I have to admit, I soured quite a bit on Call of Duty as the years went by (and the price went up) but after being thoroughly impressed by 2019’s rebooted Modern Warfare, I was quite looking forward to getting stuck in to some over the top “AAA” shooty bang action.
The game doesn’t actually release until October 28th, but committed and dedicated Call of Duty diehards can preorder the game and get access to play the campaign element of the package a whole week early. So, let’s get Task Force 141 assembled and take on those pesky global terrorists all over again in this spoiler free XboxEra review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II’s campaign.
The Gang’s All Here
Set three years after the events of the previous game, Modern Warfare II puts us boots on the ground with the usual suspects – Ghost, Soap, Gaz and of course, the immutable Captain “best facial hair in gaming” Price. Some other characters return, including intelligence operative Kate Laswell and Farah, the freedom fighter from Modern Warfare 2019, who gets a sizeable cameo in one mission. The private military group known as Shadow Company also gets featured a fair bit and – hey it’s that guy from 24 – also known as Captain Shephard.
The game also takes the opportunity to introduce some new characters, including Alejandro, a member of the Mexican Special Forces, and in a nice twist actually offers occasional conversation options (all optional) during gameplay to flesh out these characters and provide some occasionally amusing, but often awful banter and bravado during the games quieter moments.
As I mentioned, I won’t spoil the story here, such as it is, but suffice to say, bad guys have several stolen American missiles, many lives at stake, set off around the globe at breakneck pace until we stop them. Naturally, you can expect a plethora of plot twists on the way. The game does take itself a bit too seriously, leading to my eyes rolling firmly into the back of my head at several points throughout the game – but if you can switch your brain off and just go along for the ride, I’m fairly confident you’ll have a fun time.
Task Force on Tour
One benefit of having a globe-spanning terrorist plot is of course, plenty of excuses for unique locales and crazy set-pieces. The game features 17 missions in total, taking us from the middle east, Mexico, Spain, the USA and even one of my favourite haunts, Amsterdam.
And indeed, the sheer variety of gameplay on offer throughout the 6-8 hour long adventure (on regular at least) is commendable. The team at Infinity Ward have really leaned into the “clearing the house” style of gunplay where it makes sense, and there’s often a good focus on stealth as well as going in guns blazing as you make your way through the campaign.
Indeed, the campaign offers a lot of healthy doses of nostalgia, and in some ways is almost a “greatest hits” compilation of top Call of Duty moments from days gone by. Missions like “Close Air” offer a direct comparison to Call of Duty 4’s “Death from Above”, as you protect our heroes on the ground with the AC-130’s awe inspiring firepower. We also get to enjoy a lengthy nod to “All Ghillied Up”, where the game really stretches its legs and offers a very wide and far less linear gameplay experience focused on sniping and stealth.
Old Dog, New Tricks
Throughout the campaign, Infinity Ward also introduces new gameplay mechanics, from nods to Warzone and even involving crafting of all things, as you guide a character through some very survival focused set-ups. The mechanism for opening your backpack and cobbling rudimentary traps and smoke bombs felt a bit fiddly at times, but it got the job done.
In another arguably far too drawn out level (after hanging upside down from a helicopter for a bit) you’re able to hijack vehicles in a lengthy car chase, leaping from truck to truck. While I admire the attempts at variety overall, it’s the more unique one-time gameplay elements that often fall a little short, and certainly don’t feel quite as polished as the main core of the game.
It’s a minor quibble, but these occasional gameplay moments just don’t feel as slick and as polished as the rest of the game. The worst offender is what I can probably describe as a boss fight – it fell entirely flat and was frustrating and frankly, unsatisfying as a conclusion to a major story arc.
Shock and Awe
The rollercoaster of a campaign will leave you mightily impressed on the visual front – indeed, Modern Warfare 2’s graphical fidelity is often incredible to witness. This is a very pretty game most of the time, with the smooth locked 60FPS the series is known for on display throughout, and if you have the right display, a 120FPS option is available too. Lighting, material and texture quality are all top-notch for the most part and the various locales really show off what the game engine is capable of. The cinematics deserve a nod for being very well done, and the game does a great job of almost hitting the same bar in visual quality.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though – I did experience several glitches, the most egregious of which involved entire enemy patrols and grass disappearing from view depending on the angle at which I looked at them. In a moment where I’m desperately trying to not be discovered, it was quite the bug. However, these hiccups are few and far between, and for the most part, the campaign is rock solid on the performance front.
I played through Regular as a starting difficulty, and it goes without saying that everything felt a little more lethal this time around, and I was surprised how often I died as I played through the game. New players or those that prefer story and narrative to challenge may want to drop the difficulty to the easiest setting.
The game also offers an extra challenge with the “realism” setting – this is the same difficulty as “veteran” but removes the HUD entirely, to make things as realistic as possible. When you can literally die in one bullet, you’ll experience the game in a very different way that I’d thoroughly recommend at least trying out.
You’ll really adopt that “clearing the house” methodology in your playstyle out of sheer necessity – and the tense gameplay of the various situations provides quite the challenge – though I’d imagine set-piece driven levels like the car chase may prove to just be frustrating rather than enjoyably challenging.
I came into Modern Warfare II with high expectations following 2019’s Modern Warfare, and for the most part, I’ve been satisfied. Minor quibbles aside, there’s a lot to love in this entry, and some great replayability in the campaign with some fun challenges to boot (check your achievements folks!).
As finer an example of “AAA” Hollywood gaming spectacle as ever there was – full of incredible visuals and set-pieces with a tonne of gameplay variety and only a few moments that fall flat. It can’t help but occasionally feel to be a greatest hits collection of previous Call of Duty moments at times, despite the earnest and well intentioned efforts to mix things up a bit, and that’s okay. For fans of the series, they’ll be more than satisfied.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Battle.Net and Steam|
|Release Date||October 28th, 2022|
|Rated||M for Mature|