If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the video game industry over the past decade, it’s that Call of Duty is inevitable. It’s as unavoidable as the sun setting every evening or the turning of the seasons. Because as far as I can see, this series will keep pumping out games year after year, and we will keep on underestimating how unbelievably popular it truly is. And our Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review was also inevitable.
Because that’s the thing, we really do misjudge what a monumental franchise this is. People patiently wait years for the next Call of Duty title, and they buy consoles and PCs by the hundreds of thousands specifically so that they can play them. There’s a reason Microsoft is trying so hard these days to be able to secure the rights to the IP with their looming acquisition of Activision, and it’s so that more people will purchase the current-gen Xbox.
But simply because this franchise is so big, that does not mean that it does not have its fair share of problems. So with this Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review, we will be going over exactly how well this particular entry fares.
Story And Setting
The current Modern Warfare titles are reboots of the original games that were released all the way back in 2007. Many consider those to be the absolute pinnacle of the series, and it was also during that time period when COD truly blew up and became the worldwide sensation that it is today. The subject of this review then, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, is the second entry in the rebooted series.
The plot follows beloved characters such as “Soap” MacTavish and Captain John Price among many other new and old members of the multinational Task Force 141, as they band together to stop yet another globe-spanning conflict. And you know what, the central premise is really really good, and it always has been. There’s just something really fun about seeing a bunch of people from different countries and special forces band together against a common foe. This is simply a winning formula in my mind.
The problem however is the fact that everyone knows that COD campaigns are basically American military propaganda at this point, and they are known to distort the truth heavily. For those who may not be aware, 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare put the blame for the ”Highway Of Death,’ a real-life war crime that was committed by the US military, on the Russians. There was also the whole ‘White Phosphorus’ controversy, which we don’t have time to get into here. This is what’s so sad about these recent entries; the developers have sworn that they are unpolitical games that do not take any sort of stance, and yet the content actually conveys the opposite message.
This time around the main enemy is no longer Russia, it’s Iran, and the game presents one of the most over-the-top caricatures of Iranians that I have ever seen. The message is also more or less the same as in the prequel, which is that as long as America and its allies are committing war crimes, the ends justify the means.
Hell, the very first mission in the game follows you assassinating an Iranian general named Ghorbrani via missile strike, something that the US actually did in 2020 in violation of international human rights laws. There are also a number of other absolutely disgusting instances of the game justifying the use of excessive violence against civilians and incapacitated combatants.
And the thing is, I don’t believe that these themes and subjects should not be depicted in media, that is not the point I am trying to make here. The issue is that Call of Duty constantly preaches to you about the dangers of war and the loss of human life that results from it, yet at the same time it is an unabashed celebration of everything it claims to be criticizing. It condemns the opposition, yet glorifies every murder and every war crime committed in the name of the good ol’ U.S. of A.
It’s hypocritical is what I’m saying, and it props up the lie of American exceptionalism. So many times during its runtime the game gets almost dangerously close to actually making a statement about subjects like the state of the modern world, the war on terror, or even the impacts of imperialism, but it stops short every time. It doesn’t have the guts to actually take a stance, and that’s what makes it so frustrating to play through.
But apart from that, I am willing to concede that the game does use the premise to great effect. After the killing of General Ghorbrani, his second-in-command takes up the fight in his name and uses the assassination as a way to consolidate power and rile up his forces. The plot also expands and begins to introduce new threats like an international drug cartel that is helping the Iranians transport ballistic missiles. This is enough of an excuse to take us across the globe to a number of really exciting locations, both real and fictional. And in these areas, we are thrown into extremely thrilling scenarios that are an absolute blast to play through. The game is constantly switching the gameplay up and it stays in a state of flux. From slow-paced infiltration missions to large-scale firefights, it has them all.
While playing through the campaign I was constantly surprised by how much effort was put into making even the most miniscule levels feel worthwhile. Seriously, there are multiple instances like the Amsterdam mission where the entire thing is maybe 6-7 minutes long and takes place on only two city streets, but the level of detail that is put into making the location feel real is simply unbelievable.
As far as the actual narrative is concerned, you may be aware that Task Force 141 was not fully formed yet in the last title. Now the whole crew is back together once again with some new members and allies like Colonel Alejandro Vargas of the Mexican Special Forces. He’s a great new addition to the squad, and I also really enjoyed seeing old characters like Ghost. Farah Karim from the last entry also makes a return, but her role is significantly smaller this time around.
Nostalgia is a very powerful tool, and I have no doubt that a lot of players will be tempted to buy this game to see these old faces once more. There’s also a minor dialogue mechanic where you can occasionally talk to your allies in the field for some banter or intel, which was a nice little addition.
The story itself is also what you would expect from the game, and it has its fair share of twists and turns. I can’t say that I was particularly surprised by anything, especially not when it decided to tread old ground. The main purpose of the narrative is to throw us into interesting settings, and it did that perfectly.
Over the past couple of entries, the series has shifted to a more realistic style of gameplay and has slowly started to emphasize less on the run-and-gun style of combat that it has always been known for. Instead, the focus is now on methodical gunplay and the use of proper tactics, as far as the actual campaign is concerned at least. And don’t get me wrong, the game is still plenty hectic with a ton of opportunities to show off your skills in the heat of battle, but it has also evolved a bit.
To start with, you are encouraged to take your time when engaging with enemies. Each regular weapon in the game can be mounted onto virtually any surface, and you can then use that as cover to partially shield yourself from damage. Enemy AI is also much smarter and stronger this time around, and they flank, rush, or generally attack you with much more efficiency. Combat is generally much more punishing as well and even on the most standard difficulty, you can go down in only a few shots if you’re not careful.
On harder difficulties, staying out of cover for more than a few seconds at a time is basically a death sentence, as even a grunt with a melee attack can down you quickly. So once again, you are encouraged to be tactical, and the missions are also designed with that philosophy in mind.
This entry also features some of the most realistic and immersive shooting we’ve seen so far. It’s absolutely phenomenal, and the game provides you with a vast selection of weapons that are each incredibly distinct with their own unique sound effects and feel. Kills and structural damage with them also feel much more realistic, as bullets tear through wood and leave blood splatters. The enemy animations are actually so realistic that I sometimes felt bad killing them.
In terms of variety, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II never lets a scenario outstay its welcome. From a slow methodical stealth level where you are encouraged to avoid enemy patrols using the heartbeat monitor and use silenced weapons, to a loud bombastic one where you provide covering fire from an aerial gunship using a variety of distinct ammunition, there is a lot to see and do here. And the production values are honestly out of this world. The missions keep ramping up again and again, and they always manage to be as fantastic as you would expect.
But again, there is nothing here that will blow your expectations out of the water or truly surprise you. It’s simply a really solid campaign with a bunch of really cool missions, and my problems with it lie with the narrative more than the actual structure. My only real complaint is with the checkpoints, which can be wildly inconsistent. Sometimes they reset you directly in front of a building where you were killed previously, while other times you have to walk across entire compounds or even go through extended sequences again.
Multiplayer is also more or less what you would expect from a COD title. It’s basically the same layout established by the 2019 prequel, but with some minor improvements bought along with the new engine and the new gameplay mechanics.
Players can choose between a number of different classic game modes like Team Deathmatch or Kill Confirmed that take place on smaller contained maps, along with the more bombastic modes like Ground War which are basically large-scale battles that take place on bigger maps and include vehicles. Nothing of note has been added here that might be worth mentioning, and the fact that these work well with the current formulae is something that we all expected to see. You jump into modes, get a bunch of kills, complete objectives, and are rewarded with experience as a result.
The more you use a particular weapon type, the more attachments for it are unlocked over time, allowing you to customize them to your liking. Barrels, sights, grips, you know what to expect here, but the one notable new addition are the receivers. Weapons in multiplayer are now known as platforms, and you can switch out their receivers to drastically change the way they function. So you can potentially take out the receiver of a regular assault rifle and switch it out with the parts of a DMR, changing its entire class. There are small trees dedicated to the various different paths you can take a weapon, which was really nice to see.
In terms of maps, I suppose the selection so far is okay. There are a bunch of really decent options that offer up a lot of branching pathways and open spaces, but I didn’t really find one that really stuck out to me. Believe it or not, there is no instant classic here like Nuketown, and we’re all just going to have to accept that. The real issue worth pointing out is that there is one particular map known as the Santa Sena Border Crossing, which has some absolutely baffling spawns. The three times I got to play in it, I noticed a trend of being spawned right in the line of sight of other players, and death came swiftly as a result.
Visuals And Performance
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is without a doubt one of the prettiest games I have played in 2022, and the year had some absolutely gorgeous releases. This level of graphical fidelity on display here is a sight to behold, and the amount of work that has been put into every aspect of its design is honestly astounding. From bullet holes to explosions to landscapes, the developers have gone all out.
Earlier in this article, I briefly mentioned the Amsterdam section and how detailed it was, so now let’s discuss it in a bit more depth. From the boats to the neon shop signs, everything has been rendered with so much detail that you could honestly convince someone that they were looking at a real video instead of a video game and that’s not an exaggeration. The entire mission takes place over the course of 6-7 minutes, and the only locations you visit are two city streets and one small bridge over a canal. And yet this tiny little chunk of the game is without a doubt one of the most visually stunning levels I have ever seen. And this extends to every mission in the entire game.
On top of this, the handful of times that you actually get to see the faces of your characters you’ll be able to tell that this is some of the best motion capture and facial animations that you have seen in a long time. Each character feels lifelike, and that is in no small part due to how detailed each and every aspect of their creation is, from the way the hair looks to their subtle facial features and even the way they talk and gesture.
As far as performance is concerned, we tested the game on PC with an RTX 3080 and managed to maintain a stable 1440p at 60 FPS. The card can also do 4K, but we started to notice some slight framerate dips at that resolution, so we left it at 1440p. To maintain a smooth performance during multiplayer matches, we kept this resolution and the settings were mostly set to high, and we faced little to no issues with stuttering or lag
We also tested the game on the Xbox Series X and S. On the Series X, the game offers 4K and 60FPS as a baseline, but only with temporal upscaling turned on, during which the game downloads high-quality textures in real-time as you play. There’s also a 1440p and 120FPS mode, which is for those who truly value framerates over visuals, even though the game still looks fantastic at this resolution.
The Series S on the other offers 1440p at 60FPS that manages to maintain the framerate consistently for the most part. There is also an additional performance mode that limits the resolution to 1080p, but the framerate is much more stable and even manages to go higher than this.
All in all, this is a fantastic looking game that is optimized beautifully on both the PC and Xbox platforms. We also saw little to no bugs or crashes during our time with the title. I’m actually kind of sad that such incredible visuals and graphics are wasted on a Call of Duty title, instead of on something more creative like Titanfall.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is basically more of what fans were expecting from this series, and that’s exactly what it delivered. It is a well designed and tactical first person shooter, with tremendous production quality that few in the industry can match.
I have a lot of problems with the narrative that it presents, especially the themes it chooses to tackle. I wish that the series had the guts to take a stance on the very complicated issue of war, without constantly glorifying it and failing to offer any meaningful criticism, but I know that that’s not happening anytime soon. So I’ll settle with what we do have. This is a great shooter with some fantastic gameplay, and longtime fans are going to have a blast with it.
This has been our Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review. While you’re here, consider checking out some of our other articles.
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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review
- Story And Setting
- Visuals And Performance
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is basically more of what fans were expecting from this series, and that’s exactly what it delivered.
- Phenomenal Visuals.
- Great Combat.
- Mission Variety.
- Flawless Performance.
- Solid Multiplayer.
- Story Is Predictable.
- Basically Military Propaganda.
- Spawn Issues.