Updated: Feb 19
Michael Bay’s America: The Movie: The Game
I’m back once more taking a look into a classic game that I have never played until recently—Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
When this game was originally released I quite simply wasn’t into multiplayer much at all, outside of the Halo series. Even at that, the American gun bro shooter never exactly captured my imagination in any meaningful way. After having played through a host of more involved games, and the remaster of this campaign just being released on PlayStation Plus for August, the timing was impeccable.
So after more than 10 years, how does the campaign hold up for one of the most revered entries in this oversaturated series? Is my bias showing yet?
For what it’s worth…
***FULL SPOILERS FOR CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2***
Shiny, shiny guns of metal
Firstly, it has to be mentioned that it looks great. As far as remasters go it looks really fresh and were it not betrayed by mostly s**t animations it would easily look like something that was new for this generation. Inspecting weapons is a pleasure, they’re exceptionally well detailed and the set pieces you get wrangled up in look fantastic. To me it seems as though there has been plenty of work put into the visuals here, so kudos to the variety of teams who worked on this remaster.
The use of colour proved to be problematic for me, negatively affecting the gameplay experience.
The brownscale used in so many of the levels made it difficult to spot enemies at times, leading to many frustrating deaths and checkpoint restarts. I understand that the heavy-brown colour palette makes sense for parts of the game, there is no disputing that, but it also made for many sour gameplay sections and repetitive visual design.
The worst thing in the world? Absolutely not. Tip-top design? Hmm. Still, it’s a visually-appealing remaster held back by some questionable design choices from way back when.
Guns of Lads: Repetitive Warfare
The gameplay is smooth and slick even in 2020. In terms of pacing the game has aged beautifully. Combat situations rarely last long and the enemy can be taken down quickly and effectively with any weapon you have. I found this to be really accessible, and as someone who has not played this series in any serious way since the first Black Ops, it was a warm reintroduction to a venerable series.
I get the impression that this remaster was a purely visual one, and please do feel free to correct me if I’m wrong in the comments!
Most weapons felt basically the exact same, unless it was something wildly different like an RPG or grenade launcher attachment. No, I’m not saying a pistol felt like a mid-ranged rifle. I’m saying every pistol felt the same as the next pistol and so forth. This is great in one sense for the aforementioned accessibility but it doesn’t inspire confidence that there was much thought put into the handling of the weaponry to differentiate them in any meaningful way.
This is a game of set pieces and there are some wonderful ones to be found here, and some level’s themes overall are a lot of fun.
Wolverines! Is one of my favourite levels throughout the whole game. Holding and defending various points with an arsenal at your disposal was a lot of fun. Exploring different options was great here—it’s perfectly viable to snipe the enemy, use claymores, explosive weaponry etc. Another standout level was The Only Easy Day Was… Yesterday. It was a lot of fun having some exposure to the more stealthy side of combat. The stealth sections were quite limited here, but I forgot all about that when I got to the first breaching section. This breach and subsequent ones were really satisfying and I found myself trying to maximise the advantage of slow motion every time, taking out as many opponents as possible.
Some of the more frustrating gameplay sections involved running to an objective where there are countless enemies present. Despite killing them it seems as though there are endless waves. This would be fine were it not for the unbelievably obnoxious visual feedback when you receive damage—the blinding red visual effect that rocks your ability to see. I understand that this is useful in representing the enormity of damage you’re taking, but it is one of the most grating things in the game. Especially so when you can’t see where you’re being shot from due to the reused colour palette. This is in no way represented better than in the level The Enemy of My Enemy. Maybe I’m just blind, old or both, but this old man is certainly yelling at the CoD cloud for this s**t.
I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention the overall familiarity in playing this game. It feels like any other CoD I have ever played and I don’t mean that as a negative reflection on this game, more so it’s sequels and successor spin offs. I understand the value in playing a leave-the-brain-at-the-door gaming experience occasionally, hell that’s why I played it to begin with. But that doesn’t justify leaving your brain at the door when designing the game.
Story time with Uncle Shepherd
Let’s just get this out of the way—you do not play this game for it’s story content. It’s a Michael Bay film in video game form, complete with all the military jargon, random explosions and cliches you would expect. You know what? That is completely fine.
I tend to stick to games that have more, let’s say… fleshed out stories. I enjoy a good story, I enjoy games doing their best to establish motivation for the player to defeat the bad guy, and I f*****g love me some side quests as well. All of that can be exceptionally taxing, as they tend to be much longer games as well. Playing something like this is extremely refreshing, and I do not regret playing it.
The story itself follows something like this:
Russia is bad + AMERICA % Betrayal = Story
And I don't even need more than that. As cliche as the whole experience is, there is some charm to the characters such as Soap and I will always enjoy hearing the dulcet tones of Keith David, who voiced Sergeant Foley and the inimitable Lance Henriksen as General Shepherd. The voice cast is stellar and they do a fantastic job with material that would otherwise be considered trite, were it not performed by such stellar artists.
I didn’t exactly see General Shepherd’s betrayal coming nor was I shocked when it happened, it was completely fine. I wasn’t overly invested in the story to begin with so perhaps if I was more so, it would have been more effective. Regardless it was a fine way to end the game, and made sense that it created more fuel for the inevitable sequel.
The war on war
Overall it was a lot of fun playing this, with some moments of frustration. It is not by any means a bad game in 2020, I do however feel as though it has not aged well. The gameplay is very formulaic at times but it shines in more gimmick-heavy levels. Characterisation is, well, attempted, but the voice actors pull it off skillfully. More than anything it just has not aged well. The “Russians are bad” trope is really tired at this point and there is simply not much to the actual shooting, despite how slick it is.
This is an example of a game that I wish I did play at the time as I’m sure it would have been tremendous fun, especially with how influential the multiplayer component was. Not to say it was a mistake to play it now—this is me playing catch-up on games I’ve missed, as it says on the tin.
Side note: Best played with this on repeat for the duration. I think.
All images taken from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered press kit here
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