Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review
Oh brother, here I go killing again
These days, there are few constants in the universe. The value of the dollar changes daily, a head of lettuce lasted longer than the previous British Prime Minister, and even the English language is getting weird. So, somehow, even as we live through another year of contradictory COVID precautions, the various developers behind Call of Duty continue to make forgettable popcorn shooters, and thus provide the one reliable thing in life besides death and taxes. This is all to say, for the two people who haven’t already decided if they’re going to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, this year’s title is nothing if not consistent with how the franchise works now.
Picking up where Modern Warfare 2019 left off, MWII throws you into a conflict between Iranian backed cartels and the titular Task Force 141. After Captain Price and his team of merry men defeated not-Putin a few years ago, this entry into the endlessly-running CoD campaign tasks you with securing some WMDs for one contrived reason or another. To do that, you parlay with some Narcos, team up with not-Executive Outcomes, blow up a few bridges and commit more war crimes than a lawyer at the Hague can shake their law degree at.
And, well, all these things and the litany of other aspects of the seven-hour story are fun. While the title doesn’t examine the role of individuals in conflict like its most modern predecessor, or the cool aspects of a horrific conflict in Southeast Asia, it’s reliably enjoyable throughout its 20-odd missions. The game develops the overarching Call of Duty narrative, there are a handful of Michael Bay-esque setpieces that stand out from the rest of its quasi-stealth oriented ordeals, and the mix of Mexican and not-Syrian settings provide a lot of variety in the scenery. Outside of that, though, there’s not much else to say about the single-player campaign that hasn’t been said in the reviews of the 19 previous mainline CoD campaigns.
The same is true for Modern Warfare II’s multiplayer. At this point, it’s impossible to talk about one of the longest running gaming franchises’ online component without copy-pasting sections of previous titles’ reviews. There are a handful of small changes to the formula in this one, including a new perk system that starts you with two upgrades each match and allows you to earn two more over the course of a game and a gunsmithing system that forces you to unlock various versions of weapon platforms by using base varients, but these side-grades don’t actually do that much.
The tried-and-true multiplayer is the same that it’s been for years. You kill players to earn new weapons, then use those weapons to kill more players, ad infinitum. It all feels great, with a time-to-kill that’s more akin to Insurgency: Sandstorm than Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and like its various predecessors, it’s superbly addictive. The maps are all great for the most part, with special recognition going out to the dam map that lets you swim around parts of the environment, the movement is fluid and there’s a metric shitload of attachments to unlock. With the inevitable stream of post-launch content starting soon, Modern Warfare II’s multiplayer is certainly something to behold, with that something being yet another good Call of Duty online component.
At the risk of getting too repetitive, but everything I just said also applies to this year’s co-op mode. Modern Warfare II’s take on cooperative action is a few two-player missions that are essentially open-ended sandboxes ripped from its campaign. Unlike the campaign, however, you can level yourself up to unlock various kits that offer you bonus perks at the start of each round. But, like its campaign, there isn’t a whole lot to say about it. The three missions available at launch are all fun provided you have a friend to play them with, and over the coming months, there’ll be plenty more finely tuned first-person shooting to do in it if you prefer genociding literal bots instead of the figurative ones that always end up on my multiplayer team.
But, going back to the finely tuned part, that isn’t entirely true. It feels almost pointless to talk about bugs in games these days, seeing as most of them could be patched out by the time you’re reading this, but goodness gratuitous great balls of Nvidia GTX 4000-series started fires, this game has issues. Few, if any, of the title’s technical mishaps affect its expertly crafted shooty-shooty bits, but they’re rampant in between combat deployments. Some of them are minor, like the inability to unlock gold camo in multiplayer or AI occasionally t-posing in the title’s campaign, but others are more impactful. An abysmal UI that’s missing features like a combat record, multiplayer crashing when you have more than two people in a party, and random lag spikes all pose passively serious issues in a franchise that’s otherwise known for its universal reliability.
At the end of the day though, neither those issues nor Modern Warfare II’s divisive lack of anything truly unique are enough to make the game any less of, well, another year’s Call of Duty. The shooting here is exquisite, the movement is momentous and the maps are magnificent. The campaign is campy, the multiplayer is manicured and Spec Ops is seemly. If you like Call of Duty, then there’s absolutely no reason not to buy this title, and if you don’t, Modern Warfare II won’t change your mind about the franchise. With an impending absurd amount of post-launch content that’ll likely be akin to an icecap on first-person shooters, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is, well, the latest Call of Duty game that involves warfighting in a modern setting.
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