MW2 Campaign Review: All Style, No Substance?

When Modern Warfare was released in 2019, it was to an overwhelmingly positive reception. It was a resurgence of sorts, with Activision rebooting arguably the most iconic sub-franchise in Call of Duty history. It has been three years, and finally, Modern Warfare 2 has arrived, bringing with it a refreshed engine, all-new gameplay features, advanced in-game mechanics, and of course, an expansion to the existing Modern Warfare storyline.

For many, this is the most highly anticipated game of the year, bringing about a Call of Duty title that will remain in place until 2024. Following what was a seemingly successful multiplayer beta, the MW2 campaign was released on an early-access basis to fans that had pre-ordered the game digitally. As a Call of Duty fan for almost two decades, I was all too excited to dive into the game as soon as possible, and I began playing the campaign the minute it went live.

However, despite a lengthy development cycle and a powerful hype train, I feel that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has failed to deliver in the campaign category. Read on through this comprehensive MW2 campaign review to find out why I am so disappointed.

And don’t worry, I’ve avoided listing any spoilers ahead.

How Can Something So Pretty Hurt So Bad?

mw2 campaign review graphics

It looks good, but does it feel good? (Image Credit: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)

I’ll open up my in-depth MW2 campaign review on a remarkably positive note: this game is gorgeous. From the moment the first cinematic kicks off, we’re treated to sumptuous graphics and a character modelling and movement engine that simply is best-in-class. There’s a staggering amount of detail on display, from the pores on a character’s skin to the way their eyes move and portray almost real-time emotions.

As a globe-trotting title, Modern Warfare 2 takes us from country to country, and we experience mountains, deserts, dense cities, ramshackle villages, and oil rigs. Every environment is simply beautiful, packed with fine details, clean textures, stunning lighting, and realistic, dynamic items, such as flags, foliage, and water. Of course, if you’re playing on a PC, all these elements mean that you’re going to have a hard time running it at a high level, especially if you’re using an older rig.

Unfortunately, I feel as though Modern Warfare 2’s campaign suffers from a case of style over substance. It might look beautiful on the surface, but there’s a strange lack of depth to it brought about by repetition, poor stability, nonsensical scenes, and irritating enemies. I found that the ‘most advanced Call of Duty AI ever’ was incredibly unintelligent, certain chapters and elements of the game made no sense whatsoever, and Infinity Ward had made it more difficult than it really needed to be.

Change Isn’t Always a Good Thing

mw2 campaign review gameplay

There’s plenty of enjoyment to be found in the combat, but it quickly begins to stop making sense. (Image Credit: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)

In the five-and-a-half hours that it took me to finish the campaign (on Recruit difficulty), I suffered from five full crashes and countless smaller bugs and glitches. From enemies falling through the map to doors refusing to open, and from sound bugs to bizarre insta-death scenes, I found the Modern Warfare 2 campaign to be relatively unstable. When it did run as expected, it offered up a substantially smooth experience, even in the midst of a heavy battle, but when it went bad, it went bad fast.

There were several changes and new features introduced in the Modern Warfare 2 campaign that, in my opinion, are completely unwelcome. For instance, many enemies now come equipped with heavy armour and helmets that, honestly, have no place in a single-player campaign. When you run across these enemies, you’ll pour thirty rounds into them to break their armour (like in Call of Duty: Warzone), and they’ll react the same way every single time, typically with their helmet spontaneously imploding under fire.

There’s a mechanic introduced in later missions that requires the player to scavenge for resources to craft traps, weapons, and tools. It essentially forces the player into a strange survival niche, stripping them of their ability to fight and ultimately forcing them into a tight and difficult corner. By ‘forcing them’, I mean that even when you do manage to obtain a live enemy weapon, it’ll have only a few rounds in the clip – which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

If we look at the pacing, we see a game that moves from a wide, open environment to close-knit linear pathways in the space of a few minutes. It’s night and day, forest and city, hot and cold, and as the climax of the campaign approaches, it feels as though everything wraps up far too quickly, in a way that is altogether way too unrealistic.

It’s A Confusing Adventure

mw2 campaign review world

The MW2 campaign takes us around the world, but it does so way too quickly. (Image Credit: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)

As I explored the Modern Warfare 2 campaign, I came across far too many sequences that irritated me. For instance, there’s a mid-game chase scene that lasts some ten or fifteen minutes, with the player gaining ground against a seemingly endless convoy on a road that never seems to give out. It’s a mission that becomes more eccentric with every checkpoint, and minutes before it ended, I was ready to pause the game and step away out of sheer boredom and frustration.

There are forced stealth scenes, with the player being plunged into impossible situations. There’s an imbalance present in the difficult ratings of the game, and even Recruit feels like a slog at times. During the set-up, I selected bass boost in the audio options, and after that, every ‘deep sound’, such as vehicle engines, distorted the audio massively. I understand that this part of my MW2 campaign review is a little haphazard, but that’s honestly the impression I have of the game itself.

Should You Play Modern Warfare 2’s Campaign?

Well, the story is quite good, even if it is very predictable. It’s a classic Hollywood action movie-esque adventure, with explosive scenes that would make Michael Bay weak at the knees. There’s a sense of satisfaction to be found in the combat, and both player movement and weapon handling feel weighty and realistic. From a cinematic perspective, the acting is flawless, and, as already stated, the graphics are second-to-none.

From a personal perspective, there are too many ‘weird, unwanted elements’ to Modern Warfare 2 for it to be considered a perfect game. As I played through the campaign, I found far too many bugs and experienced far too many crashes to become truly immersed in the game. However, a lot of what I disagreed with could be considered subjective, and the next player might absolutely adore these features.

Ultimately, Modern Warfare 2 is a good game, but it didn’t meet my expectations – it certainly is far from being the best Call of Duty game. It might meet or exceed your expectations, but you’ll need to pay full price if you want to test that theory anytime soon. Outside of the campaign, players can expect the MW2 multiplayer portion to launch with the full game on the 28th of October.