‘Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ campaign impressions: a slick and stealthy spectacle

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Credit: Infinity Ward.

There are no hit markers in the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 campaign. In Infinity Ward‘s gritty and tactical shooter, you won’t need any: if just a single bullet from your gun finds a target, a quick burst of scarlet mist will let you know it landed.

This is a lesson that’s taught from the get-go. In the campaign’s opening mission, your spec-ops team is tasked with capturing a high-priority target – but when it inevitably goes awry, you’ll be seeing plenty of red: one bullet will kill anyone unlucky enough to fall in your sights, but it works both ways. Even on regular difficulty, you can only take a couple of shots before meeting the same grisly fate as the enemies you mow down.

That adds a lot of tension to Modern Warfare 2′s campaign – the series is no stranger to the whole “breach and clear a dark building” routine, but when there are enemy soldiers ready to jump out and drop you in the space of a second, it’s a whole different ball game. There’s violence aplenty, but Modern Warfare 2 ekes it out in relatively measured doses: a big emphasis on stealth means you’ll often avoid killing entirely to keep things quiet, but there are still plenty of explosive bouts and courageous last stands to keep the bullets flying.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Credit: Infinity Ward.

Beyond the added lethality, what really brings Modern Warfare 2‘s action to life is the feel of the guns. An EBR-14 rifle will knock troops off their feet with a quiet snap, while firing a shotgun inside a small room is like lighting a firework in a shoebox. A range of scenery means you’ll get a healthy dose of long-range shootouts and close-up firefights, which translates to tearing through the game’s arsenal: snipers and larger assault rifles fall short to pistols and SMGs in brutal corridor engagements, but feel unmatched when you’re picking off enemies with a bit of range.

The relentless change in locale is a rollercoaster for chewing through as many flashy setpieces as possible. One moment you’re in Amsterdam, quietly turning its canals into a graveyard for unsuspecting arms smugglers, the next you’re on a small island off the coast of Spain, tip-toeing through a spiritual successor to the first Modern Warfare‘s iconic All Ghillied Up level. The story – you’re on the hunt for some misplaced American ballistics missiles – sets this international romp up to go wild, and the globe-trotting spec ops team you play as even manages to bring a splash of rugged charm to the campaign’s well-oiled machine.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Credit: Infinity Ward.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Credit: Infinity Ward.

However, like most of Call Of Duty‘s modern-day forrays, expect some over-the-top imperialism to leave a bad taste. At one point, you’re not allowed to execute or imprison a wanted baddie (who’s angry that America has fired missiles into his country) because it’s illegal – yet scarcely five minutes before that, you’ve just levelled a small Mexican town with air support to detain him for a chat. If you think too hard, Modern Warfare 2 may leave you uncomfortable with what you’re doing; but if you can switch off and enjoy the game for what it is – a globe-trotting action blockbuster – then the first few hours suggest that Infinity Ward has given Call Of Duty its sharpest, most mechanically satisfying campaign in years.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 launches on October 28 for Xbox, PlayStation and PC. We’re playing the campaign on PC. 

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