Like the players who pre-ordered the game, we have been testing the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II campaign for a short week. Our impressions.
It is an understatement to say that Modern Warfare 2, released in 2009, represents an important part of the video game journey for a certain generation of players. Radical and innovative in many aspects, Infinity Ward’s game has made a lasting impression and remains the best-rated opus on Metacritic (tied with its predecessor).
Suffice it to say that we can feel from here a certain pressure for the studio to revisit this monument of the military FPS. The direct sequel to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), does this new opus live up to its reputation? The hour of the verdict has come.
Test conducted on PC using code provided by the game publisher. This review only applies to the Campaign mode of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II. It will be updated with our multiplayer verdict later.
Strong heads and team spirit
Activision has been saying it and repeating it to anyone who wants to hear it for months: Modern Warfare II represents a new era for its Call of Duty license. This a statement that refers both to the multiplayer approach and to Warzone, which will host its version 2.0 next month, but also to the campaigns of upcoming shooters.
Azmi Tech was invited to preview Modern Warfare II solo during a press trip to Amsterdam, and this event shows a certain pride in Activision for the work done by Infinity Ward on this opus.
Three years after the events of Modern Warfare, Captain Price, Soap, and Gaz return to service under the banner of Task Force 141 to defuse – quite literally – a new threat. After an American missile incapacitates an Iranian warlord, terrorist Hassan seeks revenge and manages to get his hands on American missiles that he intends to direct toward the country of the hamburger.
A plot after all quite conventional for this type of game, but it has the merit of making us travel and meet a lot of new characters – at the cost of any geopolitical coherence, of course. Because, in this great world chess game where Iranian terrorists, Mexican cartel leaders, Russian soldiers, and American mercenaries meet, Infinity Ward manages to pull a few pawns from the table here and there to put them in the spotlight.
As such, newcomer Alejandro Vargas is a welcome addition to the group dynamic. Pack leader of the Mexican special forces, this strong head fits perfectly into the team. Especially since the historical fans of the license will not sulk their pleasure to find Simon “Ghost” Riley and his characteristic mask.
The disproportion of ambitions
But then how is it piloted, a Call of Duty campaign? And, above all, how do you avoid repetition, when Activision has released a new episode every year since 2002? Let’s be clear: it is certainly not in the chapter of writing that the cursor has been placed. Anyway, we’re not here for that. On the other hand, we must salute the relative risk-taking of Infinity Ward with its new campaign which, it is true, tries things in terms of gameplay.
In addition to its very appealing graphic properties, the game engine allows a wide variety of approaches that allow teams to deviate – a little – from the specifications. We find, as every year, missions of escort, hostage release, a search of a hideout of thugs, or rail shooting. But some of the 17 chapters of the campaign are also trying to move the lines.
Some will offer (slightly) more open environments, where the player is freer to choose. Others will bet on completely new gameplay, like this sequence where you jump from truck to truck to go back to the head of a convoy (it’s like Uncharted ). Finally, an unexpected survival and crafting mechanism will occasionally appear to make us go from hunter status to prey status.
Sometimes it works. Often the sauce does not set at all. From there comes the frustration denounced by the title of this criticism: by wanting at all costs to renew its formula while keeping a foot firmly anchored in its heritage, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is scattered and comes to do anything.
This famous operation where you jump from one vehicle to another, for example, is among the most boring levels ever made in an episode of the license. Unnecessarily difficult (enemy trucks leave behind mines…), it is difficult to understand when to jump. You will understand: we frequently ended up flattened like a pancake under the wheels of enemy SUVs.
Too bad, because Call of Duty should not be a difficult game (unless you choose the appropriate mode). Call of Duty is the big show. It is a Hollywood action film we discover a controller in hand. And this kind of sequence, certainly innovative on their scale, comes to break the rhythm and take us out of immersion.
We won’t even dwell on enemies with reinforced armor, forcing you to empty an entire magazine to get rid of them. An ugly Warzone legacy that Infinity Ward wanted to shoehorn into its Solo mode.
A feast for the eyes (and ears)
At the time of the balance sheet, we, therefore, remain a little on our hunger. Especially since 2019, Modern Warfare had been able to show more audacity by not hesitating to provoke. But geopolitical news being what it is, perhaps it’s no worse than Infinity Ward didn’t go overboard this time.
Overall, we are not having a bad time on this campaign. In our opinion, it could have been amputated by two or three somewhat light filler missions (the lifespan is estimated at seven hours) to put a boost at an occasionally choppy pace. But there’s one thing that Infinity Ward is impregnable about: the technical luster of its games.
It’s very simple, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II easily rises among the most beautiful FPS ever released. The fidelity of the sets (Amsterdam!) commands respect and the facial animations are strikingly realistic. Add to that a brand new water management (with immersive gameplay) and a certain expertise in weapon modeling and the accuracy of sound impacts, and we get one in the other a worthy successor to Modern Warfare.