[REVIEW] Modern Warfare 2 Campaign – It’s modern alright

Fact: nobody plays Call of Duty for the campaign anymore. Activision’s FPS has been targeting multiplayer gamers for a very, very long time now. At some point, CoD didn’t even come with a campaign mode and still, it sold like hotcakes. But when a franchise returns to a series like Modern Warfare – which has a massive following because of its storyline – Infinity Ward can’t allow itself to drop the ball on it. In fact, it even dares to venture into the field of controversy, as shown by 2019’s Clean House mission in Modern Warfare. With Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward plays it a bit safer though, zeroing in on the socially acceptable. Both in its setup and the player’s choices.

To get things straight here, Modern Warfare 2 isn’t going to be unicorns and rainbows either. This is a war we’re dealing with and war is ugly. There will be casualties and you will have to face them. But the days of No Russian and the aforementioned Clean House are over. At no point will the player ever put down the controller to think “What the hell did I just do?” Maybe it’s because years and years of first-person shooter experience have dulled the moral blade a bit, but the harshes things Modern Warfare dishes out are the close-up melee kills and perhaps the air support missions in which heavy weaponry absolutely decimates footsoldiers to mince.

But other than that, Modern Warfare 2 has a very balanced campaign. I’d even dare to say that Infinity Ward absolutely nailed it without resorting to (too much) shock and awe. As modern times require it, Modern Warfare 2 delves into the threat of a weapons exchange gone wrong, sparking acts of terrorism. Some of Modern Warefare’s finest – Soap, Ghost, Captain Price, Gaz… the lot – are being sent off to neutralize the threat, taking them from the Middle East to Amsterdam and from Mexico to Chicago. All those frequent flyer miles, just to intercept missiles that somebody should never have had.

Now, is that surprising? Hardly. Infinity Ward and Activision have been shoehorning us this intel ever since Modern Warfare 2 got revealed. What also shouldn’t come as a surprise is the layout of the missions, of which there are 17 in total. Call of Duty has seen its fair share of memorable missions throughout the years and Modern Warfare 2 ties them all together in a 6 to 7-hour-long campaign. Everyone loves 2007’s All Ghillied Up, so an hommage to that has to make the cut. Then there’s the Dark Waters mission, a clear modern take on Crew Expendable.

Once again, this was to be expected with a reboot of the series that introduced us to these iconic missions in the first place. And don’t mistake my previous paragraph for a complaint. Because honestly, Infinity Ward has done them justice, even if some missions have failed to knock me off my seat. The early Amsterdam mission felt like redundant filler that only serves as a multiplayer map introduction. In fact, I felt like Modern Warfare 2 really started to pick up pace in the second half.

It’s in the final three hours that the campaign truly starts to show its colors. In a mission named Alone, players have to resort to guerilla warfare, starting off unarmed, scrambling bits and bobs to craft makeshift bombs, lock picks, and shivs. The adrenaline-rushed run-and-gun approach gets ground to a halt, something the game really needs to stop becoming another one-trick pony. The same can be said about the El Sin Nombre mission which has the team infiltrate a cartel stronghold, even if it leaves room for multiple approaches.

Don’t worry though. The Modern Warfare 2 campaign won’t slow you down too much. If the slow and methodical angle isn’t your thing, this campaign has plenty of missions requiring the complete opposite. Busting people out of a heavily fortified prison, taking down a tank on training grounds… you know. All the kind of stuff that asks for a lot of KABOOM. It’s all there and there’s plenty of it. Just the way we like it.

But if there’s one thing that stands out like a civilian between a group of soldiers, it has to be the visual fidelity. Granted, Call of Duty has never been deemed ugly, even if its competition often outshined it. But Modern Warfare 2 looks mighty fine, if I may say so. Especially during the cutscenes – of which there are plenty, too – people might stop to wonder if they’re watching CGI or not. Even though we all know it is, the level of detail in it is insane. If you watch the cinematics front to back you’re basically watching Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – The Movie.

Luckily for Infinity Ward, Modern Warfare 2 is one interactive movie that won’t get canceled easily. Being considered mandatory in 2022, Modern Warfare 2 makes sure that diversity rules. Strong female characters (with Kate “Alex” Laswell being one of them, to the dismay of her wife), the headstrong Mexican Special Forces colonel Alejandro Vargas who sounds like he eats tobacco for breakfast. And let’s not forget about Sergeant Kyle “Gaz” Garrick, who for some reason seems to remind me of Lewis Hamilton. Even ghosts, which are often unappreciated unless it’s Halloween, get plenty of screen time. Fortunately for us, Treyarch isn’t forcefully shoehorning wokeness into the game. Because we all know how easily that could’ve happened with a cast like this one.

And that’s stellar news for us, the Call of Duty players who are looking for a decent campaign. Because this one is mighty solid, even if it’s short. Will it be a memorable one? That might be a stretch. Modern Warfare 2 didn’t really serve me missions that pop up as unforgettable. But that doesn’t mean that this campaign is utter garbage. On the contrary. Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is one worth fighting for, even if it plays it safer than its predecessors.

Modern wars, modern approaches
The Hoorahs
Are we still watching computer generates images here?
Good balance between over-the-top action and methodical missions
Runs well, plays like a dream
Might have one of the best story lines in ages...
The "Fall backs!"
Not every mission feels like it serves a purpose
... even if Treyarch plays it safer than you might expect