Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review

Thirteen years ago, Activision and Infinity Ward released what remains one of the most successful video games of all-time, with that being Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The much-anticipated sequel to 2007’s iconic and beloved Modern Warfare, it took things to another level and delivered both incredibly popular multiplayer and a very good campaign. This was almost a decade and a half ago yet the series is still going strong. In fact, those behind it have decided to return to the well and build upon the brand awareness of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II with a brand new take on it, or a reboot if you prefer that term.

Continuing the story featured in 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II drops us into the first-person perspectives of familiar special ops soldiers like Soap, Ghost, Gaz and Price, along with some of their allies, both new and returning. The result is a (mostly, but not always) fast-paced campaign full of varied missions, and a story that sees the iconic heroes attempting to stop a terrorist from causing mass murder with stolen missiles.

Set in both real and fictional locations, this story campaign travels the globe and blows a lot of shit up as it does so. You’ll defend allies from attack, infiltrate buildings full of enemies and engage in blistering firefights littered with bullets and explosions. Then, in other levels, you’ll have to use stealth, crafting and good driving skills in order to succeed. Thus, this isn’t the Modern Warfare II that you remember, nor is it the standard Call of Duty campaign. It does, however, feature all of the staples, like chaotic gunfights, chases, and a mission in which you stealthily snipe (or avoid) enemies while wearing a Ghillie suit.

As someone who’s been with this series since the beginning, I can’t recall playing a more varied single player campaign. That said, there were a few that I didn’t finish, including a couple I only got halfway into before I had to focus on reviewing other games or move them in order to free up space. Either way, this is a very varied story mode for both the better and the worse. Why do I say that? Well, variety is generally a very good thing, and it definitely is when it comes to a series that’s been around as long as this. However, some of the included variety is better than the rest.

I’ll stop being cryptic and explain myself now.

Along with the expected shootouts, sniping and explosions, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022) features at least one survival oriented mission, along with a backpack full of deadly or helpful supplies. In some stages you can cycle through said backpack to choose between different types or explosives, including grenades, Semtex and Molotov cocktails, as well as things like tear gas and smoke grenades. Then, in the level they call ‘Alone,’ you’re tasked with sneakily exploring a village in order to both evade enemies and collect resources, since you’re alone and injured. You’ll eventually find a weapon, but those who aim to collect all achievements or trophies will need to complete this mission without ever firing a single bullet, which is a good thing since you’re trying not to alert the enemy. This leads to a lot of sneaking, crawling, evading and scouring both houses and businesses for things like mouse traps, bottles, chemicals and throwing knives. These everyday ‘ingredients’ can then be combined — via the backpack — and crafted into items like mines, gas bombs, Molotov cocktails and more. Meanwhile, those bottles you find can also be used to distract enemies.

While I appreciated this change, Alone wasn’t my favourite mission because it was frustrating; partially because I chose to do it without using a gun. There are quite a few enemies, and some cannot be avoided, so you’re stuck with trying to hide (which is difficult if they’ve been alerted) or using lots of desperate melee take downs, unless you somehow have lots of tools and are gifted at using them. On top of that, it frustrated me because that was when technical problems started to affect my attempt at completing the story.

After I got close to the end of this mission, I died a few times and then experienced a crash to the Xbox’s dashboard after my third or fourth new try. After that, the game crashed almost every time I attempted to load that save, totaling maybe 13-15 times. I would’ve given up sooner, but I really didn’t want to have to start the mission over again and worried that wouldn’t even work. Furthermore, there were a couple of times where the mission loaded properly, but then crashed once I died. I was a hopeful idiot, I guess.

In the end I had to restart Alone, and thankfully got through it quite quickly until I reached the frustrating end. I was able to finish it, though, and only had one or two more crashes through the rest of the back half of the campaign. I don’t think those do any damage to the console, and hope not. It was an annoying and maddening experience, though. Then again it’s just a game and technical issues occur.

There’s also a questionable part at the end of the game, which isn’t very realistic at all. I can’t imagine having to deal with it, or the final boss, on Veteran, because I feel they’d be horridly frustrating. Both segments (where you’re running around and trying to survive while lots is being thrown at you) were annoying enough on Regular. I’ve finished a few, or several, Call of Duty campaigns on Veteran, but decided to take it easier on myself this time around and am glad that I did.

As I briefly mentioned above, there’s also a mission in which you get to drive vehicles. This occurs in a desert country, and takes place on a pretty busy highway on which you must hijack vehicles to reach allies. It’s possible to jump from one vehicle (many of which are driven by enemies) to another, but you can also pick up cars, trucks and vans that have been left along the side of the road. The goal is to keep your vehicle in good condition, or switch to a new one if it’s not, all while having to deal with enemies shooting at you from the backs of trucks. That, plus dropped mines and heavy vehicles that pack more damage.

That particular mission is one that I can see myself playing again, because it was quite good. The driving mechanics were very solid, and it was fun to peek out and shoot enemies before ducking back into my vehicle to continue driving. I didn’t have any issues with it outside of the annoying mines, but they were supposed to be that way.

It’s also important to note that there’s some swimming involved within this campaign, as well as in the multiplayer, both of which I’m happy for. There are also hidden safes to find, although I’m not sure how many. When I quickly checked the achievement/trophy list I noticed that there’s one for finding and unlocking 3 safes. Since I’m a very thorough person when it comes to gaming, and take my time, I did my best to find them all. However, I was only ever able to find one and probably won’t bother looking for the others. Its combination wasn’t given to me, but there were clues in the surrounding office.

Moving on, you should know that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (thankfully) doesn’t include a Zombies mode. Instead, it offers a few co-op missions in which players can team up to complete objectives, defend locations and find intel. Doing well will net you three stars.

Apologies to those who love Zombies, but it’s never been my thing and I’m honestly not exactly sure why. In theory I should love it, because I’m a fan of most things zombies and I obviously like Call of Duty. However, I’ve never been hooked by it or found it that engaging, and hardly ever play it. Part of this is definitely the poor hit detection, but it just doesn’t interest me. I respect those who love it though, and must admit that the co-op isn’t really for me either. I’m more of a lone wolf, and prefer traditional campaigns plus the regular multiplayer. I did give it a try though.

Now, it’s time to talk about the biggest draw of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II: its competitive multiplayer suite. Although I’d return for the campaigns alone, most people buy these games year in and year out for the online gunfights, of which there are many.

This year’s game features a number of maps and modes, most of which are returning favourites. There’s Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed, Free-For-All, Ground War, Prisoner Rescue, Search & Destroy, and Knock Out, in which teams fight over a bag of money. Granted, that’s not all of them, but the first three are my favourites and the ones I generally choose to play.

The core experience is 6 versus 6, which sometimes feels too small for some of the maps. Meanwhile, modes like Ground War allow for much larger teams, as in up to 32 versus 32. I must also admit that I also felt the same way about some of the maps that Free-For-All uses, because it would occasionally take me a while to find anyone.

Some of the maps are better than others, but I guess that’s a pretty stupid and obvious thing to say in a review of a game like this since that has always been the case.

At launch, I read posts where people were complaining about the maps’ quality and honestly agreed with them during my first session. However, after spending several days playing the multiplayer mode and putting a good amount of time into it, I don’t really feel that way. Yes, there are a couple of duds, like a border crossing that is full of abandoned vehicles and has very poor flow, but most of the maps are quite good. Then again, there’s no true amazing or iconic arena like the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had, that being the GOAT: Terminal. The quality of maps found here is lacking in comparison to that game for sure, but I actually like them better than those found in some of the more recent games, including Black Ops – Cold War, WW2 and more. Then again, I wasn’t a really big fan of Black Ops – Cold War.

Some of this game’s better maps include a Central American village, a riverside power plant in a fictional Middle-Eastern country, a race track and a massive hotel. Those were definitely my favourites, and they’d make me continue playing if they came up after I’d decided to call it a night. On top of this, there are a couple of pretty good maps, like a bombed out Middle-Eastern village. It’s just a little too big for some modes.

In an attempt to “innovate the perks,” this installment features what are referred to as Perk Packages, along with lots of different operators to choose from. Here’s how the developers described these packages:

Each Package consists of four Perks: Two Base Perks plus one Bonus Perk and one Ultimate Perk. Operators begin each match with their two Base Perks, unlocking the Bonus and Ultimate Perks over time, with eliminations and assists, plus objective and tactical plays that help to unlock them more quickly. The more active you are in a match, the sooner you’ll have your full stack of four Perks.

In all honesty, I’d become a bit bored of Call of Duty and hadn’t played the more recent titles as much as I played the games from yesteryear, including Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops, Black Ops 3 and World at War. This one dropped at the right time, I guess, because I ended up becoming quite enthralled with it and have played it a lot over the last week or so. I got so into the multiplayer — which is the best since Black Ops 3, which I loved — that I didn’t touch the campaign until a couple of days ago. That said, I have had some issues with it and don’t think it’s as good as the classics. For one, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish who’s on your team and who’s on the other one, because the Operators tend to look similar and folks are only differentiated by a blue or red dot above their heads.

The biggest issue I faced, once again, was lag. The first few nights I played online I had pretty bad lag during matches; so much so that grenades would stay in mid-air or fail to explode, enemies would teleport and some would even pop out of nowhere. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever experienced, but it worried me because I’d stopped playing Vanguard shortly after launch because of the same problem. However, the lag was thankfully gone the last two times I played.

To be honest, as I always am, I can’t rule out my own Internet connection as being the cause of said lag. Although we upgraded our Internet package a year ago, it’s been hard to rely on since the beginning of the summer. That said, it’s been a lot better in recent months. Plus, we’re thankfully getting modern Internet by the end of the year, which I cannot wait for.

I did read others’ posts that said they were experiencing lag and disconnection issues on consoles and PC, but they weren’t terribly common so I can’t say it if was the game or my Internet. I certainly don’t want to lie or mislead and say it’s Activision’s fault either, although the servers were surely swamped at launch and put through the ringer as a result. This is especially true since — during my best game of perhaps all-time, in which I was 9-0 and then 9-1 in Free-For-All — my Internet went out and remained down for 3 hours afterwards. That was a frustrating piss off, but I’m someone who plays for fun and don’t take things like my kill/death ratio too seriously, so I didn’t rage or really get mad, and only cursed a couple of times under my breath. It’s just a game after all.

Then again, I don’t play this game enough to really take it all that seriously. I play a lot of different titles, and am a tired and rusty old curmudgeon who can’t compete with those who have incredible reflexes, sleep well and play a lot. I’m OK with that, too.

The weapons you use upgrade independently during multiplayer, and are separate from your player level. Increasing your rank in both categories provides bonuses, like new enhancements, new kill streaks and additional guns. Plus, it seems like you could get some bonus XP (for both weapons and yourself) by completing the campaign, although please don’t get mad if that’s fake news. I got ten of each with my review code, but seemed to have a couple more when I returned to the online arena after playing several single player missions.

Presentation-wise, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is more Call of Duty. It’s loud, has great gun and explosion effects, and looks quite good overall. The multiplayer is definitely a step down from the campaign, as is always the case, but is still solid despite being a bit blurry at times. Meanwhile, the single player mode looks rather good, especially during cutscenes. It is a tad visually dated at times, though, including dark scenes.

It was also interesting seeing my team enter maps by helicopter or armored vehicle, which was a nice addition to the experience. I could be wrong, but it could be the first time that’s been a part of the game. Then again, my memory isn’t the best so I could be wrong. Either way it’s a nice touch.

The voice acting is also top notch, as is a lot of the motion capture. This is especially true of the actors’ faces, which have translated to very believable character models. It’s all complemented by a quality, and very fitting, score.

With all of that having been said, I doubt I need to say that I recommend this Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II reboot, but I will anyway. Although it currently has some technical problems, and some of the mission design decisions made me scratch my head and become a bit frustrated, it’s one of the better installments in recent years. I’ve really enjoyed most of my time with the game, and can see myself returning to its multiplayer quite often.

This review is based on the Xbox Series S version of the game, which we were provided with.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is a really good reboot, which offers very entertaining multiplayer, some good maps and a quality single player campaign. It is, however, held back by some technical problems, a few questionable single player mission design decisions and some resulting frustration.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The Good Stuff
The multiplayer is the best it's been in a while
The campaign offers a lot of variety, and has some really good missions
Favourite characters return in what is more Call of Duty
The Not-So-Good Stuff
Crashing issues
We experienced some lag at launch, but it seems to have gone away
Some questionable mission objectives/designs