At 11 p.m. on October 27, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (2022) was released. The game was a marketing colossus. Over the past month, Activision/Blizzard has pulled out all the stops, from covering multiple freighters in in-game artwork and awkwardly grouping them together for an aerial drone shot, to hiring celebrities like Nicki Minaj, Pete Davidson and Lil Baby, pretending to care about Call of Duty in an embarrassing trailer. And like I do every year, I forked out my $70 to my corporate lords and jumped on launch night.
The fact that this is the second game in the franchise called Modern Warfare 2 is in itself pretty hilarious. It speaks to a frightening level of risk aversion and creative decline that the gaming industry’s biggest game of the year is following a reboot, hoping to cash in on the good memories. from a game released in 2009.
Modern Warfare 2 is desperately trying to capitalize on the nostalgia people have for its predecessors. From shamelessly ripping mechanics and motifs from previous campaigns (to the point of almost remaking Modern Warfare’s original All Ghillied Up mission) to recycling characters over a decade old, the game’s attempts to pander to nostalgia seem hopeless and pathetic. It reminds me of a failed celebrity, well past his prime, replaying his greatest 80s hits in a casino, cynically trying to cash in on his legacy.
This is also how I felt about the release of Modern Warfare in 2019. This game also desperately flattered the generation that grew up playing the original Modern Warfare, resorting to embarrassing shock value and boasting that the campaign brought testers to tears. The difference was that Modern Warfare 2019 ended up being really, really good. Despite some notable missteps (attributing real-world American war crimes to Russians was a low point out of nowhere), the game managed to tell a compelling story and introduced the best multiplayer mode the franchise has seen since. years.
Modern Warfare 2 isn’t as good as a game. The campaign, despite some really great moments, feels vastly stretched and recycled. Multiplayer has been made much slower, and not for the better. Footsteps are so loud that players are encouraged to minimize their movement to avoid detection. This results in matches feeling less like frantic battles and more like large-scale hide-and-seek games with guns. New loading systems range from complicated to downright dysfunctional. Not to mention that the game’s UI was designed by a team of ex-Hulu engineers, which left the menus one of the weakest parts of the game (can’t imagine how they got it so much spoils).
Despite skyrocketing marketing budgets, Burger King deals, and celebrity endorsements, Call of Duty feels like it’s on its last legs. Like a dog begging for a treat, he repeats the same trick over and over. And it’s finally getting old.