REVIEWS

CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE II

It would be the easiest thing in the world to discredit Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II by saying "ah well, just another CoD release, shooting, explosions, super-short campaign, multiplayer, same as all the others". Well, there might be SOME truth to all that, as indeed the basic formula doesn't change dramatically with each new release. But at the same time, it's also true that... this is exactly the formula that CoD fans like, so that's exactly what Infinity Ward is trying to sell them. And the latest such peddling takes a highly spectacular, yet also kind of nostalgic form.

This nostalgia obviously refers to the game's single-player campaign part. Although the new Modern Warfare series is essentially a reboot of an existing universe with specific protagonists, the first entry in this rebooted series shuffled the deck quite a bit, introducing many new characters, new locations, and new story threads. Modern Warfare II (hereafter MWII for the sake of brevity) follows the same concept but also attempts to tread slightly closer to the old ways. And I unashamedly admit that this "backtracking" is SO DAMN ENJOYABLE.

Captain Price, Gaz, Ghost and Soap
The boys.

Unlike MW, in which Captain Price was almost exclusively surrounded by new characters during his middle-eastern escapades, MWII sees the return of the all-time classic cast, as MW's finale foreshadowed: Captain John "Soap" MacTavish and Lieutenant Simon "Ghost" Riley are back, as members of Task Force 141, to face all sorts of terrorist threats... but let's not kid ourselves, it's mostly Arabs and Russians they'll be facing. Which is made clear right from the campaign's prologue, in which Ghost calls a missile strike on the location where the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, General Soleimani Ghorbrani, is located, clearly echoing real-life events.

In addition to the typical Asian wanderings, the action in MWII moves to several European locations, as well as Cartel-controlled locations in America. It is under this latter context that most of the new characters in the campaign are introduced, with "honorable" fighters fighting against the corrupt military and Cartel Sicarios, exploring (apparently) their connections to international terrorism.

Modern Warfare Gunship mission
A nostalgic Modern Warfare mission, providing air support with a Gunship.

Predictably, the campaign is full of the elements one expects from a Modern Warfare game: the US Army, CIA, "shadowy" Private Military Contractors, terrorist attacks in major urban centers, moments of agony and betrayal, spectacular action setpieces, explosions, macho soldiers talking in military jargon and exchanging humorous one-liners. It's all here, with the also expected high quality direction reminiscent of Michael Bay films, and with actors giving mostly convincing performances.

Another element that surprised me positively in the campaign was the diversity in the mission objectives. There are, obviously, missions where we are brutally attacking opposing enemy concentrations as part of a strike team, but at least half of the campaign's missions involve (optional or obligatory) stealth infiltration. In one of them the player is thrown into an enemy environment and asked to proceed by collecting items and crafting improvised weapons with gameplay almost reminiscent of a Survival game (!), while in the, also impressive, mandatory grand car chase mission on a middle-eastern road, there is the twist that we can change vehicles as if we were playing a GTA game.

All of this, combined with the return of favorite characters and some missions with gameplay taken straight from the first Modern Warfare games, creates a highly attractive package that will push any veterans of the series to try to finish the whole campaign in one sitting. Given, of course, the duration of between 5 and 7-8 hours, depending on the level of difficulty and the amount achievement hunting each player will attempt, such an undertaking is not impossible.

Ghillie suits mission
Another highly nostalgic mission involves ghillie suits, bringing back memories of "that mission" in Chernobyl. Obviously it doesn't really come close, but it has its moments.

After completing the main campaign, players can also try three well-designed co-op missions where they battle with 3 other players against AI opponents, while collecting XP by completing challenges that unlock various cosmetics. But obviously the juicy part of the title is none other than traditional CoD Multiplayer. And there's plenty to comment on that too.

First, the high number of available "classic" CoD game modes, in 6 vs 6 arenas: Team Deathmatch, Free-for-All, the beloved Domination, Search and Destroy, Headquarters, Kill Confirmed, Hardpoint, Prisoner Rescue, and Knock Out. There is the option to create a "custom playlist" with the game modes we want, so that the matchmaking system will attempt to matchmake us in, say, Domination and Hardpoint games exclusively, skipping all others. The absence of any Hardcore Mode is surprising, although this will probably be introduced in a future patch. It's also worth noting that the option to create Private Matches with friends in any of these standard modes is provided (which is obviously different from having fully custom servers, as was the case in e.g. the first Modern Warfare back in 2007).

There are also two separate 6 vs 6 game modes: the 3rd Person Moshpit, a rotation of Team Deathmatch, Domination and Hardpoint played in 3rd person perspective (!), and Prisoner Rescue, where teams of 6 players fight to rescue or prevent the rescue of hostages, with the possibility of team revives but no respawns.

That awkward moment when you give the greatest performance of your life but your team ends up losing, and easily.

Then we have the larger scale game modes. Ground War was seen in the first MW and is essentially a CoD attempt at recreating the Battlefield experience: 32 vs 32 players battle it out on large levels using ground vehicles and helicopters, with the goal to capture and hold 5 control points like in a grander Domination match. If one team captures and manages to hold all control points simultaneously for 45 seconds, the game automatically ends.

There's also Invasion, which is essentially a combination of PvP and PVE. Two teams of 20 players and 20 bots each fight across large maps, under more "traditional" conditions, without seeking to conquer control points like in Ground War. As time goes on, vehicles and care packages spawn in the two teams' camps, offering random killstreaks, and the team that reaches 1500 points first wins the game.

The issue that was pointed out in our review of the first MW, that in these large-scale game modes the "squad gameplay" is quite lacking and limited to having a mobile spawn point around the map, seems to be largely valid in MWII as well. Aside from the lack of more specific squad objectives or a way to coordinate with their squad, 9 out of 10 times players will still act as lone wolves regardless of the four-person squad they are placed in by the game, and battles end up just "classic CoD battles on larger maps with more players" instead of some more tactical experience. Either way, these grander game modes are still quite entertaining in their own way and offer special thrills compared to the 6vs6 modes.

Modern Warfare II Juggernaut Killstreak
The "Juggernaut" killstreak reward places the player inside a power armor armed with a powerful minigun. At the same time, the music automatically turns into RELENTLESSLY SHREDDING METAL GUITAR SOLOS to emphasize the epicness of the scene.

Inevitably we come to the Multiplayer customization system. As one would expect, playing MP matches earns us Profile XP and Weapon XP for the weapons we use. Increasing Profile Level unlocks new weapons, tactical gear, perks and killstreaks. In a few days, once "season 1" officially starts, the ability to obtain Prestige (3 available Prestige Levels for each season) will be added to the game for players who have reached level 55. It is worth mentioning that, as was the case in MW and unlike what happened in older CoD games, in MWII the transition to Prestige Leveling does not reset the unlockables we have already unlocked for our profile. Quite a significant development, as it negates the rather large grind that was required in order for Prestige players to re-acquire weapons and perks of the builds they desired.

Increasing the Weapon Level unlocks attachments for the weapon in question. However, Weapon Level is also a prerequisite for unlocking various weapon variants - for example, unlocking the Kalashnikov Kastov 545 Assault Rifle requires leveling the Kastov 762 up to level 13, while leveling the Kastov 545 to level 13 unlocks access to the Kastov-74U.

Modern Warfare II Kastov Gunsmith
Each weapon can equip up to 5 mods at the same time. Given that there are 10 mod slots, with each having from 5 to 17 unlockable mods available, the depth and complexity of the customization becomes clear.

One issue that arises is that, at this stage, the UI design regarding these unlockables is quite complicated, even incomprehensible at times. There is no distinct submenu where you can quickly and clearly see what is unlocked at each weapon level or what is required to be achieved in order to unlock access to something of interest, rather than just finding the required attachment/weapon in the submenus and then following the maze-like prerequisites thread from weapon to weapon. The same is true for several of the cosmetic unlockables of weapons, for which it is not even stated what is required in order to make them available. Predictably this is also the case with the various Weapon Challenges, the completion of which awards XP - you get a notification during matches that you've successfully completed a Challenge, but for some reason there's no menu in the game that lists all these available Challenges together.

I should also mention that at this early stage of the game's release I found the available variety of Profile Calling Cards and Emblems to be extremely poor, especially compared to the 350 or so calling cards available in the original Modern Warfare 2 back in 2009. However, apparently there's a glitch that easily allows unlocking many others. Go figure.

Modern Warfare II Kill
There's bullet physics in the game, affecting e.g. bullet drop depending on distances even in Multiplayer. But don't expect all around super-realistic conditions.

In general, Modern Warfare II gives the impression that it's a total upgrade to everything the first MW offered... or, more precisely, that it has the potential to be such an upgrade after the seasons start and/or after a few patches that add content and stabilize the technical area somewhat (one such patch was already released while I was writing the review, which eliminated framerate drops and disconnects from matches). I'm also looking forward to a future optimization of the menus with unlockables, and the addition of Hardcore Mode, so I can say that it's an experience 100% equal or even superior to the early Modern Warfare back in the 2000s. Although, as I mentioned in the introduction of this review, the Single Player campaign already hits all the necessary nostalgic notes.

Not that this wait for patches seems to affect the game's sales, of course. Modern Warfare II was released on October 28 and has already brought profits of over $800 million (best launch in franchise history), and has consistently had over 200,000 concurrent players on Steam despite a rather hefty price tag of 70 euros.

This last point is another big issue in itself, but if anything it leads to bittersweet reflections. The landscape of AAA games has changed compared to 2009, the price of AAA games has changed too, the state of the industry itself in many ways, we ourselves as gamers and as personalities certainly have... but Call of Duty is still Call of Duty, and Modern Warfare II manages to evoke the same and more intense emotions that its "Not Balanced for Lean" progenitor did.

No Russian
ΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑΑ
We thank AVE Group for providing the review code for Modern Warfare II.
RATING - 84%

84%

Balanced for Lean

Some early technical and content shortcomings aside, the nostalgic single-player campaign and typically exciting Call of Duty multiplayer make sure that Modern Warfare II conveys the same and more intense emotions as its "Not Balanced for Lean" progenitor back in 2009.

Kostas Kallianiotis

Archaeologist/Historian, RPG Player, Motörhead fan, Consumer of Mutton.

bald_killer_clone

Death Knight
Joined
Jul 26, 2014
Messages
2,897
First!
Κατατοπιστικό ριβιού αν και ήθελα λίγη περισσότερη μνεία για τα γραφικά του.

Ελπίζω το 3 να είναι ακόμη καλύτερο διότι το Original του `11 ήταν για κλάματα.

Προσωπικά εβαλα την περασμένη βδομάδα το MW 2 2009 και το τελείωσα σε Veteran επίπεδο. Εντάξει, η αδρεναλίνη στα ύψη καθόλη την διάρκεια της campaign.
 

kara

Kraken
Joined
Dec 15, 2012
Messages
8,338
DMZ

 

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