Developed By: Infinity Ward
Published By: Activision Blizzard
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Review Code Provided By: Activision Blizzard
I have a lot of history with Modern Warfare (2007) as it is when I first played a Call of Duty game, especially on a console. Rebooting the series is a bold decision as comparing previous and new titles is something that is avoidable. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is no different, but does it really live up to the hype of the marketing campaign or is it all smoke and mirrors in the end?
Gear Up Bravo Team
The story continues from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot where Task Force 141 is conducting strikes against Russian-backed Iranian forces. The simple tutorial sets the tone of the game with big explosions and having me be the one point the laser sights in the target does bring a smile to my face. After a long introduction briefing, you are tasked with capturing a terrorist called Hassan who sneaks into the US through the Mexico border.
This time I was given control of an all-new character called Colonel Alejandro Vargas who chases him at the border which also gives us a chance to have a good look at Trump’s border wall I presume in-game. As you progress you are then tasked with finding out what is Hassan up to as you switch between characters in different locations to gather more intel.
Overall, the story for Modern Warfare II does have its moments but there are certain missions which I feel dragged on for far too long. The sniper mission with Captain Price and Gaz felt underwhelming compared to the one we got in the original Modern Warfare II. There is also one mission I started to play like ‘The Last of Us’ where I was unarmed and needed to sneak around to collect supplies to craft throwable items. I like that they thought of changing the pace, but it really seems like they are trying to extend the Single Player play time with these slow pace missions too much.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some action pact missions which are just enjoyable, especially with the AC-130 mission where the explosion in this game is just a sight to behold. I reckon on average you can complete the main story within 6 to 7 hours depending on how you approach the missions which are well within the same gameplay time as other Call of Duty single-player campaigns.
Gunfights in this game are obviously excellent being its bread and butter. I especially like how they handle the sniper bullet drop during the Captain Price sniper mission. Having Price call out the notches adjustment needed on the scope to adjust for bullet drop is fantastic, especially for those who are new to this concept. Captain Price even aims a laser sight to show you how height you should aim if you miss the call out. For me was an excellent job to the developers for including that detail.
There are some cliché dilemma stuffs like not shooting a female citizen until she pulls a gun at you which I felt like “Oh, not this thing again”. At least it is better than the ‘No Russian Incident’ I presume.
A Total Makeover
Now I have not played yet the rebooted Modern Warfare so I was a little taken aback by how good or different everybody looked. Certain characters had face models after their actors and it can be seen that there is a better texture and facial animations for those characters. There are pre-generated cutscenes in the game which obviously are better looking than the ones from the in-game engine model but I for one enjoyed how detailed the pre-render version looked.
And if you missed it, let me tell you again that the game’s AC-130 mission is just a sight to behold. I played the first time using thermal but I would advise you to play it without thermal if you can to just see the explosion and destruction you are causing with the Angel of Death. This mission is one that Michael Bay for sure will be proud of.
The sounds of gunfire and bullet passing by your ear can be clearly heard so each battle and the audio cue is excellent. The voice acting is also top-notch for the series but there is one instance where the audio bugged out for me where it didn’t play but I can see that the characters were talking with subtitles. There are a few repetitive audio cues that are triggered when you kill or blow up something but still tolerable.
What I found a bit weird is how there were differences in the UI between missions. There was one mission where you suddenly have the ability to put on armour plates. My guess is that the mission was handled by another studio instead of Infinity Ward since this game was supported by Call of Duty’s various studios like Treyarch, Raven Software and many more.
Multiplayer Is A Mix Bag
Multiplayer is split between versus and co-op. I will go through the latter first since it is a smaller component. Currently, there are only 3 missions available for co-op which you can play up to 4 players. This mission reminds me of those in Metal Gear Solid 6 where you are dropped into a large area and are given a task to complete. You are given 3 classes each with unique skills and will have more to unlock once you upgrade them by completing missions.
Each mission is a timed mission which will reward you a number of stars depending on how fast you complete them. The stars you get are used to upgrade your class. You get a max of 3 stars per mission per class so to get the max upgrade currently which is level 9, you have to complete all 3 missions and get 3 stars using only 1 class. Then you have to repeat the whole process again to upgrade the other classes.
As I said it really reminds me of Metal Gear Solid 6. It might seem tedious to upgrade all your classes but unlike in zombie co-op, where each game feels different, these co-op missions are the same as in, same spawn, same patrol timing, and same enemies if you get what I mean. It will seem fun at the beginning but with the time limit element in play, I feel most will just rush to complete the missions as soon as possible.
A Different Take On PvP
Now, this some might say is the real reason to get a Call of Duty game, the competitive multiplayer. This year multiplayer might give some players mixed feelings as there are a lot of things that have changed. I won’t go through all the changes but I will highlight some that I feel are important if you are coming from the previous Call of Duty games.
First, enemies will not show up on radar if you fire a gun without a silencer, instead, a red dot in the direction of the compass is on the top of the screen like in Warzone. I personally do not mind the change, but it does make the gameplay a little different. Maybe this might be a way for them to slowly get you into Warzone.
Next, the new perks system where you will gain the 2, bonus and ultimate perk when you reach 4 minutes and 8 minutes in a match respectively. Honestly, it really didn’t bother me much but some people might need to get used to not having a powerful perk like ‘Ghost’ from the start. Another thing is now perks can be placed in a pre-set loadout which you can customize before going into or during the game.
One thing that I feel is very nice is the ability to edit your loadout anytime during the match. Granted you do not have much time to do this but adjusting your perks or weapon attachment on the fly is something nice. The only thing that I didn’t like was how the UI feels like a little too much pressing just to edit one item on your loadout.
The More The Merrier
Under the PvP multiplayer you have a variety of maps and before I talk about them, I am happy to say that there are technically 3 types of gameplay modes now in PvP. First is the usual 6 versus 6 which has Team Deathmatch, Domination, etc. Second, there is a Ground War mode which set 64 players in 32 versus 32 huge maps. And lastly, an Invasion Gametype which is basically Ground War but is filled with AI.
The standout here is obviously Ground War where the game feels like a big warzone or dare I say a Battlefield. You can get into helicopters, APCs, tanks and many more as you traverse the big maps to capture and hold objective points. The maps are actually not that big compared as you can find action happening everywhere on the map, unlike a certain game where you had to run like what felt like 1KM just to encounter an enemy.
The only downside is Ground War is limited to a squad of 4 so for those with a big pool of friends, it would be hard to get everybody into the same game. I would like it if they allow squad party like in Battlefield but maybe they will add it in the future. All these games will also allow you to progress in your multiplayer level so there are not many drawbacks to joining a game of Ground War.
Location, Location, Location
The last thing I personally wanted to touch upon in multiplayer is the maps. Compared to Vanguard, Modern Warfare 2 has a modest number of maps available during launch. There is also a variety of maps which has a mix of long-range and close combat. It is advisable to create a few loadouts to switch into or you can also edit them in the middle of the match to fit what map you load in.
One thing that still bugs me still is the map design which basically has corridors or rooms with 3 or more points of entry. I understand that this is the deter camping but even with a variety of maps, I felt like I was playing the same map with the tempo of each map almost feeling the same. There are some maps that allow a group of friends to team up and camp in an area which is quite frustrating to deal with especially since matchmaking can match a full party against a random group of people.
A Slight Step Back
Modern Warfare II is not perfect and this might differ depending on your preference. Certain things like Vanguard’s end-of-the-match voting were removed for better or worst. There are also issues with the UI overall from the confusing friends menu, to how in a party, your friends are not displayed fully during the menu. I kind of miss how Vanguard did it with your whole party walking along together.
Crossplay is available in the game with the ability to turn it off or on if you are on PlayStation. Sadly PC and Xbox do not have this option currently but there is a workaround for the Xbox version if you search around the internet. On PlayStation even with crossplay off, there is a possible chance to run into PlayStation users who are using a keyboard and mouse to play. Whether this is intended, if you are looking for a controller-only game, this might be an issue for you.
Lastly, there is and always be a gun balance issue in multiplayer. Some guns are just ridiculously overpowered. I had a shotgun take me out in 1 shot from medium range. As with every Call of Duty, I presume this will be adjusted as more data will reveal this issue. Not counting those overpowered guns, I feel the time to kill in this game just feels a little faster compared to the others in the series. If you are not one-shotted, 2-3 bullets usually can take you down if you are not fast on the trigger.
What I Absolutely Loved
- Story Missions – Though I feel like there are some slow moments, the story mission is quite exciting this time compared to the few previous Call of Duty.
- Visual – Making improvement from Vanguard, this is easily one of the best-looking Call of Duty. The visual especially during the AC-130 bombing is something I have never seen pull off in any other game before.
- Audio – After so many years, Call of Duty guns still packs a punch and with hearing bullets flying by your ear on a headset is just one of the things that immerse you into the game.
- Characters – Voice actors made a great in this game with some even lending their faces like Glenn Morshower and Alain Mesa.
- Ground War – A great mode for those missing the itch from Battlefield.
What Could Be Improved
- UI Navigation – The user interface has to be one of the worst in Call of Duty history. Navigating the menus in this game is a hassle and needs some streamlining.
- Gun Balance – One-shot guns are always in Call of Duty and they return again this year. TTK is a little faster than other games in the series.
Modern Warfare II ended up being one of my favourite Call of Duty games in a while. I even question if I should go get Modern Warfare just to play single-player. Even though the story does not live up to the original Modern Warfare II, the game manages to get me invested in it and that for me is a mission accomplished.
Multiplayer wise the game is a hit or miss. On one end we have Ground War which is an excellent game mode but on the other, we have the bad UI and a sub-par co-op mode that feels repetitive. If you are a Call of Duty fan and willing to endure the messy UI then by all means get this game. But even if you are new the Call of Duty, get this game because it is one of the best game in the series for a while or maybe until Modern Warfare III arrives.