Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 arrives as the latest entry in the multi-billion dollar franchise, following a bit of a rut in recent releases. While featuring some highlights, Call of Duty: Vanguard and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War felt like they’ve shaken the once untouchable armour. Warzone may have kept the franchise the megahit it is, yet the once-reliable boxed games have started to wane. After disappointing sales, on top of dwindling critical and audience reaction, there’s been a sense that this once inevitable behemoth now has blood in the water.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Not only does it have to right the ship, but it’s also the effort from the most storied Call of Duty developer, Infinity Ward. There is a lot of expectation that comes with the name and if Infinity Ward can’t save Call of Duty, is there any studio that can?
Modern Warfare 2 serves as the follow-up to the rebooted sub-series, which felt like the last unequivocally good entry in the series. So, taking that into account, Modern Warfare 2 feels like it has to deliver. The question is - does it?
Note: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has a staggered release with the campaign first being available via early access from October 20, 2022. This review strictly covers the single-player component and not the multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review: Price and Release Date
- What is it? The latest Call of Duty with a campaign and multiplayer that follows the events of 2019’s Modern Warfare, a reboot of the series of the same name
- Release Date? October 28, 2022
- What platforms can I play it on? PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC
- Price? $69.99 / £69.99 / AU$109.95
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review: What is it?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 follows on from where 2019’s title left off, with the main characters assembled into Task Force 141. If you played the classic Modern Warfare series which started in 2007, the characters will be familiar to you, however, the story will not. In terms of a plot, besides featuring the likes of Captain Price, Ghost, Soap and Gaz, there's nothing that has made the jump from the original.
The campaign starts with Task Force 141 chasing down and executing strikes on Russian-backed Iranian forces. After taking down a general in the Iranian army, it sets in motion a wild chase around the world for a handful of missiles intended to strike the US in retaliation.
While that sounds relatively mundane, it serves as the backbone of what is one of the best modern Call of Duty campaigns in the past decade. Infinity Ward has struck gold with the globe-trotting action romp in a campaign that feels like it’s single-handedly breathed life back into the concept of the Call of Duty campaigns, something that had started to feel like a bit of a lost art.
Modern Warfare 2 wears its influences on its sleeve, with it sharing a lot tonally with great modern war thrillers like Zero Dark Thirty and Sicario. That’s fine too. Those films work as tense modern thrillers, and Infinity Ward’s whirlwind adventure liberally takes what works from those to translate them masterfully into game format.
That all being said, Modern Warfare 2 falls into the Call of Duty trap of playing with complex, geo-political turmoil and using it as window dressing, rather than trying to say anything of substance about it. It feels like a specter over the game’s campaign, especially due to the present setting that toys with real situations but has very little nuance. While it flirts with the idea of placing blame at the feet of the ‘good guys’, it’s only ever waved away as bad apples, or bad choices with good intentions, rather than a broader, more systemic look at the heart of the game’s themes.
If you were hoping Call of Duty might finally have a crisis of conscience, it doesn’t. It moves clumsily through its subtext with jingoistic action, though if you’re someone who enjoys these campaigns, you know and accept that already. And ultimately, it’s a great version of those. What makes Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 stand out from other campaigns in the past 10 years is the a cast of memorable characters.
They aren’t always easy to like, but the group has a compelling dynamic, especially as Task Force 141 and friends are dragged into settings and situations where they are constantly on the back foot. The story works as the team always feels a step or two behind the master plan of their antagonists, making their friendship found through desperation quite endearing - even if it takes a couple of war crimes along the way.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review: How does it play?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is not a huge departure for the series, in that it’s a top-notch first-person experience. However, especially with this year’s iteration, there's a real snappiness and responsiveness to weapons, tied together by exceptional animation and sound work. This is the best ‘feeling’ Call of Duty in quite some time, at least in the campaign, helping sell the realistic and gritty experience the tone is trying so excessively to convey.
Nevertheless, the campaign’s strongest suit is certainly in the mission variety it offers. Like the best Call of Duty campaigns, every mission feels distinct, putting you in new settings, in control of different characters and doing different things.
Of course, shooting arenas are abundant but many of Modern Warfare 2’s missions task you with specific parameters to sell its different experiences. In one mission you might be assaulting a base alongside a whole army, in another, you may find yourself hanging upside down from a helicopter in a car chase, then you might be sneaking around a Spanish landscape in a Ghillie suit sniping enemies hundreds of feet away, or creeping around a European city with nothing to protect yourself except the explosives you make out of household items
The point is, there's an enormous amount you end up doing throughout the game’s campaign that makes just about every mission stand out. Some are better than others, but most levels can be brought to mind quickly, due to being unique. Perhaps most remarkable of all though is how well Infinity Ward consistently executes on its different premises. It's hard to think of too many dull moments where it doesn't feel like you are doing something new.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review: How does it look and sound?
With Call of Duty being annualised, the phrase, ‘the best looking COD yet” feels inevitable for every new release. That being said though, I begrudgingly have to apply the phrase here.
Perhaps a more impressive accolade is that this is one of the biggest graphical leaps in the game’s history, at least when not accompanied by a new console generation. You also have a decent level of customisation. The game offers up to 120FPS on next-gen consoles, though you can also choose to keep the game at 60FPS with 4K if you want it to look as spectacular as possible.
Video capture of the game has been circulating across social media of the near-perfect recreation of Amsterdam which features early on. At times, in the sequence and elsewhere, it can nearly fool the eye into thinking it’s real. Once you start to move the camera and inspect details it begins to fall apart, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is easily one of the most impressive technical graphical achievements of this console generation.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: How long to beat?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's campaign took me around eight to 10 hours to complete on PlayStation 5, keeping its foot on the pedal and getting out before you can even begin to consider being bored. The playtime is split between 17 missions, so there is plenty to get into.
That said, not every mission is created equal. Some act almost as glorified cutscenes that you will finish in five minutes, while some can take around 40 minutes. One mission even took me a little over an hour, as I decided to go particularly slowly. That being said, the missions are ‘generally' around 20 to 30 minutes each. It’s a brisk campaign but feels perfect as it never outstays its welcome.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s campaign is a strong reminder that when the franchise is firing on all cylinders, it’s still a force to be reckoned with. This feels like a defining moment for Call of Duty as a franchise, with Infinity Ward sticking its flag in the sand and saying, ‘this is what a modern Call of Duty campaign should look like’. It’s an impressive triumph, though the franchise’s inability to contend with its own politics, especially in a modern setting, can be harder to ignore.
If Call of Duty isn't your thing, then it's worth checking out Deathloop across either PS5, Xbox Series X or PC. The next-gen first-person shooter offers a stylistic approach to the genre with a compelling story that integrates time travel – essentially this is James Bond meets Groundhog Day. From developer Arkane Lyon, Deathloop won several awards and is unlike anything else in games today.