When it was released in 2009, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was hailed as the pinnacle of the series largely thanks to its use of emotive or high-energy set pieces. The now infamous “No Russian” scene saw a Russian ultranationalist terrorist slaughter hundreds of his own people and pin the blame on America, setting off a domino-effect trajectory towards world war.
That optional scene caused its fair share of controversy ten years ago with its gratuitous (and mostly optional!) violence. It is, curiously, a scene that’s far less impactful today than it was ten years ago because of how implausible it is. The Call of Duty of that era was defined by its large, Michael Bay-esque popcorn entertainment escapism, even if it made little sense. Especially now, with the rise of AI and camera monitoring systems, primary front-facing antagonist Makarov would’ve been identified within minutes of the attack, making everything moot.
That scene is still the most memorable one in the game. Playing through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered (yes, that’s the mouthy title), it’s about the only level I still have vivid memories of, probably because of its prominence at the time; injected as it was in just about every conversation about video games. Playing through this remastered campaign, I was surprised by how little of it I remembered. That’s not to say that what’s there is bland; it just hasn’t remained buried in my conscious. It is joined by a handful of other bombastic, enjoyable set pieces though; a daring rooftop chase through Brazil’s cobbled-together favelas, a snow-capped sniper hunt in icy Russia, a home soil-battle defending fast food outlets in Suburban America and a post-nuclear reclamation of an attack on the White House.
Narratively, the game takes place five years after the first Modern Warfare, with very many of the same, now iconic cast of characters providing support. If names like Captain Price, Soap and Ghost mean anything to you at all, this is likely something you’ll get a nostalgic kick out of. In typical Call of Duty style, the action flits between playable characters. You’ll primarily switch between playing as a U.S. Army Ranger, and a member of an elite, multi-national counter-terrorist unit called Task Force 141. Though it may have been exciting in 2009, it now seems a little paint-by-numbers.
I can’t deny that as familiar and rote as it seems, Modern Warfare 2 is still a fun digital shooting gallery; not something to be taken too seriously, with its often eye-rolling jingoism largely ignored. Sometimes it’s just fun to shoot things. I played through it reminiscing more about arcade Light gun games like Time Crisis and Virtua Cop than I did yearning for Call of Duty’s days of yore. It’s the improbability of it all makes the whole thing feel curiously shallow though.
That lack of depth is exacerbated by the excised multiplayer options. There’s none of the standard multiplayer – which is what most people played Modern Warfare 2 for, while the co-operative Spec-Ops content is also missing. Activision and Infinity Ward have rightly said that they don’t want to split their player base, but this barebones package feels positively anaemic without them. There’s very little to bring players back after the six-hour-long campaign concludes unless they’re intel-gathering completionists.
Modern Warfare 2 is thankfully a competent and able remaster – with a significant graphical upgrade. There are 4K resolution and HDR support options, and, on the impending PC released, an unlocked framerate. Resolutions and textures have been overhauled, with new lighting and shadows making it look, for the most part like a modern game. There are sections, particularly in the snow-blanketed Russian wilderness, when the sun shines through the trees and Modern Warfare 2 looks better than some of the games I played last year – save for one thing; the faces of NPCs are abysmal by today’s standards. There are also some animation foibles, particularly when you’re running that give away the game’s age.
Overall though, it just seems like such a pointless release. While it’s not terribly priced, it feels like it was released specifically for two target markets: Those Call of Duty nuts who are down for a bit of nostalgia, and those who’ve never played the game before and might want a little more insight into Captain Price and friends. Given that none of these soldiers have anything resembling actual character development over the series, that latter market won’t be especially well served. It’s a decent enough remaster, and it’s fun to play if you’re able to disengage the critical part of your brain for six hours – but it seems so unnecessary.
Last Updated: April 2, 2020