Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II comes to us this year under an unprecedented cloud of uncertainty. Publisher Activision is locked in custody battle between Sony and Microsoft, and the Call of Duty franchise is the one child that the battle is centered around. Who knew a game about war would be so…combative? But once you get away from the dark cloud over the franchise’s future, the game itself is a strong entry in the franchise, building upon the updated themes and gameplay that were introduced in 2019 when the Modern Warfare subfranchise was refreshed for a new generation. Captain John Price and his Task Force 141, which was created at the end of the campaign in 2019, are now at war with not only Middle Eastern forces, but adversaries much closer to home.
The campaign for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II takes some fun twists and turns in the 10 hour adventure. It begins with the assassination of a high value target by long-rang missile attack — recalling the real life 2020 assassination of Quds Forces General Qasem Soleimani — and that kicks off a series of revenge tactics by Iran (actually named) that involves the fictional terrorist group Al Qatala and Mexican cartels, as Price and his team of operatives — including Ghost, Soap, Gaz, Farah, Kate Laswell, and some new faces — race to capture another dangerous HVT and stop what could be a retaliatory missile attack on US soil.
The campaign has the usual mix of varied levels of bombastic actions, quiet stealth, ghillie suits, C-130 aerial assaults, and more. In one chapter — during a tense road side chase to rescue a hostage — the player is even hung upside down from a helicopter armed only with a sidearm. There’s even an insane prison break that mixes a little bit of everything to pull off. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II’s campaign does exactly what it is supposed to do: get the player ready to take their skills into the ever-growing world of multiplayer.
At launch the multiplayer mode was a little bare, with only a few modes, meaning no battle pass, no zombies (thank god), and no Warzone mode. All of that changes this week — November 16, to be exact — but what was available at launch was more than enough to satisfy COD fans. The maps are pure chaos, which is to be expected of developer Infinity Ward. There are big maps, small maps, medium sized maps, and plenty of avenues in each to drive players into the action.
The biggest addition to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II comes in the form of new game modes, like Ground War and Invasion, two gigantic, massive multiplayer modes that pits up to 32 v 32 (Invasion is 20 v 20 with AI bots bringing the number even higher and Ground War is 32 v 32 with multiple objectives to be captured). These are amazing game modes that test a player’s skills to play their roles. Are you an Assault player, who runs ‘n guns, or a Hunter, who sits back and scopes out the enemy for your teammates while using sniper rifles to pick players off from a distance? Either way, there’s much to enjoy in these game modes. There are even vehicles, creating a chaotically fun time, match after match.
Standard MP in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II also has some new game modes, like Prisoner Rescue and Knock Out. This is in addition to COD mainstays like Control, Domination, and Team Deathmatch. And there’s even a third-person mode which admittedly is a little jarring at first but quickly becomes a fun experience. Sadly, Hardcode mode was also missing at launch and will be coming soon.
The last new mode is a revamped co-op Spec Ops experience that brings together two players in three defined story chapters that expand upon the events introduced in the campaign. The co-op game modes are equally varied, with a stealth mission, a full-on assault, and a “king of the mountain” defense type game, with more coming soon. Working with your partner is the key to winning these modes, and it took a few tries to find a partner worthy enough to carry my worthless butt, but we eventually pulled off each mission.
The new features available in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II at launch don’t end with new and tweaked game modes. The perk system has been revamped, as has the weapons loadouts — and even the weapons themselves! New for this game is a form of weapon building never seen before in a COD game. It gives players a staggering amount of customizations for their favorite weapons. Leveling out a weapon opens up the ability to create platforms using that maxed weapon as a base. Players can then swap out certain features, turning the M4 into other assault rifles, like an M16 and more. Now, you can’t cross weapon types, sadly, as crossing a shotgun with a sniper rifle would be devastating, but then again, the is an Infinity Ward developed COD game, so already shotguns have stupid ridiculous range, so maybe that’s not even necessary.
It’s clearly evident that Infinity Ward is looking to switch up the standard COD experience with some of these new additions, and that should be applauded. When I first booted up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, my wife groaned, asking why I keep playing the same game year after year. I told her that she will never understand the finite intricacies and changes made each year that create new experiences. Also, I just like squading up with my friends — and making new ones — as we play match after match, cracking jokes, calling out enemy locations, and generally just having a great time. Because, again, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is a game, and we play games to have fun. And I’ve been having a blast.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II also looks and sounds fantastic. I play on a PS5 with the Sony 3D Pulse headset and am constantly in awe of how gorgeous this game is — on any map. Perhaps my favorite is the Crown Raceway, a Formula One track that has players running in and out of paddock lounges and into garages all while a race is going on all around us. The action takes place at night and the bright lights and neon features create a unique experience to shoot a lot of people in short periods. Another map is centered around a hydroelectric plant and water and swimming plays a role in each skirmish. The water effects and ambient lighting are incredible as the developers are really starting to push the graphical fidelity to its limits.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is not a superstar game experience out of the gates, and that is reportedly by design. The staggering of features and game modes is meant to prolong the COD experience, as this game might be the first to run on a two-year cycle, meaning no new game in the fall of 2023. This will also help Activision clear up the ominous cloud that engulfs it right now with its proposed sale to Microsoft. Either way, a slower roll out of features, modes, and the highly anticipated Warzone 2.0 means players will stay around longer, prolonging the fun and ensuring that the future of the franchise remains strong, no matter who owns Activision when the dust clears.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II does a great many things right, and promises so much more in the comings days, weeks, months, and even years. I’m excited to check out the newly revamped battle pass system that lets players choose what to unlock as they level up, and of course the new battle royal, Warzone 2.0. In the meantime, I’ve just started messing around with my weapons, tinkering with assault rifles to create new tools of destruction, and working on unlocking more, more, more! There’s no rush this time, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is a game that I will be playing for the next two years, and I’m okay with that. At worst, my wife can’t complain next fall, and at best, by the time the next game rolls out, I will have mastered all there is in Modern Warfare II and will start looking ahead to the inevitable MWIII.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is available now for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. This review is based on the Playstation 5 version and a code provided by Activision.
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