Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review – Both Aged and Timeless
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered (Campaign)March 31st, 2020 on PS4
It's been a long time I played through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's infamous mission, No Russian, and for the first time, I just walked. I didn't shoot a bullet until the final segment, and even that I did hesitantly. I distinctly remember playing through the game all those years ago and finding it fun, if anything. A digital playground to mow down faceless, lifeless beings, not even questioning the context. In the modern-day, it's much more harrowing. Maybe it's because of the prevalence of mass shootings, the horror of which gets echoed and repeated near-infinitely by social and traditional media alike. Maybe it's because I feel more empathy than my teenage self did. Maybe it's because these hollow, digital people look much more like real people than ever before.
This is a theme that persists throughout Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Throughout my experience playing, I couldn't help but think about how different my perspective is now. Fighting through a Brazilian favela, you are told not to shoot innocent civilians, which run and cower with their hands over their heads while wearing plain clothes, a distinct departure from the armed soldiers you've been fighting up to this point. But then your enemies in the favela appear, with little difference to the civilians that ran. Seemingly, the only thing separating them, is that one decided to pick up arms when a heavily-armed, unannounced military force stormed into their homes and opened fire. It's much the same problem I have with The Division in the modern day: how can I, a trained and armed soldier, feel comfortable shooting down those wearing normal, everyday jackets, clearly struggling to survive? The Division's probably just on my mind because of the recent global pandemic, but that certainly helps me empathize with the "enemies."
But in those moments where it's two heavily-armed military factions facing off in war, bullets flying overhead and explosions surrounding you on every side, Modern Warfare 2 is every bit as good as when it originally released. It is admittedly a little odd, going from the realistic, bass-heavy, recoil-spraying gunplay of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone, but the guns of 2009's Modern Warfare 2 are somehow incredibly nostalgic. Long reload animations, barely any recoil, and clicky, familiar gunshot sounds. Somehow, despite being over a decade old, this game still plays brilliantly, and with the new remaster's visuals, it looks like a modern game too.
All of the familiar stages are rendered with higher quality textures and much more clarity than ever before, especially if you're running the game on a PS4 Pro. High resolutions, HDR support, brand new textures and cutscenes - this game looks the way you remember it. Which is, of course, far better than the original actually was. Cutscenes are all completely new, though if it's been a while since you last played the original game, you're unlikely to realize. It all comes together to make for a wonderful game to look at, and a great game to play.
Of course, we're missing the fan-favorite multiplayer of the original game, though in turn Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is also available for a budget price, which is honestly well justified by the quality of the remastered campaign. It really does look strikingly good, and the big-budget action setpieces that Call of Duty is known for look incredible here, and still have all of the impact that they did over a decade ago. It is honestly a testament to the high-quality of Call of Duty campaigns and their gunplay mechanics that this game still holds up against modern AAA titles to well.
And the nostalgia hit me. As I sat playing through the missions, locating the enemy intel, shooting down hoards of enemies, I felt like a teenager again, if even for a moment. It was a bit surreal, but I remembered the days when all of my friends would endlessly play multiplayer together, challenge one another to finish missions on the hardest difficulty, and stay up until the sun rose.
And even after I rolled the credits, I had the urge to go back, ramp the difficulty up a notch, and try all over again. I haven't felt the urge to jump into a Call of Duty campaign for years, usually preferring to focus on multiplayer, but returning to Modern Warfare 2 has changed my mind on that. We need more big-budget action setpieces in our shooters, just for the simple thrill of it. It's refreshing and cathartic in a way that the complex skill trees and unlockable systems of modern games just aren't.
But also, missions like No Russian, invading favelas to shoot down militia, have a different feel in the modern age. There's no real message to be extracted from the game in a modern context, but instead it's a fascinating time machine, taking us back to an age where we were so much more flippant about these things, and the fact that massively "controversial" scenes were often a selling point, a marketing ploy, and rarely little more than that. The controversy was hollow then, but in the modern-day rings true in a different way. Regardless, attitudes towards gun violence have certainly changed over the course of the last decade, and as a result, the context for all of the action feels totally different.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is a beautiful time machine, designed to take you back to when the world felt like a simpler place. For the hours you play through the campaign, you'll feel a bit younger, and at peace, though your reaction to some of the content might not be the same as your younger self. And if you've never played Modern Warfare 2? The nostalgia will be lost on you, but those big-budget thrills won't be, and very well may be worth a shot.
Review code provided by the publisher.
Playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is like jumping back in time, and it's wonderful. The gunplay, action, and setpieces of Modern Warfare 2 all hold up incredibly well in the modern day, though the controversial content feels more harrowing than ever. For nostalgia, and to see a piece of media from a very different time, Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is definitely worth the price of entry. A shockingly good Call of Duty campaign.
- Excellent, classic gameplay
- Beautifully remastered cutscenes
- Great gunplay
- Budget price
- Controversial scenes seem questionable in the modern-day
- No multiplayer