There are only 3 certainties in life: death, taxes, and the annual release of Call of Duty. While the first 2 have been around for a significantly longer period of time, the Call of Duty franchise might as well join in. It’s a rather scary thought, that since 2003 there has been a new Call of Duty released, except for 2004 which had an expansion for the first game, and that trend is still going. With the release of the latest Modern Warfare II, a reboot of the original Modern Warfare 2 and sequel to the reboot of Modern Warfare (my brain hurts), this brings the total of mainline games to a whopping 19. 19! The series is old enough to drink in some countries (sorry America). The series has become famous for its explosive set pieces, interesting characters, and total disregard for realism! But who would really want to play a “real-world” game in any case?
The game has different modes, with the single-player and standard multiplayer modes requiring you to purchase the full game and the DMZ and Warzone 2.0 modes being free to play. This review mainly focuses on the single-player story with some bits of multiplayer, but it is a large enough beast that most likely requires its own review.
The single player follows on from the previous title as you play as various members of Task Force 141 trying to stop another terrorist threat but with the added twist of drug cartels as you track them through Mexico. You start off as Soap, with Ghost’s assistance, trying to capture the terrorist leader. Switching to Gaz and Price a while later while infiltrating a courier operation for the same terrorist group before playing with the Mexican Special Forces agent: Rodolfo Parra and Alejandro Vargas. You constantly switch between the characters caring out their missions in various parts of the world before eventually linking up for the finale. Even though it is a brand-new title only related to the first reboot as a sequel, it does share a few details with the previous Modern Warfare 2 with some names and characters returning, such as General Shepard and Shadow Company, whoever the latter is slightly more fleshed out and is portrayed as a PMC rather than a military unit. Anybody that has played the original MW2 can kind of see what they are planning with the story however it does change it up enough to not be an exact copy.
Gone are the larger scale battles with the player being a grunt fighting on the front lines and hoping to make it to the next set of cover before getting shot to bits. Instead, you take control of a Special Forces unit that shifts the actions into smaller sections and adds more to each mission than just being told where to go and what to do while killing everything in between. This normally involves being stealthy to avoid a larger firefight or being overwhelmed. It does a pretty good job of making you feel like a killing machine that is superior to those you are fighting against. Some of the missions themselves serve as throwbacks to past MW games with a ghillie-suited sniper mission like “All Ghillied Up” and attacking a cargo ship like the opening mission” Crew Expendable” in the original MW and attacking an oil rig like in “The Only Easy Day… Was Yesterday” from MW2. Another returning mission is that of the AC-130 gunship which became a fan favourite from the original Modern Warfare.
What it does do differently from past entries is that some of the missions do include armoured enemies that you would expect to see walking around but thankfully none of the juggernaut enemies that are sometimes found in other games. The enemies are slightly bulkier and can be seen wearing helmets. When shooting them, an icon will appear on a helmet or armour plate indicating that the damage is being absorbed. After a few successful hits, the icon will shatter indicating that the armour is broken, and the enemy will take damage in that area. This does keep things a bit tense without making it feel like bullshit with a nigh-invincible enemy. There is also a departure from the norm where the game does not do as much hand-holding as before and instructing you how to get it done. Some of the missions play almost like an open world where they leave you to tackle them how you want but suggest the easier way to do things. This also comes together nicely in a later mission when directing Ghost through an enemy camp and telling him when to move and when to kill an enemy and how. Makes you feel like you are the one in charge of dishing out the orders rather than always being told what to do and where to go.
Although the game does have some performance issues and annoying bugs that pop up each time. In certain missions that were set in a dark area like a tunnel and had lighting, would constantly cover the entire screen in a glare when looking in the direction of the light and not necessarily at the light itself. This caused me to move awkwardly to try and get rid of it to be able to see what was happening and what to avoid. In another instances, when having to search items for intel, the button prompt would not show up. This caused a bit of frustration as I could not progress until it was that part of the objective was completed. I had to reload the checkpoint before it eventually showed up. Playing on console did prevent a few of the crashing issues that are being reported for the PC version. The biggest gripe is the mess of menus you get when you first login. There are so many that you are not sure what is what. There is one for each game mode, but they are hidden in other menus that are underneath all the microtransactions. Looking to play the campaign, better go right to the bottom.
The multiplayer is divided into multiple game modes and a variety of different methods to play.
This is just the stock standard multiplayer mode with various game types like death match and team death match to name a few. The gameplay is very much team vs team while levelling up weapons to unlock more weapon attachments and get better killstreaks and perks. There are a few new game modes that were added but overall, no giant departure from the previous games. Don’t fix what is not broken.
Spec-Ops makes another return but is vastly different from the original MW2 and more in the vein of the reboot. You and a partner team up to complete certain objects in an open-world map that makes it feel more like a campaign mission rather than the previous Spec Ops missions. The requirements for the stars you receive aren’t linked to the difficulty that you complete it the stage on but rather how fast you can complete the mission. All experience that is earned in this mode also applies to the weapon unlocks and characters, so the mode does more than just add a few minutes of extra content.
MWII also expands the free-to-play roster by including the updated Warzone 2.0 with new operators and a brand-new map, Al Mazrah, to explore and try to survive. Linked to the updated Warzone 2 is the new DMZ mode which is a PvPvE game mode where you try to secure materials and try to extract from the area rather than being the last man/team standing.
For the first time ever in Call of Duty history, a raid was added to the game to further the story, but these are played in groups of 3 and require you to get Raid Assignments by completing certain tasks in the different multiplayer modes. Episode 1 is out now and a new one will be released with each season for a total of 5. These do require you to have purchased the full game so does not fall into the free-to-play side.
Overall, Modern Warfare II is a typical Call of Duty game that does a few things to shy away from the trusted formula, sometimes being a hit or miss depending on the player. The single-player campaign is fun but somewhat formulaic in its story execution and does very little once complete. The multiplayer will always take centre stage as that is what brings in the money and even though they are trying a few new things, not all of them are for the best while the others do seem to work.