Despite the global turbulence, some things never change in this world – every year a new Call of Duty is released. And if it’s not Black Ops IIII, it will have a campaign that delights in a story that is delirious even against the backdrop of real-world events taking place.
The 2019 reboot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has given the franchise the second breath it’s long needed, offering a revamped graphics engine and the very real ganporn. Infinity Ward’s attempt at “grey morality”, on the other hand, failed miserably.
However, immediately after the release of MW 2019, the franchise returned to crisis mode. Players ended up with two controversial parts of the series that were made in a hurry due to massive problems within Activision Blizzard.
Modern Warfare II is a return to the familiar conveyor belt. However, after getting acquainted with the game, you get the impression that Infinity Ward is also in crisis. This is particularly noticeable in the single-player campaign.
Several years have passed since the grief-outs of MW 19. Task Force 141, commanded by Captain Price, must find three American ballistic missiles that have somehow been acquired by the Al-Qatala faction. Al-Qatala have joined forces with the Mexican drug cartel Las Alma’s to move the dangerous cargo in an attempt to get them closer to their targets in the US. So Price, Gas, Sope and Ghost team up with a squad of Mexican special forces, Los Vaqueros, and General Shepherd’s Shadow Company PMC to foil the militants’ plans.
Infinity Ward’s main sources of inspiration are instantly identifiable – the game is stylized as the Sicario (“Assassin”) film digilogy, and many levels borrow ideas from Naughty Dog studio projects. In addition, Activision Blizzard continues to create a unified Call of Duty universe. That’s why the new game is full of references to the other series’ parts – even long-suffering Call of Duty: Ghosts was not forgotten.
At the same time the developers stubbornly try to stick elements from the real world into their games. Thus, the catalyst for all events becomes the assassination of the Iranian general Baghri – a reference to the elimination of the commander of the special unit Al-Quds Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad. In addition, at some point the Russian PMC Connie appears in the game. In this case, the developers for some reason renamed the well-known PMC “Wagner” in honour of….. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dead dog.
Flirting with “gray morality” of MW 19 has not gone away, although its intensity has diminished. However, this still doesn’t save the single-player campaign from total nonsense, multiplied by the poor work of the screenwriters, who are trivialized by their lack of logic. This is reflected in the fact that character lines contradict their actions, and good guys turn into bad guys literally “at the snap of a finger”.
However, the story is far from being the game’s main problem. After all, the idiocy of the players has long been tamed by the previous parts. There are questions about the gameplay. It seems that Modern Warfare II was created in a hurry by several teams, so it resembles a strange mosaic of raw ideas.
In fact, there is very little shooter in MW II. Most of the time you have to deal with stealth, and in various variations. There’s the classic squatting, underwater swimming, a sniper mission in Captain Price’s campaign, and even… a bit of The Last of Us. Yes, at one point the player is stripped of all weapons, forcing them to vacuum the levels in search of rubbish to craft smoke grenades, lock picks and traps.
The idea is poorly implemented, because the local AI is not at all adapted for such a task and constantly fails. It is rather strange, because in Cold War and WWII there were already some large levels with rudimentary stealth, but Infinity Ward for some reason ignored the work of colleagues from other studios.
There’s ludonarrative dissonance superimposed on the poor AI. This is relevant to The Last of Us style levels, as the player has to fight a crowd of armoured enemies. The latter can be killed in two ways – by sharpening after being stunned with a grenade/trap, or by taking several hits to the head (the helmet must be destroyed). In doing so, the opponents abruptly start moving around with the most useless weapons and leave literally a couple of rounds of ammo after their death.
But it’s not all bad. The best stealth segment is breaking into the prison, when Sope has to use video cameras to help Gowst get past the patrols by giving commands.
Gowst and Soap’s relationship is a major achievement in general and the object of numerous jokes from the fan community. We don’t know if this is intentional or not, but the mentor-apprentice relationship in the game is slowly mutating into a heated bromance over the radio. That said, Infinity Ward has copied from Titanfall 2 the ability to choose lines, offering to direct the dialogues in the right direction.
When the player is given a shot, however, new flaws are revealed. Yes, Infinity Ward is still the main gunporn provider, so shooting in MW II is a sheer pleasure due to gorgeous animation and excellent sound. But the character moves extremely reluctantly and barely runs – as if he weighs a ton.
This is especially true for multiplayer, but it doesn’t get any better in the single player campaign either. The apotheosis of slowness is the sniper mission with Price, where the player is asked to move around a huge coastal area at turtle speed. This also negatively affects the level with the escape from the corrupt special forces, when the developers suggest, Uncharted 4-style, jumping from one ledge to another, periodically going into a slip.
Another problem with MW II is the protracted nature of the levels. Segments, which ideally should be short, are here stretched to outrageous length. An example of this is the road chase mission copied from Uncharted 3, in which you have to constantly jump from one car to another.
The game is also poorly tested. Selecting lines in dialogues and triggers can fail, and the mechanics of jumping from one car to another are implemented just hideously.
One time, we failed to get a trigger to inspect a site to progress through a task. The local checkpoint system is also worth scolding, which can cause you to get seriously stuck. For example, one save occurred when a crowd of armoured enemies ran into the room.
The raw nature of the story campaign does not extend to the graphics. A lot has indeed been invested in the development of the new Call of Duty, and this has been reflected in the production. Like MW 2019, the sequel tries to switch between the game and the clips without additional subplots. The latter are now not just CGI videos from studio Blur, but also full-blown engine-based cutscenes. We also want to praise the work of the artists and the people who worked on the lighting and environment. MW II looks amazing in some places, but the level of detail decreases on more open locations.
The shooter feels good on the Xbox Series S, running at a dynamic 1440p resolution and delivering a steady 60 frames per second. The only downsides are glitchy shadows in the distance and a strange ‘Depth of Field’ effect, which is affected by the peculiarities of the local image reconstruction system. Separately, the co-op is worth mentioning. Modern Warfare II has three two-person missions that unfold on chunks of the map from Warzone 2.0, with AI dummies acting as the enemies Before the mission starts, you’re also asked to choose a class, which will affect the soldier’s equipment.
Missions range from searching for radioactive material to destroying air defences. The problem is that no one has really worked on the mode. As a result, all the enemies somehow walk around with default weapons (no variations with sights and additional modifications), and the drag problem hasn’t gone anywhere. As a way to pump up weapons in multiplayer co-op also does not work because there is a more convenient mode for this purpose, “Invasion”.
The story campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II was very ambiguous. The developers clearly tried to move away from the usual formula, offering new gameplay options. But it seems that they didn’t have enough time to improve the ideas, and as a result many of the game’s conclusions are rather awkward, and the levels are too long.
It’s possible that the single-player mode was not a priority at all because in the game menu it is not the first in the series, but only the third one. The co-op turned out to be a trivial stump, made in a hurry.