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Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare II Review (PS5) – War Never Changes Enough

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare II PS5 Review. Price, Soap, Gaz, and the gang are back for more gruff-voiced adventures in Call of Duty Modern Warfare II. Can a return to the title of a much-loved entry bring some of that old magic with it? Find out in PlayStation Universe’s review.

So much change is on the horizon with two of the best-selling franchises on PlayStation, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the games put out this year.

FIFA’s branding is leaving EA, but the farewell was a reminder nothing will really change beyond the box, and Modern Warfare II is possibly the last Call of Duty before Microsoft purchases Activision. Still, it’s very much business as usual on the frontline.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare II (PS5) Review – War Never Changes Enough

Captain Price And Co Are Back In Action

Call of Duty Modern Warfare II – not to be confused with 2009’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (well maybe a bit) – follows up Infinity Ward’s rebooted Modern Warfare with another slab of globe-trotting warmongering. The gang’s all here, ready to take up absurd amounts of space on your PS5 SSD with bombastic explosions and grand conspiracies.

I’ll say this for Modern Warfare II; Infinity Ward does its damndest to show you every kilobyte up on that screen in the campaign. The single-player experience is absolutely gorgeous. You’ve probably seen that video of the Amsterdam level and yes, it’s stupendously good-looking, but there’s breathtaking scenery throughout the campaign.

From the night sky scarred by gunfire to a Mexican town under cover of darkness, Modern Warfare II is excellent at creating these expensive dioramas of reality and then just letting all sorts of warfare go off in them.

It’s also a part of Call of Duty’s ongoing problem. The race to be the most realistic-looking game has led to a franchise like this becoming increasingly incomprehensible as a gaming experience. The neverending swirl of smoke, dust, and gunfire are perhaps less intrusive in the relatively plodding pace of the campaign, but in the quicker world of online play, it’s absolute chaos more often than not.

As has been the case for a few years now, Call of Duty’s structure revolves around such a regimented formula that any tiny deviation from it is met with howls of derision, so can you imagine the boiling volcanic fury if it was truly reformed? Rock, meet hard place.

A Pretty Yet Predictable Campaign

Back to the campaign, and it’s clear why it works best in isolated chunks tied together with high-end cutscenes of various folk chatting sternly about whatever MacGuffin is on the table. It’s supposed to be a showreel smorgasbord of the kind of action movie you find being snaffled up by Prime Video.

A recognizable face here or there, and a glossy, by-the-numbers plot with a couple of standout moments of high adrenaline. It’s not terrible, not exciting, it’s just there holding together the package like wallpaper paste seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper.

Something about the campaign gives off a sluggishness, which is a tad absurd given how much it switches locations and how quickly it goes out of its way to hand you another intense firefight. The pacing is likely a key reason for it, but within that is a strangely overproduced showcase for the ‘quieter’ moments wherein they end up clunky and at odds with the game they exist in.

A great example of this comes in the Amsterdam mission. It’s supposed to be a slow tailing mission that culminates in a brief gunfight, and it’s a mess. Yes, it looks fantastic, but the way it plays out gives it the air of an amusement park ride rather than a tense stealth mission. You have to distract and knock out people watching your target whilst on a bustling street. The place chosen ends up being so ridiculously open to any passerby that it makes a mockery of the facade of stealth Modern Warfare II is throwing on.

Multiplayer & Spec Ops Is Where Modern Warfare 2 Shines Best

The campaign is sadly littered with attention-to-detail deficiencies that mean all the visual spectacle in the world wouldn’t solve it. There’s no doubt the game features some pretty solid performances, but the dialogue and plot is seemingly plucked at random from a tombola of Andy McNab buzzwords. It’d be slightly less egregious if it didn’t demand a lot of space for something so empty-feeling. It’s an expensive afterthought in the Modern Warfare II package.

Onto a brighter spot and the Spec Ops co-op missions are probably the highlight of Modern Warfare II. With maps on a mini-Warzone scale and multiple objectives that can be replayed in a variety of ways, there’s a thrill to quietly going about your murderous business for as long as possible before legging it to the evac chopper, likely under heavy gunfire.

The first mission sees you and a partner seeking out three radioactive signals at night. Sure, you can tackle the problem head-on and blast your way to victory, but the game soon makes it clear that you’d be better off sticking to rooftops and shadows. I’m glad there’s flexibility because it shows up the rigidity of the campaign, and the bludgeoning chaos of Multiplayer.

It’s been where I’ve spent most of my time with the game this past week. It’s interesting that its stripped-back simplicity and expansive areas make it both the most classic CoD experience here and the thing that’s mostly free from what’s stifled the franchise in recent years.

Now here’s the part that most people are buying Call of Duty Modern Warfare II for: the multiplayer. I’ll admit that I’ve only truly enjoyed one Call of Duty multiplayer offering in recent years, and that was Black Ops: Cold War, so I end up judging the games that follow through that lens.

Vanguard, aside from its general issues early on, was too much of a departure, and while Modern Warfare II is naturally a bit closer in style to Cold War, it can’t quite seem to decide what pace it should be keeping.

Fun Yet Flawed; Perhaps Call Of Duty Needs A Break

There’s an almost constant clash between the speed of movement and the speed of the game being played. Sometimes it seems like the game wants to slow things down, keep things measured and tactical. Problem is that it can often ask that in maps that really do not work towards it.

Getting the balance of cover and open areas just right is a tricky business and some maps just about get it right, while others have the cavalier approach of an Unreal Tournament map. The aforementioned swirls of dust, smoke, and gunfire don’t help with making things clear, with certain maps really suffering from the debris floating about when it comes to identifying enemies quickly.

Surprisingly, this slapdash style is able to work quite well on occasion, creating small moments of unexpected hilarity and gobsmacking incredulity. I can see how hardcore players will react to it in a negative way, because it rubs their comforts the wrong way, but it has a bit of tiny rebellion about it, and that gives some small hope for the eventual restructure that desperately needs to happen sooner rather than later. Though I suspect the potential acquisition of Infinity Ward’s parent company will determine the direction of its next entry.

There’s still joy to be found in Call of Duty. While it’s just enough to keep it in the spotlight, a vocal minority of a frankly staggering audience would have you believe the game series they play hundreds of hours every year is unplayable. Modern Warfare II is muddled and occasionally underwhelming, but at its core, it has enough going on that it can ride out the year (or more) until the next cycle begins.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is out now for PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One.

Review code kindly provided by publisher.



The Final Word

Despite high production values, Modern Warfare II is a tad underwhelming. A pretty yet predictable campaign, decent multiplayer that is unsure about how it’s supposed to play, and the sweet taste of Spec Ops mean this is an uneven, but enjoyable enough package. What’s clear is Call of Duty really, really needs a proper break to reset.