The Modern Warfare reboot (2019) relaunched Infinity Ward as one of the flagship studios driving the Call of Duty franchise. After less successful chapters, albeit more experimental in the form of its engagement mechanics, the return to "modern warfare" has been highly appreciated by fans and the press - here is our review. Getting this sequel wrong starting from excellent foundations was practically impossible and in fact Modern Warfare II is a title that knows how to entertain as the best American action blockbusters and which offers a gunplay practically now close to perfection.
To be honest, it wasn't even that difficult to make us forget about the disappointing Call of Duty Vanguard e anticipation for the new Modern Warfare was very high indeed, also thanks to the memories that many players bind to the legendary 2009 chapter, often elected as the best game in the series. The reboot, however, has very little to do with the original events even if the story unfolds through missions that pay homage to the chapters of the past. Will Modern Warfare II (2022) be able to form new memorable moments that can stand the test of time, or will it all be just one big déjà-vu?
Modern Warfare II: The Campaign
This year Activision has placed a lot of focus on the single player campaign giving the possibility of try it in early access before the official launch of the game. I accessed it on October 27th on PS5 and not without some issues installing campaign packs which resolved itself after two new installs and a console restart. While player numbers always lean in favor of multiplayer, Call of Duty's single player mode has always been a rite of passage for me before jumping online.
The campaign, in line with the previous ones, it has a duration of about 6 hours which may vary based on the chosen difficulty, your skill or the completion of the trophies if you are also interested in this videogame aspect. I completed the campaign as a veteran, not experiencing particular difficulty peaks except in the presence of the new armored enemies equipped with plates like in a Warzone match. Indeed, over the course of the 17 missions, the flagship mechanics of Modern Warfare II are gradually introduced, many of which, such as swimming, water combat and shooting from speeding vehicles, feel just like a prelude to the new free-to-play experience. play which will be launched on November 16th.
The enemy AI is very aggressive: it has us as its only target and will not think twice about reaching us wherever we hide, by flanking or flanking us. In some situations I found myself besieged by numerous armored enemies and it was a good challenge that kept me in suspense. They are very resistant to body blows, but their head is their weak point. On the other hand, we cannot praise the reactivity of the allied AI: the enemies pass in front of it and often it does not move a muscle to engage. Impossible to rely much on teammates, obviously except in the scripted parts.
The campaign has a good variety of missions, the largest ever in a Call of Duty. In some moments he plays it safer by re-presenting a mission aboard an AC-130, much more complete than in the past, or by adapting the iconic mission "Perfect Camouflage" of CoD 4 to the new geopolitical context with Gaz and Price going on reconnaissance on the coast of Spain to sabotage a smuggling operation. In the end, the greatest use of the DualShock 5 is precisely in situations where the enemies are just a few centimeters away from us with the controller vibrating in an attempt to accentuate the delicate moment suspended between life and death.
“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday” is also somewhat revived in the form of a new mission set on an oil rig. Here the gameplay novelty lies in the containers that sway, sliding left and right depending on the movement impressed. This small addition requires you to constantly move to avoid getting crushed while looking for new cover, but above all it is the ideal level to put into practice the new feature that allows you to cling to a ledge instead of immediately climbing and stepping over the obstacle.
Alternating with more familiar missions, however, there are also new or more interesting gameplay flashes, such as a mission to support the infiltration of Ghost by guiding him on the field by taking possession of the cameras installed in the area. Sometimes, however, one is completely on one's own and Infinity Ward has chosen to experience a crafting system adding a twist to the idea of survival. Game sections like this offer a freer approach, always within the limits of the objectives to be achieved and the limited size of the levels. It's not the only level that offers more freedom or access to a backpack with useful tools, but it's definitely the one where more creativity is required to get out of a very difficult situation.
The Call of Duty campaign remains a linear campaign, but there's more breadth and choice in how you approach your objective. A decision that goes well with the concepts of realism, tactics and micro-fights on which Infinity Ward based the relaunch of the brand and which shows that the studio has all the credentials to design an even richer and more engaging campaign. I was very sad to see the use of the tactical backpack restricted to a handful of missions: Without large multi-front battles, the action is more focused on silent engagements and close-in troop engagements and it would have been interesting to approach them with different gadgets.
In Modern Warfare II there is certainly no shortage of more daring and chaotic missions such as a long chase with land vehicles, but paradoxically they are the missions that leave the least mark and those in which the narrative tones veer towards unlikely situations. Overall the campaign is well paced and passes from more stealth and reasoned moments to explosive situations without ever tiring, however it didn't have the same impact on me as the 2019 title. I found the narration weaker, less courageous in delving into the proposed themes and not very effective. Excellent to play pad in hand, but less capable of leaving time to reflect on the actions of the conflict and too simplistic.
Not everything is black and white, but Infinity Ward doesn't fully explore the potential of that gray area of morality that is introduced and overcome at the same speed as the bullets exchanged in multiplayer. The same antagonist of the story appears in one dimension, outlined as a villain but without a real connotation that could at least make the search for him intriguing. In terms of wasted potential there is also the choice of insert multiple dialogues but without real impact on events if not for a few more lines of dialogue exchanged between the characters.
Looking at the technical side, the performance on PS5 has been more than good and the sound sector is simply sumptuous: from the mouths of fire, to the explosions up to the noises of the vehicles, everything facilitates the immersion and is clearly distinguishable. I have never perceived drops in frame rate and the graphic quality has remained at a high standard except for a few small errors in the loading of some textures. Between the scenes in the game and the movies it is now almost difficult to distinguish one from the other.
In the options menu it is possible to activate or deactivate various graphic aspects such as the streaming of textures on demand, the FidelityFX CAS and set the width of the field of view. Too bad for the general stability of the build. I have encountered several crashes while playing, one of which forced me to restart the last mission from scratch as the checkpoint didn't load properly and the game kept crashing repeatedly.
Special Operations: a basis for the future
In Modern Warfare II, Special Ops returns and continues the story of the campaign with two player cooperative missions. At launch there are only 3 missions available, each based on a large macro-objective divided into different strategic points on which to intervene. There is obviously no right way to approach the mission, you can also enter the place of the objectives with guns blazing, but taking advantage of the tactics, viewers and drones available still offers a different range of possibilities.
In one of the missions I ended up with the getaway vehicle impossible to maneuver due to damaged wheels and jumped out of the vehicle while being bombarded by the incessant pounding of a helicopter. I didn't have a rocket launcher with me but only a Kastov-74U stolen from an enemy and a few rounds in my sniper rifle; my fellow sufferer was down and the first thing I thought of was: run away. I started running wildly looking for shelter in the hills and rubble, damaging the rotary wing whenever possible. Finally, after destroying the aircraft, there was an explosion of irrepressible joy.
Here, the missions are few and far between, but it's for unpredictable moments like this that it's fun to play with friends. Each game started differed from the previous one in some small detail, such as a different approach in the order of conquering an objective, or different equipment in use. Leveraging the shared progress between Special Ops and Multiplayer, it's easy to level up weapons and unlock corresponding accessories, undoubtedly an advantage for those who don't like the frenetic pace of PvP too much.
The mode is actually designed around 3 different roles - assault, medic and scout - so frankly the choice of being able to only face them with a teammate at the moment seemed to me more of a limitation than an advantage. Although the mode currently has no more than two players and a warning is shown if you try to launch it anyway, the game still had all the participants in my group select their starting kit, ready to enter the game with lots of menu updated with the icons of the 3 players. Everything obviously resulted in a stalemate and we will have to wait for the arrival of the 3-player tactical raids to really put this system to the test in classes and see its evolution.
Unfortunately, even this mode was not free from crashes or problems. On several occasions it was not possible for me to move the camera, I could only go back and forth. I uninstalled the package again looking for a solution. Instead, during the third mission, being killed with the robot turret in hand during placement or trying to place it in a wrong position, I was stuck without weapons in hand, with the hud still showing the information to position the turret and unable to shoot or make close combat attacks.
Multiplayer mode in great shape
The first thing that appears when accessing the game is clearly the game menu and selection of all modes. As has already been highlighted by recent news, the various menus are rather confusing, cumbersome, slow to respond and often the lobby screen freezes for a few seconds before loading a game. An overall UI to be reviewed, which sometimes makes it unintuitive to immediately understand the progress made without having to access second-level menus such as to see the challenges of the camouflages or the progress towards the maximum rank.
By accessing the equipment while the game is in progress, the accessories in use are not shown, making you waste a few precious seconds understanding how to best set up the weapon and many other small defects that make navigating and organizing your own equipment less pleasant, however when you are in match, Modern Warfare II's gunplay is at its best. As already noted during the beta, the multiplayer component is also in total continuation of what was expressed by the 2019 chapter, retouching some areas and mechanics, and reviewing the Gunsmith to offer even more customization. There was absolutely no reason to overturn everything, but the changes made are felt, especially on the movement front.
The pace of the game is always hectic but Modern Warfare II favors a more calculated approach, also thanks to a low time to kill. Being found out of position leaves no way out. The perceivable weight of your operator and the aiming times of the weapons in use are two of the first signs that indicate that no matter how arcade Call of Duty sounds, you still can't think of running all over the map, jumping at every opportunity to deceive the opponent.
The "bunny hopping" technique has been weakened and the slide following a tactical sprint has been revised, in fact now a dive is performed forward if crouched, while sliding is still possible but only after a normal sprint. To take a position or get out of a dangerous situation, diving has proven useful and at the moment it doesn't seem that players are abusing it to turn fights into a circus.
The other novelty introduced is the possibility of cling to ledges to peek or fire your secondary weapon. These days in the company of multiplayer we have seen it rarely used, if not mostly in objective-based modes for many players such as War on Earth and Invasion where the maps offer more grips and the choice of a point to hold requires greater be careful given the continuous influx of troops towards the conquest zones or the hottest points of the map.
Speaking instead of 6vs6 maps, the design didn't convince me at all and I found it too trivial while I had appreciated the "complexity" of Modern Warfare (2019). No map has features or mechanics to make it truly unique compared to what has already been proposed in the past. Even when a map tries to integrate new features, such as the new fluid system that allows water fights and swimming, it makes almost marginal use and the focus is on land.
The map with a different structure from the usual is Santa Sena Border Crossing: long and narrow, the objectives are located on a road where among the wreckage of cars it is easy to come across campers. This map has already divided Call of Duty players into those who appreciate its features and those who hate it. Personally, the first few times I played it I didn't mind, but as soon as the players started to get familiar with its structure, almost all of the games I've played in domain ended with one of the two teams applying the spawn trap to block the opposing team.
As every year, spawn rotations never start right and need further calibration because it is never pleasant to be reborn already surrounded by enemies aiming at your head and this phenomenon occurs in all maps. Furthermore, it is incomprehensible to be reborn behind enemy lines when you are already in firm possession of two objectives not affected by clashes.
Even more customization in Modern Warfare II
If the news of the multiplayer mode were only here, a substantial update would have been enough instead in Modern Warfare II the gunsmith and the progression system to unlock accessories change again. All weapons in Modern Warfare II can be grouped into "manufacturers" that boast a set of castles that can be unlocked starting with a common weapon. Each castle corresponds to different weapons and each weapon corresponds to a unique progression tree that unlocks accessories only for that specific family of weapons or universal accessories that are also valid for other weapons from different manufacturers.
There are so many accessories available and unlocking them all will require you to play with all the weapons, even those that probably don't suit your style of play very much. You will seem to advance more slowly than in previous chapters. I've always played each new iteration of Call of Duty trying out all the weapons and trying to unlock their respective accessories, so what I experienced in Modern Warfare II doesn't differ much from my natural way of playing. For other players this progression system may seem forced and it is certainly not as realistic as ARMA's proposal, but then no one plays Call of Duty because they seek realism.
In this case, however, the new progression system has all the elements to make the arrival on Warzone more docile. It is undeniable that the success of Warzone has influenced the development of Call of Duty more than anything else in recent years and the more I play Modern Warfare II, the more it seems obvious to me that one of the purposes of this new system is on the one hand to prepare players to be efficient with all the weapons available just in case, and on the other to keep them glued to the game until the launch of season 1 on November 16 through a huge amount of accessories to collect.
In fact, in a few days, I reached level 55 and if in the past I would have immediately started resetting the ranks to go up in prestige, in this pre-season all I can do is keep unlocking castles, accessories and camos waiting for the big launch of season 1 which will allow me to advance and try all the new things to come.
However, having a large number of accessories must be dosed well and to avoid the confusion generated by the possibility of equipping even 10 accessories as in Vanguard, Modern Warfare II restricts the number of accessories that can be equipped to a maximum of 5. Once you reach the maximum level of a weapon, calibration is unlocked, a feature that allows you to change the stats of equipped accessories by accessing a graph and two sliders.
At the time of writing this review, calibration has been disabled in Modern Warfare II. This is due to a glitch that causes crashes when players have five accessories calibrated on a weapon. I got to try this system on the M4 before it was disabled, but not in such depth that I can actually understand what will be the impact of this system on the game. I'll have a chance to test it thoroughly as soon as Infinity Ward fixes the technical problems.
They complete their battle gear too specialty packs and field upgrades which we have already deepened even during the beta. The specialty system is the most innovative as the classic perks are no longer all available immediately but are divided into basic specialties, a bonus specialty and a supreme specialty.
To unlock the bonus specialty and the supreme one, points must be accumulated by playing the objective and in order to get more kills to speed up the process. Putting Cold Blood as a bonus specialty and Ghost as a supreme specialty is also a very popular measure to counter the presence of campers. Indeed, those who do not actively participate in the game will take longer to obtain the specialties that allow them to remain in the shadows. These changes to specialty packs should work as an incentive to work as a team, something Call of Duty has always been a bit weak on.