October 28, 2022, saw the release of the latest installment in the acclaimed and controversial video game series, Call of Duty. The franchise’s latest title, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, not to be confused with 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, sees a continuation of the story and legacy of the 2019 reboot of the Modern Warfare series.
Modern Warfare II was released with 3 core game modes; Campaign, Multiplayer, and Co-op Spec-Ops. Following a November 16 update, the title also features the spiritual successor to the famous 2020 battle royale game mode, Warzone, in the form of Warzone 2.0.
The infamous legacy that comes to the mind of COD players when hearing the words “Modern Warfare 2 Campaign” evokes the era of real-life news anchors in the late 2000s discussing violence in video games. On the other hand, for players, it also hearkens back to the age of blockbuster setpieces, stories and betrayal for the franchise as well.
Yet despite the burden and expectations that one would expect from the reboot of such a controversial title, Modern Warfare II’s release had no such controversy.
The very first mission of the game has the player calling in a missile strike on one General Ghorbani, a fictional Iranian Quds Force general, not too dissimilar from the United States’ 2020 drone strike which killed Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian general.
This year’s campaign mode should be controversial in the eyes of both COD fans and reviewers because this mode was simultaneously a step forward for the franchise, but a colossal backslide for the Modern Warfare series as a whole.
Like Modern Warfare 2019, the campaign for MWII performs amazingly, especially having played it on both last-gen and new-gen consoles. Rarely have there been any crashes, graphical errors or gameplay bugs in all three of my playthroughs on Hardened, Veteran and Realism difficulties.
Although displaying a solid technical performance, the continuation of the story from MW 2019 and unnecessary changes to the mission progression is the downfall of the campaign. Coming from a player who found the rebooted story rife with potential for exploring returning characters like Captain Price, Gaz, Soap and Ghost, with a depth previously not seen, I have to say I am thoroughly disappointed.
The story follows the operators of Task Force 141, an international joint task force assigned with preventing a retaliatory attack from a rogue Iranian colonel trying to avenge Ghorbani. They hunt him down to Mexico where he is receiving asylum from “Las Almas,” a fictional Mexican cartel.
The concept of the story is not the problem. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.
The issue is threefold: no sense of danger, bad writing and the inconsistent level design.
Spoilers, but literally none of the main characters die. The only exception is the rogue colonel but that only happens at the very end.
The cartel boss you kidnapped? Alive. All TF141 operators? Alive. General Sheperd, the American general who is famously killed in MW2 (2009)? Alive.
If literally all the main characters make it out of these “high stakes” missions, where’s the suspense of knowing if your favorite characters are going to die or not? And if they do, where’s the heartbreak? Because it’s definitely not in this game. The writing, despite moments of excellence in the form of character interaction, is atrocious.
Why does General Sheperd’s Shadow Company, the private military company that we work with for the majority of the story, claim that we are “their brothers now” and then betray the game’s protagonists out of the blue? At least in MW2 (2009), there was a build-up to the betrayal, but here it’s suddenly, “Oh yeah, by the way, we’re evil now, gonna go massacre a Mexican town.”
Speaking of, the mission that follows the big plot twist is probably the worst in franchise history.
In the mission, players must traverse Las Almas and Shadow Company operators.
Cool concept? Yes. Is it fun? Hell no.
From a janky crafting system that doesn’t belong in a shooter, to having the movement speed of a snail and literally no guns for the first half of the mission, the level design is awful.
The game has 17 missions. Guess how many of them are experimental game levels that aren’t traditional action shooter missions? Eight. That’s almost half of the campaign that employs these new and unwarranted mission types that just don’t feel like Call of Duty.
I don’t want to craft a shiv from a fan blade in my Call of Duty games, I want to retake the White House and prevent the leveling of Washington D.C. I don’t want to swim in some Amsterdam canal for 20 minutes. I want to storm a safe house to retrieve valuable intel on where a global terrorist leader is.
For a game that comes out every year I understand the challenges that come with developing a brand new story annually, but sometimes continuing the same story beats and gameplay loops are okay and should be an accepted part of the franchise at this point.
Modern Warfare 2019 changed the game and the way in which the story of Call of Duty is told and experienced. It’s truly a shame they couldn’t keep the momentum after such a pivotal moment.