Call of Duty campaigns have always been the least attended part of every release. The franchise's main selling point has always been the multiplayer experience. However, games like Black Ops, Black Ops 2, the original Modern Warfare Trilogy, Advanced Warfare, and Cold War have stuck with me as some of the notables that represent the best of what CoD can do with its single player games.
The 2019 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot also featured a campaign that was notable for its boldness in dealing with the controversial nature of warfare. There were times when I really had to step back and think to myself "do I really want to do this?" Too often, CoD campaigns are just mindless popcorn experiences that barely solidify their existence as something worth playing more than once, if at all. The Modern Warfare reboot proves that perhaps something substantial can be said with the added weight that it can happen in today's world and, at worst, has already happened.
Three years later, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 campaign delivers impressive firepower with a strong cast of characters and exceptional visual fidelity. Unfortunately, everything is mired in tedious mission design, simple attempts to bring back iconic moments from previous games, and a bevy of technical bugs that are sometimes too noticeable to ignore.
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This year Infinity Ward knew how highly anticipated Modern Warfare 2 would be given the success of the 2019 reboot and the polarizing reception of 2021's Call of Duty Vanguard. an upgrade from last-gen consoles to the current generation, I will commend your decision to open up access to the MW2 campaign a week before the game's full release. for people who ordered.
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One of the main reasons why CoD campaigns were ignored in the past was that people preferred playing multiplayer modes for fear of being left behind by other players. It's not surprising to find someone claiming they've never played a CoD campaign in recent titles. Especially now that progression is even more important when unlocking weapons and various attachments.
Now, with Early Access, players can not only experience the campaign in full focus, but also help build even more excitement for the full release. This is one of the best pre-order incentives yet and it's a system I hope the CoD series continues to move forward.
Clear view on target
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Modern Warfare 2 looks fantastic. Infinity Ward's IW 9.0 engine is by far the best in the franchise when it comes to shooting, animations and visuals.
Facial animations are near-perfect and near-realistic, both in-game and in pre-rendered cutscenes. If you look at the actors who played the characters in MW2, you'll notice that it's a one-to-one translation. Everything from the subtle movements of the mouth, eyes and muscles are accurately captured. There is not a single second of acting wasted by the actors and the story feels all the more real and grounded for it.
The environments are now full of color and the experience is much better. Surface textures and special effects combine to form levels where I sometimes stop to take it all in. Even the water looks great here. This is by far the best looking CoD game and nothing else comes close.
This is all complemented by a very beefy audio design that's a little too loud at its default settings. Weapons explode with rumbling sounds that are mixed with impressive ambient and ambient noise. Be it a speakerphone or a decent pair of headphones, your ears are sure to take a beating.
It's all tied together with a buttery smooth frame rate that never seemed to slow down for me. I played with a PS5 version that also has tons of customizable options and great DualSense 5 controller integration.
The many faces of war.
Task Force 141 is more badass than ever, with some new additions. Captain Price and Kyle "Gaz" Garrick return. They're still as great as ever, with Price as the stern leader and Gaz as the youngest intern. You know what you get from both. The surprising thing is that they are now somewhat overshadowed by the new additions to the team.
Chief among them is Simon "Ghost" Riley, one of the most iconic characters from the original trilogy. I always thought his reputation was more the result of great character design and his inclusion of a twist that no one expected in 2009. Other than that, he was a wildly overrated and severely underdeveloped supporting character.
Ghost from MW2 actually has a character to work with and a much more developed personality. Her friendly relationship with John "Soap" MacTavish provides plenty of entertainment during its runtime. One of the best missions in particular has Ghost trying to defuse the situation by cracking some less-than-stellar jokes. Imagine dad jokes, but maybe a few notches down in terms of quality. It never got to the point where he flinched or felt out of place in the scene.
My favorite addition has to be Colonel Alejandro Vargas of the Mexican Special Forces. His character looked like a modern day cowboy (which helps with the fact that they call themselves "cowboys"). A witty performance by Alain Mesa adds a commanding and deft presence to Alejandro, who often steals the scene he's in. He is by far the best character in the game and a worthy member of the 141.
Unfortunately, not everything is a direct hit. Returning characters like Farah are criminally underused here, as her appearance can basically be described as an extended cameo for a mission.
And if you're a longtime CoD fan, you'll know what the name "General Shepherd" means. I would say that the way Infinity Ward handled its performance here is interesting, which had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire runtime. I had a lot of trust issues playing through the campaign, and I don't know if it would come out of nowhere. That was great, as it was a direct connection to how the main cast felt throughout their adventure.
Changing the rules of engagement
Overall, the main cast felt a little more characterized here compared to everyone's stoic nature in the 2019 campaign. MW2 felt a little more fun to play, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's better.
Modern Warfare 2019's story stood out due to some very impactful missions that have stayed with me to this day. Playing as a kid trying to hide from a huge man who wants nothing more than to kill him was just one of the risks Infinity Ward took that paid off. They wanted to say that yes, war is ugly and it doesn't choose who is the hero or the villain.
The MW2 campaign seemed to be trying to do the same thing, but felt more "safe" in nature. There wasn't a single scenario here where I felt my actions had consequences in the way MW wasted no time in communicating with the player.
Infinity Ward saw how many people loved the "Clean House" quest and tried to bring it back into MW2 as the first level. Sadly, it's not as good as it should have been. Later, the mission devolves into a typical wave-based shootout that was overused in any shooter from three console generations ago. This mission structure of starting high and going downhill dramatically will be a common theme throughout MW2's campaign. There are a lot of stealth sequences here that go on for a really long time. It almost felt like this is a campaign that belongs more in a Black Ops game than Modern Warfare.
"Recon by fire" is by far one of the worst missions, both from a design and gameplay point of view. This was supposed to be MW2's attempt to bring "All ghillied up" back, but it ended up being a cheap ripoff. You spend most of the mission walking around upside down trying to shoot people across a large expanse of land. So you have to make your war on each warehouse and eliminate the hostiles. Keep in mind that these are warehouses that are just steps away from each other. Once you start your attack on one by making as much noise as possible, you can still sneak into the next warehouse without any problems. It's almost as if every enemy soldier is wearing state-of-the-art noise canceling headphones.
There will be quests here that you can finish in less than five minutes, while most of them take longer than expected to the point of feeling tedious. There's also the return of someone's escort via security camera mission here. The MW version was interesting as you were trying to guide a frightened civilian through a war zone. The stakes were high because he had no way to defend himself. This time you try to guide the Ghost himself. During the whole thing all I thought to myself was "Why don't they let me play as him?"
There is also a quest here that is lifted from the best action sequence in Uncharted 4. While I don't have a problem with this as it is one of the better games, the way MW2 runs it feels very strange due to the many glitches and a hilarious lack . sense of speed. Jumping from car to car should seem like a thrill ride, perfect for the CoD franchise, but it wasn't done well here. I was laughing more than impressed.
To add the cherry on top, MW2 is probably one of the most buggy CoD campaigns I've ever played. Characters that float in the air, geometry, foliage that disappears, checkpoints that take you directly to failure states, etc. Perhaps this is due to early access, but since Infinity Ward had about three years to develop the game, they have no excuse.
Old dog, new tricks
The MW2 campaign features the creation of the CoD franchise, but only in select missions. It's a new mechanic and I can see it being developed more uniquely in future installments, but as of right now, it's pretty basic. You gather supplies from the environment to craft makeshift gear to defend against heavily armored enemies.
Yep, Warzone's armor mechanic is coming to the single player campaign, and it's back with a vengeance. The armor here is ten times harder to break and will cause some problems, especially on higher difficulties. I suggest you run the game in "Reinforced" mode on your first try to get used to the mechanics before doing a "Veteran" run. As usual, "Recruit" and "Regular" are too easy to be worth the effort.
Final Thoughts - 7/10
Much like 2019's Modern Warfare, MW2 also ends at an abrupt pace that leaves a lot to be desired. The reward for whatever the characters are chasing is offset with one hit.
After hearing the rumors of a possible paid Year 2 expansion to continue the story, it all started to make sense why Infinity Ward chose to end MW2 the way it did. I'm all for setting up future sequels, but when profit gets in the way of story cohesiveness and satisfaction, that's when I start to have a problem.
Here's a post-credits scene showing a very interesting scenario for the next installment, which fans of the franchise will be very familiar with. But I can't help thinking that I felt robbed of a complete narrative just because some executives wanted to make some extra money.
All in all, I'd still say the MW2 campaign is worth playing. The characters can be fun and there are specific sequences that are amazing. For now, I still think Modern Warfare 2019 is the better campaign simply because of the security of the MW2 played. No doubt because they're saving all their ammo for the next entry, be it an expansion or a whole new game.
This review was done using a PS5 game code provided by the publisher.
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