Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review – Fantastic gameplay needs a lot of polish
It’s finally that time of year when a new Call of Duty has arrived, and Modern Warfare 2 is here. With three core modes at launch — multiplayer, campaign, and co-op — Infinity Ward have gone all-out to give players as much choice as possible, but it appears their ambition has gotten the better of them as its fantastic multiplayer gameplay is marred by an unfinished feel.
After Call of Duty: Vanguard brought one of multiplayer’s most lackluster years, a lot was resting on Infinity Ward to knock Modern Warfare 2 out of the park. Ditching the tired World War 2 setting, Modern Warfare 2 brings Call of Duty back to the 21st century and reunites players with Task Force 141.
Modern Warfare 2 is divided into three main components at launch: a single-player campaign, classic Call of Duty multiplayer, and co-op. While the campaign did its job to great effect, it’s arguably multiplayer that brings players back year after year.
Infinity Ward have brought an extremely fun, satisfying multiplayer that unfortunately suffers from an unfinished feel. If we’re to have an excellent year of Call of Duty, and we definitely can, the devs are going to have to bring several layers of polish, and fast, to allow the multiplayer to reach its extremely high potential.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: Key details
- Developer: Infinity Ward
- Price: $69.99 USD / £59.99 GBP
- Release Date: October 28, 2022
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Modern Warfare 2 gameplay trailer
Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer review
Fantastic gameplay brings high potential
I said back in my beta review that Modern Warfare 2 is fun despite the unnecessary changes, not because of them. This holds true now that the full game is here and while my original complaints — no red dots on the minimap, loud footsteps, fast time to kill — still stand, I’ve been enjoying my time with Modern Warfare 2 more than any other CoD launch in recent years.
Of course, gunplay and movement feel top-notch. The weapons and their animations feel smooth, gunfire reverberates around the map, and the hitmarkers sound meaty. The game is genuinely fun to play with satisfying kills and rewarding Killstreaks, and the relatively easy camo grind means I can both play for fun and make progress – something severely lacking from the last couple of games.
Movement techniques such as slide-canceling and bunny hopping have also been completely removed, and so far, it feels like a change for the better.
While it’s hard to describe just how much the gameplay would be improved through a classic minimap, I’m still having a great time regardless.
New systems, for better or worse
Infinity Ward seemed proud to show off their Perk Packages but they’ve been more of a curse than a blessing. Feeling like change for the sake of change, players must now pick four Perks and have to wait for two to activate. With Ghost being the final Perk unlocked, the team that gets a UAV first can usually steamroll the first half of the match with ease.
For both better and worse, Modern Warfare 2 completely reinvents how players unlock weapons, attachments, and camos. Now, weapons come in Platforms and have Receivers, where, for example, leveling up the M4 will unlock more weapons in the M4 family (Receivers), and these weapons share attachments.
Already having a few attachments to stick onto a new weapon is welcome, but the system becomes annoying when you have to level up an Assault Rifle, SMG, and LMG just to unlock the weapon you want. While I’m glad to see only five slots again, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed as I scroll through attachment after attachment, wondering if the best option is somewhere in that almost endless, greyed-out, list.
It also means that if you want to place a specific camo on a weapon, you might need to level up three guns just to unlock it. But, the Mastery Camo grind is a huge improvement over the last few years, where the challenges are quick, simple, and actually enjoyable. I can finally see myself reaching Polyatomic or even Orion instead of getting frustrated and bored before finishing a single class.
Casual-focused maps are a blast
Map design was a major issue in Modern Warfare 2019, where the devs ditched the tried and true three-lane design, creating nonsensical spaces with a drab color palette. With Modern Warfare 2, they’ve fixed some issues and doubled down on others. The maps are bright, vibrant, and actually fun to play. But, they suffer from much of the same issues as 2019, where there are huge areas of dead space, sections are overly complex, and doors just get in the way. I’ll also never understand why Santa Sena Border Crossing was included. While a great scene in Sicario, it didn’t translate to a Call of Duty map in any way.
These maps do make me worried about this year’s competitive scene though, as I just can’t picture any of them working in a competitive setting. It feels like competitive was an afterthought again — if even a thought at all. But, for casually playing Call of Duty, ranking up guns, and having a laugh with friends, these maps are a blast. I just wish there were more of them.
Ground War and Invasion brings even more large-scale maps to the game, but other than a casual way to level up weapons, these large modes just don’t offer the same level of reward or satisfaction as 6v6.
Unfinished feel, bugs & bad UI mar the experience
Modern Warfare 2 is lacking so many classic features that should be expected in Call of Duty, and it makes the game feel like a big beta. With no challenges, barracks, leaderboards, map voting, or Hardcore mode, the game feels unfinished. But it’s not just major features, it’s also the little things that I just assumed would be there. Being able to track how long of a Double XP Token I have left, or even being able to see what my Killstreak is after each kill. It feels like there’s no reason not to include these features that have been in CoD for years.
Its unfinished feel is only exacerbated by the amount of bugs players have been experiencing. While playing on PC, I’ve suffered from several crashes and my graphics options resetting on launch. And it sounds like I’m lucky. Some of my friends on Xbox can’t change their classes between games, and the brand-new weapon tuning feature had to be pulled after it caused even more crashes.
It also feels like the UI couldn’t have been made any more awkward if they tried. Taking on a streaming service-esque design, each option is in its own box like you’re selecting which TV show to watch. This means almost infinite scrolling just to find what you want, and the horizontal menus make it even worse.
Co-op is short but sweet
I’ve never been a huge fan of co-op multiplayer modes and Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t really do anything to change that, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. It carries on the campaign’s story, dropping players into areas of Al Mazrah to complete missions.
There are three co-op missions available at launch: Low Profile, Denied Area, and Defender: Mt Zaya. The first mission tasks players with stealthily securing radioactive objects, the second you go all-guns blazing to destroy S.A.M sites, and the third is a classic wave-based mode.
There’s fun to be had but it’s short-lived, not even being enough to fill up an afternoon. You can keep replaying to get three stars, but beyond that, there’s not much there at launch.
Modern Warfare 2 campaign review
Task Force 141 is back. After assembling at the end of Modern Warfare 2019, the team of British Special Forces operatives are undertaking missions around the world. While trying to capture an Iranian general who’s funding terrorist organization Al Qatala, our heroes discover that American missiles are in the hands of these terrorists so they embark on a globe-trotting mission to find them.
While Call of Duty has never felt or looked better and the new actors did a stellar job, Modern Warfare 2 brings a largely forgettable but serviceable plot.
Call of Duty never felt or looked better
The gameplay is, of course, a major strong point of Modern Warfare 2’s campaign. Infinity Ward have understood what worked best in the original — tactically moving through buildings, night-vision sections, and action-packed set-pieces — and used them to allow each mission to feel unique.
It’ll be no surprise to hear that like multiplayer, Infinity Ward have done a stellar job with the game’s visuals, weapon feel, and audio, where it feels even more immersive than Modern Warfare 2019.
You’ll also find that the game is significantly more difficult than previous entries because of the AI. The enemies aren’t just mindless stormtroopers anymore, they can be quite deadly. They’ll flank you, hide in awkward spots to catch you unaware, and give you almost no time to react when pre-aiming a corner. But, the armored enemies were incredibly annoying.
Short and forgettable plot serves its purpose
While Modern Warfare 2019 put players in painfully realistic scenarios, forcing them to make tough decisions where civilian lives were on the line, Modern Warfare 2 goes in another direction. While there are still more than a few uncomfortable moments, such as chasing a target through people’s homes and threatening them with guns, for better or worse, the focus is more on action-packed fun than the grim reality of war.
The roughly six-hour campaign’s plot is rather formulaic but serves its purpose well. It allows Task Force 141 to operate around the world, bringing a different atmosphere to each mission, and includes a few twists and surprises along the way.
Mexico shines while the rest falls flat
It’s the Mexico-based missions with Alejandro, Ghost, Soap, and Graves that allows Modern Warfare 2’s campaign to shine. Although it does get a bit silly in places, where Mexican Special Forces members are taking out hordes of cartel-payrolled Mexican Army soldiers with seemingly no repercussions, the plot remains tight and the emotional beats strong.
While it’s great to reunite with Price and Gaz on the other side of the globe, who now have a much more relaxed and brotherly relationship, these missions don’t quite live up to the Mexico storyline.
They end up being quite run-of-the-mill, and even the take on the fan-favorite All Ghillied Up mission falls flat. The mission’s scale is impressive but the setting is relatively bland, and the tension just isn’t there in the same way, holding it back from reaching the heights of the 2007’s all-time classic
Characters & humor stand out
Returning actors such as Price’s Barry Sloane were as good as ever, but it was the newcomers that were the standout additions in Modern Warfare 2. Alain Mesa’s Alejandro became an instant favorite and Samuel Roukin brought new life to Ghost’s wannabe one-man army persona.
While quite different from Kevin McKidd’s grizzled Soap, Neil Ellice did a great job of introducing us to this more fresh-faced version, and his utter horror at some of the game’s more shocking moments was endearing.
Plus, it was great to hear Gaz’s Elliot Knight flex his comedy chops while dangling from a rope after falling out of a helicopter. Infinity Ward’s use of humor throughout was effective, and I’m glad to say they didn’t go Thor: Love and Thunder-levels of overboard.
The characters chatting to each other throughout the levels allowed the new actors to shine without cramming all of the dialogue into cutscenes. In one mission, Ghost is leading Soap through a hostile area over radio, and the two can’t help but bicker and poke fun at each other. Although, I’d hoped we were past tired exchanges such as Ghost’s “say that again in English” remarks whenever Soap uses a Scottish phrase.
Modern Warfare 2 verdict – 7.5/10
While I’ve been genuinely enjoying my time with Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer, it feels like an all-time great Call of Duty game that has been buried underneath a terrible UI, more unnecessary changes, missing features, bugs, and glitches.
With the weapons and animations feeling the best they ever have, the maps genuinely fun to play casually, and the weapon and camo grind not feeling like a chore, I’m enjoying a Call of Duty launch more than I have in years and hope that the much-needed polish arrives soon.
I’ve ragged on its unfinished feel and bugs and have to hope that after a few updates we’re going to have a great Call of Duty game in our hands. There’s plenty of content here, but I imagine the game will fully find its stride with the release of Season 1 and Warzone 2 on November 16.
Overall, Modern Warfare 2 brings an extremely fun campaign with stunning visuals, action-packed setpieces, and great character work with a largely forgettable plot. There won’t be any missions that stick in players’ minds like the original All Ghillied Up or 2019’s Clean House, but Task Force 141’s new faces should remain fan-favorite characters for years to come.
Reviewed on PC
Image Credit: Activision / Infinity Ward