Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review | Not so modern a decade later

Michael Leri
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Info

genre

  • First-person shooter

players

  • 1

Publisher

  • Activision

Developer

  • Infinity Ward

Release Date

  • 03/31/2020
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PC
  • PS4
  • Xbox One

rating

Modern Warfare 2 probably had the biggest shoes to fill in the series. Following up one of the most influential games of all time was a tall task and there was almost no way it could have lived up to that challenge. Now, almost 11 years later, CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 REMASTERED is in a similar predicament but with significantly more pressure, given the 10 installments the series has had since. And this remastered version buckles underneath the weight of not only its most immediate predecessor, but also most of those 10 entries.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review | Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review | Not so modern a decade later

Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is almost the inverse of 2018’s Black Ops 4 as it is just the campaign. There’s no way to play this version of the game with someone else, which is exactly what Activision advertised. It’s a blessing and a curse, given that the messy competitive multiplayer balanced out the thrilling Spec Ops cooperative missions in 2009. Given the circumstances, $20 isn’t too steep of an asking price.

ALSO: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered multiplayer isn’t coming (and that’s a good thing)

But that only leaves the campaign to focus on; a pillar that was never Modern Warfare 2’s strongest aspect. Modern Warfare 2 Remastered does look incredible though, as the level of detail has been considerably cranked up since its original release. Vistas are more expansive, brimming with added minutiae that fill each area in just a little bit more. The lighting has been vastly improved as shadows have more darkness and lights are more blinding, both of which are showcased well in the darker missions. Levels are still densely packed with details and burst apart during firefights and is as impressive now as it was back then, especially with the graphical boost.

Combined with the enhanced new character models, Modern Warfare 2 Remastered comes across as a game that looks like you remember it, but with some added perks. However, when looking at side-by-side comparisons of this and the original, it’s clear how much visual work went into this remaster. It looks how you thought the 2009 release looked back then, which is to say that both were graphically impressive for each of their respective times and this remaster faithfully recreates Infinity Ward’s vision with a fresher sheen of paint. The game doesn’t look as stunning as 2019’s Modern Warfare — which is a shame even if it isn’t quite feasible for the scope of this game — but is about on par with the 2016 remaster of the Call of Duty 4.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review | Black Oops

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review | Not so modern a decade later

This remaster just begins to falter when you have to play it. The smooth frame rate and exceptional controls loyally use Call of Duty’s winning blueprint and mean that the game, on a core level, plays well. It’s hard to fault the fundamentals of a Call of Duty game, even one from 2009.

But the sheen loses its luster a bit in what the game has you do with those excellent controls. This remaster doesn’t expand on that formula nor does it seem concerned with adding any of the small changes the series has implemented (and then taken out) in the last decade. You can’t dolphin dive or perch your weapon on an edge nor can you do anything flashy and new like dual wield different small weapons. The most drastic gameplay changes are being able to erotically examine your weapon, turn on hit markers, and see less red jelly on the screen when you get shot; all of which are negligible improvements.

This remaster could have used something to spice up its formula because it feels rather dated without some new hook, be it small or large. You’re still completing similar goals while mowing down hordes of bad guys as they flood into arenas in a near overwhelming matter. Shootouts begin to bleed together even if the game tries to mix it up with vehicles and special gadgets, which are also tired in and of themselves. It even preserves some of the worst parts of Ye Olde Call of Duty installments like enemies that are hardly distinguishable from allies, bad spawns, inconsistent melee attacks, and more.

And this is the biggest problem with remastering a entry in an annual series. That pace pushes these games to evolve and that expedites their expiration date. Old Call of Duty titles are just stale now because of how far the franchise has come over the years. While some of Modern Warfare 2 Remastered’s set pieces are still thrilling, many of them are surrounded by fairly rudimentary gameplay loops. It’s a stark contrast between 2019’s Modern Warfare that went in some bold new directions. Comparing two entries in a series that are a decade apart like this isn’t entirely fair, but the disparate approaches plainly demonstrate how stagnant Modern Warfare 2 feels now.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review | Infinite Snorefare

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review | Not so modern a decade later

Shooting can still be mindlessly entertaining regardless of the time since its original release, but no other aspect has aged as terribly as its narrative and the methods it uses to convey that narrative. Call of Duty games of that era depended far too heavily on weak storytelling techniques like screaming plot details at you in the midst of a hectic battle or during dry loading screens.

Modern Warfare 2 almost exclusively depends on both extremes and is hard to parse because of it. Dry loading screen chatter full of military jargon provides context in the most boring way possible and is impossible to pay attention to like a Tom Clancy audiobook playing over a Risk-themed PowerPoint presentation. And then once you get your boots on the ground, the radio chatter during firefights is difficult to focus on, making it easy to lose the thread that explains the current mission.

Given all the jumping around and the utter lack of characterization for your multiple protagonists, it’s tedious to keep track of everything and you’re not rewarded for doing so. Future Call of Duty games moved away from these methods for good reason and started telling tales through traditional cutscenes with more realized characters. Modern Warfare 2 was before that time and the remastered version suffers because of the archaic storytelling capabilities of the franchise’s earlier years.

But the story itself would probably be hard to tell anyway. It jumps around everywhere with thin reasoning, doesn’t explain much, and is packed full of extreme moments that only feel like they’re there to shock the player. Modern Warfare’s infamous nuclear explosion worked because it was surprising but still restrained. Modern Warfare 2 mimics that by having several nuke-esque scenes yet is numbing in its constant and desperate need to up the ante. However, they’re still only part of the problem, as the game is a jarring bunch of levels that are often stitched together with the loosest of reasons and aforementioned storytelling shortcomings.

Call of Duty story modes have never been the most alluring part of the series. Even the good campaigns were always part of a whole package that worked better as a cohesive unit. The co-op, solo, and competitive sections either complemented one another or made up for each other’s weaknesses. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered suffers because it doesn’t have that luxury. Beenox did a commendable job juicing up the visuals and maintaining the fluid first-person shooting mechanics, but time has not been as kind. Modern Warfare 2 is a dated game due to the archaic framework that surrounds its gunplay and primitive storytelling, showing that the “modern” part of Modern Warfare 2 is no longer as applicable.


GameRevolution reviewed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

3
Rating
Box art - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered
Noticeable visual overhaul that is faithful to the original game’s look and level of detail.
Smooth, signature Call of Duty first-person shooting.
Incoherent, poorly told story.
Doesn’t bring any significant improvements from later games.
Rapid iteration has dulled the appeal of old entries and revealed how dated they are now.
No multiplayer or Spec Ops.