Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered PC Review — The Battalion is Oscar Mike
Modern Warfare 2 was, in its day, one of the biggest, most-hyped experiences in gaming. Its single-player component — never the core focus of any Call of Duty title — still had to somehow match the level of excitement surrounding its multiplayer offering.
Without question, though not without controversy, it succeeded. The set pieces were bigger than ever, the locations much closer to home, and the energy at a new fever pitch. Add in a soundtrack only Hans Zimmer could deliver and some of the best voice acting the series had seen before or since and Modern Warfare 2's campaign was a knockout.
Now it's 2020, and we're a full 11 years removed from what was once a landmark of single-player FPS campaigns. Modern Warfare 2 Remastered has the unenviable job of bringing the past back to life for a new audience with informed and expanded expectations.
With a few hiccups, this remastered campaign is about as good as we could have hoped for.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review — The Battalion is Oscar Mike
The Infinity Ward of 2009 knew exactly what they were doing with Modern Warfare 2, and they knew the monumental task ahead of them in following up Call of Duty 4. How could they top the gravity of controlling a soldier dying of radiation poisoning from a nearby nuclear detonation?
It was an in-game mission like no other, and to this day, it is still one of the most disturbing bits of gameplay I've played. The coldness of it all, with the slow walking speed, the silence of the perpetrators, the desperation of the civilians. All of it is almost nauseating.
Though they didn't have to do much, Beenox's remaster of that scene, and the rest of the game, is competently done. All the story beats are here, preserved, and shined up.
For all of that, not all of them are for the better. At several key moments in the campaign, there are animations and reactions new to the remaster, and none of them do the game any favors. The addition at the end of the "Loose Ends" mission is particularly jarring, as it adds an unneeded explanation for subtext the original game benefitted from.
Other changes, explaining how characters got to certain places and how they do certain things aren't unwelcome, but they also aren't needed. Unlike Final Fantasy 7 Remake, where we knew to expect large changes and an expansion of the story, for Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered, a bit of spit shine on an already gleaming experience was all that was needed.
I Swore We Ended This War Yesterday
In many ways, I consider Modern Warfare 2's use of politics and the ugly side of war far more effective than 2019's Modern Warfare. The latter is much more overt about its message — that war is hideous, and sometimes good people do horrible things in the name of some greater good.
The series reboot loves to show players that and shove it down their throats. The moment to moment writing is more hamfisted as well, and none of the characters make a convincing case that their way is the best way of handling a situation.
MW2, on the other hand, doesn't care to preach at the player about the awfulness of their actions. As General Shepherd says to Private Allen before the "No Russian" mission, "You will lose a piece of yourself."
Then the game simply lets the scene play out, with Allen typically silent, and the player given the option to mow down civilians or watch as Makarov and his goons do so.
That's not to say MW2 doesn't have an opinion that it wants to share, it's just that the story's told with more subtlety and care. Without explaining the campaign's story, know that the characters at the end of Modern Warfare 2 hadn't saved the world, or even put a piece of it back in working order. They were, save for a single, horrid act of insanity by Captain Price, cogs in a grander machine.
Yet there was always a clear goal, though not one that always confined itself to military orders. MW2 eventually became a revenge quest, not because of the world, but despite it. Soap and Price went after Shepherd knowing full well what it meant for their futures. They didn't care. They did it because it was right, even if no one else would ever believe them.
Sounds Like We Need to be in Two Places at Once
Soap, Ghost, and all of TF141 are as relatable in the remaster as they were in the original. Beenox took on the herculean task of re-recording all the dialogue in the game, remastering almost every sound, upping the resolution of every texture and model.
Because of their efforts, players will experience Modern Warfare 2 as only 2020's hardware can deliver. It doesn't look as good as the 2019 reboot, likely because developers were likely limited by the engine and their desire to maintain the core look and feel of the 2009 original.
Which is why I'm confused, and a little annoyed, that they changed some of the animations that made the original so stylish. Among others, the UMP 45, Intervention, .44 Magun, and Desert Eagle all had their reload animations redone.
I know that seems like a small complaint, but part of MW2's appeal was in the smoothness and badassery of everything the player did, down to the tiniest detail. Realism wasn't usually a factor.
And there are more than a few smaller changes scattered throughout the remaster that do nothing but stand out like sore thumbs. On their own, not the worst things, but taken as a whole, they mar an otherwise well-constructed update.
What hasn't changed is Hans Zimmer's epic score. Itself remastered, some of Modern Warfare 2's most memorable moments wouldn't have the same impact without the soundtrack penned all those years ago.
The sound design is on point here as well, though it takes some of the same liberties as Call of Duty 4 Remastered. However, each moment of tension is still properly mixed, and thus the moments of silence, so carefully chosen by Infinity Ward, are all the more powerful.
Good Time to Take Inventory
One of the biggest problems Modern Warfare 2's PC release never overcame was its performance. Capped at 91fps and woefully unstable compared to CoD4, it couldn't even boast a robust set of PC-specific video and audio settings. In many ways, what you saw was what you got, with a few caveats.
Beenox spared (almost) no expense changing that for the remaster. You can take the framerate as high as your PC will allow, and everything you'd want in a video setting suite is here. FoV, render resolution, ambient occlusion, ultra-wide support, supersampling, fill video memory — you name it, there's a graphics setting for it here.
All the odder, then, that there's just one audio slider. No changing the mix here, just how loud you want the game to be. It's an oversight I see no excuse for, but when I went and looked, CoD4 Remastered was the same. Another minor complaint, I know, but if you're going to overhaul the graphics options, do the same for the audio. There are some great sounds in MW2; give us more chances to experience.
Movement and gunplay are as you'd expect: solid as a rock and as fun as they were 11 years ago.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered Review — The Bottom Line
- Amazing music and sound remastered for a new generation
- A faithful recreation of a modern classic
- Looks and runs better than it ever has on PC
- Some changes feel out of place
- Lacks options without reason
- Lack of replayability
Modern Warfare 2 Remastered might not shake the foundations of the gaming universe like the original did in 2009, but that was never its purpose.
It is a functionally updated retelling of a story millions know and played in their formative years. The characters and politics are somehow as relevant today as they were back when the game first released, and it still sounds, plays, and looks better than most shooters on the market.
There are some problems and remaster-meddling that gets in the way, but when Modern Warfare 2 hits you, you'll know why it was the game that shaped a generation.
[Note: A copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered was provided by Activision for the purpose of this review.]