2022 has been a slow year for AAA gaming, with much of the industry’s anticipated lineup delayed until next year. However, like clockwork, a new Call of Duty game has managed to make it, with long-time developer Infinity Ward back behind the iron sights for another venture into the murky world of Modern Warfare. 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot was a bold reimagining of the series, with the game’s underlying tech meaningfully upgraded for the first time since the original Xbox 360 version of Modern Warfare, and this year’s game is an evolution of that effort. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 takes the groundwork laid by the last MW title and refines it to forge one of the best Call of Duty games in the last decade, and certainly Infinity Ward’s finest CoD since, well, the old Modern Warfare 2.
First up, MW2’s campaign mode. We’ll keep this part brief because we already tackled it in our recent Hands On feature, but to put it simply this campaign is another fine effort from Infinity Ward. While it falls in line with most of the other Modern Warfare games out there, a stronger focus on stealth and espionage does mix things up a fair bit in this year’s release. You’ll still partake in your fair share of chaotically loud gunfights in far-flung locations across the globe, but the sneaky sneaks have been liberally peppered throughout MW2’s campaign creating a slower paced, more intimate affair.
As we noted in our campaign hands on, this change of pace hasn’t harmed the series’ AAA presentation in the slightest. Modern Warfare 2 feels expensive, with lifelike cutscenes and motion capture combining with the series’ signature gameplay, bringing things to life in a believable way. Sure, these aren’t the most compelling characters in video game history (far from it), but Infinity Ward extracts a lot from a military squad of spec ops soldiers, to the point where we at least paid attention to what was going on most of the time. That’s pretty high praise for a CoD campaign in our book, and MW2 is well worth a look, especially if last year’s sloppy effort has deterred you from tackling campaign mode.
Now, let’s move ahead to the meat and potatoes of any CoD game: multiplayer. We skipped over this year’s beta period to head into the full game with a fresh outlook, and we’re mighty impressed by what’s here at launch. Modern Warfare 2 is a lovely mix of classic CoD and the MW reboot’s new vision; it feels like Infinity Ward knew what it wanted to create right from the off. Things aren’t perfect admittedly, but MW2’s multiplayer launch is the best we’ve seen from CoD in a decade, since Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
You’ve got your usual array of modern weapons and gadgets to use across a variety of modes and maps right at launch, and the core gameplay loop is on point here. MW2’s gunplay is tight, with every weapon we’ve unlocked so far feeling unique & satisfying to use, from your versatile set of ARs and SMGs to a collection of weapons better suited to specific engagements. We’ve not run into anything that feels overtly overpowered during the game’s opening weekend either, which is always a bonus!
Speaking of specific engagements, we have to give MW2’s big team modes a huge shoutout. Larger scale warfare was a core pillar of the 2019 reboot, and once again, IW has refined that offering here to create the best part of MW2’s multiplayer component. Both the flag-based ‘Ground War’ and the battle of attrition that is ‘Invasion’ are immensely fun to play, and the set of launch maps feel custom made for the modes this time out, especially compared to Modern Warfare 2019. Infinity Ward has managed to out-Battlefield Battlefield, creating a fun and frantic playground for large scale modern combat, and it’s a part of MW2 we can see ourselves playing for months to come.
When it comes to standard 6v6 combat, the results are more mixed but MW2 is still a great time in its main multiplayer mode. Most of the game’s 6v6 launch maps are fun to play, even if none have really stood out yet as a top-tier level. The game’s combat flow is more forgiving than the previous Modern Warfare title as well, allowing players to run-and-gun more freely without being punished. We’re not sure if Infinity Ward has managed to topple Treyarch in the 6v6 department just yet (we need to play a lot more to figure this out), but Modern Warfare 2’s core multiplayer match flow is a huge improvement over the reboot and a fun time overall.
However, multiplayer isn’t without its problems, which is to be expected given everything the developer is trying to do here. First off, Hardcore modes — to be known as ‘Tier 1’ modes in MW2 — are absent at launch, and core tuning is the only way to play. We’ve always stuck to core anyway so this hasn’t been a huge issue on our end, but we know some folks play these modes religiously and we felt it’s something that needed to be pointed out. Infinity Ward is bringing Tier 1 to Modern Warfare 2 soon, specifically at the start of Season 1 on November 16th.
The other major bone we have to pick with MW2’s multiplayer right now is a somewhat confusing gunsmith/unlock system. The team has mixed things up this year by tying a lot of attachment and camo unlocks to the use of other weapons, presumably to encourage players to mix up their loadouts. However, the setup isn’t very well explained, and it leads to confusion when you’re using a particular weapon and that doesn’t unlock more stuff for it. We’ve been rocking the M4 assault rifle quite a bit over the weekend — as have a lot of folks — and we pretty quickly unlocked five scopes for the thing, but another 35(!) weapon sights are locked behind unrelated challenges. Some attachments don’t even seem to detail what’s required to unlock them, and overall, we’d like things to be simplified a little bit because the whole system feels bloated and confusing in its current state.
Finally, there’s co-op. This is a Modern Warfare title so there’s no Zombies mode this year, with Infinity Ward reverting to its typical ‘Spec Ops’ offering. We’ve dabbled in a few of the co-op missions available at launch, and again, things feel a bit more refined in this year’s game, but as per usual Spec Ops is nothing to write home about. What we’ve played has felt nice and polished, almost like an extension of the game’s campaign mode in tone and style, but we can’t say we’ve felt compelled to jump back in for a second run. Oh, and seriously, stealth and online co-op are not a good mix in Call of Duty!
Infinity Ward has delivered its best Call of Duty game since the original Modern Warfare 2 (from way back in 2009) with this year’s release. The game’s campaign mixes things up rather nicely, delivering a more tactical outing this time around, and the game’s multiplayer caters to almost every type of Call of Duty player out there. While the non-Zombies co-op mode is an expected low point, MW2’s multiplayer component is jam-packed and well-balanced, creating a compelling reason to keep returning to its huge online sandbox. Modern Warfare 2 won’t convince the CoD haters out there, but this year’s release is a return to form after one of the franchise’s major lows in 2021’s Call of Duty: Vanguard.