Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has a showcase week. Yesterday, Activision released a new trailer and announced that Call of Duty is returning to Steam this year for a new $70 price.Today we got a ton of campaign gameplay from the Summer Games Festival (opens in new tab) exhibit.
The game begins with a mission called Dark Water, where Soap, Price, and other war gangs infiltrate an oil rig somewhere along the Atlantic coast, with the task of preventing a nuclear missile launch. Sound familiar? That’s the opinion of staff writer Morgan Park and senior editor Rich Stanton, two men who love the CoD campaign but worry that Modern Warfare 2 is just refurbishing old land.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: Yeah, so…that must look like Call of Duty, right?
Rich Stanton, Senior Editor: Call of Duty, as a single-player experience, feels fully functional at this point.
Morgan Park: I still love a good CoD campaign, but if Modern Warfare 2 is going to be a lot like that, then I have to agree. CoD has a habit of repeating mistakes, but this oil drilling mission is the most mundane campaign I’ve seen in a while. In the last 20 calls on duty, I can’t think of a single thing that happened in those 7 minutes that I haven’t done a billion times.
Rich Stanton: We live in an era where “classic” games seem destined to be remade every 10 to 15 years, and Call of Duty has taken this weird route of more or less direct remakes of not-so-old games. I’m also not sure where these “remakes” will fall because it feels like they’re so afraid of changing their beloved that they never push the envelope.
Morgan Park: Yes, it does have some boxes to tick like Infinity Ward to stop this feeling new. Why make it look like a Call of Duty 4 intro mission? Maybe the point is to miss games that have been out for 15 years, but all I get is “Ah, we’re going to do it again”.
Oddly, like 2019’s Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2 isn’t exactly a “remake.” It takes old characters like Soap, Price, and Ghost and uses them in a different story that may be similar but certainly not identical to the original 2009 game. Keeping up is confusing (in part because Activision chose to use the same name as the old game). It’s a different story, but also seems to reference the original?Today’s oil drilling mission bears striking resemblance to “The only easy day was yesterday” (opens in new tab) The mission of MW2 (2009).
Rich Stanton: I vividly remember the arrival of the original Modern Warfare because it had a different stereotype of military reality than anything before it. The AC-130 gunship mission is remembered because it was very uncomfortable and seemed to reveal the horrors of modern conflict. I’m not saying that it must be a deep understanding of military culture. There are still good people and bad people in this world view, but it does make people feel very shocking.
Morgan Park: Remember when you were nukeed? That was a mess.
Rich Stanton: Modern Warfare as you know it starts with you as a dictator who is about to be publicly executed. By the end of the intro, my jaw was on the floor and I was hooked. No game has ever done anything like this.
CoD’s success in the modern era can be traced back to everything the Modern Warfare trilogy did for it, including the multiplayer aspect, and since then, it feels like the series has stuck to the template they set. They’re great games, but of their time, I’m not sure Activision has the ability (or maybe even the desire) to get out of this situation. Of course, I doubt that contemporary Activision studios will have the free reign of the military-industrial complex that Infinity Ward once did.
Morgan Park: Yes, I think it’s important to remember that Activision sticks to its template because a lot of people will get mad if they don’t. A lot of people want that familiarity. That doesn’t mean, though, that every 6-hour event it rolls out needs to be exactly the same as the last.
In fact, that’s why I liked the 2019 Modern Warfare campaign so much.It has some really cool twists on old CoD favorites, like the Highway of Death sniper mission (while shamelessly rewriting the history of actual American war crimes) (opens in new tab)) is basically a natural evolution of “All Ghillied Up”. On the other hand, this oil drilling mission feels like a renovation. We still hide behind storage containers, stack on doors to prevent breaches, and do canned hand-to-hand knockdowns on guards.
Rich Stanton: I guess that’s the question: how many times can you play with these things and then feel like a hamster on wheels with an AK. The self-referentiality you talked about above is cool, but it’s also a symptom of a bigger problem, which is that these games are being developed on such an unprecedented production line and need to meet a specific set of requirements.
There’s this element, too, that Call of Duty is now much bigger than the campaign. Its biggest cash cow so far has been Warzone, and Warzone 2 will undoubtedly continue that trend. The original single-player-focused series was largely consumed by multiplayer, and you’d feel like that’s where all the resources were going. Now it’s such a big business that you think Activision doesn’t want it to get too close to controversy: In fact, it’s more connected than ever to the U.S. military and the gun industry.
Morgan Park: Clearly, Infinity Ward is trying to moderate its edgy tendencies (opens in new tab) through this activity. I’m all for not having to watch game developers justify tasteless creative decisions in the name of fun playable wars.
But you’re right, Richie. Activision invested as much time and money as possible into these events, and at this point, they were really just used to edit some trailers.Six hours of great shots get players ready for their business Actually Play CoD: Multiplayer. This is part of the game we still know nothing about, and as you mentioned, the standalone Warzone sequel will likely be bigger than MW2 itself. Maybe Activision was right to skip the campaign in 2018’s Black Ops 4. If this mission is the most original thing in Modern Warfare 2, it’s time for the CoD campaign to take a break.