One of the most beloved games of its era, the franchise, and first-person shooters of all time, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 continues the franchise’s focus of modern-day technological warfare. After the staggering triumph that was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward created a crucially needed sequel that expanded on its predecessor in every way: an increasingly crushing story, improved gameplay mechanics and game design, and a grander sense of immersion. Modern Warfare 2 builds upon its predecessor in every which way, something every great video game sequel should do.
Modern Warfare 2 continues the narrative from the previous game and is hailed for having one of the finest campaigns in the first-person shooter genre. I would go as far to say there are plenty of quotable lines and iconic moments within its story that are still referenced to this day. *The campaign also contains a controversial mission where the player is prompted to help massacre defenseless Russian citizens at an airport, which stands as one of the most beautifully tragic video game moments of all time.
Modern Warfare 2 starts out with a brief and accessible opening tutorial. It is within this short period the developers give you all the time and leeway you need to get comfortable with the controls and to optimize them to your ideal configurations. On these training grounds, Infinity Ward allows you to discover the kind of player you are and what difficulty level you should be playing on. I chose veteran — I would have to confess mostly for the Xbox achievements — and it was relievedly easier than Call of Duty 4’s veteran difficulty.
What I love about this game especially, though, is how every campaign mission is different from the last. There is no “formula” the devs followed in making these missions. Each and every one of them is great in their own fashion and completely distinguishable. It is even more impressive when you see how the gameplay perfectly coheres to the story, allowing it to progress but never sacrificing gameplay for its narrative, which is something many game companies frequently lose sight of when making any game with a story.
There are two reasons Modern Warfare 2’s campaign missions are all successfully different from one another: diversity and design. Diversely, this game is always changing its look, feel, and objective. Whether you’re in a downward snowmobile chase in Kazakhstan, gunning down gangs in Brazilian favelas, or defending the nation’s capital with a minigun inside a helicopter, the mission is always fresh, fun, and exciting. Heck, there’s a mission that takes place in the Virginian suburbs and one that takes place entirely on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, but never once do these missions feel out of place or exist for the sake of just “feeling different.”
This is where the design comes in. The design is cleverly built into the location. Not to plagiarize myself, but design-wise, the missions are ironically constructed like playgrounds. One could call these campaigns out for their linearity but Infinity Ward’s implementation of multiple avenues and attention to detail in the level design make the missions perpetually fresh and invigorating. It will never not be satisfying to find a weapon conveniently lying right in front of you when reaching a new area. Not only that, but these deliberately placed weapons are usually befitting for the scenario you’re in. Also, much like the previous game, Modern Warfare 2 has well-hidden and fun-to-find intel within the crevices of these missions.
There are very few instances where the level design does feel a little traitorous. Even in areas where you feel like you are covered from enemy fire, they will still find ways to cheat you out from recovery. This wasn’t a major issue to me, because that’s war, I guess, but the only instance where it really irked me was the boat chase finale where you are ordered to “stay out of open areas” when there were very little areas to take cover.
If there’s one issue that genuinely bothered me though, it’s the checkpoint inconveniences and inconsistencies, an issue that still pursues from the previous entry. There are moments where the checkpoints definitely feel like they should activate (like when there’s a clear absence of enemies), but don’t, so the game forces you to kill the same enemies over and over. There are also points where checkpoints activate in areas they previously didn’t activate in on previous attempts. The activation of these checkpoints might not seem like much, but they often cause more failure in the long run than what the player should have experienced with an actually helpful one.
Other than those issues, Modern Warfare 2 stands out as one of the best games in the first-person shooter genre and one of my personal favorite video games in general. I consider this Infinity Ward’s magnum opus — one that they still haven’t surpassed since. It has quite possibly the best and most memorable campaign, unparalleled and constantly changing gameplay, and an unmatched feeling of immersion through its gritty visuals, booming sound design, and catastrophe-ridden atmosphere.