Modern Warfare 2 Review: Buckle up, we are in for one bumpy ride!
- Developer: Infinity Ward
- Publisher: Activision
- Release date: 28th October 2022
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Platforms: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series X|S, Windows PC
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series S
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Review
Nothing polarises the gaming community quite like when the latest version of Call of Duty arrives. As a veteran Call of Duty player, how does the 2022 instalment of the legendary franchise fare now that it has finally reached our consoles and PCs?
For many, the single-player campaign of Call of Duty is considered an aperitif to the multiplayer main course. The single-player experience still has its own core fans, and I know many gamers who buy the game simply for the solo experience itself, but it’s rarely the star of the show. As someone who has played the majority of the campaigns, I tend to go in with low expectations and come out feeling like I’ve just been on one hell of a ride. Unfortunately, I just didn’t get that with Modern Warfare 2.
It tries very hard to make this a thrilling experience, taking you on a globetrotting journey where each level has its own thematic influences. This adds to the excitement of the experience, as you never know what sort of gameplay you will get from one mission to the next.
The actual story was one of the more engaging I’ve played recently. It’s a global thriller telling the story of an elite group of soldiers tracking down missing nuclear missiles before they fall into the wrong hands, and the presentation is absolutely stunning. At times it felt like it had the intrigue of a Jason Bourne spy film mixed with the bombastic explosiveness of a Michael Bay movie. You will experience levels featuring sniping, gunship overwatch, boss fights, and everything else in between. There was even one level that felt similar to The Last of Us, where you had to traverse from one side of town to the other, crafting materials along the way, and hoping not to get spotted.
Unfortunately, one or two levels drag the overall experience down with poor execution. If you have played the Uncharted games, you would be familiar with the exciting convoy hopping levels. Modern Warfare 2 tries its own take on this, but the execution doesn’t live up to the premise. The mission has you driving a vehicle whilst dodging mines, while at the same time also requiring you to lean out the window to shoot, but doing so means you lose control of the vehicle. What could have been a campaign highlight is just frustrating.
Other campaign irritants were using up all my sniper rifle ammo just before a checkpoint, after which I was required to snipe people with no ammo pickups. In another section, I’d walk into a room with my AI teammate going left, and I would go right, only to find the enemy ran straight past my teammate making a beeline for me. Not that my “elite soldier” teammates would have been any help, as they couldn’t hit a barn door with a bazooka.
The most egregious mission tasked me with blowing up a tank. After failing in one attempt to blow the tank up, I respawned right in front of the tank again with its barrel pointing straight at me. Die, repeat, die, repeat. I don’t mind dying if it feels fair, but I felt hampered by inadequate AI and an obtuse spawn system. However, because the game had a huge variety in its gameplay and off-the-scale production values, I kept pushing through these minor irritations to see what delights the next level would deliver.
Visually, Modern Warfare 2 is stunning. Even playing on the humble Xbox Series S, the game ran smoothly with no technical issues at all. This was even more impressive considering the gorgeous graphical detail, artwork and particle effects on display. The cinematics had me squinting at the screen trying to determine whether it was a computer-generated scene or live-action.
With so many varied locations it is difficult to single out any particular level as being the best, but if I had to choose, the Amsterdam level, where you meet a familiar face in a coffee shop, was a showcase for just how photorealistic graphics have become.
Added to this graphical feast was an audio treat. Whether it’s the roar of helicopters and missiles flying overhead, bullets zinging off nearby structures, or the clatter of a gun bolt on an automatic weapon, the sound is intoxicating in its superb realism and effect. The heavy bass and depth of sound for big explosions were the most satisfying of all. The voice acting, despite a lot of it being delivered in whispers, was always clear to hear and conveyed real gravitas. The only real issue with the audio was that multinational characters within would speak in their mother tongue mid-sentence, and then switch back to English. If you don’t have the subtitles turned on, key plot points can be lost.
The remarkable aspect of Modern Warfare 2 is its ability to make any section easily playable thanks to the fantastic gameplay mechanics, regardless of any mission-specific features. Gunplay is natural and rewarding, as is using other gear, driving or being stealthy. It’s a remarkable achievement that so many different mechanics are delivered this seamlessly.
The technical achievements of the single-player campaign rarely get praised, as Call of Duty is mainly known for what it brings to the multiplayer table. However, it’s about time it won an award or two for the game engine powering it. Infinity Ward is the master of extracting every last ounce of potential from any console they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, despite the technical competence, the campaign didn’t have any stand-out levels that felt new and exciting. Dare I say, have they run out of ideas?
Multiplayer & Co-Op
If you have never touched a Call of Duty game before (and if so, where have you been for the last two decades?) there is a huge amount of content to dive into. There are numerous game modes, including a couple that are new to the franchise, a deep weapons upgrading system and more to come later this year for free. What’s not to love?
If you have played Call of Duty online before, however, it’s the omissions that stand out the most. Hardcore mode is on its way, but for many, it’s a key mode that should have been there from the start. Player stats are also notable by their absence. There are also only ten core maps, which is arguably acceptable, at least for the early days of MW2.
Despite this, as a veteran of the franchise, this is the most fun I’ve had in a Call of Duty game for a long time. The tweaks that have been made to an already familiar formula make the game feel fresh. The biggest “tweak” and one of the most talked about features, certainly amongst my online buddies, is the new weapons progression system from the gunsmith.
The new system of unlocks is all about the gun’s receiver and the family of guns that can be made within that receiver family. It’s unusual at first, but it basically means using a receiver of a weapon, no matter if that receiver is part of an SMG, Assault Rifle or LMG, will unlock all the attachments for guns in this family, rather than having to grind them all out individually.
Although this new system does encourage experimentation, and maybe even finding a new weapon type to enjoy (looking and smiling at you, shotguns), it can be quite painful ranking up a gun you don’t want to use, just to unlock the gun you really want.
What helps, however, is that the gunplay is brilliant for any chosen weapon. The subtle differences between not just the classes of weapons but even weapons in the same class make the multiplayer experience an intoxicating ride finding that one gun that suits you best.
There is a plethora of game modes, with fifteen assorted maps spread between them. A playlist of the core modes has ten maps (standard 6v6 matches), with the other five maps used for the “battle modes” large-scale (20v20) Ground War/Invasion game types.
For the most part, the core mode maps are superb. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 nails it with a mix of wide open spaces interspersed with tight CQC spaces and well-planned choke points, with great positioning of the objectives. The larger 20v20 game modes Ground War & Invasion mode, use the larger maps. These maps are again of excellent design. Once you get to know each map and the ways around them, no space is safe from flanking enemies.
Ground War is a version of what Battlefield players would know as Conquest mode. This mode has 5 capture points spread over a large map but includes vehicles to traverse and hunt down enemies with. As a seasoned Battlefield player who has experienced the car crash that is Battlefield 2042, it’s fair to say Call of Duty’s Ground War does a far better job than Conquest. Invasion mode is essentially Ground War without the objectives, but it also adds twenty bots to each team, turning it into a 40v40 extravaganza.
The new third-person mode will likely be hit or miss within the Call of Duty community. Many buy the game for the first-person perspective, not to play a military version of Fortnite. However, I enjoyed this mode far more than I thought I would. This was partly due to the third-person perspective giving a wider field of view to spot approaching enemies. By using the on-screen reticle rather than my sights, I found it easier to lock on to foes than in first-person perspective. My favourite reason, though, was that the game mode played very much like one of the tactical shooters that I used to enjoy, SOCOM.
The Co-Op side of the game has three modes under Spec Ops Cooperative. One utilises stealth where you have to gather intel, the next, called Denied Area, has you stealing vehicles to take out other targets, and the third is a simple horde mode facing down waves of enemies. I enjoyed these Spec Ops missions far more than I expected. The thrill of dropping into huge maps to coordinate with a buddy or online random was a lot of fun. Of the three, I enjoyed the stealth missions the most, as coordinating with a friend to do missions quietly inevitably leads to mishaps with hilarious consequences.
I do hope Spec Ops continues to be supported post-launch with new missions and new maps, as the compulsion to get three-star rankings on each mission is intoxicating. The added bonus of playing co-op missions is that the weapons you use in co-op give you experience points for your weapons that carry over to the multiplayer element. This makes it a far less painful way to upgrade weapons you wouldn’t normally use.
The downside to all of my online experiences, either in multiplayer or co-op, and something that seems to vary from player to player and console to console, is that there are some technical issues. Playing the game on an Xbox Series S, with a party of around four or five friends who are either PC or Xbox Series X users, we experienced multiple crashes each evening when we played together. This happened not only in the multiplayer but even in co-op, too. When playing online on my own, I rarely have a game crash. It’s only when I’m in a party, using game chat and in-game that the crashes occur. This of course will be a teething problem, but it’s not quite as stable as I would have hoped.
Anyone new to the series will be exhilarated by the amount of content in this package. An ok single-player campaign is combined with solid co-op and enjoyable, highly playable multiplayer with a lot of depth. It offers great value for money, so what’s not to like? A veteran Call of Duty player may be slightly disappointed with the lack of standout moments that the single-player campaign usually brings, and the co-op experience is a little shallow. Either way, the game still has a lot to come via a mixture of paid and free content which will undoubtedly add value, but it still packs a whopping content punch and is hugely enjoyable. Modern Warfare 2 is certainly one of the best Call of Duty titles in recent memory.