“Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II” Review
One of the hallmarks of the Call Of Duty series is that these first-person shooter games’ annual installments usually only makes incremental changes, not big ones. Not since 2007’s Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, anyway. And while that’s certainly true of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X / S, Xbox One, PC), some of the changes they have made in this installment make things rather interesting.
where I always start with these games: the single-player campaign. After an American missile strike intentionally disrupts a clandestine arms deal between Russia and Iran, killing a terrorist, his son vows revenge…and plans to do it with American-made missiles and the help of a drug cartel. What follows, as usual for this series, is a globe-trotter action movie-esque adventure that has you going from Amsterdam to the American / Mexican border to places I won’t name because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, all of which have you enjoying the local cuisine, partaking of the local customs, and shooting a bunch of people.
While this might sound like the premise of an exciting game, it certainly doesn’t start out like one. In large part because the early missions are so tightly scripted, and so unforgiving if you deviate from the prescribed pathways you’re supposed to follow, that not following orders precisely means you fail, everyone dies, and their blood is on your hands.
Thankfully, the rules in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II do eventually relax, and it’s then that this gets really good. Doubly so when you find yourself in some clever situations you haven’t faced in previous games. Like, say, when you’re on the roof of a building and can shoot bad guys through the skylights or pick them off when they run outside to escape the tear gas grenade you tossed in through a vent. Or when you’re trying to stop a caravan on a crowded highway, but instead of shooting at them from another car, you’re in a helicopter flying low over the road, while trying not to accidentally kill some family of four on their way to the supermarket.
a number of missions in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II do recall ones from earlier games, including (but not limited to) the sniper mission in Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Take the requisite (and usually heavily regulated) part when you’re taking out bad guys while relaxing in a plane flying overhead. While it starts out, as they all do, with you raining down bullets and missiles, it eventually becomes anything but typical when everything goes to shit for the soldiers on the ground you’re supposed to be supporting.
Where things in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II get really interesting, though, is when your mission recalls ones from some other game. That aforementioned car chase mission, for instance, does eventually have you getting into a truck, but because you’re driving while shooting, and can jump onto another car while its moving, it makes this part feel more like something out of Battlefield Hardline than any Call Of Duty game.
Even more interesting: you don’t go from the Call Of Duty-ish helicopter part directly into the Battlefield-y part; you briefly do something best described as Dead Space 2-esque. Yeah, that part. And it’s as exhilarating here as it was in that game.
Call Of Duty: Modern War II also adds a bit of challenge to the gun battles in the campaign by giving some enemies body armor and reinforced helmets, forcing you to shoot them more times in the head or chest than you usually have to.
But the best part…
of Call Of Duty: Modern War II‘s story mode comes when you go swimming. In one instance, you also have to be sneaky, hence your use of deadly throwing knives (well, until you can find a silenced weapon, that is). In another, being sneaky isn’t an option, but ducking for cover behind rocks is, and very necessary. Both of these put an interesting spin on the typical Call Of Duty shoot out, in part because swimming is a lot slower than running, and in part because you can sometimes duck below the surface and hopefully escape detection.
Granted, the tightly controlled moments do come up again later in the game. And there are times when you’re doing so many different kinds of missions in a row that you find yourself just wishing for a frantic but typical firefight. But ultimately, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s story mode is still as effortlessly engaging as, well, this mode usually is in these games.
Along with its exciting campaign, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II has, of course, its always popular multiplayer modes. While far less changed than the campaign, it does have a couple new modes…sort of.
In “Prisoner Rescue,” one team has to escort a hostage to safety, while the other have to stop the first team. Points are not only awarded for saving the hostage, or preventing the hostage from being saved until the clock runs down, but also for taking out the enemy team. In other words, it’s “Capture The Flag,” but with a person.
The thing is,
unlike many of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s online modes, you don’t die when you get shot up in “Prisoner Rescue.” Instead, you’re knocked out, and can be revived by a teammate. This, unfortunately, means you sometimes spend a lot of time waiting for some good Samaritan. Even worse, because you can still win by incapacitating the opposing team, this mode frequently feels more like rounds of “Team Deathmatch.”
This, unfortunately, is the same problem that undermines Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s other new online mode, “Knock Out.” Like “Prisoner Rescue,” it’s also a version of “Capture The Flag,” except with two teams fighting over bags of money. The longer you hold one, the more points you earn. But since you can also just take out the enemy team, most of the matches of “Knock Out” that I played also devolved into rounds of “Team Deathmatch.”
The irony being that my favorite multiplayer mode in Call Of Duty — and, in fact, most online shooters — is “Team Deathmatch.” But that’s just it; if I wanted to play “Team Deathmatch,” I’d play “Team Deathmatch.” When I want to play something different, I want to play something that’s actually different.
Then there’s “3rd Person Moshpit,” in which you get to play rounds of “Domination,” “Hardpoint” or “Team Deathmatch” (woo-hoo!) with, obviously, a third-person perspective. Well, mostly. It goes back to first-person when you use iron sights. It’s something we previously got to do in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 if you got to level 19, which unlocked it, or you played a private match in Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but this is the first time it’s been so readily available.
all this mode does is change the perspective; everything else remains the same. Which, sadly, means you can’t duck behind something for cover, and then play cat and mouse with the enemy team like you do in such third-person shooters as Sniper Elite 5 or Outriders. Though considering how Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s online modes often devolve into their simplest aspects, including cover mechanics in “3rd Person Moshpit” probably just would’ve resulted in me lamenting that no one ever uses them.
Of course, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II also features new arenas in which to play these online modes, all of which are rather elaborate. But the standout, by far, is “Santa Seña Border Crossing,” a small stretch of highway packed with cars that explode rather easily…which is why matches on this map are especially frantic and harried and oh so much fun.
Moving on, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s final option in how to play is “Spec Ops,” a co-op mode in which two people work together to complete a series of story-driven missions. Though unlike similar modes in other games, these are not self-contained skill challenges, but lengthy and involved encounters that could’ve been part of the campaign. You just have to play them co-op.
As for the specific missions,
“Denied Area” has players taking out three surface-to-air batteries, while “Low Profile” tasks you with sneaking into and around a town to recover some stolen intel. But with both giving you multiple objectives, and being set in rather large areas, they actually give you a lot more to do than, say, the similar but paper thin “Specialist HQs” mode in Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4. Which is why, if you’re someone who plays well with others, you’ll likely play these two multiple times.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s “Spec Ops” also has its version of Gears 5‘s “Horde” mode in “Defender: Mt. Zaya,” in which you and your buddy have to survive incoming attacks from waves of increasingly tougher enemies. It’s nothing we haven’t played before, and better elsewhere, and yet, it still ends up being somewhat compelling.
But while the three missions in “Spec Ops” are engaging, there’s still only three. By comparison, 2009’s Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had nearly two dozen “Spec Ops” missions. But then, Modern Warfare II‘s are longer and more involved, and it seems rather unlikely that they won’t add more at some point.
Taken all together,
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II — like many of its predecessors — offers three compelling ways to play, while being rather rock solid if you only enjoy one. And while its changes may have been incremental, and make me think bigger changes should come soon, it’s still enough to have this rank as a rather solid entry in a series that’s full of them.
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