Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for PC Review

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Call of Duty 4 took the series in a new direction and exploded in popularity. With an intense and exciting campaign and fun and addictive multiplayer, it was simply a beast of a game. It was followed by Call of Duty: World at War which takes players back to World War II and conveys a darker tone than the previous entries. That, along with the focus on the Pacific theater and increased violence and gore made it kind of refreshing. These two games also mark the start of the franchise breaking into multiple subseries, Modern Warfare which is primarily handled by Infinity Ward and Black Ops which is primarily handled by Treyarch. As of this review, a new Call of Duty game has been released every year since the release of Call of Duty 2 and for a while there, it would alternate between Modern Warfare and Black Ops, and after World at War comes Modern Warfare 2.

Developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in November, 2009. The campaign was remastered and released as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2020. For this review, I played both the original game and the Campaign Remastered version.

Set after the events of Call of Duty 4, the Ultranationalists have seized control of Russia and Vladimir Makarov, an extremist, is on a campaign of vengeance against the West and Russian forces invade the United States. Players are once again put in the shoes of multiple soldiers, most of which are part of a multinational special forces outfit called “Task Force 141” and their main objective is to apprehend or eliminate Makarov. Most of the voice performances are on par with that of the previous games and the game does feature some notable talent including Lance Henriksen, Keith David, and Barry Pepper among some others.

I think Modern Warfare 2 contains one of the more interesting storylines in the series up to this point. It’s not the greatest plot in all of video games but I actually got somewhat invested into the narrative thanks primarily to some of the twists and turns and I even cared about some of the characters other than Captain Price. But in the end, I think what really drew me in was the more over-the-top nature of the storyline compared to that of the previous games. It retains the cinematic style the series is known for but feels more like a crazy military-focused action movie than just a straightforward plot centering on a bunch of soldiers spouting military jargon as they hunt down terrorists.

The plot actually takes you down some pretty dark roads. Modern Warfare 2 includes a controversial mission called “No Russian”. Players are put in the shoes of a soldier working undercover in the terrorist organization and the mission has you participating in the massacre of civilians and officers at an airport. The controversy obviously stems from the fact you’re participating in an act of terrorism. Interestingly enough, you’re not required to shoot anyone. Your objective is to simply follow Makarov. Due to the nature of the mission, you are given the option to skip it.

Personally, I don’t have any problem with the mission and I do think it works as a narrative device to show how heinous the terrorists are. But I also think it’s interesting that it wasn’t designed as a cut scene or conveyed through dialogue like some of the other story beats. The player is given the option to participate in the act and not just watch it or hear about it. This is one of those situations where context is important. It is made clear that the soldier is undercover and the game technically never instructs the player to kill anyone so any kind of participation is all up to them. However, they also can’t do anything to stop what happens.

It’s a mission that should actually make you think and I’m not talking about in terms of gameplay. Even if you were to ignore the storyline, it’s very obvious that what happens during this mission is horrendous. The game makes that very clear so unless you’re blind, it’s not hard to see that what’s going on here is much darker and different than the typical Call of Duty stuff.

Honestly, I really loved this campaign. In fact, I think Modern Warfare 2 is my favorite single player Call of Duty experience up to this point. Funnily enough, I did play through this once before on Xbox 360 around the time it came out and remember very little about it which surprised me because I was having a blast. That said, most of the gameplay is typical Call of Duty. A guided linear action-packed experience. But what really captivated me wasn’t so much the plot or any additions or refinements to the gameplay but the situations and scenarios.

Modern Warfare 2 is another short campaign but feels more action-packed and exciting than that of Call of Duty 4. The way I look at it, Modern Warfare 2 takes what was great about the single player experience in that game and just amps it up. I think the pacing is better, there’s not as much downtime, the environments are more diverse and interesting, and the set pieces are more exciting.

I think the invasion of the United States plot element makes for a great setup for some really cool situations and it seems like the developers understood that. There are two excellent missions set in Virginia during the invasion. The first has you following an NPC through a suburban neighborhood and he eventually leads you to a more open-ended area where you’ll have to move between various restaurants, completing different objectives and eliminating enemy ground forces and armor. The whole area is a war zone. It’s very cool.

The other mission has you moving through a neighborhood, using a laser designator to mark targets for a Stryker vehicle to attack. I really enjoyed this mission because I’m a sucker for the invasion concept and the conflict being fought in suburban America. A war being fought in your own backyard, literally speaking. You’re encouraged to stay off the streets which means you’ll have to use houses as cover so you’re just running through this neighborhood destroying homes, blowing up vehicles, and leaving a trail of dead bodies, all while the country continues to be invaded and attacked around you. The way these missions are presented is very well done and atmospheric. I was quite impressed.

For the most part, the action is basically unchanged from that of Call of Duty 4. But this campaign puts more focus on bigger encounters which is something I wanted to see more of in Call of Duty 4. More encounters set in open-ended areas. Modern Warfare 2 typically gives you plenty of ways to engage foes. You’ll get to run through streets and alleyways, through various buildings, and you’ll get to navigate around vertical spaces, trying different vantage points and positions. You and the action are still contained in typical Call of Duty fashion but despite the linearity, many areas feature multiple paths and routes to navigate. There’s usually always plenty of room to maneuver.

The action in Modern Warfare 2 is fast-paced and can be very intense. You’ll always want to be aware of your surroundings and be sure to check around corners before rushing in. Oddly enough, you cannot lean which is a bummer and might just be my biggest gripe with the game. Most of the time you’re accompanied by friendlies so you’ll rarely have to do anything alone and the game will take you to various locations around the globe. You’ll eliminate bad guys around a Favela in Rio de Jeneiro, engage invading terrorists in Virginia, shoot your way through Caves in Afghanistan, infiltrate the Gulag in Russia to rescue a prisoner, and even eliminate enemy forces in the West Wing in Washington D.C.

Modern Warfare 2 continues the series trend of flashy run and gun action broken up by set pieces. You’ll get your hands on plenty of modern weapons, some of which can be dual wielded, and you’ll get to use equipment like night vision goggles, riot shields, heartbeat sensors, and thermal optics which will let you see enemies through heavy smoke. The gunplay still feels great thanks to good audiovisual feedback from weapons and bullets will rip through parts of the environments, often resulting in debris and small objects flying up into the air. I do kind of wish the gore effects from World at War were carried over but the blood puffs and animations still do get the job done and pools of blood will form under dead bodies.

As for the set pieces, the game is full of them and most of them are fun and exciting. You’ll sneak into a base under the cover of a snow storm. You’ll get to ride a snowmobile and pilot a boat while being pursued and attacked by enemies. Some missions let you utilize Predator drones to eliminate enemy ground forces and armor. You’ll get to snipe enemies from a helicopter, ride in a Humvee and use its turret to defend a convoy, and even breach rooms in slow-mo in an effort to rescue hostages.

When it comes to the Campaign Remastered version, that’s all you get. A remastered campaign. It does not come with the Special Ops or Multiplayer modes. I don’t know the history of this remaster and why the decision to remaster only the campaign was made but it does seem odd considering the franchise’s big multiplayer community. However, it does come with modifiers or cheats that can change up the gameplay among other things on subsequent playthroughs. They are unlocked by finding Intel in the environments.

As of this review, the multiplayer is still active. In my experience, most people were playing Free for All, Team Deathmatch and the Domination game types. The multiplayer is structured similar to that of the previous two games. Rankings, perks, challenges, killstreak rewards and all. But there is some new stuff including new game types, you can be rewarded with accolades, you can unlock pro perks which offer additional benefits, and you can now choose a Death Streak perk. Yes, you can be rewarded for dying repeatedly without killing anyone.

As expected, most of the players I encountered online were at the highest ranks. After reaching level 70, you can earn Prestige ranks for additional bonuses. The reward system still proves to be fun and addictive and the matches I played were typically fast-paced and intense. Win or lose, I was always earning experience and rewards.

Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t come with an Arcade mode or Zombies but it does come with a Special Ops mode that can be played solo or with another person. The mode features numerous Ops or missions if you want to call them that. Each Op requires you to complete a different objective like surviving waves of enemies, reaching the extraction point, hunting down terrorists, sneaking passed enemy patrols, and other things along those lines. You will receive a star ranking depending on your performance, difficulty chosen, and/or time and the more stars you earn, the more Ops you unlock.

Some of the Ops ain’t no joke, even on the Regular and Hardened difficulties. Most of them only require you to complete one or two objectives or simply survive, so they usually don’t last long but they will test your skills and throw different challenges at you. You’ll have to fend off enemy infantry, aircraft and armor, or try to complete your objective as quickly as possible and think on your feet and change up your strategy and tactics depending on the threats you’re up against.

Much like Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2 was a great looking game for its time and the Remastered Campaign does look noticeably better. Nevertheless, the original still doesn’t look too bad. The textures, character and weapon models, animations, and visual effects all look good and the action is backed by a glorious soundtrack. I love the more dramatic-sounding tunes that play during the missions set on American soil during the invasion like when you’re following the NPC in Virginia or approaching the enemy occupied building in Washington D.C. On the technical side, both versions ran smooth for me. I got stuck in the environment during a Special Ops mission in the original game. In the Campaign Remastered version, my progress was halted at one point due to constant crashing. Whenever I attempted to continue where I left off or even reload the mission, the game would crash. Only after reinstalling the game was I able to continue. For what it’s worth, I did a little research and this is not uncommon.

I had a fantastic time with Modern Warfare 2 and when I think about it, at the time this came out, the franchise was on a roll. Each game in the series offers fun action-packed gameplay and that includes what I consider the weaker entries, Finest Hour and Call of Duty 3. They may not be the best but they can still prove to be fun. Call of Duty 4 is excellent and was refreshing for its time and was followed up by World at War which I think is one the best World War II entries in the series up to this point and then comes Modern Warfare 2 which might just be my favorite entry so far. A cinematic-styled action-packed campaign that takes you to different locations around the globe complete with exciting set pieces. The pacing is great, the gunplay is great, the plot makes for some cool scenarios, the environments are diverse, and despite the level design being linear and keeping you contained, it’s open just enough to let you explore and try different approaches.

I was having a blast running through the environments, taking different routes, picking off baddies, and exploring for Intel. I also think the Special Ops mode is a wonderful addition. It adds a good amount of replay value and can even be enjoyed with a friend. Then there’s the multiplayer which is fun and addictive. The campaign, Special Ops, and multiplayer all make for an extremely enjoyable package. It is a shame the Remastered Campaign is just that. The campaign only. The audiovisual improvements are excellent and I do like the addition of modifiers or cheats. In the end, you’ll have to ask yourself if a better looking campaign is worth the money. If you ask me, the original game’s presentation holds up rather well. It should be noted that if you do buy Campaign Remastered you’ll unlock stuff for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone.

I would absolutely recommend Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Personally, I think it’s one of the best games in the series. It delivers on everything you would expect from a Call of Duty game and does so superbly. The Campaign Remastered version may appeal to those who only care about the campaign or want to experience a better-looking version of it. But it’s hard to recommend because the original game doesn’t really look that bad and more importantly, comes with more content. I’d say check it out if you can get it on sale. Ultimately, the original Modern Warfare 2 is a phenomenal package and gives you plenty of bang for your buck. Literally and metaphorically. Definitely check it out.

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