call of duty modern warfare 2 mw2 review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review (PS5)

The Call of Duty franchise is an industry behemoth, which up until this year was an annual series. This year, it’s Infinity Ward’s turn, and they have released Modern Warfare 2, a reimagining of sorts that shows us what this veteran developer would have done with the modern-day combat scenarios it made famous over a decade ago. But is MW2 a sequel that will keep players motivated to keep playing over the next two years, or would this holiday season be better spent with some other shooter?

Visuals to die for

The Infinity Ward engine boasts some of the best visuals in the genre, and this time around it features improvements to lighting, a new decal rendering method, and other technical processes that coalesce into one great-looking game. Most character models are hyper-realistic, and it’s easy to believe you’re watching a live-action movie or television show in certain cutscenes. Not all character models are quite so believable, though, so overall things look great but not perfect.

120 Hz is supported on the PS5, alongside DualSense controller support including the speaker for voice chat and adaptive triggers for firing weapons. Competitive players will likely want to disable that latter feature, as it introduces a touch of input lag since you must now use slightly more force with your fingers before your weapon will fire. On the other hand, it adds a visceral feeling to the gunplay, which some will get a kick out of.

Crossplay is available and enabled at launch, with indicators in the lobby to indicate what platform every player is on, as well as their chosen input device – keyboard and mouse is supported on the PS5. Though, there seems to be a healthy population of PlayStation gamers as despite having played dozens of online matches, I did not see a single player from another platform. But at least the option is there, perhaps for some of the lesser-played game modes in a few months’ time when most players are set in what they’ll play.

The single-player campaign sees the return of fan-favorite operators, such as Ghost, Price, Soap, and others. The story pits your group of elite special forces against a Mid-Eastern terrorist known as Hassan Zyani, who has somehow gotten his hands on American-made missiles and is hell-bent on using them against the United States. There’s Russian interference, corruption within friendly ranks, and a couple of plot twists that combine to make a fun, yet familiar experience. It kind of feels like a “greatest hits” album from a band in that they run you through what they know how to do quite well, but there’s not too much to surprise you.

Typical Blockbuster Fare

In this campaign, you’ll control various operators from a few different countries, with a substantial amount of the adventure taking place in Mexico. In fact, one of the most interesting portions tasks you with surviving by collecting materials and crafting the items you’ll need to stand a chance against a ruthless military enemy who far outgun you. The only problem is, your character is badly injured and can’t really move around like usual. Just as this segment gets interesting, it finishes. For a brief half hour or so, it feels like you’re playing a different game entirely. The crafting mechanic using a backpack is only used in this particular section, and then once more for just a few minutes during the game’s closing moments. This shows us Infinity Ward still has a few tricks up its sleeves, and was a refreshing change of pace in an otherwise familiar romp through foreign places.

The bread and butter for any Call of Duty game is its multiplayer, and Modern Warfare 2 has that available in spades. From classic 6v6 team deathmatch to 32v32 Ground War game modes, you’re sure to find a mode that suits your mood and/or playstyle. The third-person moshpit playlist, as the name implies, allows players to fight in third-person, with all the pros and cons that such an angle provides you – seeing what’s directly in front of you isn’t always so easy, however, you are able to peek around corners, as can the enemy. Though the pacing is wildly different, this mode almost made Modern Warfare 2 feel like a SOCOM game.

There are 15 maps as of this writing, with more likely to come. Most of these are dedicated to the more typical 6v6 matches, while seven are designed with the larger game modes in mind. There is a decent amount of verticality design work to reward exploration with ideal perches from which to rain down hell upon your unsuspecting enemies. While you may have a streak of kills, for which you’re rewarded with the usual smattering of killstreak benefits, death is typically around the corner because just a few shots from most weapons are enough to kill anyone.

Twiddly Bits and Knobs

Weapons customization is a strong feature in Modern Warfare 2. The vast majority of weapons and kit are locked behind objectives, such as reaching a certain player rank or leveling up a specific weapon. Dozens to hundreds of skins are also available for unlocking, again with certain conditions that must be met first. MW2 is one massive drip-feed of unlockable rewards, and though sometimes you might feel like a hamster on a wheel when it comes to overall progress, many of the later unlocks are worth the effort.

A firing range lets you test out your current weapon’s configuration any time you’re within the multiplayer menus, and if you’re at a high enough level you can tweak most lethal weapons on-the-fly and adjust various parts. For instance, shortening or lengthening a rifle’s barrel can reduce aiming down sight speed or increase range, respectively, while adding weight towards the front or the rear can decrease recoil effects or increase aim while walking. There are pros and cons to each setup, and players will be rewarded for experimenting until they find the perfect setup for each of their weapons.

Mods are also front and center of any custom loadout, and up to five can be applied to most weapons once they are earned. Naturally, there are more than five mod types for many guns, so once again a balance must be considered and obtained in order to find the perfect mod set. Just blindly applying the latest earned modification will not make for a good time. The gun options here are thoughtful and nuanced, something that will require time to reap the greatest benefit from.

Your multiplayer experience is going to depend upon your internet connection, but in our testing things were mostly smooth sailing. The Quick Play option has a preset list of match types, which can be customized, and its default setting allowed for finding and joining a match to occur within a matter of seconds. The PS5’s SSD allows for very quick load times, though if any of the cross-platform players are on PC or an older console, then you are dropped into the level with a countdown timer and allowed to choose your loadout and contemplate what you’re going to do when the timer hits zero. There is also split-screen support! Though, both players must have an active PS+ subscription in order to take the combat online.

Spontaneous Visual Glitches

While netcode seemed solid, some visual glitches were noticed during our time with Modern Warfare 2. Occasionally character models would load in between matches not holding any weapon, with the humorous effect of the operator unintentionally miming like they had a gun in their hands. Sometimes the character’s left arm would also go crazy, particularly while wielding a combat knife. There was even one time when grass or foliage of some kind rendered at least a meter off the ground, and would pop into and out of existence as the player’s view panned, which made for some trippy and distracting visuals. None of these are gamebreaking bugs, and will likely get patched out in due time. But the most annoying issue consistently occurred after a match ended.

No matter the result of a battle, the player earns XP for their character as well as each weapon that affected the enemies. Once those screens are viewed or skipped, the game would always struggle to return to a fluid state, becoming so choppy that it appeared it was frozen. Yet, the countdown sound effect indicating the imminent start of a new match would also play. Most of the time, the game would finally catch up to whatever was causing the delay to give you one, maybe two seconds to cancel out of the next auto-loading match, but sometimes the countdown would have expired and you’d be forced into a new round of fighting whether you wanted to or not. It’s not an ideal experience at all, and is a more pressing issue that Infinity Ward should fix sooner rather than later.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 subtly improves on a winning formula. It’s no real surprise that the multiplayer gunplay is the best in the series to date, but considering this is coming from the team that started this craze to begin with it’s to be expected. While the campaign may play it mostly safe, it features an enjoyable challenge, with a couple of interesting survival-type sections that almost turn it into another game entirely. There’s little doubt most Call of Duty players will feel right at home playing Modern Warfare II as it’s a solid entry and seemingly the shooter to play this holiday season and beyond.

  • Entertaining campaign
  • Countless gun modification options
  • Solid online experience, with split-screen!
  • Drip-feed of unlocks will keep you coming back
  • Campaign feels like a "greatest hits" rather than particularly innovative
  • Multiplayer menus freeze between matches
  • Visual glitches can be common