Some things are guaranteed in life, the sun will rise, the rain will fall, the wind will blow and every November there will be a new game released in the HUGLY successful Call of Duty series. This year sees Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II joining the ranks and is the sequel to 2019’s sort of remaster/retelling/remake that was a real surprise, as it took a grittier look at what warfare is, as well as giving some truly classic series moments a fresh touch of paint. Modern Warfare II, however, feels a bit off compared to the previous instalment. Sure it has a bombastic campaign that hits hard with set pieces and stand out moments, but it never shakes the feeling of being a tribute instead of being a hit in its own right. Don’t get me wrong there are some outstanding tribute acts out there, but it’s just not the same as seeing the real thing. Sorry Fake That, The Faux Fighters and The Fillers… it’s the same here.
Modern Warfare II’s campaign follows a loose retelling of the story with a few huge tweaks along the way, ultimately never making it live up to the impact or grandeur of the original Modern Warfare 2. Yes, it has all the cast and characters you want like Price, Soap, Gaz and Ghost as well as a bunch of new and returning characters from the first title, but its tale of chasing down stolen missiles across the globe, while uncovering a massive cover up, doesn’t hit the same way as other Call of Duty tales. Plus the main bad guys have been changed this time around, as the Mexican drug cartel take the lead on the cannon fodder front, with a dash of Iranians thrown into the mix too. This is understandable given the current world climate and events that the game has swapped out Russia as the main bad guys. This may be in part on how the gameplay is handled too, as it’s incredibly chopped up and you never really get a true run at a level. Especially so in the early game, as you get pumped up for a firefight only to hit a handful of bad guys and then have to see another cut scene. That’s not saying that there is no stand out missions like having to make your way through a hostile city with no kit or having to use stealth to explore enemy warehouses. It’s just that what’s here lacks that wow-factor and is very by the numbers or worse still, a poor man’s tribute to past glories. We are talking the likes of Wet Work, Death From Above and All Ghillied Up… again.
Modern Warfare II’s moment to moment gunplay is as tight as a drum and most missions give you a number of choices at times to carve your own way to attack them, which is a nice touch. It’s also where the game hints at its newest ideas, as there are missions that see you able to craft items, as well as there being a survival element added to the mix, but these are oh-too-short lived. Let’s be honest – the Call of Duty campaigns are just the appetiser of this pack, as we are all here for one thing and that’s the multiplayer, which aims to hit the target, but as of the time of writing this review it’s a good bit wide of the mark. It’s a very bare bones affair when compared to every past title, for example, there is no hardcore (sorry Tier 1) mode at launch, but it will be coming in time and it’s not the only feature missing. What is here is fun with a good variety of new ideas like third person mode, prisoner rescue and ground war, which is Call of Duty’s take on Battlefield in all but name. The maps are “interesting” with a few standout ones that build on what makes Call of Duty great, but there are also more than a few duds that leave you wondering how they made it into the final game. Also missing are a few returning maps that you would expect to see given their backdrop is part of the campaign and they are held as truly classic maps… looking at you Wet Work.
The unlock tree for weapons has been totally reworked seeing you unlocking attachments for all weapons in that class by just using the gun and then unlocking different cores that change the gun from an assault rifle, to a SMG, to a sniper. It’s a slick take on the formula that sees you not having to grind forever to unlock everything for each gun. If you’re looking for something different you can team up with a mate and attack the co-op mode that sees you defending and attacking AI enemies across a number of locations, while using the crafting system from the campaign to help you get the upper hand. Right now though the multiplayer doesn’t feel totally complete, but with a road map showing the track up to Warzone 2’s launch, hopefully over the next few weeks and months it will get to the level we expect.
Visually Modern Warfare II (especially the campaign) is jaw dropping at times which is all backed up with an epic and grand soundtrack. Voice acting is also top tier with Barry Sloane, Neil Ellice, Samuel Roukin all nailing Price, Soap and Ghost and are backed up by Hollywood talent like Claudia Doumit and Glenn Morshower. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is an odd instalment in the series; it has all the elements to be a classic CoD, but just can’t land the killing blow. There is fun to be had no question about that, but will be added to in time. Try as it might, it never shakes that feeling that this is not the greatest CoD in the world, no… this is just a tribute!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is available now on Xbox, PC and PlayStation for around £70.