After getting demolished match after match, I needed to try something different.
Rather than play aggressively, I crouched behind the capture point and waited for enemies to come to me. And they did. One after another.
I was unstoppable. But even though my KD ratio skyrocketed using this tactic, I wasn’t having any fun. It felt cheap.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II undoes a lot of the best innovations of recent entries in the venerable military shooter franchise, adding unnecessary changes that clash with the core gameplay loop. A myriad of pacing issues, appalling UI, and overcomplicated menus overshadow the game’s best moments.
MW2 is bogged down by baffling design decisions at every turn. It caters too much to newcomers, while simultaneously overcomplicating many features that might alienate casual players. In its attempts to please everyone, the latest Call of Duty game will leave many players dissatisfied.
A stagnant meta
As its name suggests, Modern Warfare 2 serves as a sequel to 2019’s hit Modern Warfare, aiming to up the ante in nearly every way. It features a more bombastic, memorable campaign, a larger selection of weapons in the multiplayer mode, and incredible visuals, while also laying the groundwork for the upcoming Warzone 2.0 and DMZ (which stands for demilitarized zone, and is CoD’s new Escape from Tarkov-style mode).
Clunky new mechanics make multiplayer a slog, and players are penalized for using a fast-paced, run-and-gun approach. Instead, the game incentivizes a more deliberate, methodical play style. While this is ideal for those who like to hold down one position, anyone wanting to play more aggressively is penalized for doing so.
The game’s sluggishness when compared to its fast time-to-kill (TTK) is a major cause of the pacing issues. Animations for reloading, aiming down sights, mantling, killstreak activation, and sprint-to-fire take far too long. So if you run into an enemy who is already aiming down sights in your direction, you’ve already lost that gunfight. By the time you’ve stopped running and aimed at your opponent, they will already have taken shots at you. The inability to cancel out of a reload animation is also infuriating, and means reloading will lead to your demise many times over if you’re an aggressive player.
Infinity Ward is catering to campers. You can try to run and gun if you really want to — but you’re not going to win in most cases.
The minimap also punishes players for moving around, and no longer reveals anyone using an unsuppressed weapon (unless you have a UAV in the air). This makes it harder to locate enemies and undermines suppressors in general. It’s not uncommon to wander aimlessly, and much more cautiously, since you’re often unaware of your opponents’ locations.
Once you learn to play how the game wants, Modern Warfare 2 is more fun. But if you have a rich history with the series, you might have trouble adjusting to the slower playstyle.
A long shadow
Most of Modern Warfare 2’s new features are obscured by the game’s abysmal UI. Navigating the menus is a constant chore, with unintuitive screens that require numerous inputs to make simple changes.
Even adjusting your loadout (a common feature that’s been in the franchise for 15 years) is painful. In each menu, I found myself reflexively pressing a certain button to change menus, yet it didn’t work. Clicking on your weapon from within the loadout screen takes you to a menu to select a new firearm rather than adjust the attachments for the one you just selected.
The Perk menu is also cluttered with numerous preset packages that serve no purpose and make it difficult to experiment with the new Perk system, which has some interesting ideas at large, but feels like a misstep. (You can earn some Perks as you progress through a match!) But because the menu is such a cluttered eyesore it’s easy to forget about adjusting Perks in the first place.
Tracking your unlockable items is perhaps the single most egregious problem in all of Modern Warfare 2. Oftentimes, hovering over a locked attachment doesn’t show you the unlock requirements, which is maddening. It’s unclear if this is simply a bug or a deliberate design choice, but it’s awful, either way.
Modern Warfare 2 is also missing a slew of key multiplayer features at launch, many of which are CoD staples by this point. There are no leaderboards, no combat records (for more detailed player stats), and, worst of all, no Hardcore mode – which, for some players, is a deal-breaker. Sure, some of these will likely come at a later time, but it’s difficult to ignore just how lackluster the multiplayer mode feels at launch.
Despite the clear issues with multiplayer, the excellent Modern Warfare 2 single-player Campaign salvages the otherwise lacking experience. This is easily the best CoD campaign in years, offering a wide variety of mission types, countless memorable moments, and a cinematic style that raises the stakes of nearly every section. Gone is the franchise’s ultra-linear design approach. It also delivers plenty of player choice throughout.
There’s also the 32v32 Ground War multiplayer game mode which pits two big teams against one another to capture objectives across massive maps. With vehicles enabled, teams are encouraged to squad up and test out different playstyles throughout.
The pacing issues found in 6v6 modes are less apparent here, since you’re offered a lot more freedom to experiment. Want to strictly stick to vehicles? You can do that. Snipers of all skill levels and styles work well in Ground War, too, due to the increased player count — you’re bound to pick off an unsuspecting enemy in this mode.
Even running around aggressively is effective since you’re more likely to catch someone off-guard. Because the maps are so huge, you can approach gunfights in a myriad of ways. Ground War doesn’t eliminate the sluggishness that plagues 6v6 modes, but it does mitigate those problems just enough.
If not for Ground War, the entire multiplayer experience might not be worth it at all.
Modern Warfare 2 is one of the most baffling Call of Duty games in years. It caters to newcomers, punishes veterans, and alienates everyone with overcomplicated menus. The campaign and Ground War are worthwhile. But Modern Warfare 2 still needs a lot of work to live up to its predecessors, and may not be worth your money just yet.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC (via Battle.net and Steam). Inverse reviewed the game on PS5.
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