A while back Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered was put up for free download for those who had a PSN membership. I went back to play it again, and I still enjoyed the campaign, with the characters and story gripping me once more. My memory had always been that the campaign stories had gotten progressively worse as the Modern Warfare games had rolled on, with it feeling like the developers were trying too hard to find the lightning in the bottle they enjoyed with the first game in the series. With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered recently showing up on PSN as well, I decided to put this theory to the test by revisiting the campaign mode once again.
Beenox have handled the remaster, and I should start by praising them for how good a job they have done when it comes to the visuals. They’ve done an excellent job of making it a real treat for the retinas, and I spent plenty of time inspecting the scenery more than once during my most recent playthrough. The glaciers and scenery surrounding the oil rig level in particular look great, with lots of really sumptuous detail on display. From a purely cosmetic perspective, this remaster is an unequivocal success. Whether you are sneaking through thick snow storms, sprinting across the roofs of a Brazilian favela or travelling underwater past looming submarines in order to reach the aforementioned oil rig, this game looks down right snazzy.
I am also pleased to report that the gameplay is as smooth as ever too, with a nice variety of mission types that include using stealth, grinding your way through hordes of enemies to reach a certain target, defending safe houses and even using predator drones to blast helicopters clean out of the sky. At times you even have to get behind the wheel of snowmobiles and motorboats in high octane chase sequences. Overall, it’s impressive how they have managed to keep the missions feeling varied, especially as first-person shooters can sometimes fall into the trap of becoming a bit monotonous.
One of the more exciting levels comes later on in the game where you have to fight your way through an aeroplane “boneyard” whilst two warring groups are going at it. Both sides will happily kill you at a moment’s notice, but they are also looking to do battle with one other, which means you have to weigh up whether to attack them or try to sneak by whilst they blast each other to bits. What I enjoyed about this level is that it came with a feeling that you could play it again and take a completely different route or approach.
Despite what some may think, however, Call of Duty games are about more than just shooting things, with most of them also having a dedicated storyline running through them. This is something you tend to see more in the contemporary games as it gives the writers more freedom to create characters that aren’t constrained by the real events of history. Whilst Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered both looks good and plays well, I’m still willing to say that the story suffers from a drop in quality in comparison to the first game in the Modern Warfare series. It always feels to me like it is trying too hard to be shocking and focuses more on swerves than actual storytelling. Levels like “No Russian” feel almost cheap and a bit dirty as opposed to the emotional got punch you sense that Infinity Ward wanted them to be. The fact that no less than three playable characters bite the dust during the course of the game borders on literal overkill as well.
It’s like they thought that killing Paul Jackson got such a good reaction from players of the first game that they felt they could use the same trope in this game as well, but the difference is that it really felt like Jackson’s death was earned in the first game due to the story they were trying to tell. By the time the third character goes off to join the choir eternal in this game, however, my reaction was more along the lines of “Really? That character as well? Oh, come now, this is starting to get silly,“ which I’m guessing is not the reaction they were hoping for. It just feels like they are trying to artificially add something in to try and recreate the feeling players got in the first game, but it just comes across as poor taste bordering on desperation.
The story itself takes place five years after the events of the first game, with wet behind the ears “Soap“ MacTavish now a grizzled leader of his own unit named task force 141. The now matured Soap is a pleasing evolution to the character, with voice actor Kevin McKidd really bringing him to life. You get the sense that he has grown into his role, to the point that he now acts as a mentor of sorts for your new playable character, Gary “Roach” Sanderson. Things kick off big-time when a terrorist named Makarov causes an international incident on Russian soil and frames the United States for it. This, not surprisingly, leads to a declaration of war and creates some truly daunting battles as the Russians take to the American coast with designs of vengeance. As a result of this chicanery, Soap and his unit are charged with busting a familiar face out of a Russian gulag so that Makarov can be taken down.
There are plenty of twists and turns along the way as the story switches from task force 141 to the US Rangers, who are trying to defend the states against the invading Russian forces. However, the twists get a bit silly after a certain point, and the story just didn’t grip me like the first one did. It’s not an entirely bad story, and there are moments that I did enjoy, such as the previously mentioned oil rig level and also one where you have to snipe at baddies in the snow, but the overall narrative just didn’t grip me.
The varied gameplay helps break things up a bit, but I have to say that reality ended up matching my memory when it came to the campaign. Sadly, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered just doesn’t have as interesting or exciting a story as its elder sibling. However, despite that, I would still recommend playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered, especially as you can get it free with a PSN membership. I know some will be disappointed that the multiplayer is not included, but honestly, the campaign is mostly what I play these games for. It’s not the longest campaign in length that you’ll ever play, but that’s not always a bad thing. I generally prefer a snappy, linear single-player mode over a bloated one anyway, it’s just a shame that the story being told here isn’t as good as the one in the first game.