Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered revives a classic

A 2009 classic made into a 2020 classic.

Just over a decade ago, Infinity Ward changed both the landscape for FPS games and gaming as a whole with the Modern Warfare series. Call of Duty 4 ushered in an instant classic and its sequel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, upped the ante with a story as iconic as an award-winning action film.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is beloved for many reasons. The revolutionary multiplayer, the great gunplay, but also the gripping story. It’s now 2020, the game is turning 11 this November, and Activision decided to give us a glossy remaster of the campaign. It’s not easy for games to stand the test of time as we’re in an ever-evolving industry but man, oh man, Modern Warfare 2 does it with grace.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 picks up half a decade after the events of Call of Duty 4. A Russian ultranationalist known as Makarov has lit the fuse that sparks World War III in an attempt to destroy America. With war raging on American soil, the United States Rangers attempt to contain the situation on the homeland as a special ops group known as Task Force 141 try to find and kill Makarov.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered

If you somehow haven’t played MW2 or it has been a long time and you’re wondering how it holds up, we’ve got you covered. Despite being brief (I finished it in one sitting on Hardened difficulty), Infinity Ward packs a plot-heavy story that is always gripping. There isn’t a single mission where you go “Oh, this one… alright, let me rush through it.” I wanted to savor every second of it because not only are the characters grounding me deep in the story and action but the levels are well-made.

We’re given a healthy variety of gameplay situations. Vehicle sections, stealth sections, sniping, defense levels, and much more. Infinity Ward expertly paced the story to move quickly so that it forces changes to ensure you don’t get bored of one thing too fast. Its structure still holds up and allows for a story that advances at breakneck speeds.

The only times the game slows down are the cutscenes that previously hid load times, otherwise, you’re almost always in control of everything happening. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is rich with iconic moments that just don’t let up. Every single moment is built on this grand foundation of brilliant writing and a goosebump-inducing score from Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe. Every single beat hits just as it intends which is no small feat.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered

You’ll go from one chaotic event to another like speeding down a mountain on a snowmobile to being chased across favela rooftops to board an escape chopper. You’ll find yourself pinned in a Washington DC warzone with 30 bullets left in your gun when all of sudden an EMP is launched and enemy helicopters start falling from the sky like meteors. It’s relentless in its pulse-pounding action but in a way that is never fatiguing.

With maybe the exception of the first two Black Ops games, Call of Duty has not reached the heights of the Modern Warfare trilogy since 2011. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is a friendly reminder that they just don’t make ’em like they used to. But how could they when this is where the bar was set?

There’s a reason why Activision had the audacity to release this bad boy without the multiplayer. They know this 6-hour story of a borderline man-made apocalypse is one that can be sold on its own because it’s just that good.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered

Beenox was tasked with giving this Call of Duty classic a modern-day makeover and they did a damn fine job. Some characters like Shepherd and Nikolai look a bit off from how we remember them but everyone else is beefed up for the age of photorealism. A bunch of gun sounds have seemingly been overhauled too, giving everything a nice new flair for your senses.

There’s an incredible level of detail poured into this remaster, making it one of the best of its kind without having to be a full-blown remake. We even get a wealth of new animations that help immerse you in the shoes of the likes of Roach, Ramirez, and more. Previously, you would just be a pair of hands that never left your gun. Now you get the sense you’re controlling a real person by seeing your character pick up key items, grab things he’s vaulting over, and so on.

Going beyond pretty graphics, smooth animations, and appealing sounds, Beenox has added a bunch of small new details for the hardcore fans as well.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered

The military base in the opening of the game has been largely redesigned to have new areas to see and explore as well as pack some secrets. There are careful attempts to seamlessly weave the connections from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and 3, particularly in the No Russian level. There are also new trophies/achievements that open up new gameplay possibilities.

So if you’re considering passing it up because you’ve already played the campaign, it’s worth reconsidering if you want to see some of the new treats Beenox has hidden. I said it with Modern Warfare Remastered, I’ll say it again with MW2 Remastered: This is how everyone should be doing remasters.

The Verdict

Even though it’s just the campaign, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is a healthy dose of nostalgia. It doesn’t just hit because you’re transported back to the good ol’ days. It hits because it’s a story that stands proudly atop of its superb writing, renowned characters, and kick-ass set pieces while being aggressively injected with arresting, cutting-edge visuals.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered is out now on PS4. It’ll release on April 30th for Xbox One and PC.