Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review

Richard Walker

For years on end, Call of Duty has been reliably churning out blockbuster campaigns, and, even when they're not quite as good as the others, they're usually a cut above the competition. As a sucker for a CoD campaign, and an enjoyer of 2019's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, it was with no lack of excitement that I plunged boots-first into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It’s a direct follow-up that continues the story of crack military team Task Force 141, and its gruff members Captain John Price, John 'Soap' MacTavish (yes, they're both called John), Simon 'Ghost' Riley, and Kyle 'Gaz' Garrick. That excitement rather quickly ebbs away, however, as a palpable air of familiarity, and, dare I say it, boredom, creeps in during Modern Warfare 2's first dozen or so missions.

Night vision goggle missions are a must.

Modern Warfare 2's single-player campaign isn't necessarily bad, but its story is well-worn, and its many set-pieces have been done in previous instalments, and executed better. At times, it seems as though developer Infinity Ward is systematically working through a checklist of highlights from the original Modern Warfare trilogy, albeit with enough of a twist to set them apart. But the obligatory ghillie-suit mission is in there, as is a lengthy 'Death from Above'-style mission aboard an AC-130 gunship, and even one reminiscent of Call of Duty 4's blistering opening mission aboard a tanker adrift in a roiling sea. Of course, none really measure up to their original counterparts.

Variety appears to be the primary watchword for MWII, and, while you're rarely doing the same thing from one level to the next, not all of it sticks the landing. Much has been made of the game's impressive rendition of Amsterdam, but it's a mission that's over inside of ten minutes. Conversely, a painfully pedestrian vehicle-based chase sequence long outstays its welcome, with silly truck-to-truck jumping and vast stretches where you're simply driving along an empty road. The overall result is an uneven, hit-and-miss campaign, boasting some great moments interspersed between some of the game’s flabbier and uninspired sections. A handful of visual bugs conspire to make this feel like one of the least polished CoD campaigns in recent years, while having to wait, as a 'joining game session' message pops up, to start the single-player mode just seems bizarre.

Still, in your endeavour to prevent the villainous Hassan carrying out his plan to use stolen US missiles to launch an attack upon the west, there is fun to be had. To its credit, Infinity Ward has made a concerted effort to keep things fresh. One mission in which you're left alone and without a weapon, scavenging for resources with which to craft various devices like prying tools, smoke bombs, and explosive mines triggered by mousetraps, is a particular highlight. Chuck in a handful of separate objective-driven online co-op missions and the promise of getting to die over and over in multiplayer, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 ticks all of the usual boxes.

If, like me, the campaign and co-op serve as a proving ground before delving into the snake pit that is multiplayer, then you'll be in for the standard rude awakening, as the action comes thick and fast, as ever. And, if you're a casual CoD player, prone to dipping their toe only occasionally, then prepare for the usual cycle of 'spawn, die, spawn, die, spawn, die', as you attempt to find your bearings. But, should you manage to find your rhythm, Modern Warfare 2's online competition proves immensely rewarding, with numerous modes and playlists to try your hand at. The usual suspects – like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Control, Kill Confirmed, Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, and Free-for-All – are present and correct, alongside large-scale modes like Invasion and Ground War, and elimination-based fare like Knock Out and brand-new mode Prisoner Rescue.

Prisoner Rescue pits two six-person squads against one another, as the attacking team attempts to seize and extract a bound captive, and the defending team strives to prevent that from happening. At its best, it’s a game type that demands teamwork and strategy, rather than running headlong into enemy fire. At its worst, you’re lumbered with too few players on your team, and no one bothering to revive fallen teammates. Attackers have the most difficult battle, as extracting two prisoners to score points is a tall order. Meanwhile, the defenders need only eliminate the opposing team to bag the victory. The balance comes via the scoring system - first to 500 wins, which means you don’t necessarily have to get the prisoners out to do that. With each successfully extracted prisoner chalking up 100 points for your team, however, it’s certainly the best way to earn your squad a chunk towards the target.

Don't be silly, wear a ghillie. Suit.

Should you fancy mixing things up, some multiplayer modes have third-person mode playlists to dabble in, so if the standard first-person action is wearing thin, you can always shift to a different perspective. Using the gunsmith, you can also customise your loadout, personalising your weapons with sights, muzzles, magazines, stocks, barrels, and so on – there are always adjustments to make, if you want to give yourself an edge, and more of a fighting chance amid the online melee. Or if you simply want to experiment a bit. This is another full-blooded and robust Call of Duty multiplayer offering, then, and, if you always get a kick out of mastering maps and overcoming your opponents, there are more than ample thrills and spills to be had.

That's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in a nutshell. The campaign is serviceable, but unevenly paced. The three co-op missions are enjoyable and well put together. And multiplayer is that same brand of slick and immediate, consistently infuriating and uniquely challenging but never not enjoyable. It's not for everyone, of course, and if you're a CoD naysayer, then Modern Warfare 2 is unlikely to change your mind about the franchise and its unending succession of yearly releases. But for everyone else, this is every bit as complete and delectable a first-person shooter confection as in years gone by, even if the campaign doesn't quite hit the mark.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

Call of Duty returns for yet another year, and while the campaign feels a little bit like a case of diminishing returns, the strength of two-player co-op and multiplayer pulls Modern Warfare 2 through.

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The score is suitably cinematic and the voices are suitably gruff. Weapons also sound great. In fact, the overall sound design is very good.


Call of Duty carries a weight of expectation when it comes to visual fidelity, and Modern Warfare 2, for the most part, doesn’t disappoint, despite a few minor bugs.


Yep, this is Call of Duty, alright. The same smooth and immediate FPS gunplay and frenetic multiplayer as always. You already know what you’re getting here.


A slightly bland campaign - albeit with a couple of neat twists - enjoyable co-op, and the usual fast and furious multiplayer. Again, you know what you’re getting, although it’s messily presented.


All campaign and co-op achievements, no multiplayer. And you may have to replay the campaign to bag them all. As far as the list is concerned, it’s pretty decent, setting specific campaign challenges.

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