STAFF REVIEW of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (Xbox One)

Tuesday, October 25, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Box art Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II officially launches October 28th, not to be confused with others in the series though. A direct sequel to Modern Warfare (2019) but not a remaster or remake of Modern Warfare 2 (2009) either. This 19th main installment of the series may have a confusing title and timeline of where it fits in, but once I got into the campaign, I couldn’t put it down. If you’ve already preordered you have early access to the Campaign, but the multiplayer doesn’t actually release until October 28th. Needless to say, this review is solely based on the campaign early access.

If you’ve played a Call of Duty campaign before, you pretty much know what to expect; a massive world-threatening plot that only a specialized group of Operators can prevent from happening. I admit I went into the Modern Warfare II campaign lukewarm not expecting very much, as the last few campaigns did little to excite me or lost my interest when it jumped the shark a bit too far in space. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the campaign so much, because my expectations were zero, but wow, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II starts off pedal-to-the-metal and rarely lets off until the credits roll. Returning iconic Operators of Task Force 141 will make any Call of Duty fan’s ears perk up. Do hearing the names Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish, Sergeant Kyle “Gaz” Garrick, Lieutenant Simon “Ghost” Riley and Captain John Price excite you as a Call of Duty fan? They should, they are the most iconic and fan favorite characters of the series and all come together as Task Force 141 in a campaign that far exceeded anything that I hoped for.

In older Call of Duty campaigns, Price and Gaz got their time to shine, and while this isn’t the first time we’ve seen or played as Soap or Ghost, they are certainly the main event for the most part. Alongside them is a newcomer to the main protagonists, Colonel Alejandro Vargas, leader of the Mexican Special Forces. He’s such a breath of fresh air, not that the previous characters couldn’t hold their weight or that I was tired of them, but he fit in his own unique way within the team.

If you’re truly a Call of Duty buff and up on all the storylines, characters and lore, then the names Farah Karim, Kate Laswell, General Shepherd and Commander Phillip Graves (CEO of Shadow Company) should excite you as well. I’m not going to delve too much into the story, as it actually is quite an entertaining ride from start to finish, but the overall plot is that it seems American missiles have been stolen and it’s up to Task Force 141 to prevent a global disaster from happening at the hands of a terrorist.

I know, it’s a story that’s been told many times before in basically every Call of Duty, but there were just enough plot twists, unexpected events and character growth that I was interested until the credits rolled. Clocking in at around 6-8 hours or so (depending on your skill and difficulty level chosen), it was the perfect length and never overstayed its welcome. It’s easy to artificially lengthen a game by having the bad guy get away at the last second a few times before they have to chase him down again, but that wasn’t the case here. For those that want a real challenge, there's even a 'Realism' difficulty that is unlocked only after beating the whole campaign on Veteran, no easy task, and amps up the challenge to being killed in a single shot.

Taking place at various locations around the globe, you’ll have 17 missions to complete, each varying and unique from the others, not only in locale and backdrop, but even the mission structure or major setpiece that follows. You’ll be swapping perspectives and characters on each mission, adding unique perspectives and having the narrative flow. Every mission had a true reason as to your objective, not just simply shooting everything that moves because, and even though there were a few reveals you could see coming a mile away, it didn’t deter from how much I was enjoying myself with Price, Gaz, Ghost and Soap once again. At times it takes itself a little too seriously, at others it goes completely over the top, but if you just strap in for a great weekend of Call of Duty campaign, you shouldn’t be disappointed even if it can feel a little familiar at times.

The campaign starts out with the gas fully floored, having you identifying a target from afar, then controlling a missile to take them out once identified and verified. After this you’ll be infiltrating a base during the cover of dark. With your night vision goggles you’ll need to look for your target, and of course things don’t ever come easy to Task Force 141. If you get vibes of older Call of Duty missions throughout, it’s not just you, developers clearly took inspiration from some of the most iconic missions of previous campaigns and crafted something similar. Not a bad thing at all when almost every mission is varied and memorable in its own unique way.

Seldom slowing down until the credits roll, each mission has you as a different member of the iconic and deadly team, giving you default weapons, gear and equipment that are best suited for the mission at hand. Start out with a scoped SMG and a silenced pistol? You’re probably going to be doing some close quarter combat. Start out with a massive sniper gun? You can guess what type of level you’re going to play through. I’m not going to go through all of Modern Warfare II’s campaign mission, but I wanted to stress how varied the gameplay really can be and how some of the more memorable levels have stuck with me long after the credits rolled.

Do you remember the iconic “All Ghillied Up” level from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (and subsequently Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered) where Price was in Pripyat Ukraine, having to cross an irradiated field with a sniper gun and Ghillie Suit trying to avoid a patrolling platoon and tanks? “Recon by Fire” (Spain) is very similar in the sense that you’re put in a precarious position and will need to take shots from afar and also avoid patrols that walk within spitting distance of you, so you better put away that rifle and stay completely still to not be spotted and rely on your spotter.

Another ‘remake’ level that will seem all too familiar if you’ve been playing Call of Duty campaigns for a good handful of years, the classic “Death from Above” mission, from the same game as above. Here you are controlling an AC-130, reigning death from above with the massive gunship. In Modern Warfare II, “Close Air” (Mexico) is almost identical, as you’re given orders to protect the team at all costs as they become surrounded and need your help to survive as you level everything to the ground before they can escape.

I won’t go into much more of the mission details given the short but sweet campaign, but there’s a really good variety across the 17 levels. One has you checking out an abandoned oil rig in the middle of the sea that has some wonderful backdrops and really showcases how great the rain appears. Another level clearly took inspiration from the Just Cause series, having you jump from truck to truck during a lengthy chase sequence. Sure it’s a bit over the top, but it’s all about the action and doesn’t disappoint. Another level clearly took sections from gameplay from Watch Dogs where you hack into enemy close circuit camera system so that you can guide Ghost from spot to spot, pointing out where and when to move and to instruct which enemies to take out with a pistol or knives. It was very unlike the Call of Duty I expected, but was a great change of pace.

Lastly are the stealth missions. Now don’t get me wrong, these levels make absolute sense narratively why they are taking place, but there’s two sections where you have to play stealthy and can’t get caught. This normally wouldn’t be an issue, but you’re not given all the information you need on your HUD to do so without a lot of trial and error. Also, you’re going to have to scavenge for materials, while also staying hidden, so you can craft makeshift tools, weapons and traps. Yeah it got the job done and completely made sense to the story, but I was so frustrated with these sections and got impatient that I somehow eventually ended up having to shoot my way out.

There’s even a ‘boss fight’ near the end that worked mechanically and narratively, but just felt a bit out of place. This was a section I had to redo a few times as I simply was trying to stay alive while trying to complete my objective. There’s a good amount of mission variety that kept me interested and had a few “oh my god” and “woah” moments, but I also had a few times where I felt frustrated when the gameplay slowed down to a stealth game with poor mechanics at times.

Now I know that many will unfairly judge a game unfairly from its visuals, but this one of those times where you’d be justified to do so. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II proves what talented developers and artists can do with a competent engine and a massive budget. With a buttery smooth framerate, I never once had any graphical issues or slowdown. Locked at 60FPS, if you’re lucky like myself to have a TV that supports 120FPS as well, I can’t even start to describe how good it looks with its fluidity.

Seriously, Modern Warfare II might really be one of the best looking next-gen games I’ve experienced so far, and that’s saying a lot when I recently reviewed a few other ‘big hitters’ when it comes to visual fidelity like A Plague Tale: Requiem. Cutscenes are borderline photorealistic when it comes to facial animations, textures, backdrops and especially the weather effects. Wet clothing looks actually as though it’s damp and seeing Price’s individual beard hairs is incredibly impressive in the plentiful cutscenes. Lighting really takes the realism to a whole new level and I can't overstate how remarkable it all appears.

Audio is also on par, and while there’s no major negatives, it simply wasn’t as memorable aside from the voice acting and weapon sounds. It all sounded great, but even after the credits rolled I was trying to recall any if the massive setpieces had some iconic music or something to set the tone, and nothing was coming to mind. While not every main character’s voice actor is reprising their role in this entry to the series, they all did a fantastic job and each gun sounds unique that I’d not be surprised if gun enthusiasts would be able to tell what they are shooting from its audio only.

It’s been a long time since a Call of Duty campaign has really impressed me to this level, honestly, probably since 2007’s original Modern Warfare. While I’ve played the vast majority of each since for the most part, none have been really all that memorable as a whole. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II may not have the shock value that Modern Warfare 2 (2009) had with news outlets talking about its infamous “No Russian” airport mission, but it doesn’t need to with its movie quality campaign that was not only satisfying in almost every way, but left me craving a direct sequel for its campaign. A first for me.

**Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (Campaign) was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 9.3 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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