lIt’s almost comforting in this era of “games as a service” where franchises exist as endless money machines designed to consume every second of our spare time, which Duty still gets an annual retail release. At one time, these games sold 30 million copies a year and people queued in front of the stores at midnight to buy them. Those days are over, but Modern Warfare II shows there’s still some guilty pleasure to be had in these ridiculous annual installments of macho combat gymnastics.
The campaign story takes place three years after the end of 2019 Modern Warfare. The newly created Task Force 141 is sent to track down an Iranian terrorist who somehow acquired a set of US nuclear missiles. It’s slickly produced, fast-moving stuff bouncing around the world, from the Middle East to Mexico, as gruff boys yell macho-spec-ops phrases at each other. There are some spectacular scenery pieces along the way. A section where you infiltrate a convoy of military vehicles as it zooms along a civilian highway is arguably one of the best driving scenes I’ve ever played in a regular shooter; and there’s a brilliant firefight on the deck of a cargo boat in rough seas, where huge shipping containers slide in all directions and crush unwary combatants.
Often, though, Modern Warfare II looks like one of those new instant-stream action movies, starring one of the Hollywood lead actors named Chris. It’s brash and entertaining without ever stumbling upon an interesting idea. Some key sequences are indeed borrowed from other places. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare’s famous All Ghillied Up and Death from Above missions get highly accurate tributes, while a mission to infiltrate a cartel owner’s mansion is basically a Hitman level complete with social stealth, multiple routes and flashy architecture . The occasional implementation of a crafting system, which lets you create mines and smoke bombs from materials found in the environment, is most commonly used in some sort of semi-apocalyptic survival mission after an explosion that might as well be called The Blast. from U.S.
It also presents, as always, an unconditional endorsement of military intervention. Hi-tech guns, bombs and gadgets are gleefully deployed without hesitation, and in an already infamous moment, which occurs as you follow enemies through a small town, you are told to aim your weapon at innocent people to “de-escalate the enemy”. citizens”.
The fact that the game simply expects us to accept and act upon the language of armed oppression is a huge clue to the wider culture spawning these stories. There is at least a subtle reflection on America’s imperialist fantasy as the police of the world: not all of your Western allies are what they seem. But as in the previous game, which prompted us to think about the fine line between covert operations and war crimes, the overriding message is that heavily armed, anonymous special forces agents are 100% purveyors of good; we must all submit.
And really, that’s okay. Nobody comes here for a sharp geopolitical analysis. We make a Faustian pact when we consume mainstream action entertainment – it’s always, alwaysexists in a somewhat seductive space between courage and cruelty.
Meanwhile, the audiovisual experience is truly stunning. Every environment, whether it’s an abandoned Mexican village or an Amsterdam café on the canal, has been depicted in great detail. Bullets shoot past, enemies’ footsteps clatter on metal stairs, explosions vibrate in your head – the sheer physical immersion, mastery of form and function in these infernal landscapes is unreal.
Outside of the campaign, the all-important multiplayer component is stronger than it’s been in years. Modern Warfare II offers 12 modes spread across an initial selection of 15 maps, and as the wildly successful beta test hinted, these are uncompromising online shooting festivities, with a turbocharged pace and unwavering intensity. There are some really innovative locations here, including the Senta Sena Border Crossing, a section of highway dotted with abandoned cars that players have to sneak between quietly; and Crown Raceway, where pit lane battles take place, with hi-tech super-lit garage workshops as F1 cars whiz by outside.
There’s nothing hugely new about the modes. We get several variations on the old “Conquest” concept of occupying a room for as long as possible, while newcomer Prisoner Rescue is a basic Capture the Flag derivative, where two teams fight to defend or rescue sensitive civilians. But after two years dominated by the battle royale genre, Modern Warfare II reintroduces the appeal of tight, focused maps and constant engagement. The perfectly balanced weapons, the accurate environmental feedback, the progression system that gets you closer and closer to that perfect grip or muzzle to really balance your firearms platform; the sheer noise and thrill of it. Infinity Ward revolutionized the multiplayer first-person shooter with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and this is the best contemporary reinvention of what that game was all about: chaos, advancement in skill and the reflexes it takes to survive longer than three seconds at a time to survive .
In our era of cold technological battles, of armored police vehicles on city streets, of bloodily suppressed protests, we may wonder why such violent delights as Modern Warfare still have a place on the entertainment calendar. It’s something I’ve been thinking about during the many hours I’ve spent enjoying this ridiculous game. It’s something I might think about for the next few hours.