Modern Warfare 2 Review | Campaign

The Modern Warfare 2 campaign continues in the direction that MW2019 was going, with greater emphasis on slower, tactical gameplay. Does it work? We think so.

Campaign Review MW2
We'll review the Modern Warfare 2 campaign in comparison to other CoDs, because this obviously isn't the main focus of the franchise. | © Activision

Rather than forcing you to read pages of insufferable commentary on the politics of war before getting to a final verdict, I'm just going to begin by making it clear how I felt about the MW2 campaign. I loved it mechanically (as someone who enjoys missions like "Clean House" and "All Ghillied Up"), but the story was nothing special, and the ending felt underwhelming: 7.8/10. Obviously, I'm giving it a 7.8 as a CoD game; it would be unfair to put MW2's campaign up against dedicated single-player experiences like The Last of Us or God of War.

To start, I'll discuss the campaign in general, and then we'll break it down mission by mission.

MW2 Campaign: In General

Clearly the same design philosophy that guided the multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2 has also influenced the campaign. In short, this is Infinity Ward being more like Infinity Ward than ever before. They lean so hard into the tactical-shooter/mil-sim style that it's going to alienate some fans. But if you've always preferred the special-forces missions to the general infantry missions, then you will probably love this campaign. In fact, I would go so far as to say that those special-forces missions have become the default, rather than the exception. There are very, very few shooting gallery sections, or large-scale battles.

You're going to be fighting far fewer enemies than you ordinarily would in a Call of Duty campaign, but your character has far less health than normal, even on lower difficulties. So when the enemies do turn on you, the game is far less-forgiving than we're used to in CoD. This is why you're encouraged to use stealth as much as possible. The only exception to this are the armored enemies who require a lot of torso shots or headshots to kill. They make the game more challenging, but they don't feel in keeping with the otherwise realistic feel of the combat.

Besides all of these cover-to-cover, stealth based missions, they also throw in some missions that are clearly there to introduce to mechanics coming up in Spec-Ops and the DMZ. One such mission feels like they've remade The Last of Us in the CoD engine, and it's bizarre. I liked it, because I like The Last of Us, but this will definitely be too much for some CoD fans. If you want to see just how "out there" this TLoU CoD mission is, check out this article.

In regard to the story, and as I said earlier, it's not great. There's good character work, especially with Ghost and Greaves. But the twists and turns of the story feel forced and unnatural. And my biggest problem with the story is the ending. The final mission starts out great, and then you blink, and it's over. I was honestly waiting for more when they started to play the final cutscene. Perhaps one positive in regard to the story is that it's easier to follow than CoD campaigns usually are. Most CoD games require fans to go to a site like this to know what's actually going on, but in MW2 it's pretty clear throughout why your character has gone to a new location and why they're doing what they're doing.

MW2 Campaign: Mission Reviews

Strike: N/A

I'm not giving Strike a score because it's basically just a cutscene. It's a cool introduction to the story, and a good way to begin the game, but it's not really a mission.

Kill or Capture: 7/10

Surviving on the crashed chopper felt totally out of place. But besides this part of the mission, it was great fun, and it sets up the subsequent missions very well.

Wetwork: 9/10

This is going to be a controversial score, but I loved this mission. Maybe I just need them to hurry up with the Splinter Cell remake to give me what I really want. Until then, this is the next best thing.

Tradecraft: N/A

As with Strike, this is really more of a cutscene than a full mission, so I don't want to give it a score out of 10. Amsterdam looked beautiful, though.

Borderline: 9/10

This was one of my favorite missions. It completely surprised me that we were going out of Mexico and into the US, and it was so damn atmospheric. A lot of commentators have been saying that you need to kill civilians in this mission, but that's just not true, that's what happens when you f*ck up. If you keep your gun trained on the dudes that are reaching for their weapons then they keep their hands up.

Cartel Protection: 6/10

There's a section in the middle of this mission that feels like a step back; it forces you to do a fairly long wave-defense section, and it simply isn't in keeping with the rest of the campaign. Besides that section, there are some highlights, and it helps the player see how much of a badass Alejandro is.

Close Air: 8/10

This was an AC-130 mission, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. At the risk of sounding clueless, I'm going to admit that I can't work out exactly why this mission seems to work so well. I think it's because you aren't just levelling a small town to the ground, instead, you're required to shoot precisely and at the right time.

Hardpoint: 3/10

This is just a continuation of the AC-130 mission started in Close Air, but it didn't need to be extended this long. In this second part, you're just going all out and using every weapon on-board, so it loses what made the first part so great.

Recon by Fire: 8/10

This is the sniper mission. Ever since CoD:4's "All Ghillied Up" mission, every CoD has had to provide something like this. Many have been just okay, a few have failed, and a couple have been fantastic (notably CoD: WaW's). I would say Recon by Fire does a pretty fantastic job, and is definitely on the higher-end. I can't give it higher than an 8/10 however because it breaks up the sniping with too many room-clearing sections.

Violence and Timing: 4/10

This mission was blatantly included to introduce us to the improved vehicle mechanics, and in particular, hijacking. Don't get me wrong, it's a cool mechanic, and the driving is fluid, but we didn't need such a long mission to show us any of this. It could honestly have been about a third as long as it was.

El Sin Nombre: 8/10

This is going to be like the mission Alone, which I loved and rate very highly, but which some fans will hate. It feels almost like Hitman or something. You're infiltrating a party and trying to sneak past guards, but you do also have weapons and knives available to you. This was my favorite mission to return to in subsequent playthroughs, and the interrogation at the beginning is genuinely scary / intimate.

Dark Water: 7/10

This was the mission they used in the official campaign reveal. It's a great way to show a special forces mission happening at a large scale, and Graves is really well characterized throughout. Honestly, I want to give this mission a higher score, I really do, but the part with the moving boxes and crates was so god-awful, that I can't give the mission higher than a 7/10.

Alone: 9/10

This is the mission that feels like The Last of Us. I l found the more open level design really compelling, and I think it lends itself well to being replayed. But a lot of players simply will not like this style of gameplay, and they certainly won't have been expecting it in a Call of Duty game. Whatever score I give this mission feels arbitrary, it's going to come down to your own subjective taste.

Prison Break: 10/10

Wow. Now this mission gave us a little bit of everything. Slow and stealthy, a little bit of sniping, some CCTV action, and then an all out Prison Break. They do a lot to make you fall for Alejandro as a character, so getting to do this mission and release him was incredibly motivating. Also, the late arrival of an old friend was pretty great as well (I welled up just a bit). I can't think of any flaws in this mission, so I'm giving it a perfect 10/10.

Ghost Team: 7/10

This had the "epic" quality of a final mission, and included a boss-fight at the end which was somewhat enjoyable (but they never really work in CoD). However, there's just a bit too much corridor shooting for my own personal taste, and while you're surrounded by friendlies, you seem to be the only one doing any shooting.

Countdown: 5/10

As I described earlier, this mission ends very abruptly, and it doesn't feel like it sets up the next game well enough. At one point they bring the crafting mechanics back, and they just feel completely out of place in a final mission. In Countdown's defense, the early section saving the hostages is cool.

Those were my thoughts on the campaign, but I would be interested to know if anyone truly hated it. Let us know down in the comments what you rate the campaign out of 10.

And if you want to know what else you can look forward to in MW2: