Another vast disappointment is how the game performs. It does maintain a steady frame rate and runs rather well, it’s just that there are rampant bugs that mar nearly all facets of the game’s presentation. Hard crashes to the dashboard are one issue, though it’s the audiovisual glitches that cheated me out of truly experiencing some of the game’s key beats unfettered. On one occasion, no audio outside of gunfire was sounding while on another a black screen lingered in place of arguably the story’s biggest plot twist.
It was discovered, after some troubleshooting, that a simple mission restart from within the menu should do the trick.
It might be a result of having been worked on by just about every studio under the Activision banner, but Call of Duty has always kind of been a benchmark for consistency within blockbuster video gaming. Modern Warfare 2 isn’t a bad outing by any means, I just don’t feel it plays to the series’ strengths. The overabundance of glacial stealth missions and the crude introduction of crafting mechanics two-thirds through the game continually stalling any momentum the game kept mounting. It eventually roll starts and emerges as a decent war thriller, underpinned by the camaraderie of Task Force 141.
The Xbox Series X version of this game was played for the purpose of this review.
As a sequel to the Modern Warfare reboot, Modern Warfare 2 feels like both a celebration of the series’ original trilogy as well as “the team” at its core. The party is spoiled somewhat by inconsistent pacing, technical issues, and incongruous mechanics, shoehorned in from what will ultimately be the game’s multiplayer suite. Through it all, the referential nods to Call of Duty of old stitched the experience together for me.
Still industry-leading first-person shooting
A lot of fan-service and referential nods
Near unbelievable visual fidelity
Yet another enjoyable geopolitical thriller
Driving and crafting mechanics bog things down a bit
A myriad of technical woes
A.I. didn’t feel as advanced as originally promised