In a yearly outing that has only missed the mark a few times when campaigns were overlooked in favor of a more robust multiplayer offering, Call of Duty remains one of those few shooters whose campaigns I routinely look forward to year after year. While Call of Duty Vanguard remains one of the campaigns I’ve enjoyed the most in recent years (since the Advanced/Infinite Warfare titles), I had high hopes for the semi-reboot of the first entries in the Modern Warfare series. Now firmly established as an elite group known as Task Force 141, Call of Duty Modern Warfare II follows a different type of threat that once again feels ripped from the daily headlines.

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare II’s campaign is, unfortunately, an incoherent mess of shooting galleries the world over. Largely these have felt like introductions and a teaser for the maps that players will have the opportunity to engage with during the multiplayer offerings. This year’s campaign feels less narratively focused and the urgent need to track down Hassan will shift players from scenic Mexican mountain paths to the hustle and bustle of an Amsterdam shopping district (complete with its own Burger Town outlet restaurant) and back again. This global manhunt barely provides justification for the rapid-fire changes in scenery and before you’ve gotten fully adjusted to one part of the world, Shadow Company and your given unseen operator will whisk Task Force 141 and compatriots to another part of the world loosely linked to a recent sighting of Hassan. 

For much of Modern Warfare II’s campaign, the player steps into the role of a variety of those aligned with the same mission as Task Force 141: chasing down Hassan to stop him before he has the capability of launching a stolen missile. It’s far lower stakes than the nuclear attacks and cyberwarfare that have been cornerstones of Call of Duty’s more memorable campaigns. The cat-and-mouse hunts with Hassan routinely end with discovering the antagonist has just barely departed from the scene just moments prior, but not without leaving a crucial key as to where his next base of operations is.

Midway through the campaign, Sop MacTavish and the other Task Force 141 members do successfully intercept Hassan for interrogation just before bureaucratic red tape dictates that he must be released once again despite the threat of launching a missile attack. As the Modern Warfare II mission controllers make clear, Task Force 141 is operating outside of American jurisdiction. This pulling of the punches at the last minute feels foreign to a Call of Duty campaign, where the benefits of saving civilian lives largely outweigh the consequences of any military tribunal deeming the players’ activities to be unlawful. Releasing Hassan at this stage only to find out that he’s still a threat and having to capture him once more is a copout that only really serves to prolong a campaign that would have ended around the two-hour mark.

So how does Hassan Zyani become such a crucial member of the Modern Warfare II campaign? Following the assassination of his commanding officer, Hassan fills that power vacuum by promising retaliation against the West, thus justifying his desire to get his hands on the American missiles that pop up routinely throughout the campaign. The thing is, AQ (in the instance of MW2 means Al-Qatala) rarely feels like much of a threat to Task Force 141 and instead feels like a Boogeyman propped up in the story to draw attention from the real threats of the campaign. Russian and Iran as well as AQ militia are routinely namedropped throughout the campaign but most of the time, players will be shooting those involved in a Mexican cartel power struggle or a major private military company known as Shadow Company. 

Run by Phillip Graves (‘Fill Graves’ as he’s noted once in the Modern Warfare II campaign), Shadow Company represents a third faction that aligns itself with Task Force 141 for much of the campaign before the young Graves decides to turn and take over a military compound for his own devices. Call of Duty implies here that PMCs like Shadow Company only put their own needs and money first above all else but the heel turn comes suddenly and without much justification as just moments ago, players were working together with Shadow Company to infiltrate an oil rig and stop the second of the three known missiles that Hassan had hijacked. Strangely enough, that heel turn was telegraphed earlier on as Graves’ nameplate in cutscenes had changed from an allied blue to the red reserved for rival factions and antagonists. I get that Modern Warfare II is trying to tell some of the same stories from 2009’s Modern Warfare II especially by presenting General Shepherd as some antagonist architect but the motivations this time around feel tenuous as best.

As is common for the yearly campaigns for Call of Duty, Modern Warfare II is filled with setpieces that make the shooting gallery more than simply walking through dimly lit corridors and dropping enemies that pop out from around corners. The problem with Modern Warfare II is that many of these moments feel all too familiar from what was in prior games and merely try to emulate those highs from when story missions like All Ghillied Up or The Only Easy Day… Was Yesterday. For the former, players take the role of Gaz while working together with Captain Price to infiltrate a Spanish drug front. Donning a ghillie suit and focusing on stealth, this level is a much slower change of pace to the frantic firefights of prior missions but that pacing winds up feeling as though there’s no sense of urgency. The most iconic moment during the gameplay comes down to having to low crawl through weedy overgrowth and lie in wait as patrols pass by.

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Call of Duty remains an absolute looker during the campaign when players have the time to stop and enjoy the scenery while reloading their weapons. Taking full advantage of the console tech is something that the trifecta of Activision studios that put their name to each yearly release have become wizards at and Infinity Ward holds true to this. Across both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, 4K60 is easily achieved through the use of temporal upscaling. However, frame rates struggle to achieve that 120Hz target when running at 1440P. Anticipate some drops down to the 90’s or 100’s which is still far more than enjoyable across the latest console generation. The tagline about ‘photorealistic visuals’ from the very first Call of Duty Modern Warfare had stuck with me throughout the years of annual entries and Modern Warfare II remains the most recent title to hold that adage true.

For a $60 (or $70 on current gen) release, don’t expect the Call of Duty Modern Warfare II campaign to be solely enough for the asking price. With a roller-coaster story that bounces from locale to locale with a lack of attention span across its four-hour runtime, 2022’s Modern Warfare 2 is disappointing after coming off the highs of Vanguard and even the first reboot of Modern Warfare. It’s a serviceable shooting gallery that really doesn’t have much to offer that we hadn’t seen before across prior campaigns.                                                                                                         

Products mentioned in this post

Xbox Series X
USD 499
6.5
Wccftech Rating
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

The return of Task Force 141 brings along with it an unusually topical storyline that lacks the signature Blockbuster appeal of your typical Call of Duty campaign and instead feels like a Direct-to-DVD sequel.

Pros
  • Beautifully crafted setpieces, even if the narrative and motivations behind them feel lacking
  • One sneaking mission brings reminders of The Last of Us' stealth and crafting rather than the typical run-and-gun warfare
  • Driving, swimming, and AC-130 gunship missions stand out even if a bit too familiar
  • Solid console performance at 4K60 on current-gen
Cons
  • Of the 17 campaign missions, some are over in an instant
  • Cat-and-mouse chase with one antagonist is repeated incessantly throughout much of the campaign
  • The iconic sniping mission feels like a cheap imitation of Modern Warfare's All Ghillied Up
  • Some campaign characters only show up just long enough to justify their multiplayer inclusion
  • Lowest-stakes campaign in recent years, even with the shift in campaign villains

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