Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is big game and as such, we’ve decided to tackle it as a team. Miles and Josh have joined me on this mission. It’s apt because, even when you’re playing in the solo campaign, you rarely feel alone in this game. Can Modern Warfare 2 (2022) reach the heights of its 2009 namesake, considered by many to be the apex of the series? Yes. Yes it can.
by Miles Thompson
2009’s Modern Warfare 2 is probably most remembered for its infamous “No Russian” sequence as well as its superbly addictive and nostalgic multiplayer chaos. The campaign was big, it was bombastic and it was all about the spectacle of a global conflict. You fought off an invasion of the United States, sabotaged an oil rig, defended Burger Town with nothing but your knife (“Ramirez!!”).
Modern Warfare 2’s campaign was a Michael Bay blockbuster, all about the thrill of the power fantasy. Infinity Ward have since decided on a more grounded, grittier and altogether more methodical approach to its action franchise however. Preferring more tense encounters and less of the over-the-top “ooh rah” bravado, their 2019 Modern Warfare reboot was a breath of fresh air, albeit a breath punctured with the brutality of combat.
“Clean House” is still a mission I refer to when I think of claustrophobic tension and nail-biting suspense. With all that in mind, can the second entry in the reboot series hit those same high marks? Check your NVGs and watch those corners, Bravo Team is going dark once again.
Roger? No, Just Rog
2022’s Modern Warfare 2 has you take on the role of multiple protagonists as is now par for the course in Call of Duty. Ghost, Price and co are after an Iranian commander who’s up to some dodgy dealings involving missiles he really, really shouldn’t be having.
There’s a few new faces and the story is distinct from the original 2009 version, though the delicate balance it strikes between nostalgic homages to its predecessor and its own unique tale is well done. For example, Shephard returns and we all know what that means for trustworthy overwatch commanders. More than that though, is the recreation of iconic moments you’ll lovingly remember from your heydays.
An oil rig raid, AC-130 covering fire, a prison break sequence, traditional snipe and stealth affair, they’re all here and accounted for. With this iteration however, Infinity Ward has made each of these scenarios just different enough to feel like a fresh take on a well-worn memory. Dark Waters is an excellent example of how you can pay respect to a previous imagining while still making it feel like a new experience worthy of its own title.
Much to many people’s excitement, Ghost is back and is as gruffly action-hero amazing as he always was, maybe even more so in this one just to take advantage of his legendary status. Gaz returns from 2019 and Farah also makes a small returning cameo alongside new recruits Alejandro and Rodolfo. Soap and team are having a reunion here and for the most part it works. I do wish Soap’s Scottish accent wasn’t so tragically poor and the dialogue and voice acting leans a little too far into the ultra-boorish military stereotypes, but it’s a good campaign narrative overall.
Plus, Alone has some of the best banter between Soap and Ghost heard in a CoD game, which is worth the price of admission in and of itself.
Call of Shooty
Across Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2’s 17 missions, you’ll engage in your usual dealings of gunplay, stealth takedowns and action set pieces. We all know how CoD plays at this point, so I’m not going to labour the moment-to-moment gameplay. The gunplay mechanics are tight and engaging as we’ve all come to expect.
The variety of scenarios is solid, as you switch from tight and claustrophobic corridor clearing to more open battlefields of carnage. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is at its best in the former. When the pacing slows down and you’re inching around a multi-layered building, peeking around every corner for a hidden insurgent, the gameplay comes alive with the tension of a finely balanced tug-of-war.
A couple of missions also have an added gimmick to them, like one level starting you off weapon-less and injured, having to collect junk around the map to craft a shiv or smoke bomb to tackle your opponents. Another has you battling across the face of a ship teetering from the waves around you, moving containers and crates as it goes. I got killed more than once by a rogue crate, lemme tell you.
I also just want to mention the new “Press F to pay respects” moment with Modern Warfare 2’s entry: “Press L2 to de-escalate civilians”. Infinity Ward seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to riffing on previous meme moments, it seems. It’s quite ridiculous but almost in a knowingly silly way.
Towards the middle and end of the campaign however, Modern Warfare 2 sheds its best elements and goes more spectacle focused, which for me felt a little disappointing. It’s all very fun and enjoyable, but it loses the edge and sense of grittiness that’s made the rebooted Modern Warfare series so far feel so compelling.
For this reason, I’d recommend firing up the Realism difficulty as soon as you finish the campaign for your first time. Realism strips the HUD away and has you 1-2 shots from death at all times. The first half of the campaign becomes utterly superb in this mode as you nerve-shreddingly edge around corners or try to pre-empt a surprise attack from an insidious foe.
Sean likened it to having a series of puzzles to solve, and I completely agree. Realism ups the ante significantly and enhances everything that’s so exciting about Infinity Ward’s more close-quarters approach. Conversely, it can also expose its bigger set piece sections as being unbalanced and poorly structured in some cases.
Check Your Fire
In earnest, none of the following problems detract from Modern Warfare 2 significantly, it’s still a very good campaign and the best one since MW 2019. However, certain sections such as the prison break sequence have areas where the spawns and AI appear to be superpowered towards ruining your life, which brought back a couple of nightmares of World at War’s veteran experience.
Additionally, there’s a few bugs in here that are noticeable enough to break some of the immersion. On Recon by Fire for instance, you’re required to stealth about, avoiding some enemy patrols. Bit of ghillie crawling, lovely. However, should you be within a certain proximity (even if not detected), it can break their AI pattern, meaning they won’t leave and it will prevent you hitting checkpoints unless you finish the level, which is weird.
There’s other minor visual issues – dead bodies floating in mid-air, NPC animations being out of sync or a dude climbing onto a truck despite not actually touching the truck at all. Given how stellar the graphics and visual presentation are, these probably stick out a little more than they would in another title. A slight lack of polish is all this really is, but we’d be remiss to not mention that there are some, albeit minor, issues.
Having said all that, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 looks incredible. I can virtually guarantee you’ll be blown away by some of the environmental detail and lighting effects you’ll frequently come across in your mission with Bravo Team. Despite the issues, Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is an excellent return to form and a veritable thrill ride throughout.
Back In The Saddle
If you’re one of the minority of people who still play Call of Duty for its single-player offerings, Modern Warfare 2 will deliver a tense, thrilling and thoroughly engaging romp for you to shoot and blast your way through.
A variety of missions, suspenseful level design and mechanics, stellar graphics and superb audio work mean you’ll be hugely entertained across its 5-6 hour runtime. It has some problems with balancing on certain sections (mainly on higher difficulties) and a slight lack of polish, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy every moment of it.
Captain Price and his special ops team of gruff badass buddies are back with a vengeance. The homages to the 2009 inspiration are nostalgic and brilliant, while the genuinely amusing back-and-forth banter with Soap and Ghost will stick with you even if the overarching story is somewhat predictable.
Bravo-6 is going dark, and you’ll be hard pressed to not to join them.
by Sean Davies
During my write up of the beta for Modern Warfare 2, I made a bold claim. I said “CoD MW II was showing the early signs of being one of the best in the series to date”. Sure, that was based on my experiences with just a few maps but the game feel was simply sublime. I mentioned a few niggles with spawn locations and the need for them to be tweaked but on the whole, there was an immense amount of promise to the Multiplayer. That promise has been realised in the final version of Modern Warfare 2.
There’s a number of tweaks to the core Call of Duty formula that facilitate this. First and foremost, it’s the general feel of the game play. The game is fast paced – not quite Advanced Warfare ‘fast’ but it’s rapid nonetheless. Most matches are short, abrasive affairs rather than half an hour dog fights like you find in other shooters. Almost everything about Modern Warfare 2 on PS5 is done quickly: The TTK is relatively short unless your enemy is packing armour, respawns happen almost instantly, your movement speed (while somewhat dependent on what weapon you’re packing) feels fast, transitioning in and out of water feels effortless and the mini-map isn’t going to be pinging to show you gun shots now so instead, you’re going to be assessing what’s in front of you.
Despite Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer feeling fast, this doesn’t come at a cost to the tactical and strategic nature of the game. There’s a real feel that every element of the game is striving for balance, no matter the way you play. The damage done per shot is balanced on a knife edge with rate of fire, reload speed, ammo per clip etc so that there doesn’t feel like an advantage to any weapon, for example. Rushers with a fully levelled M4 are as likely to do as well as the sniper camped out on the roof with a ranged rifle. For every bad game when you struggle to get going, you’ll have a game when everything comes together and you’re a walking wall of death.
Of course, you can tailor your Modern Warfare 2 experience somewhat via the new Gunsmith 2.0 and Kill Streak reward systems. The former, the Gunsmith, allows you to tweak how your chosen weapons handle. The more you use a weapon, the higher it levels, the more unlockable components you earn and the further you can tweak your gun. Everything from scope to ammo, stock to barrel can be tweaked which effects how the weapon works. Each component has a positive and adverse effect on your weapon, like increased recoil in return for greater ranged damage. These changes have a palpable effect on your weapon and if you tailor the gun to how you play, can influence your success.
Then there’s the Kill Streak reward system. Similar to those of the past, you’ll be rewarded when you hit a kill streak and you get to choose what you unlock at different kill levels. Most of the rewards will be familiar to long time players – UAV, Sentry Drone, Chopper Gunner, etc – but there’s some new entries like the Drone Bomb too. You can only choose 3 kill streak rewards at a time so this further deepens the tactical nature of the game. Playing in a mode that you know you’ll struggle to compete in? Maybe gear the rewards towards the bottom end rather than option for the 15 kill Juggernaut.
The Maps & Modes
As is standard for Call of Duty these days, Modern Warfare 2 has maps reserved for certain game play modes and player numbers. The quick play playlist – a rotating mode with all of the customary Call of Duty classics in the shuffle – take place on smaller maps that accommodate the 3 to 6 player teams. The other modes – Invasion (a PvPvE mode) and Ground War (what Battlefield has been trying to do for years now with varying degrees of success) – take place on a much grander scale and come with maps to accommodate those bigger battles. What’s quite interesting is that some of the smaller maps are actually parts of the bigger arenas used during Invasion and Ground War.
After putting in nearly 30 hours with the Multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2, I can’t think of a single map in the current crop that stands out for being poor. There’s a generous mixture of map types here that fit the typical shooter structures. There’s a number of 3-lane maps – Crown Raceway, Santa Seña Border Crossing, Farm 18, Zarqwa Hydroelectric – with the traditional trio of interlinked paths from one side of the map to the other. There’s a few less traditional maps in here too, maps with centralised pinch points but with wider open spaces and overlooks from each corner. Taraq is a stand out here, offering crumbling corners and open balconies to battle it out from. It’s incredibly well designed. The general quality of the map design is very, very high.
If there was one aspect of the maps from Modern Warfare 2 that feels missing is the presence of iconic features. While all of the maps are very fun to play on, even when you’re getting your ass stomped, they lack those features which will make them instantly recognisable. There’s nothing with the character of Nuketown, Terminal or Crash here that give them the potential to join that list of “best maps”. If any of the maps have a chance, it’s Crown Raceway which comes complete with race car sounds which can make for an interesting challenge.
As for modes, most of the fan favourites return. Team Deathmatch, Free-for-All, Domination, Search and Destroy, Headquarters, Kill Confirmed, Hardpoint and Knockout are all here, present and correct with the same rules you’ve come to expect. Conspicuous in its absence is Gun Game. The mode had become a favourite in previous Call of Duty instalments but it’s not present here. Hopefully it will arrive later down the line but right now, it’s a mode that’s sorely missed.
There are a few new modes that are introduced as part of Modern Warfare 2 and they all bring something a little different to the table. The primary new mode is Prisoner Rescue. This is basically a Search & Destroy and Capture The Flag hybrid. Teams are split into defence and attackers and they are tasked to perform their respective roles around a pair of prisoners. If the attackers pick up a prisoner and manage to carry them to an exfil location, they score. In this mode, downed players can also be revived and there’s no respawns. If the defenders defeat all attackers, they win the round. While this mode is a novel twist of other modes, it’s likely not going to replace the existing favourites.
The other two main game modes are Invasion and Ground War. Both are like giant Team Deathmatch battles between two bigger teams that have reign to use what vehicles are available. These feel like part way between a traditional Call of Duty match and some of the timed modes from Fortnite. Invasion includes an element of bots in each match, making it feel grander in scale than any other Call of Duty match type in history. You get a real feel of a massive battle going on – but the AI is generally very poor which can quickly pull you out of that immersion when they’re simply running into fire. The Ground War is my favourite returning addition. By blending objective focused and larger team play with the mechanics from Warzone, this mode feels grandiose and frenetic. If you’re a fan of the bigger team battles in the likes of Battlefield or Battlefront, this feels on par with their biggest and best modes. It’s very fun and will fill the Warzone shaped hole in this CoD entry until 2.0 of the battle royale arrives.
A Fresh Perspective?
Included within Modern Warfare 2 is also a third person multiplayer moshpit. This is what you might expect – CoD in third person. Playing Call of Duty in this way completely changes the way the game feels. It’s almost SOCOM-like. Rather than poking your head around corners, you can flatten yourself against walls to see the way forward safely, without risk.
Despite the revolutionary way this mode plays, I don’t see this becoming a new staple for Call of Duty. In general, it feels like there’s a different design philosophy to maps that have been designed with third or first person perspectives in mind. There’s a different feel to the likes of Rogue Company to the maps in Modern Warfare 2, for example – higher buildings prevent corner peaking, etc. It’s very cool to play Call of Duty in third person – don’t get me wrong – but if this is something that Infinity Ward and Activision want to peruse, it might be worth making it its own thing with its own maps designed especially for it.
The Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer Verdict
The multiplayer element of the Call of Duty games have been the highlight of each new title in the series, stretching back as far as Call of Duty 4. That’s no different here with Modern Warfare 2 which delivers a slick, enjoyable and highly polished suite of multiplayer modes and maps. Some of the tweaks – notably the change to the mini-map – might upset long time players but honestly, I feel all of these changes work to benefit the multiplayer. It’s a far more involved game here, demanding you listen to the sounds, watch for movement and think about what to do, rather than watching for pings on a mini-map. The new sound system that has been employed is phenomenal, giving you a sense of location that many have complained about in previous Call of Duty games. Call of Duty is often a game I play for a few weeks before deleting to make way for other games on my hard drive. I can certainly see myself playing Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer for months. If the stream of content coming to the game is steady, that might stretch until far beyond that.
The Co-op/Spec Ops
by Miles Thompson
I spent many an evening with buddies getting 3 stars on the original Modern Warfare 2’s spec ops mode. It was surprisingly fleshed out for a mode that 95% of the CoD population likely never touched nor cared much about.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 returns with 3 missions that are… well, underwhelming. It doesn’t help that the matchmaking and servers are flimsier than a wall made of wafer, nor does it help that the AI is clearly not built for a more open space with multiple objectives to manage.
Make no mistake, the mode is very much in the realm of superficial fun – you’re not going to recreate the intense and impressively designed 2009 experiences here. The requirements for 3 stars are also completely arbitrary – time limits for 2/3 missions or limiting number of enemy plants on the last one.
I played with both Sean (when it wasn’t booting him) and Josh, whereby I discovered you can completely abuse the checkpoint system to maximally complete the missions. You can literally run to the objective, ignore all enemies, plant/find what you need, die, rinse repeat and finish the level in less than half the required time. The way success is measured in these undermines the actual design philosophy of the levels, which is a massive shame.
Despite that, I had a couple of wonderfully hilarious and epic moments. From blasting a helicopter down which crashed into mine and Josh’s truck, Sean running over half an army to ace a mission, to mercilessly gunning down 10+ grunts on the same stairway as Sean’s downed soldier watched on, I had fun. It’s stupid, awful and ridiculous fun, but I can’t deny it’s an enjoyable little distraction for an hour or two.
It doesn’t hold a candle to the 2009 version of Spec Ops, but Call of Duty is in a very different space now. The fact there even is a Spec Ops mode at all is surprising, so I’ll take what I can get. It’s worth checking out briefly, just don’t build your purchase decision on this shaky and unstable mode.
by Sean Davies
The three current co-operative missions are by far in a way my least favourite element of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. They almost feel tacked on and superfluous compared to everything else in the game. That’s not to say they’re poor – they’re not. But they don’t feel as polished and refined as the rest of the Modern Warfare 2 package.
That lack of polish reared its head for me in the form of odd crashes. During my time playing with Miles and with matchmade strangers online, I’ve been kicked from the game with error messages displayer “Dev Error [some numbers]”. The co-op missions can be lengthy, so it is very disheartening to get quite a way through them only to find myself booted to the lobby, leaving my co-op partner to finish the mission alone.
Then there’s the enemy AI – like in the Multiplayer Invasion mode, the bot opponents can be spectacularly stupid in co-op. Failure in these modes is almost always boils down to a numbers game rather than any tactical nous shown by the AI. Set up a kill corridor and you can wrack up kill after kill after kill as the dummy soldiers just walk into oncoming fire.
When these missions are working though, they can be a lot of fun. Driving around a base with a truck, ploughing through Juggernauts as while my co-op partner launches RPG’s at helicopters circling overhead is an absolute delight. While the co-op is inessential to the Modern Warfare 2 experience, it’s inoffensive too so that if you’re only here for the Multiplayer and Campaign, you can ignore these missions entirely.
Despite a few niggles, Modern Warfare 2 is a real return to form for Call of Duty. A masterfully crafted multiplayer experience and an excellent campaign mode that pays homage to its predecessors while simultaneously feeling like its own thing come together in one of the best big budget shooters for years.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (2022) is available now on PlayStation 5 (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X and PC.
Developer: Infinity Ward
Publisher: Activision Blizzard
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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