Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review
For better or worse, it’s that time of year when we dive into the latest Call of Duty offering. Modern Warfare II is an indirect sequel to 2019’s Modern Warfare, and just like its predecessor, this is a reboot of the original Modern Warfare games from just over a decade ago.
While some of the characters, themes, and plot points are the same, or at least really similar, these are ultimately brand-new games. If you’re hoping for a remake of Modern Warfare 2 (2009), you’ll be disappointed. Packaged with the campaign are the iconic multiplayer modes and a new co-op mode. Thankfully, you won’t find any crappy zombie modes here.
Not The One
Before we move any further, it’s time to set some expectations. First, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II isn’t the best or worst in the franchise. It does a lot of things right, but still has a number of disappointing issues. Second, it doesn’t rewrite what it is to be a Call of Duty game. It tweaks just enough to be fresh, while still maintaining most of the conventions that make the Call of Duty franchise what it is today.
If you’ve never been a fan of Call of Duty, Modern Warfare II won’t change your mind. If your fandom of Call of Duty has relapsed due to recent entries such as Call of Duty: Vanguard, you’ll likely be swayed back into the fray with this entry. And if you’re a diehard Call of Duty fan like me, you’ll enjoy it – as I did – but you’ll also be left wondering why some improvements still haven’t been made.
Modern Warfare II kicks off with a bang. Well, it’s more of an epic explosive assassination featuring fan-favourite character Lieutenant Simon “Ghost” Riley. After these events, we learn that Quds Force Major Hassan Zyani is in possession of a trio of American-made missiles. His intention is clear; attack key Western targets. A joint task force of soldiers from a variety of different outfits unite on a globe-trotting adventure to track Hassan down and stop the missiles. Along the way, players will encounter espionage, betrayal, a good ol’ fashion jailbreak, and a damsel in distress. Modern Warfare II has it all.
The campaign is jam-packed with 17 missions spanning a variety of different environments. And rather than spending the whole time running and gunning, the game does an excellent job of mixing things up with some unique gameplay elements. In one mission, you’ll be required to utilize stealth while you’re swimming in a marina. In another mission, you’ll guide your companion through his mission by letting him know when to move and who to attack. And in yet another mission, you’ll provide devastating firepower from a massive military aircraft.
This doesn’t mean you won’t be running and gunning – you’ll still spend the bulk of your time taking cover, shooting, reloading, and advancing from point to point. One thing that really stood out for me was just how concise they made the levels – very rarely did it feel like a level was taking too long to finish. There was a solid amount of effort put into Modern Warfare II to make it feel like you’re getting the best action bits spliced together.
Despite my praise for the campaign – and ultimately, it really was a good campaign – there were some issues. The AI in this game – in typical Call of Duty fashion – is still generally quite stupid and ineffective. Sure, they’ll snag the occasional kill, but you can’t rely on them to cover your back. You’ll be doing all the heavy lifting. And I suppose, that’s the way it should be in a video game, but it does take a bit of the realism away.
The enemy AI can be quite frustrating too. Often there is a very minimal reaction time between seeing a bad guy and getting shot at. Often I’d open a door and BAM, I’d be shot. Other times, the enemy would see me in very dark situations where you wouldn’t normally think a person could see so clearly. This made stealth sections particularly frustrating. And this is despite the inclusion of a new hud element that alerts players when an enemy can see you. It’s clear the devs wanted the stealth sections to be better… the execution wasn’t quite there.
Multiplayer is probably the area that most folks will flock to when it comes to Modern Warfare II, and while I’d love to sit here and sing its praises, the reality – as has been the case for the last few years – Modern Warfare II has been released with a vast amount of glitches and issues that severely hinder the overall experience. I’m the type of Call of Duty player that prefers Hardcore – and while it’s coming, renamed Tier 1 – it won’t be available for a couple of weeks, so I can’t comment on it. Unfortunately, it sounds like they’ll still include team killing in Hardcore/Tier 1, but no word on how many teamkills you get until a teamkill causes you to die. Needless to say, the whole teamkilling system is just stupid and needs to go.
What Happened To You?
The multiplayer maps are quite a lot more complex than the previous Call of Duty games, adding far more areas to slink around. If you thought camping was an issue before… well, it’s going to get a whole lot worse. With that said, the added complexity also offers more options to be creative and navigate maps. Ultimately, it is for the best. The Perks are back, and most are the same as we’ve had before, however now a number of Perks are locked behind a new system that requires you to earn points in the match to unlock them. So players won’t be rocking Ghost or Hardline from the start of a match, they’ll need to be earned.
Spawn issues are a huge issue, but I think it’s safe to assume they’ll be tweaked in the future. Another feature that is bizarrely missing is the ability to Ping – but apparently, this is yet another glitch and will be re-added at a future time. Finally, I’m happy to report that two-player split-screen is back and works quite well, perfect for some quality father/son time when mom isn’t around.
Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)
Crossplay is back and it still sucks. For starters, at launch, PC and Xbox users can’t even disable crossplay. Even worse, for some bizarre reason – and despite gamers begging developers – we’re still stuck with two options; crossplay on or off. What console players want is crossplay with other console players. Period. We don’t want to play with PC players for two obvious reasons; keyboard/mouse give PC players a distinct advantage and PC players are more likely to use a variety of cheats/hacks/etc to gain an unfair advantage. Just look at the hundreds of thousands of folks who have been banned from the previous Call of Duty games for hacking – most of which were PC players.
The single-player campaign is a visually stunning work of art. The locations, character models, lighting – it’s all the best we’ve ever seen in a Call of Duty game. The cinematics are even prettier, however, they’ve got this odd grain filter added that really takes away from the overall presentation. I really hope the devs update the game with an option to turn off film grain during cutscenes, as they do in-game.
Gotta Get Away
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there is much in the way of ray tracing utilized – probably a result of being cross-generational. Reflections are almost non-existent. In fact, some reflective surfaces such as windows cause a bizarre visual glitch that is quite noticeable. In multiplayer, the maps are beautiful, yet the character models could use some work. The character models are also kind of bland, with a few notable exceptions. With that said, I’m sure we’ll get dozens upon dozens of new customization options for the characters over the coming seasons. Though hopefully, the devs dial back their obsession with marijuana/pot cosmetics – it’s a bit much.
The audio in-game maintains the high level of standard that Call of Duty games has previously set. Explosions, weapons, vehicles, voice work… all top-notch. The music, however, takes a severe hit. From the bland radio-chatter title screen to the in-level music to the awful end-credits song, the entire soundtrack was a huge letdown when you consider some of Call of Duty’s iconic scores in the past.
It’ll Be A Long Time
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II will not convince non-believers to jump into Call of Duty. If you’re a fan, you’ll be buying it. If you’re a relapsed fan, you’ll likely come back. And if you hate Call of Duty, you’ll still hate it. It’s a solid effort with a well-designed campaign that feels like you’re playing a summer blockbuster movie. The multiplayer, although severely lacking some key ingredients such as hardcore, the ability to ping, and crossplay issues, is still quite enjoyable. It’s still Call of Duty multiplayer, but it brings enough fresh tweaks to keep us fans happy.
Call of Duty is taking a well-deserved break next year, with the next entry not expected until 2024. Whether it’ll be a direct sequel to Modern Warfare II or a different entry altogether, the Call of Duty franchise needs to take a year off to regroup. It needs time to develop a game that leaves the past generations behind and is geared toward current-generation hardware. Until then, hopefully, the development team will give us some quality post-launch support with many new maps, weapons, and operators to keep us gaming for the next 24 months.
*** Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Xbox Series X code provided by the publisher***
- Visually stunning
- Decent sized campaign
- Multiplayer maps are well designed
- Awful soundtrack
- Multiplayer features missing at launch
- Multiple multiplayer glitches
- Stupid AI