Despite playing Call of Duty religiously as a teenager, over the last few years, I’ve fallen out of love with the series. After the announcement of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II I pledged to get back into the series, largely due to nostalgia of the original Modern Warfare 2 that released back in 2009, and despite some questionable omissions in the game prior to its recent Season 1 update, I’m happy to be back.
Akin to the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot of 2019, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II comprises three different modes: Campaign, Multiplayer, and Special Ops. Warzone 2.0 has just dropped, but seeing as that is a separate entity all together, I’m focusing on the content under the Modern Warfare II umbrella specifically.
The first mode I dived into was the Campaign, where Task 141 favourites Captain Price and John “Soap” MacTavish return for the continuation of the rebooted Modern Warfare storyline.
The ball gets rolling quickly, as Task 141 is witnessing an arms deal taking place between Russian and Iranian forces. This trade is quickly brought to a close however when Lieutenant Simon “Ghost” Riley orders a ballistic missile strike, which kills all involved in the deal, including the Iranian General Ghorbrani, which in turn causes a lot of Iranian animosity towards the West for their actions.
Ghorbrani’s second in command, Hassan Zyani, assumes the role left behind the fallen General, and wants revenge as a result of the West’s actions. He’s a powerful figure and not one to be messed with, being backed not only by a terrorist organisation known as Al-Qatala, but also by the Las Almas Cartel in Mexico, where a large part of the campaign takes place.
In order to track down and apprehend Hassan, Task Force 141 gets assistance from various different branches, including private military group Shadow Company, Kate Laswell at the CIA, and most prominently, the Mexican Special Forces, with Colonel Alejandro Vargas and Sergeant Major Rodolfo “Rudy” Parra featuring throughout the campaign. The mission to capture Hassan will lead Task Force 141 and allies on globe-trotting journeys across various locations .
In terms of storytelling, it’s some of the best I’ve seen in a Call of Duty story for quite some time. There’s also its fair share of twists and turns, with an epic post credits scene that teases something major. I also grew to love new characters to the franchise such as Alejandro Vargas (who deserves the main role in his own campaign), while characters such as Ghost, Soap and Captain Price are as likeable as they were back in the original Modern Warfare 2 in 2009.
Gameplay wise, it’s the largely linear first person shooter campaign that you’ve seen from Call of Duty in the past, however there are some varied mission types that are welcome and spice things up a bit. One such mission sees you injured and without a gun while various enemy soldiers close in on your position. In order to succeed you must stealthily sneak around the level, collecting items which can be used to craft weapons and tools.
In a moment of the story where Task 141 are at their most vulnerable, the game succeeds in making you feel this vulnerability, taking your guns away and putting you on the back foot, and I love missions that try to shake up the campaign formula that hasn’t evolved for a really long time. In saying that though, the more traditional shooting levels are still a great time also.
In terms of time, the campaign will likely take anywhere from five to seven hours to see it to its conclusion. A roughly five hour campaign may sound short to some, but I felt it to be a pretty good length, as it avoids getting to the point where it feels a bit long in the tooth.
The story doesn’t initially set the world on fire and does take a while to ramp up and get intriguing, yet when it does, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II manages to provide one of the most enjoyable campaigns of recent memory. Its cast of characters are well performed and are heightened by frighteningly realistic facial animations, and it provides the regular sort of linear firefights one would expect from a Call of Duty campaign, while also managing to sprinkle in more creative mission types.
The Special Ops mode serves up co-op missions that occur after the events of the campaign, seeing yourself and a buddy (or random online ally) completing missions together. At launch there were three missions available, and another was just added in the Season 1 Update. Mission length largely hinges on how successful your duo is at completing the objective, with mission aims varied across each operation.
Low Profile for example sees you and your partner tasked with infiltrating a town in the dead of night in search of three radioactive objects that must be secured and exfiltrated out of the mission area. You’re given silenced weapons and are encouraged to take the stealthy approach, but you’re free to carry out the mission as you see fit.
Desperate to take the slow and steady approach, I stuck close to my teammate as we methodically located each radioactive item, however in some runs I was more than happy to go in guns blazing purely to see if I could do so and make it out alive. They’re really enjoyable cooperative missions that are definitely best played alongside a friend in voice chat, as communication is the key to success.
Mission completion, regardless of time, will award you with a single star rating at minimum, while completing particular mission objectives can lead to a maximum three star ranking. Although these missions only take often 10-20 minutes to complete, getting a three star ranking may require multiple playthroughs to attain.
Even after achieving three stars in each mission, the incentive to run through these missions remains, as additional rewards can be unlocked by accruing a particular amount of stars, such as weapon charms and calling cards that can be used in multiplayer.
Spec Ops as to be expected, is the lightest content offering of the three modes at face value, however their replayable nature and enjoyable sense of challenge make them a fun side mode to partake in whenever the Campaign or Multiplayer aren’t satisfying you.
The multiplayer of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II may have taken me a little while to get accustomed to than I would’ve liked having been out of the franchise for as long as I had, but there’s no doubting that the multiplayer suite of content remains worthwhile.
Classics like Team Deathmatch, Domination and Search and Destroy are present as they have been and always likely will be, however there are also some new modes to try as well in the classic 6v6 format.
Prisoner Rescue is one such example, pitting a team of hostage rescuers against a team that must attempt to defend them from being captured. It’s a round-based mode similar to Search and Destroy where there are no respawns, but what shakes things up is the fact that teammates can be revived, which in turn leads to fascinating firefights where a dire looking 1v2 can very quickly change to a more confident 4v2 for example.
It’s a novel idea for a mode, and despite my initial thoughts that the mode may quickly be abandoned, the players still seem to be sticking around.
If it wasn’t for me being thorough for the sake of providing an adequate and well rounded review, the third person mode would likely have been a mode I’d never have bothered to touch. Thankfully for myself, I did dive into the third person mode, and found an experience that is arguably the greatest hidden gem hiding with Modern Warfare II.
What I found most impressive is how well the gameplay managed with the jump for the first person perspective to the third, and as someone far more proficient at third person shooters, I found myself dominating and having a lot of fun within the third person playlist of modes.
For those more interested in larger scale warfare, Ground War exists to provide a more expansive Battefield-esque experience with 32v32 matches complete with vehicles and even more chaos. As someone very much into Call of Duty for its smaller maps, I didn’t spend a great deal of time here, but what I did play was solid.
Despite there being plenty of good stuff to gnaw into, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II’s multiplayer at launch did have some glaring omissions. From no Hardcore modes (low health, friendly fire on etc), to the lack of stats such as your Kill/Death and Win/Loss ratios, it was all a little too barebones and had the game feeling unfinished in areas as a result.
Thankfully, the aforementioned Season 1 update that was released alongside Warzone 2.0 has added the much needed content into the game.
On the gameplay front, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, as one would expect, plays like a boots-on-the-ground FPS. The series has always been one that controls well and it’s much the same again here in Modern Warfare II.
Older movement mechanics such as the slide and dolphin dive have returned, but the biggest addition however is the ledge hang, which allows users with pistols equipped to use them while doing things such as scaling a ladder or holding onto a ledge. While it isn’t a feature I executed too often given the lack of a pistol in my loadout, it’s definitely a welcome addition, and makes the process of climbing a ladder in multiplayer just a smidge safer.
Time to kill in multiplayer does feel particularly quick, to the point where I almost feel it to be too fast, however once you get a handle on it, it isn’t too bad.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II maintains a decent sense of progression and does a good job of making you feel rewarded after completing matches – leveling up not just yourself, but your weapons and equipment too.
Maps are largely good, however there are a few stinkers, with the worst offender by far being the Highway map that is essentially a one lane nightmare where sightlines are obstructed with countless vehicles.
It’s gimmicky and often results in frustrating matches where cars around you are just as dangerous as the opposing team. 10 maps at launch also simply isn’t enough, especially when there’s a clear lack of diversity amongst them.
Season One did introduce a new core map called Shoot House, and the COD4 classic map Shipment will arrive later in the season to pad the core map amount to a dozen, but even so, when you consider that the original Modern Warfare 2 launched in 2009 with 16 maps on the disc, it’s just not good enough.
To Modern Warfare II’s credit, it does also have six maps for its 32v32 Ground War game mode, but at the end of the day it’d be nice to see more map variety in the core 6v6 multiplayer, where the vast majority of the player base is playing.
In short, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II has plenty to offer throughout its variety of different modes, and while I wish there were more 6v6 maps and the time to kill was slightly less, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been hooked on the multiplayer since it launched weeks ago.
Overall, it’s a great game, however it took some updates to get it there, as the initial lack of hardcore modes and basic additions such as a visible combat record and career kill-death ratio at launch had its multiplayer component feeling more barebones than it arguably should’ve been.
The campaign, on the other hand, while short to get going, offers up one of the more memorable campaigns of recent memory, and despite Spec Ops mode being a third wheel, it’s still a blast.
Whether you’re a Call of Duty native, new to the franchise, or perhaps somewhere in between, I recommend giving it a crack.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron