I love Call of Duty, I know it’s the cool thing to hate on it, but as a popcorn-style FPS it fills my need for that kind of fun. That being said, I totally understand that the series has its ups and downs and made some big missteps throughout its history. 2019’s entry was a reboot of Call of Duty 4, which is the most beloved game in the series. Developer Infinity Ward, knocked it out of the park with their grounded remake and are back for more with this sequel.
While Modern Warfare (2019) really worked because it was grounded, it was also the smart decision to do something totally different that made it so special. It had the bombastic set pieces and the characters you know and love, but the gameplay was varied and grittier than before.
Modern Warfare II continues that trend here, and like the previous game, detours massively from the original game. The story sees fan favourite Ghost being tasked by General Shepard to take out an Iranian general called Hassan, who has stolen high calibre ballistic missiles. He ventures out with greenhorn Soap McTavish as they race against the clock to find him. The dynamic of Ghost and Soap is changed a little, they have a deeper relationship and quip at each other’s accents and it gives a sense of camaraderie Call of Duty often misses. The other fan favourite, Captain Price, once again teams up with his partner Gaz as they try to track down the missiles. Their relationship continues from the last game and Gaz clearly looks up to Price and is out to impress. The plot drives the cast towards Mexico where we meet some new characters Rodolfo and Alejandro, who’ve been through hell together and that’s our ragtag team of heroes.
Modern Warfare II does a surprisingly excellent job rounding out these characters and making them feel like actual human beings. All that wouldn’t matter if the story wasn’t interesting, and thankfully it is. Okay, it’s not groundbreaking, it’s a very typical Netflix action thriller. What I really appreciated was the restraint. There are definitely ‘Call of Duty’ moments, like hanging upside down out of a helicopter, or a bombastic chase sequence, but this game is actually slow for the most part. There are more stealth sequences and a bigger emphasis on the awesome house clearing sections of the first game and my god do these moments really captivate you. There is the expected overwatch mission, sniper mission, vehicle mission…come on, we know what to expect, but Modern Warfare II pulls it off effortlessly. The more tense missions have you massively outnumbered as you crawl through streets scavenging for supplies and it feels more like actual combat. I don’t have much more to say to be honest, I love how much effort Infinity Ward have put into this and it’s a reflection of where Call of Duty should be going, the game ends on a very exciting tease for a sequel and halfway through the campaign, other titles are merged into the plot in a very interesting way. If Activision roll with this, Call of Duty could be in for multiple great titles.
Summing up the gameplay section is easy, it’s fantastic. Come on, it’s Call of Duty, they know how to make a game feel great to play. There’s a real heft to weapons this time around and characters feel like they have weight to them as well. Those little changes are refinements to what has worked so well for so long. Throughout the campaign there is crafting, or a variation on the standard gameplay parameters and again, this studio know what they’re doing, everything feels great. That being said, some design elements were a tiny bit off, a silly chase sequence with mines was frustrating, a mission where a tank follows you in a small arena was kinda bad, but there’s also excellent underwater segments and an awesome sniper mission, your mileage will vary but all in all, excellent stuff.
I was planning on doing a separate multiplayer review, but to save you time…yeah, it’s awesome. I know, I know “But Call of Duty is lame”. No it’s not and you know it isn’t. Every game mode you expect is there and after diving into a bit of everything, it all seems to work totally fine and so far, no server issues at all. I spent most of my time on team deathmatch, and thanks to the grounded feel of the game, it felt like old Call of Duty, it’s nostalgic and simple. The maps at launch are a bit of a mixed bag, I didn’t mind them but I know some people really aren’t liking a few of them, the devs have done a serviceable job trying to avoid the ‘3 lane’ system for each map, so there’s actually quite a good selection this time. Big props to Activision for scaling back all the invasive predatory monetisation, it’s there but I never felt like it was being pushed on me, like previous entries.
Like a big budget action movie, Modern Warfare II has some big budget visuals, at times it’s photorealistic and at other times, the character models cross the uncanny valley a little too much. It looks amazing. Voice-work is perfectly acceptable across the board, they’re all gruff soldiers so you know what to expect. Interestingly, the score is somewhat subdued and gives the incredible sound design room to shine. The guns sound incredible and the reverb is awesome. Anyone with a Dolby Atmos set-up is in for a treat. On Xbox Series X, there were no bugs besides a single enemy walking through a wall and killing me and the game ran flawlessly.
If this review doesn’t seem very in depth, don’t get it twisted, I’m really happy. Infinity Ward know the formula and they hit everything they needed to, perfectly. But what I love the most, is they showed restraint, I love silly bombastic Call of Duty, but I loved grounded and tense Call of Duty more. Sure, the multiplayer is a bit generic. Sure, Warzone 2.0 will come out and be the most popular thing ever. I don’t care about that. I care that Call of Duty is in a place where it could become something special. I can see a S.W.A.T based spin off, sniper focused titles, I’m excited. Put your bias away, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is excellent.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II was reviewed using a digital code purchased by the reviewer.
Publisher: Activision Developer: Infinity Ward Release Date: 28th Ocotber 2022 Reviewed On: Xbox Series X