If the Call of Duty franchise has taught us anything over the past few entries and iterations, it’s to expect a certain formula for both campaign and multiplayer experiences, that now feel pretty much set in stone. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is in no way a victim of this formula; in fact, it almost perfects it. But the consistency of its story and reliability of its multiplayer rarely push the franchise forward in new and inventive ways. I’m already having more fun with the franchise than I’ve had over the last two entries, Vanguard and Black Ops: Cold War, but am constantly realising that I’m simply just happy to be back in the arms of Modern Warfare in general. As a result, Modern Warfare 2 serves as a solid iteration that will more than likely please fans of the franchise and 2019 reboot alike, even if it’s less likely to attract newer fans with a lack of new and inventive features.
Single Player Campaign
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s single player campaign is incredibly easy to follow, picking up once again with the newly formed Task force 141. After the strange disappearance of American owned missiles, the squad are back on a globe-trotting adventure to find out just who is behind the theft and what they intend to use the missiles for. Modern Warfare 2 is also short and sharp, providing a rollicking pace for the now standard 7 hour runtime. Task Force 141 are split for the majority of the story, as we bounce between multiple duos, be it Captain Price and Gaz, tasked with providing both reconnaissance and intel, or Ghost and Soap, who tend to be caught both behind enemy lines and over the US border in Mexico. Both duos provide interesting, varied and undeniably action-packed missions, both with their own distinct look and feel. Price and Gaz’s venture feels more like a tale inspired by the film Zero Dark Thirty, while Ghost and Soap’s cartel-infused war feels like the film Sicario. Both stories also include strong supporting characters, like Kate Laswell played by American actress Rya Khilstedt and Colonel Alejandro Vargas played by Alain Mesa, both of which are responsible for their own memorable moments and strong influence within the narrative.
For all that’s great about the dual-layered narrative, ultimately feels like a result of the quality of both writing and pacing. Characters are subject to significant stakes and the action unfolds with consistency and confidence from stealth sequences, to car chases, bridge shootouts and a final set piece that arguably tops the narrative in terms of explosiveness. However, it’s one we’ve simply seen before. As a remake, Modern Warfare 2 still attempts to blaze it’s own path, but still feels sewn together by mission that pay homage to the original two Modern Warfare games. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t divulge what those missions might be, but let me just say, if you’ve played the original Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, you’ve seen these before. Believe me, I’m a sucker for nostalgia, but I’m also very aware at this point that things will ultimately always turn out the way they’re supposed to in the end.
While I always enjoy the single player campaign, it’s the multiplayer experience that ropes me in for the long haul. And believe me, I’m roped in tight. Modern Warfare 2 feels like and natural progression of all the things that 2019’s Modern Warfare set in motion. Gunplay is both tight and responsive, complete with a hefty sense of weight and manoeuvrability which makes each weapon feel vastly different from the other. Weapon progression this time around has also changed, with a maximum five attachments per weapon. This time around however, certain attachments and weapon unlocks are not only tied to your overall level and use of popular weapons, but the required use of other weapons that you may not usually consider. I initially found this frustrating, but soon discovered a wealth of options that I quite rather enjoyed, in my pursuit to level up and unlock attachments for my favourite weapons. It’s clearly an attempt at balancing gameplay, but does highlight the level of versatility on offer, which the franchise has arguably always been known for in terms of the sheer weapon variety.
Modern Warfare 2 brings back most of your favourite modes like Free-For-All, Team Deathmatch, Domination, Hardpoint and Kill Confirmed, but also throws some newer modes into the mix. The new Prisoner Rescue mode feels very much like the VIP Escort mode from Black Ops: Cold War and a blend of certain characteristics from Hostage Rescue modes featured in Rainbow Six Siege, in which players cannot respawn until the next round when killed. They can be however, be revived, which makes for some tense gameplay as teams of six attempt to either rescue a hostage from a central point in the map and return them to a designated zone, or defend them from the oncoming rescuing team. I personally enjoyed this mode the most out of the 6v6 modes, for the balanced blend of fast-paced action and high stakes. There’s also a good amount of variety to be found in the 16 available maps at launch, with 11 available for 6v6 modes. Both diverse in size and scope, I can’t really think of any, aside from the already controversial and confusing layout of the Santa Sena Border Crossing map, that I’ll be trying to avoid.
If smaller 6v6 modes aren’t your thing, or you prefer the Battlefield franchise for its larger scale modes, Modern Warfare 2 has you covered in the form of both Ground War and Invasion. Ground War feels very much like Battlefield’s Conquest mode, in which teams of 32 compete to capture 5 points on a map. 5 of the 16 available maps at launch are set aside for this mode and present a much larger scale than most fans have come to expect, bringing with them a blistering pace and consistently fun action. Invasion on the other hand plays like large scale Team Deathmatch, with two teams of 20 competing for the most kills. AI-controlled soldiers also populate each map, which can be taken down for extra XP, while they provide an additional challenge for you to navigate through. Unfortunately, these soldiers feel more like training cones, and it’s very clear when you’re taking on one of these soldiers as opposed to a player-controller opponent.
Modern Warfare 2 now features a mode called 3rd-Person Moshpit, which plays exactly how it sounds. It’s incredibly functional and feels almost like a natural extension of the existing modes, while some may remember the original inclusions of a third-person mode way back on the original Modern Warfare 2. The mode initially felt frustrating, as aiming down the sight zooms over the player shoulder and into the sight of the weapon itself, but I adjusted rather quickly. While it rarely shakes up the formula, it’s still a welcome inclusion for those looking for either a new mode or new perspective.
Finally, Spec Ops provides a cooperative mode for players to team up with each other, for more focused experience based around certain objective-themed missions. There’s three different scenarios on offer, each with their own unique maps and objectives. The first of which will see you sneaking into an enemy base to acquire intel, while the second mission sees players stealing vehicles in attempt to rush over stop a missile launch, while the final mission sees you fending off various waves of oncoming enemies.
There’s plenty of fun to be had, with each mission’s overall scope and variety providing a multitude of ways for both success and hilarious failure. At times, it feels like each approach can cater for it’s own small, yet high-budget action film where your actions will certainly make for some interesting stories down the road. But through stealth, loud action and high stakes, there’s practically something for any Call of Duty fan after the credits of the single-player campaign have rolled.
Be it through a big-budget single-player campaign, addictive multiplayer or the cooperative fun of Spec Ops, Modern Warfare 2 admittedly brings a lot to the table. But it also feels as though the franchise has fund a specific groove that it seemingly refuses to break from at this point in time. But I guess after all that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I enjoyed 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot immensely, which makes Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 feel like a night out with your best friend; you might not always have anything new to talk about, but you’re sure to have a blast.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Same solid gunplay; Engaging single-player campaign; Addictive multiplayer and progression; Fun Spec Ops mode
Lowlights: Single-player campaign relies a little too heavily on nostalgia; New additions to the franchise won’t necessarily draw newer fans in; AI opponents in Invasion mode feel pointless
Developer: Activision Central Design, Activision QA, Activision Shanghai, Beenox, Demonware, High Moon Studios, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, and Treyarch
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows PC
Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.