Another year, another Call of Duty, this time in the form of Modern Warfare II (not to be confused with 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 or 2020’s Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered. Perhaps they ran out of ideas for names.
While I have played some of the older Call of Duty titles, including the original Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, my only other experience with the more recent entries was 2018’s Black Ops 4. It was ok but didn’t keep my interest very long. I enjoy first-person shooters but have always tended towards the more tactical games like Rainbow Six and the older Battlefield games. More recently, Rainbow Six Siege and Insurgency: Sandstorm have drawn my attention. Battlefield seems to have run itself into the ground, and the many changes to Rainbow Six Siege have put me off the game.
Thus, on my journey to find a new FPS, I set my sights on Modern Warfare II. After putting 10 hours into the campaign and around 240+ hours into the multiplayer, here are my thoughts.
Single-player campaigns have never been the primary focus of Call of Duty, but every iteration (except for Black Ops 4) has a campaign. For the most part, they are entertaining during their short durations. This time the story revolves around finding some missiles that have gone missing. You must deal with Narcos, bad folks from Iran, and other interested parties. There are some significant twists and turns, which I won’t spoil here. A good number of cutscenes with strong voice acting helped keep my interest throughout, save for a few weak sections discussed below.
The entire experience lasts around 8-10 hours, but this will depend on the difficulty you choose to play on. I played on Hardened and started a Realistic difficulty playthrough as well. All in all, the campaign is what you’d expect in a Modern Warfare game. It’s a triple-A, summer blockbuster experience with great set pieces, lots of action, and various locations and mission types that keep things interesting. The missions can be at night, stealth-based, sniper-focused, and more. In one, you control a plane providing support from above. This was probably my favorite mission in the campaign.
Most missions were fine, but a few sections could have been more positive for me. The first was a section where you lose all your weapons and need to scavenge parts to craft traps and items to open doors. On paper, this seems like a great idea. Unfortunately, it felt entirely out of place in relation to the rest of the campaign (and the game as a whole). In addition, the stage dragged on a little too long for its own good. I figured these mechanics were present as an introduction to what we may find in the multiplayer DMZ mode. After playing that, it doesn’t seem to be the case since there is no crafting in DMZ or Warzone 2.0. Hence, this section’s gameplay feels even odder. Perhaps these are features they plan on adding to DMZ in the future.
Another level has you chasing a convoy along what seems to be an endless road. I use the word endless because that’s exactly how it feels. You jump on car A and use it until it’s too damaged. Then you jump to car B, slowly making your way towards the front of the convoy. The same gameplay loop is repeated ad infinitum. While it is entertaining for a short while, it quickly gets tiresome. Even a quarter of the length would have sufficed.
Finally, you must fight a tank in one section. It’s probably the most annoying level in the campaign. Between the tank one-shotting you and the constantly spawning enemies that also one-shot you while you’re trying to avoid the tank, this battle is truly a test of patience. It was even worse on Hardened difficulty because it feels like the AI constantly cheats. For instance, I would be killed in a split-second by enemies I could not see. As a result, some areas would take several attempts until I knew exactly where the bad buys were or would spawn from. I may not be a god-tier FPS player, but I consider myself at least competent. Yet, no matter how fast I could aim or how accurate I was, I would almost instantly die.
To compound this, armored enemies show up that, yet again, one-shot you and are also bullet sponges. You must focus fire on the head, break the helmet armor, and then kill them, but I would often get one-shotted in the process. This cheap AI is not rewarding or enjoyable to play against since you lose because of unfair situations instead of being outplayed or outsmarted.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the campaign. The experience was fun despite a disappointing last mission. The campaign is a nice inclusion but certainly not a reason to buy the game, which should surprise no one.
The main portion of any Call of Duty game is multiplayer. The gunplay is what you would expect. It feels great. It’s responsive, impactful, and certainly in the top tier of shooting games. This should be no surprise since they have been refining the mechanics for almost 20 years. Still, this year’s edition has some changes.
Movement is slightly slower. Slide canceling is not doable, thankfully. Bunny hopping around corners is less viable but still occurs. Time-to-kill is quite fast this time around. Although pre-aim is favored in some situations, run-and-gun is still ‘the name of the game’ in most cases, albeit with some adjustments. You can still slide and dolphin dive. You can even mount your weapon on objects and corners to further stabilize your aim.
I like the changes since I come from playing slower and more tactical shooters. But let me be clear: Modern Warfare II is by no means a tactical shooter. It’s still very much a fast-paced Call of Duty game. It’s just slightly slower than previous iterations in the series.
Here are the familiar 6v6 modes, with more coming in the future:
- Team Deathmatch
- Kill Confirmed
- Search & Destroy
- Prisoner Rescue
The 6v6 modes take place on small-to-very-small maps. You’ll die fast, respawn, and continue with the ability to choose a loadout each time. The limited number of maps will hurt the game and become an issue if they don’t add more maps sooner rather than later. Still, all the modes have their own twist. For example, Domination is the standard capture and hold three points, whereas Hardpoint has you capturing a single spot that moves around the map. In Kill Confirmed, you kill the enemy team and collect their dog tags to get points. You can also collect your teammates’ dog tags to deny points to the opposing team.
There are a few modes where respawns are disabled in full or in part. You capture a single point in HQ, after which the capturing teams’ respawns are disabled until the enemy recaptures it. Search and Destroy tasks you with either defending two bomb sites or planting the bomb. If you die, you are out until the next round. The following two modes allow reviving, but you lose if your entire team is downed. In Prisoner Rescue, you either defend two prisoners or rescue one. If a prisoner is rescued, the defending team loses. And then there’s Knockout, much like Team Deathmatch except if you are downed you must be revived.
As of Season 1, Hardcore mode returns but is now called Tier 1. Time-to-kill (TTK) is significantly faster, and the HUD is reduced. There is no minimap, but there is friendly fire. There are certainly fewer people playing this mode, as I found queuing for it took a lot longer than the normal modes. It’s not bad, but I didn’t find it as enjoyable as the normal modes. This is despite the fact that I enjoy a more tactical shooter. I’ll need to put some more time into it when I get the chance.
There are two larger-scale modes in the game:
- Invasion – 20v20 players (with bots)
- Ground War – 32v32 players (with vehicles and point capture)
Invasion is 20v20 players with tons of bots thrown in. Each team makes its way toward the enemy side. As one team draws ahead of the other, the losing team’s spawns are moved slowly backward. In addition, armored bots are dropped in along with vehicles as the match progresses. The mode is fun but serves more as a way to level weapons. I found it became less interesting after a few hours.
Ground War is 32v32 players with no bots but includes vehicles. There are a number of points to capture around the map, and the team that holds the most points for the longest wins. This mode is the closest equivalent to the traditional Battlefield games, albeit on smaller maps.
Skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) is also present, in addition to crossplay. From what I can tell, PC players will play alongside and against console players using gamepads with a quite strong aim assist. The option to disable crossplay is not available on PC or Xbox but apparently is available on PlayStation. I think SBMM in ranked mode makes far more sense, and at least giving the option to disable crossplay would have been a nice addition (should PC players not desire to be put up against aim-assisted players).
Finally, there is the Spec Ops mode, which has three coop missions for two players, with more to come. This is probably the game’s weakest aspect of the multiplayer. These missions are incredibly easy, with no way to increase the difficulty. You can get up to three stars depending on how fast you complete each mission. These stars can be used to purchase some cosmetics, but other than that, I don’t see much replayability in this mode.
There are over 50 weapons in the game of many types (assault rifles, marksman rifles, shotguns, SMGs, DMRs, sniper rifles, and pistols). All guns can be upgraded to unlock new attachments, and more guns unlock as you level up other guns. In other words, you’ll need to level up one weapon to unlock a completely different weapon, which you’ll need to level up to unlock an attachment that you want to use on your weapon of choice.
While I don’t inherently have an issue with this system, it feels convoluted and unintuitive, especially at first. You are forced to use weapons you don’t want to use to unlock weapons you do want to use for hours, which may annoy some folks. A positive is that it forced me to use weapons I wouldn’t ordinarily use in this kind of game. Some of these weapons I ended up enjoying, for the most part. While not all guns are S-tier, most are viable if set up correctly.
The Gunsmith system returns and allows you to fully customize your leveled-up weapons and tune their attachments (once you hit max weapon level). In addition to customizing the weapon’s performance to your liking via attachments, you can further tune each attachment to your playstyle. This lets you get each weapon exactly how you like it.
Loadouts are back. You can set up to ten different loadouts with primary and secondary weapons, tactical items (non-lethal ordinance like stun grenades, stims, and flashbangs), and lethal items (like Semtex, frag grenades, and C4). You pick a field upgrade (like Munitions Box, Dead Silence, and Trophy System), which recharges over time. You also choose four perks: two base, one advanced, and one ultimate. The advanced and ultimate perks unlock as the match time progresses.
As great as all this customization is, I wish there were a way to save a preset for each weapon rather than redo it for each loadout template. Loadouts can’t be exported to other modes like Warzone and DMZ, so you are constantly forced to re-customize and tune your favorite guns in each of these modes. It gets old fast and is made worse by interacting with the awful UI currently in the game.
In addition to the customization of attachments, weapon skin challenges are back. Each weapon has four base skins that require you to complete specific challenges to unlock them. Once those are done, you unlock the mastery skin challenges, going in order of Gold, Platinum, Polyatomic, and finally, Orion. Polyatomic and Orion have extremely high requirements. For example, to get the Polyatomic skin for a weapon, you’ll need to have unlocked all the platinum skins for every gun in the game. Quite a feat that will require a significant amount of time.
Guns can also have charms attached, large decals, and smaller stickers. These are unlocked via the Battlepass and through various other challenges. As far as character customization goes, there are a decent number of operators to choose from, some of which already have skin variations, with more to come, no doubt.
Finally, you can customize your emblems and your calling cards. There are a ton of calling cards that can be unlocked via various challenges in the game, but I’ve not managed to unlock or find many other emblems.
DMZ & Warzone
While Warzone and DMZ are free and not part of the base game, I will include brief impressions of them in this review since they are part of the Modern Warfare II package.
Warzone 2.0 is a battle royale that starts with 150 players and ends with one player or team standing, as the circle closes. Solo, duo, trio, and quad modes are available. The Unhinged Trio option allows you to recruit another full trio into your team, thus becoming a 6-person squad. The gulag is back, except this time it’s 2v2 (with a random teammate most of the time). The jailer appears after a while, and you can choose to team up and defeat him or not. The new inventory system is passable, but it needs some work. Picking up items on the ground has its own issues, which will be noted below.
The DMZ mode is quite interesting. You drop into the map with two other team members (or randoms, or solo if you want) and are tasked with completing three missions you take from factions at the start of the game (of which there are three). The map is the same as Warzone (Al Mazrah) but is filled with enemy AI and many other player teams (66 players in total, I believe) also trying to complete missions.
The idea for DMZ is to drop in, do missions, get loot or some other thing, and then exfiltrate alive. If you make it, you get to keep the weapons you’ve taken and some of the gear. The rest is transformed into XP. If you die, you lose everything. You have one insured weapon slot at the start (which you choose and customize like you would any weapon in a loadout), along with a tactical, a lethal, and a field upgrade. Two more insured slots can also be unlocked but require leveling up each faction by doing various faction missions.
If you die with your insured weapon, the slot goes on cooldown for two real-time hours. If you plan on going back in, you’ll need to take one of the contraband guns you found on your next run. Contraband weapons cannot be customized at all. You use them as you found them with whatever attachments or lack of attachments they may have. Bringing back money reduces the cooldown on the insured slots. Getting into engagements with bots causes reinforcements to be called in and eventually becomes a battle of attrition.
DMZ mode is still listed as beta, but I like what is there. It certainly has a great deal of potential, but it needs to be fleshed out more, not just regarding the bugs but with the gameplay and AI. The AI is brain-dead, and the armored AI will laser you and are bullet sponges like they are in the campaign.
At present, once all the faction missions are completed, I’m not sure if there will be any incentive to keep playing DMZ. I’m sure they will add more missions and other seasonal events, but I also think that there needs to be persistent progression outside of just bringing back weapons and equipment from each mission. There is no stash, and spare items or cash aren’t saved. So, you can’t be a hoarder, which is partially what is so enjoyable in Escape from Tarkov, getting to build up your stash at homebase.
Moreover, DMZ has no vendors at the base to buy or sell things to. You also can’t find attachments that allow you to customize contraband weapons in the game world. If your contraband weapon storage is full, you can only destroy them; you can’t remove attachments and put them on another similar gun that doesn’t have those specific attachments. Aside from guns and non-duplicate equipment, everything is sold off for XP when you complete each mission. So, once you reach the max level, even this is pointless.
There is a Battlepass because it seems all online games need one of those these days. It costs around 10 euros and has 100 tiers. They’ve chosen to lay it out slightly differently in this game, but at least it is a little more interesting. Regardless, it offers XP tokens, several weapon blueprints for weapons that are pre-modded and come with a skin, some operator and vehicle skins, emblems, and calling cards. It also offers two entirely new weapons. The good news is that these weapons are also available in the free tier of the pass. Completing the paid Battlepass nets you 1,400 COD points which is enough to buy the next Battlepass with some points leftover. In theory, the most dedicated players only need to pay for one Battlepass as long as they keep finishing each season’s pass.
I don’t even know where to start. There are so many bugs in Modern Warfare II. For a game that sells for 70 euros and has made three billion dollars in 10 days, you’d think they could at least have tested it and ensured there were no game-breaking problems. That seems not to be the case, and, apparently, QA has been on extended leave.
The main issue I have is the constant crashes that still persist. Every session I have at least one or two, sometimes three crashes. In my time with the game so far (250+ hours), I had around 65 crashes and several ‘Steam disconnected’ errors. Crashes are never acceptable. Especially in game modes like Warzone and DMZ (where you’ll lose all your stuff if it happens), it really hinders gameplay. You can’t rejoin a DMZ session if you crash out of it, either. The other night I had three DMZ runs in a row crash after I’d geared up and was heading to extract. The same has happened with Warzone. I feel the game is just wasting my time, and I am hesitant to play Warzone and even DMZ until these issues are fixed.
The crashes are the worst issue, but they’re not the only issues that are present. Challenges and daily challenges occasionally don’t track properly. Servers lag. Audio cuts out or is simply missing in some instances. Some players have also been complaining about performance issues on high-end machines. Graphical issues and a plethora of UI bugs plague the game. The UI in the game is just horrendous, truly garbage tier. Aside from being buggy, it’s also incredibly cumbersome and unintuitive. It feels like it was designed for a tablet. Rumor has it that a designer from Hulu created it because someone at either Activision or Infinity Ward thought that was a good idea. It seriously needs a complete rework.
I understand that in big projects, some issues may slip past QA. However, with this many issues and constant crashes, I’m unsure how this game passed QA. The game has been out for nearly two weeks, and the crashes seem more frequent. Infinity Ward even has a link to their Trello board where you can see what they are working on and what issues they are aware of. However, I see no mention of the constant crashing. None at all.
Another annoyance is the looting system. Picking up stuff on the ground has issues when items are in proximity to each other. For example, if there is a gun next to a munitions box or ammo refill, you’ll often pick up the gun instead of getting ammo (in modes like Ground War, Invasion, DMZ, or Warzone). If two guns are stacked on top of each other, you’ll be unable to pick up the one underneath. These issues have gotten me killed more times than I can count. Another issue is that you often mount and start climbing a ladder because you ran a little too close to it. This has also gotten me killed a few times.
Despite all the issues above, I’m actually enjoying Modern Warfare II’s multiplayer way more than I thought I would. In fact, it’s the only thing I’ve been playing since it launched, which is unusual for me. The gameplay, gunplay, and weapon customization are great, even with the lack of multiplayer maps in 6v6, Invasion, and Ground War. Moreover, what could have been a far more positive experience for me has been neutered by the number of bugs and crashes present in its current state, which is very disappointing.
Finally, the asking price is very steep for the content on offer here. The cost versus value is even worse if you buy the Vault Edition, which doesn’t give you any COD points. In-game store items are also exorbitantly expensive for what you get.
Modern Warfare II is certainly not going to be for everyone. If you really dislike the Call of Duty formula, this game won’t change your mind. If you’re on the fence and looking for a new FPS, this 2022 entry might be enough, as it has been for me. If you enjoy fast-paced shooters, there is a lot to like here. If it’s something you’re interested in and don’t already own, I would recommend waiting for a sale, especially considering the issues that are still present in the game.
- Campaign is enjoyable
- 6v6 Multiplayer is a lot of fun
- Gunplay feels great
- Gun variety/customization
- Ground War/Invasion mode
- Lots of bugs, glitches & crashes (65 crashes and counting)
- Menu UI is unintuitive and very badly designed and also buggy
- AI cheats in campaign, dumb in Invasion/DMZ
- Spec ops underwhelming
- Limited maps at launch
- No custom blueprints
- The game is overpriced
- Store items are very pricy
Windows 10 64-bit computer using an Intel i7-12700k, 32GB Ram, and an nVidia RTX 3080 graphics card.