Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Infinity Ward's rebooted sequel succeeds with some stumbles.

by Diego Perez

The release of Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare reboot in 2019 marked the beginning of a new era of Call of Duty. The franchise made a directed effort to return to its roots, with Infinity Ward working on Modern Warfare games, Treyarch working on non-futuristic Black Ops games, and Sledgehammer taking over the series’ WWII history. Despite Treyarch and Sledgehammer’s efforts, though, Modern Warfare always felt like it was at the forefront of the franchise’s revitalization.

Modern Warfare 2019 introduced an engine with industry-leading visuals and sound, a new seasonal progression model and story structure, new modes like Gunfight that have become series staples, the remarkably in-depth Gunsmith system, and several other new additions that made Call of Duty better than ever. It also introduced the world to Warzone, which has become the central pillar of the franchise and provided a throughline between all of these otherwise unrelated entries.

Now, Infinity Ward is back three years later with the follow-up to the most beloved Call of Duty entry in years. It also happens to be the namesake of one of the most celebrated multiplayer shooters of all time. After the lukewarm reception to Black Ops Cold War and Vanguard, the hype is certainly there for Modern Warfare 2. Infinity Ward is usually leading the charge when it comes to innovation within the Call of Duty franchise, which is why it feels so strange that Modern Warfare 2 takes so many steps back.



Modern Warfare 2’s single-player campaign is a complicated mess. Infinity Ward has made it clear that its number one goal with this year’s campaign is to set a new standard for level variety, and it succeeds on that front. Modern Warfare 2 is not strictly a linear corridor shooter. Those sections still do exist, but they’re spaced out between more engaging and open gameplay scenarios.

Stealthily taking out terrorists on an Amsterdam dock while diving in and out of the water for cover, sniping guards and clearing outposts from afar alongside Captain Price, hijacking vehicles as you make your way to the front of an enemy convoy, and scavenging for supplies to craft improvised weapons are just a handful of scenarios that the game’s campaign will place you in when you’re not partaking in bombastic set pieces or clearing rooms with your squad. While some of the handholding sections can still feel repetitive and stale, dull moments are rare in Modern Warfare 2’s campaign.


The same cannot be said about the game’s narrative, however, which is where the campaign falls flat on its face. It’s a globe-trotting story that spreads itself way too thin, bouncing back and forth between forgettable villains as the paper-thin plot moves along. The newly-formed Task Force 141 is on the hunt for terrorist leader Hassan Zyani who is in possession of American missiles. They discover that his terrorist organization is working with a Mexican cartel as a smuggling partner, so the group allies themselves with Mexican Special Forces as they work to find the leader of the cartel while hunting for Hassan at the same time.

Thankfully, the story is saved by its characters and dialogue. Price and Gaz, who had the bulk of the screentime in the first game, take a backseat to Soap, Ghost, and newcomer Alejandro Vargas of the Mexican Special Forces. Their interactions while out in the field are fantastic, and their uneasy alliance transforms into true friendship by the time the credits roll. Ghost and Soap, in particular, have such a great relationship that I’ve written an entire article about it. The way they warm up to each other and the way Alejandro comes to respect the two of them carries the story. To put it simply, the parts of the story set in Mexico have strong “you’re invited to the carne asada” vibes.


Ultimately, the campaign is enjoyable from a gameplay perspective. The shooting is stellar, as you’d expect from an FPS franchise that’s been running for this long, the locations are varied and beautiful, and the missions rarely last longer than they need to. Just don’t go in expecting a story more complex than good guys shooting the bad guys. Don’t think about it too hard. It’s a fun blockbuster thrill ride, and there are some top notch banter and character interactions along the way.


After the credits roll on Modern Warfare 2’s single-player campaign, the fight against Al Qatala continues in the cooperative Spec Ops mode. Spec Ops was one of the defining features of the original Modern Warfare 2, so expectations are high for this year’s implementation of co-op right off the bat. Modern Warfare 2019’s version of Spec Ops was a total mess that was abandoned very soon after launch in favor of Warzone and multiplayer updates, and unfortunately, it seems like the Spec Ops mode in Modern Warfare 2 may very well suffer the same fate.


At launch, there are three co-op missions and the trio is entirely underwhelming. There’s a stealth night-op that involves infiltrating a small town and retrieving radioactive material, a large-scale mission that tasks players with destroying SAM turrets, and a defense mission that requires players to defend bomb sites from waves of increasingly difficult enemies. If these sound basic, that’s because they are.

Sadly, Spec Ops feels like an afterthought in its current state. There are only three missions that can be completed in just 10-15 minutes each. They’re also not hand-crafted levels, instead taking place at various POIs of the upcoming Warzone 2.0 map, Al Mazrah. The intended design is to replay them over and over to earn higher star ratings and faster times, but the incentives just aren’t there. You can’t even reliably level up your weapons in co-op modes since there are only a predetermined set of guns available in each mission with no attachment customization. The missions are enjoyable and do allow for a fair bit of freedom in your approach, but co-op isn’t worth more than a short few hours of enjoyment at the most right now.

Despite its lackluster first impression, there is one potential saving grace for Spec Ops: raids. Modern Warfare 2 is getting cooperative three-player raids as a part of Spec Ops starting in December. There’s not much information about these currently, but they will be challenging, linear missions that involve puzzle-solving in addition to intense bouts of combat. Hopefully, these raids will prove popular and have compelling rewards so Infinity Ward will continue to add cooperative content to the game, but as it stands right now, Modern Warfare 2’s co-op mode is an utter disappointment with an uncertain future.



No matter how much effort was put into the single-player campaign and cooperative mode, multiplayer was always going to be the main attraction of Modern Warfare 2. Despite its stellar presentation and super satisfying shooting, Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer suite is a mixed bag. The core of what makes this franchise good is still there, just as it is every year, but the lame map pool, missing features, balancing issues, and overturned skill-based matchmaking hold it back from being truly great.

If there’s one word that describes Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer philosophy, it’s deliberate. When I visited Infinity Ward to preview Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 earlier this year, they described the three core playstyles that would be catered to for multiplayer: Rushers, Sentinels, and Stalkers. It felt like the studio was finally trying to explain the reasoning behind the balancing decisions and playstyle changes that the series had been undergoing in recent years.


Most Call of Duty players do fall into these three archetypes, but with them laid out so clearly in pre-release marketing, it’s now much easier to see why Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer doesn’t work as well as it could. By attempting to cater to everyone, Modern Warfare 2 pleases no one.

The Rushers of the community, those who favor running, gunning, and bragging about their K/D ratio, are severely punished this year by the nerf to movement mechanics and changes in the new Gunsmith system. The removal of slide canceling is a controversial decision for the competitive Call of Duty community, but it’s largely a good decision for the health of the game.

The only issue is that Rushers don’t have any new advantages to make up for the removal of movement mechanics, since nearly every attachment in the game penalizes ADS speed and the attachments that allow for a quicker ADS speed don’t work as well as they used to. This is an intentional choice to force Rushers to use faster weapon classes like submachine guns and shotguns, which makes sense on paper, but this idea fails in practice due to Modern Warfare 2’s balancing issues at launch.


It’s hard to feel motivated to use a rapid-fire SMG like the Fennec 45 when weapons like the SP-R 208 marksman rifle exist since it completely outclasses almost every weapon in the game even without a decent attachment setup. The SP-R 208 is the most extreme example for sure — the community even jokes that it is simultaneously the best sniper rifle, marksman rifle, shotgun, and assault rifle given its dominance in the meta right now — but it’s emblematic of a larger issue with weapon balancing as a whole. Guns like the M16 are nearly unusable compared to other weapons in its class, for example, and there are other weapons that players are dreading to use when it comes to the camo grind.

The Sentinel and Stalker archetypes are having much more success in Modern Warfare 2, but even they are not without their faults. Modern Warfare 2’s lack of information and spawn system makes these play styles a total headache. Players don’t appear on the minimap as red dots when firing weapons anymore, a continued change from Modern Warfare 2019, and it’s difficult to gather any information about where the enemy team is because of it. It’s hard to organize a flank or make a play for an objective if you just don’t have anything to go off of.

That’s not a huge issue though, it’s really the spawns that are to blame. A good Call of Duty player can keep track of ally positioning and previous enemy spawns to predict where enemies will come from, but Modern Warfare 2’s spawn system is egregiously bad. Enemies will spawn in your crosshairs, you’ll spawn feet away from enemies, you’ll spawn on active grenades, and so on. It’s endlessly frustrating and makes controlling parts of the map impossible, leaving objective-based game modes to feel entirely random without any sense of flow at all.


With all of these changes, it’s clear that Modern Warfare 2 actually encourages players to play slowly and steadily, clearing rooms and checking corners as they proceed cautiously through the map. That’s not a bad change at all; the slower pace is a breath of fresh air. However, if Infinity Ward wants Modern Warfare 2 to be played this way, it needs to reward that style of play and let those players dominate without spawning an enemy behind them at random.

Outside of general gameplay issues, Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer map pool is also disappointing. It’s definitely a step up from the launch map pool of Modern Warfare 2019, but these maps feel mediocre at best and downright frustrating at worst. Maps like Taraq have basically no flow to them, while other maps like Santa Sena Border Crossing have proven incredibly divisive among the community. The best maps at the moment would have to be Crown Raceway and Zarqwa Hydroelectric, but even these don’t excite like the Modern Warfare maps of old. Infinity Ward will likely rely on remastered maps as Modern Warfare 2 gets seasonal content drops, and while original locales would be appreciated, I don’t know if this studio has that spark left in them anymore.


Speaking of maps, Modern Warfare 2 is missing an entire map from the beta: Valderas Museum. There are some copyright issues behind the scenes that held this map from the full release, but a missing map is emblematic of another huge issue with Modern Warfare 2. There are too many missing features at launch. Gunfight isn’t here, hardcore mode is coming with the launch of Season 1, challenges and medals don’t exist, reticle customization is nowhere to be found, custom weapon blueprints cannot be saved, ranked mode is coming next year, barracks and leaderboards aren’t in the game, and so on. There still is a lot of content to enjoy right now in Modern Warfare 2, but these are easy additions that have been series staples for years now.

These features have likely been cut so Infinity Ward could focus on the three major gameplay changes this year: weapon platforms, the new perk system, and attachment tuning. Weapon platforms are the new progression model for unlocking weapons and attachments. Essentially, each weapon now belongs to a family tree and you have to level up the weapon at the beginning of the tree to branch out and unlock new related guns while getting new attachments along the way. These weapons all share attachments too, so anything you unlock on the M16 can be used on the M4 as well, for example.


This is a good idea in theory. However, it forces players to use weapons they don’t want to use in order to get the attachments that they need. For example, the process of unlocking a red dot sight in this game is absurdly complicated. You have to level up the M4 to level 13 to unlock the FTAC Recon, which you then have to level up to level 16 to get the FSS Hurricane SMG. Once you have that, all you have to do is level that SMG to level 3 to unlock your very first red dot sight. It’s overly complicated and results in frustration more often than not.

If each weapon unlocked a basic set of attachments like a red dot sight and then each weapon in the platform tree unlocked a variation of those attachments, like a different style or reticle color, the system should work a lot better. In its current state, it’s a mess, with some attachments currently unobtainable since they do not have any unlock criteria at all.


Speaking of unnecessary changes, the perk system has been revamped in Modern Warfare 2. Now, players begin the round with two perks active while the third and fourth perks in their loadouts are activated mid-round by getting kills and scoring points. Most players will have all of their perks active a few minutes into each match, so it just feels like busy work. There’s nothing more deflating than getting 3 kills and instinctively trying to call in a UAV only to realize that Hardline isn’t turned on yet, so you’re still one kill away from a recon flyover.

Finally, attachment tuning brings a new layer of customization to the already remarkably in-depth Gunsmith. In practice though, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your weapons. Once you reach the max level with a weapon, you can fine-tune the stats of each of its attachments to favor one of two stats. However, even if you tune all five of your attachments to favor the same stat, like ADS speed, the difference is negligible. It’ll likely make a larger difference in Warzone 2.0 where recoil control and things like that will matter much more over long distances, but as it currently stands in Modern Warfare 2, it’s a disappointing feature that could have made build crafting a much more complex and personal process.


Despite all the other pros and cons of Modern Warfare 2, one hot-button issue still takes precedence over everything else: skill-based matchmaking. SBMM absolutely has a place in online video games, especially Call of Duty, but its implementation in Modern Warfare 2 feels completely overtuned. Performing well during a match is no longer exciting but terrifying since you know your next match will be against FaZe Clan. Getting stomped by FaZe Clan will then send you to play against a squad of third graders in the round after that.

The changes behind the scenes need to be much more gradual for this system to not be frustrating. The SBMM debate has been blown out of proportion by streamers, content creators, and the community as a whole, but there’s still some truth to it. It makes playing with friends, one of the best parts of Call of Duty, an absolute nightmare since everyone’s squad is of differing skill levels. Partying up with your casual friends will ruin the game for them if you’re an above-average player, and that’s just sad.


The Verdict

Ultimately, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an enjoyable shooter just as Call of Duty is every year. However, for a studio like Infinity Ward that churns out banger after banger, this game feels safer and more iterative than most Call of Duty sequels, and the changes that it does make do more harm than good. Still, it’s easy to have fun with Modern Warfare 2. There’s just something about chasing killstreaks and grinding camos that never gets old, even if the game is missing features, has lame maps, and has spawning issues. Call of Duty is the world’s premier first-person shooter franchise and Modern Warfare 2 is a solid reminder of why that is. As the world’s premier FPS franchise, though, it needs to do better.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

- This article was updated on November 4th, 2022


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

  • Score: 3.5 / 5
  • Available On: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Published By: Activision
  • Developed By: Infinity Ward
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: October 28, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Call of Duty is the world's premier first-person shooter franchise and Modern Warfare 2 is a solid reminder of why that is. As the world's premier FPS franchise though, it needs to do better."
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