It’s developer Infinity Ward’s turn in the Call of Duty hotseat for 2022. After finding success with 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot, the team has focused its efforts on a sequel, with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 exploring an “unprecedented global conflict” with “state-of-the-art gameplay.” Armed with a story campaign, competitive multiplayer, and co-op PvE, MW2 looks good on paper. However, when you start playing, the multitude of missing or half-baked features and inexplicable gameplay mechanics start to pile up and drag it down.
The Price of war
In Modern Warfare 2’s campaign, Infinity Ward continues the story of Captain Price and Task Force 141 as they trot the globe in search of wanted terrorists. Without spoiling anything, the story takes Price and his squadmates to incredible-looking locations including Chicago, Amsterdam, fictional Mexican cities, and the fictional country of Urzikstan. While in these areas, players will be shooting a wide range of fantastic sounding and feeling weapons during on-foot and in-vehicle sequences.
If you liked Modern Warfare (2019)’s campaign, you’re probably going to like MW2’s. It’s more of the same grittiness and gruffness from Price and his well-rendered pals, as they try to maneuver through many blockbuster-esque action set pieces. This is the Fast and Furious of first-person shooters and I’m perfectly okay with that.
Crank up the visuals on a high-end PC or play on a next-gen system and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-looking first-person shooter. Whatever Infinity Ward is doing under the hood with its engine has led to fantastic visuals and incredible performance. Various upscaling techniques are also available on PC which will be greatly appreciated by those running more mid-range hardware.
The high quality of the cutscenes deserves special mention. Multiple times during the campaign I thought I was seeing live-action sequences, but no, it’s all computer-generated.
My only real negative against the campaign is how safe it is. With the twists and turns of the original Modern Warfare 2 already well-known to much of the Call of Duty community, I was hoping that this reboot would subvert expectations and take things down a different path. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, which makes me a lot less excited for the inevitable sequel.
Do the robot
While the campaign sets the scene and gets players used to the expansive MW2 weapon arsenal, it’s the co-op and competitive multiplayer modes where most will be spending 100+ hours of their time. Interestingly, MW2 is relying on A.I. bots to help boost numbers in some game types.
Spec Ops is a two-player co-op mode complete with its own cutscenes and integrated into the overarching rebooted MW story. While a similar mode featured in MW (2019), this version is massively improved and Infinity Ward will be adding more missions in future content drops. While it pales in comparison to Zombies and desperately needs a good endless horde mode, it’s an improvement on what came before and kept me entertained for a couple of hours.
Bots also appear in Invasion, which is a large-scale Team Deathmatch mode. In this 40v40 mode, half of the lobby is made up of bots, while the other half are real players. Killing bots nets fewer points, but they are much easier to take down. This is essentially “Advanced Training,” where players who aren’t quite confident enough for proper multiplayer can continue to learn the ropes and feel a sense of achievement in taking down some enemies.
Missing in action
Outside of the bot matches, there’s the usual catalog of 6v6 game modes like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Kill Confirmed, Hardpoint, Headquarters, and Search and Destroy. New game types like Prisoner Rescue and Knockout are also available, along with the massive Ground War mode. I’m a fan of many of these modes and the majority of the available maps adapt nicely to the different objective types. However, I’m disappointed to see Gunfight missing at launch as it was a real highlight of MW (2019).
“Missing at launch” should be the tagline for this game, as there are just so many features that are either missing or poorly implemented. While Hardcore, Prestiging, Ranked Play, Combat Records, and Leaderboards have been promised for the start of Season 1, “Season 0” has felt like an extended beta, complete with many bugs, glitches, crashes, and other oddities.
Fortunately, the first couple of weeks were made bearable through a good weapon progression system. The game encourages players to use a wide variety of guns to unlock new variants and attachments, so gameplay is kept reasonably fresh. The gold camo challenges are also easier this time around, meaning players won’t have to spend an ungodly amount of game time grinding out a single gun.
Maps maketh multiplayer
Adding insult to injury is the list of maps coming to MW2 multiplayer during Season 1. There are two maps in total, Shipment and Shoothouse, that Infinity Ward hopes will satiate the non-Warzone-playing members of the CoD community.
Thankfully, MW2 at least has a good foundation of maps to (hopefully quickly) build upon. Aside from Santa Sena Border Crossing, which might be the worst CoD map of all time with its many explosive cars, MW2’s multiplayer maps are a definite improvement over what we saw in MW (2019). That isn’t saying much, I know, but the maps don’t frustrate me.
Fighting campfire with campfire
No, what frustrates me is how Infinity Ward continues to encourage slower gameplay and actively punishes aggressive movement. To succeed in MW2, players have to slow things down and really think about their next move, or not move at all.
While passive playstyles have always been a thing in CoD, it’s rare to see a developer overtly encouraging them. In MW2, however, the developer has made no secret of trying to eradicate rushers with changes like Dead Silence (quieten footsteps) being on a cooldown, Perks like Ghost only coming into effect minutes into a game, slower animations for calling in killstreaks, the still-terrible radar that continues to conceal unsuppressed weapon fire, rooftops being accessible in Ground War, awful spawn points that you’re best off hiding away from, skill-based matchmaking turning most games into intense sweaty showdowns, game-ending nukes, and the aim-down sights speed penalty when the player is jumping.
At a time when Warzone 2.0 is on the verge of launching alongside an Escape From Tarkov-inspired DMZ mode, we’ll soon have enough slower-paced Call of Duty experiences. We don’t need MW2 to be more of the same. Instead, it should have leaned into the fast and frenetic gameplay that put CoD on the map in the first place. It might share the name, but this is a very different “Modern Warfare 2.”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was reviewed on PC with code provided by the publisher.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) is a fine sequel that checks all of the boxes when it comes to a serviceable CoD campaign, good co-op options, and a super shiny competitive multiplayer that plays well enough for most. However, Infinity Ward has played it safe with this CoD installment, leaning into the strengths of Modern Warfare (2019) while making minor improvements, but ultimately failing to push the envelope in any meaningful way.