Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is finally here. The sequel to the best-selling Modern Warfare reboot that was released in 2019, this highly-anticipated story offers a new storyline and characters, while retaining certain heroes and story elements from the previous release. As with most Call of Duty titles, MW2 contains three game modes at launch: Campaign, multiplayer, and spec ops. As an overall release, how does MW2 hold up when compared to its 2019 predecessor? What can fans expect from the storyline continuation? How does the online multiplayer present itself? In the paragraphs below, we aim to answer these questions.
Memory Refresher and Campaign Expectations (Storyline-free Review)
Players who purchased and played the Modern Warfare 2019 reboot will be excited to see the story continued. At the end of MW2019, longtime fans of the franchise were thrilled to see British SAS Captain John Price utter the numbers, “1-4-1,” when responding to what the title of his task force will be. This, as veteran players know, is in reference to Task Force 141 from the original Modern Warfare trilogy. In this reboot universe, Price has selected fellow SAS operatives Kyle “Gaz” Garrick, Johnny “Soap” MacTavish, and Simon Riley – known all-too-well as the fan favorite “Ghost.” All three of these iconic heroes were staples in the previous trilogy, though Gaz was not originally a member of Task Force 141 (due to being killed by a Russian arms dealer prior to its formation).
With Modern Warfare 2, fans can expect to see Ghost and Soap assume leading roles in the story. Price and Gaz make a return, continuing to operate mostly in stealth as a dynamic duo. A new iconic character introduced into the reboot universe is Colonel Alejandro Vargas of the Mexican Special Forces. An incorruptible, no-nonsense officer, Vargas and his right-hand man, Rodolfo, spend much of their time fighting cartel militias in Mexico. CIA Director Kate Laswell returns from the 2019 installment, as do a couple of fan-favorites (in minor roles, this time). Fans will also be introduced to Phillip Graves, commander of a mercenary group known as Shadow Company – an organization that veteran players from the original trilogy won’t forget. Speaking of Shadow Company, fans of the original trilogy can expect to see the memorable General Shepherd return, albeit with a slightly different appearance this time. As far as the setting, players will see much of the story occur in Mexico, though other levels are set in Amsterdam, Spain, and the Middle East.
Campaign Discontinuations (Spoilers)
Below is going to be my brief synopsis from the Modern Warfare 2019 campaign ending. This has certain implications for the new Modern Warfare 2 campaign, so there will be spoilers. If you wish to avoid spoilers, you may want to scroll ahead.
At the end of Modern Warfare 2019, following Captain Price’s selection of the Task Force 141 members, an invasion of the fictional former Eastern Bloc country, Kastovia, begins in March 2020. The Middle-Eastern terrorist group, Al-Qatala, is on the march, and they have a new leader. His real name is currently unknown, but he goes by the alias, Khaled Al-Asad (The Immortal Lion). Veterans of the original trilogy will remember Al-Asad from the first Modern Warfare. Throughout the Warzone (post-campaign) storyline of Modern Warfare 2019, Al-Asad’s forces pose a constant threat, unleashing waves of firepower and poisonous gas across the city of Verdansk. Alongside this, Al-Asad has teamed up with a Russian Ultranationalist arms dealer named Victor Zakhaev (another rebooted villain). In the original trilogy, the Ultranationalists were a faction of Russians who longed to restore Russia to the “glory days” of the Soviet Union.
It is during the Warzone story that Simon “Ghost” Riley makes his first appearance in the reboot universe, with his never-visible face covered by his iconic Ghost mask. A fan-favorite character from the MW2019 campaign, CIA agent Alex, is also revealed to be alive, having survived an explosion in the country of Georgia. To unite against and weaken the forces of Al-Asad and Zakhaev, East and West form an Armistice, composed of elite soldiers, to fight side-by-side. Fan-favorites Farah Karim and Nikolai eventually join the Armistice, assisting Captain Price and his team in locating Zakhaev. With a missile ready to launch, Zakhaev is found and killed by Price, and the missile launch is aborted. With a victory here, Task Force 141 – consisting of Price, Gaz, Alex, Ghost, Farah, and Nikolai – assemble to join Soap MacTavish in the outer reaches of Verdansk.
So, why recap the end of the MW2019 campaign and its subsequent Warzone story? Because, as much as it pains me to admit, the new Modern Warfare 2 campaign does not bode well in continuing those loose ends. While I greatly appreciate the continuation of Ghost and Soap in the reboot universe’s storyline, fans who were looking to see the Warzone narrative move forward will likely be disappointed. In MW2, Alex is nowhere to be seen, while Farah and Nikolai have been reduced to an appearance in only one mission. Although Al-Qatala is still a present threat, Al-Asad himself is completely absent, and is never once mentioned. Personally, I look favorable on the new campaign, and I loved the overall story; but one of my strongest peeves is when stories jump ship to new narratives, and essentially abandon previous characters and plotlines without closure.
One large rumor in the community, however, is that there will be either a second campaign for MW2, or at least a campaign expansion pack. If this is the case, then chances are likely that characters who currently have missing or minor roles in the present campaign will resurface to once again be integral. For what is virtually the first time since Call of Duty’s introduction, the franchise is now on a two-year release cycle, as opposed to the traditional one-year. In essence, MW2 will have the role of keeping fans and new players preoccupied until Fall 2024. With that being said, it certainly makes sense that a second campaign could possibly be on the horizon. We can hope, but only time will tell.
Campaign Synopsis (Spoilers)
This section will contain spoilers for the Modern Warfare 2 campaign narrative. If you wish to avoid spoilers, you may want to scroll to the next section.
The story for MW2 begins in October 2022. Ghost, on an elite mission for Task Force 141, calls in an airstrike to assassinate an Iranian General. With success, Ghost and Soap MacTavish are tasked with capturing the General’s second-in-command, Major Hassan Zyani. While searching for Zyani, an American missile is found in the hands of Al-Qatala, and it is soon revealed that they have others. General Shepherd and CIA Director Laswell are notified. Laswell orders Price and Gaz to Amsterdam, where Al-Qatala is smuggling weapons. Here, they hope to find the source of the terrorists’ obtaining of the missiles. Price and Gaz board a docked boat and eliminate the threats inside, where they discover that Al-Qatala has partnered with Las Almas, a Mexican cartel.
In Mexico, just over the border, Mexican Special Forces Colonel Alejandro Vargas and his wingman, Sergeant Major Rodolfo Parra, observe Major Zyani jumping the border wall into Texas, with members of the cartel. Laswell contacts Vargas and advises against pursuing him, as they would have no jurisdiction. Vargas and Parra, however, vow to catch Zyani and his smugglers, and leap over the border. Following a few brief firefights with cartel members, their mission proves unsuccessful, and Zyani escapes.
Ghost and Soap are sent to Mexico to find Zyani, where they team up with Vargas and Parra. During a ride through the city, Ghost and Soap observe the harm and destruction done by the Las Almas Cartel. Vargas remarks that the cartel leader, “El Sin Nombre” (The Nameless One), has complete control of the region. During a battle in the mountains, the men fight cartel militia and rogue members of the Mexican Army, who are in the pockets of the cartel. After being rescued by Phillip Graves and his Shadow Company, the team raids a cartel compound and captures Zyani, while Shadow Company provides gunship support from above. Zyani is taken to the desert, where the team interrogates him. After a verbal clash, General Shepherd gives the order to release Zyani, as the US and Mexico are not at war with Iran.
While Ghost and Soap remain in Mexico, Price and Gaz assist Laswell across the world. The team eliminates a cartel smuggling operation on the coast of Spain, discovers Russian involvement in the affair, and enlists the assistance of Farah and Nikolai to retrieve Laswell from her Al-Qatala captors after being compromised. Back in Mexico, the group discovers El Sin Nombre’s compound. Soap volunteers to infiltrate and find out who the mysterious figure is. Vargas encourages Soap to tell the truth about everything…if he doesn’t, the cartel will see him dead. Soap is taken to a cartel interrogation room, where El Sin Nombre’s personal sicaria, Valeria Garza, interrogates him. After providing the correct information, Soap is taken to be held by a masked cartel guard, who turns out to be Vargas undercover. Soap and Vargas discover via spy camera that Valeria Garza herself is, in fact, El Sin Nombre. Garza is captured and interrogated, where it is revealed that she and Vargas were once soldiers together. During a raid on the former cartel boss, Garza eliminated him and claimed the position, becoming El Sin Nombre. Graves decides to make a deal with Garza, much to Vargas’ anger. Vargas warns Graves that Garza cannot be trusted, and that a deal with her “won’t end well.” Garza directs the team to an oil rig in the Gulf, where they secure the information they need to track the missiles and Major Zyani.
Upon arriving back at the Mexican Special Forces command center, the story takes a dramatic turn. Graves informs Ghost, Soap, and Vargas that, under the orders of General Shepherd, they have been relieved of their service. Graves states that Vargas’ soldiers have been detained, and that the command center is now his. A fight ensues, in which Vargas is captured. Ghost escapes, as does Soap, who receives a bullet wound. Alone in the city on a rainy night, Soap dodges Shadow Company, who are massacring Mexican civilians. He manages to contact Ghost via radio, who tells him to meet at the church on the horizon. After reaching the church, Ghost and Soap flee Shadow Company’s fire. They regroup with Rodolfo and infiltrate the prison where Vargas is being held, releasing him and the other Special Forces in the process. During an intense battle, the team is saved by Price and Gaz, who arrive at the last moment.
With the entire team together, Laswell reveals that she has done some research. As it turns out, General Shepherd and Commander Graves underwent a secret, illegal transfer of highly-destructive weapons in the Middle East, resulting in a failed mission and the capture of the missiles by Russian forces. As a result, Iranian Major Zyani obtained them. The team confronts Shepherd via webcam, who unapologetically asserts that he was only doing what was necessary to be a patriotic American. Price assembles the members of 141 and the Special Forces, insisting that they are now “Ghost Team,” and orders everyone to mask-up. The team pursues and kills Graves, then subdues Valeria Garza, who reveals that Zyani plans to launch a missile from Chicago. Task Force 141 confronts Al-Qatala in a Chicago skyscraper. During the fight, Zyani’s missile launches, but Soap and Laswell manage to detonate it before reaching its target. Zyani then injures and captures Soap. As Zyani is about to execute Soap via fall from a window, Ghost perches his sniper and delivers a fatal headshot to Zyani, ending his reign of terror. General Shepherd, meanwhile, has disappeared.
With Graves and Zyani dead, Shepherd in hiding, and Garza in the custody of Mexican Special Forces, the team decides to take some R&R. While having a drink, Laswell informs Price that the fight is not over, and shares a picture of “someone new” with him. After a short examination, Price passes the photo to Gaz, Soap, and Ghost. Price informs Laswell that the man in the photo is not new, and refers to him as Makarov. As any fan of the original Modern Warfare trilogy knows, Vladimir Makarov is a threat unlike any other.
For players who are patient enough to sit through the credits, there is yet another incident reminiscent of something from the original trilogy. Aboard an airplane, a man assembles a pistol from various parts. He then pulls out his phone to reveal a text. On the other end, Makarov asks the man if he is ready. The man says yes, to which Makarov replies, “No Russian.”
Multiplayer and Spec Ops
The online multiplayer mode for Modern Warfare 2 provides players with 10 core maps and five Ground War maps. An 11th multiplayer map – Valderas Museum – was available to players in the September beta, but has currently been removed from the game, due to copyright complications. New game modes have been added, such as Prisoner Rescue. Fans also have the option to play certain modes in third-person. A battle royale mode – Warzone 2 – will be available with Season One on November 16. Since Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, most games in the franchise have offered players the option to select a unique operator as their multiplayer character, and Modern Warfare 2 is no different. In-game, players will load into a match as an operator from one of two private military companies: SpecGru or KorTac. Each operator is currently available with one outfit, aside from the default soldier. On the side of SpecGru, players will see familiar characters, alongside new ones. For those who ordered the Vault Edition of the game, four fan-favorites are available as this team’s operators: Price, Soap, Ghost, and Farah. The unfortunate news is that those who did not preorder the Vault Edition will not have access to those four, and will have to wait. With the KorTac faction, fan-favorite Roze is back from Modern Warfare 2019, alongside a plethora of new faces. As far as weapons are concerned, players have access to an arsenal of numerous classes, though the current obtaining of some weapons has proven controversial among the community. For example, in order to unlock a certain submachine gun, players may first have to use a shotgun or bolt-action rifle. In Spec Ops, players undertake several missions that somewhat continue the story from the campaign.
All in all, Modern Warfare 2 is, in my opinion, worthy of attention. While there may, to an extent, be less content at launch than was available with Modern Warfare 2019’s launch, the game offers much to be entertained with at the moment. The campaign continues certain plotlines from the original installment while introducing many new ones, and the online multiplayer offers players with a plethora of game modes. For fans of action games, Modern Warfare 2 holds something for everyone, and I am very excited to see what the next couple of years hold in store for it.
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