“Price? This belongs to you, sir.” –John MacTavish
The Russian invasion of the Eastern Seaboard begins, with American forces being completely overwhelmed by the Russians’ sheer ferocity. Amidst the fighting, Private James Ramirez of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment fight through Richmond, Virginia to secure a government official amongst the suburbs and recover a high value individual from his home in Arcadia Country. Meanwhile, MacTavish and Sanderson participate in a joint raid on Petropavlovsk Gulag to release prisoner 627. After infiltrating oil rigs armed with surface-to-air missiles and clearing them of military presence, MacTavish and Price head towards the gulag itself, fighting their way through its cavernous interior en route to their prize. It turns out that 627 is none other than Johnathan Price. However, the American navy resumes its bombardment of the site shortly after, and with their primary exfiltration unavailable, MacTavish, Sanderson and Price manage to escape via skyhook. Back in Washington D.C., Ramirez and his team oversee the evacuation of a safe area as Russian forces continue to advance. Despite managing to recapture the Herbert C. Hoover Building and using the vantage point to lay waste to Russian forces, the site soon becomes overrun, forcing Ramirez and the others to leave via helicopter. They are subsequently shot down, and prepare to make their last stand as the crash site is surrounded by Russians. The dramatic and appalling events from the first act have finally precipitated a full-scale war, which is immediately apparent by the second act’s opening. More so than any game I’d previously played through, the scope and severity of the Russian invasion became apparent as I fought my way through areas that closely resembles the shopping areas and suburbs of home. Seeing familiar locations draped under an apocalyptic red-orange sky wreathed in black clouds gave the sense that the world was coming to an end, and that reality itself was succumbing to the depths of despair.
Seeing familiar locations become battlegrounds is where Modern Warfare 2 truly excels, and these aspects of the game are often forgotten, existing in the shadows of the controversies that mired the game after its release. Those mature enough to look past the controversy will find that Modern Warfare 2, more so than any game of its time, truly captured the horrors and desolation of warfare. While people often view war as something that happens “in another part of the world”, hardly deserving of any concern, Modern Warfare 2 shows what happens if conflict were to be taken to one’s doorsteps. Ramirez fights through fast food restaurants and gas station convenience stores, as well as the single family homes of a subdivision and the streets of America’s now-besieged capital. Places where people go to grab a burger or play street hockey is transformed into a war zone as Russian forces fill the air with hot lead, and houses lay empty or burning from the onslaught. While it is easy to pick a side when warfare is presented by journalists half a world away, seeing all of the destruction and erasure of normalcy in Modern Warfare 2 acts as a stark reminder to players that all that they take for granted can be taken away in the blink of an eye, and with this in mind, it becomes impertinent to provide commentary about a war that one is watching from behind the safety of a smartphone’s screen, especially where we bystanders do not have a complete picture and cannot see the true extent of suffering in areas affected by warfare. One cannot begin to describe the abject terror those people must face, and as Modern Warfare 2 suggests, even though players are a part of the elite Rangers, against a relentless, unfeeling foe, even the best equipment and training feels inadequate. Call of Duty is fond of quoting famous figures, and Larry Reeves is absolutely right about the only people who would desire warfare were those ignorant of its horrors.
Screenshots and Commentary
- If Modern Warfare 2‘s portrayal of the invasion felt apocalyptic, Modern Warfare 2: Remastered takes everything to a new level: the skies are filled with black smoke and a hellish red light from distance fires. Ramirez begins the mission with the SCAR-H and M9. The SCAR-H here comes with a red dot sight and under-barrel shotgun, which leaves players well-equipped to take on enemies at close and medium ranges efficiently. However, with only twenty rounds in the magazine, the SCAR-H is a weapon that is better fired in bursts, as twenty is not a whole lot to work with.
- After cutting through the residential areas, Ramirez and the other Rangers will end up in a strip mall area with numerous restaurants and gas stations. Such areas are common in North America: and while Modern Warfare 2 might set this in Virginia, it does not take a stretch of the imagination to see this as being my home town. Here, I fight my way to a sit-down restaurant called Nate’s Sports Bar and Grill, which I’d hazard a guess is the equivalent of Montana’s BBQ and Bar, or Boston Pizza. This mission happens in a relatively open area, and there’s a lot of running around between the different restaurants and gas station convenience store to fend off Russian soldiers and otherwise secure vital assets.
- Here, I’ve picked up an M14 EBR with thermal optics: the M14 is a semi-automatic sniper rifle with low damage and high accuracy, making it a great choice for situations where one requires follow-up shots. Having the thermal optics makes it easier to spot the enemies, which blend in well with the environment, and here, Ramirez must fend off hordes of Russian soldiers, making use of both the M14 and remote sentry gun to defend their position. Things get tricky when the Russians call in air support, which flattens Nate’s.
- The last time I sat down to dinner at a restaurant would’ve been a shade more than a year ago, and I do miss the experience: besides food that I can’t readily cook at home, there’s also the ambience and lack of need to do the dishes. Eating out periodically thus becomes something to look forwards to, and generally speaking, my favourite place to hit is a good pub, which offers solid fare for reasonable prices. While steakhouses are great, they’re also a ways pricier. Speaking with family, high on my list of places to visit after this health crisis is contained will be the poutine place over in Canmore, and with friends, katsu and barbeque appear to be on order.
- Burger Town is an obvious Burger King stand-in, and truth be told, I’m a much bigger fan of A & W’s Teen Burger, which is now made with grass-fed beef to win the top spot as my favourite fast food burger. By comparison, I’ve not been to a Burger King in years. Towards the end of the mission, Ramirez will successfully secure a high value individual and use Stinger missiles to knock out Russian helicopters. There’s also RPGs lying around, making it easy to destroy Russian light armoured vehicles. Instead of flash bang grenades, Ramirez will use smoke grenades, allowing for cover in otherwise open areas.
- Modern Warfare 2 switches back over to Sanderson’s perspective: it’s time to beat a hasty exit from the favela, and MacTavish gets what he came for. After interrogating Alejandro Rojas, MacTavish learns that getting to Makarov means springing a certain Prisoner 627 from the Russian Gulag. Because Task Force 141 had waltzed into the favela and shot up a bunch of the militia earlier, the entire militia shows up to this fight. Sanderson is initially armed with a Heckler and Koch UMP and the G18. The former is a solid all-around PDW for medium range, but is stymied by a low firing rate, while the latter is great in a pinch in close-quarters scenario.
- With what seems like the whole militia out for revenge, the aim of this mission is to escape and link up with Nikolai, who’s piloting a Sikorsky MH-53. However, the LZ is much too hot: the militia even have access to RPGs, and that makes it difficult. Sanderson could get through the whole of this mission with the UMP and G18 alone, as both weapons cover the ranges that most of the engagements happen at: par the course for a given modern military shooter, one’s starting loadout is generally sufficient to take them through most situations.
- With this being said, the sidearms that players typically start with only have the advantage of their extremely fast switch times. In the opening tutorials, players are informed that switching to the sidearm is always faster than reloading, so if one only needs an assault rifle, the sidearm becomes a good backup for getting a kill or two to make safe an area before reloading their primary weapon. In practise, I reload often enough so that I’d rather just go with a second primary weapon to improve my versatility at certain ranges: depending on the mission, I always prefer to have a good marksman rifle or shotgun handy.
- The visuals in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered are worth writing home about: in the hills of Rio de Janeiro, the extent of improvements is most apparent, and while the game handles identically to the original Modern Warfare 2, the updated visuals are jaw-dropping. One of the challenges I have with the remastered Call of Duty games is paring down the screenshots so I can have a reasonably sized post, as there are many moments worthy of being portrayed. This is why most folks prefer to make YouTube videos or stream their gaming experiences to others, but this represents a level of commitment that I simply lack.
- While the others board the helicopter safely, Sanderson is left behind when RPG-wielding militia appear. This last bit of the mission involves hauling ass to the LZ, and because of the intensity of the sequence, I have no screenshots of this part. Modern Warfare 2 was known for its first-person cinematics, which increase immersion but also gives the game a more on-rails feeling at times. I’ve found that such moments are not so frequent as to distract from the game, and the lack of control these scenes conveys really gives players a sense of how chaotic things are.
- With Task Force 141 safely away, perspective switches back to that of Ramirez’s: the Rangers are tasked with defeating Russian anti-aircraft batteries so American aircraft can begin evacuating civilians. Ramirez is armed with a laser designator that will allow him to mark enemy positions for strafing, and this is especially useful for dealing with the heavily fortified Russian positions. This mission is described as taking place in Arcadia County somewhere in Virginia, and here, a covered bridge can be seen. Indeed, Virginia is known for its covered bridges, similarly to New Brunswick. Covered bridges are so-designed because the structure keeps the timber truss away from the elements: uncovered bridges fail in as little as a decade, but covered bridges can last up to a century if they’re well-built.
- The fighting soon takes Ramirez and his team to an affluent-looking community whose houses remind me of Cherry Creek in Denver, near an AI oncology clinical decision support tech firm I was loaned as a consultant to three years earlier. It does seem inconceivable that such a high-end neighbourhood could ever be host to such firefights, but Modern Warfare 2 blows away all prior expectations: the gardens and garages of these mansions become battlefields, and low brick fences, usually aesthetic, become makeshift cover. I died here more times than I cared to count, but finally managed to push forward.
- Inside one of the mansions, players must clear out the occupying forces before moving on. I’m not the only one who spent a bit more time than was strictly necessary exploring: fancy houses have always been fun to wander around, and the occupants of this house would’ve lived very comfortably: the basement is a recreational space complete with a pool table and minibar, and the main living area is quite luxurious indeed. After the house is cleared, I entered the backyard and pool to continue on with the mission. The doors to the bedrooms are locked, so there’s no chance of exploring that, but the attention paid to the details is impressive, especially with the portrayal of a Russian soldier looking through the fridge and finding some soft drinks in the process.
- After reaching a golf course, Ramirez tags the remaining anti-air guns for demolition. Here, I’ve picked an AK-47 with an ACOG scope off one of the Russian soldiers: the AK-47 in Modern Warfare 2 is a modernised version sporting a polymer body and muzzle brake. One of the most common weapons in the game, the AK-47 hits hard and has a low rate of fire. One of the distinguishing features about Modern Warfare 2‘s AK-47 is that it has a very notable recoil animation, and having the ACOG means that there will be a bit of scope sway. I swapped over to the AK-47 after running out of ammunition for my starting weapon, but fortunately, after the AA guns are destroyed, there aren’t any more firefights to this mission.
- The last phase of the mission entails entering a house to secure another high value target, only to find him dead. Ramirez picks the briefcase off him and ascertains that it contains some documents, bringing the mission to a close. This mission captures what it must be like to be an infantry unit: orders come from the top, and soldiers carry out said orders without full knowledge of the bigger picture. From a narrative standpoint, this serves to remind players that not everything in a war necessarily makes sense, and the soldiers are oftentimes in the dark about what their mission’s implications are.
- While the invasion of the Eastern Seaboard is under way, Task Force 141 assaults an oil rig housing Russian anti-air missile batteries ahead of the operation to spring Prisoner 627. Speaking to the lengths soldiers will go for their objectives, the Russians have captured oil rigs and taken the crew hostage. Sanderson starts the mission with the M4A1 SOPMOD, a classic variant of the M4A1 returning from Modern Warfare that is equipped with a suppressor, red dot sight and M203. The Modern Warfare version also sports AN/PEQ-2A infrared laser, which is only visible when night vision goggles are equipped.
- Besides the M4A1, Sanderson carries a suppressed SCAR-H with thermal optics, great for smoky environments. This mission proved remarkably entertaining, featuring a lot of breaching entries as the 141 enter rooms where hostages are being held. As long as one is careful about placing their shots, there shouldn’t be too much risk of accidentally hitting a hostage. The Modern Warfare series has no qualms about taking players to interesting locations, and I’ve certainly never expected to fight on an oil rig before.
- A Little Bird soon begins firing on the 141 after reaching the third deck. Guides suggest using the M4A1’s M203 to hit it, but there’s an AT4 lying around as well that can be used to sort out this helicopter. Modern Warfare 2: Remastered has vastly improved lighting and effects over the original Modern Warfare 2, and this level felt like an episode of Mighty Ships brought to life. Sound effects have also been improved: weapons in the originally felt tinny and weak, but they’ve been given an update to sound more lethal. One aspect of the original Modern Warfare 2 that held up was the voice acting and chatter, which feels authentic.
- Here, I’ve picked up the CheyTac Intervention anti-materiel rifle, a slow-firing bolt-action weapon that hits like a truck at the cost of firing rate and high scope sway. The weapon is only found here and in the first mission of the second act, but on the oil rig and its close quarters environment, I’ve actually found it to be quite unnecessary: weapons with thermal optics are easily found here, and so, even as the Russians deploy smoke to obscure the area, any weapon with thermal optics will allow one to push forwards.
- With this mission done, it’s time to head on over to the Gulag itself. A quick glance at the calendar shows that we’re now closing in on the Victoria Day long weekend, and this marks the second year in a row where I won’t be able to volunteer for the local anime convention, Otafest, on account of the ongoing health crisis. A decade earlier, after watching a friend’s vlogs for Otafest, I wondered if the event would be worth my while. However, my decision was swiftly made for me: some friends were hosting a Halo: Reach LAN party, and the next day, I was scheduled for a family day trip to the nearby mountains. While panels were held, and cosplayers wandered campus grounds, I strolled along the tranquil shores of the still-frozen Lake Minnewanka and through the ruins of coal-mining town Bankhead, before returning to town for an Angus burger.
- Looking back, Otafest is considerably more fun from the volunteer’s end: helping attendees out makes it all the more enjoyable. Without Otafest to volunteer at this year, I’m not sure what this long weekend will look like just yet. I’ll probably play things by ear, and enjoy the remainder of this weekend first. The weather’s been absolutely gorgeous, and after treating my parents to a dim sum lunch (cheung fun, siu mai, steamed char siu bao, fried taro dumplings, Phoenix Claw, steamed beef balls, deep fried shrimp, deep fried squid and beef ho fun) from what’s become our favourite take-out spot, I ended up capitalising on that warm spring weather and blue skies by way of an afternoon walk to a quiet lookout away from the crowds.
- The mission to free Prisoner 627 was probably the most cinematic and enjoyable, opening with one of the most thrilling entrances to any mission I’ve played in Call of Duty: after American F-15s clear a path to the Gulag, Sanderson will begin engaging hostile forces on the Gulag’s walls with the M14 EBR to clear a landing zone for the helicopter, which lands in the courtyard. From here on out, it’s close quarters inside the Gulag, and the M14 won’t be quite as useful. Fortunately, Sanderson’s second weapon is the M4A1.
- Simon Riley takes control of the Gulag’s systems and manages to unlock the doors leading to Prisoner 627. MacTavish and Sanderson will come upon an armoury, and here, it is suggested that one takes a riot shield with them: fire is so heavy here that it isn’t particularly meaningful to forego the riot shields. Riot shields can shrug off all bullet damage and reduces explosive damage, as well as being able to one-shot any enemy with melee attacks. Unlike the player, who can only melee with the riot shield equipped, enemies can simultaneously wield a riot shield and an MP5K.
- In the bowels of the Gulag, Task Force 141 fight through a shower room in an area that would later become the inspiration for Warzone‘s Gulag. Here, I’ve dropped the riot shield in favour of the AUG HBAR, and after fighting to the end of the area, follow the remainder of Task Force 141 down into the Gulag’s sewage system. At the end of the tunnels, Sanderson prepares a breaching charge and comes face to face with Prisoner 627, who is none other than Captain John Price. It turns out between the events of Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, Price had been involved in an operation to capture Makarov, but during one assignment, Price’s unit was overrun by Ultranationalist forces, resulting in his capture as he covered his allies’ escape.
- MacTavish returns an M1911 pistol to Price, a callback to the events of Modern Warfare, and the group prepare to beat a hasty exit. An undetonated bomb can be seen here moments before the Gulag’s ceiling caves in, briefly incapacitating Sanderson. Sanderson is swiftly dug out and lashes himself to a SPIE rig, ready to be pulled out via sky hook. While Modern Warfare 2 has been a thrill all the way around insofar, the Gulag mission stands out in terms of cinematics and atmosphere. If All Ghillied Up and One Shot, One Kill were the most iconic of the Modern Warfare missions, then The Only Easy Day…Was Yesterday and The Gulag would be Modern Warfare 2‘s equivalents.
- As the sun sets on what was doubtlessly a very long day, the lighting gives a sense of Armageddon here: even the American capital is under siege, and it seems the onslaught is relentless. However, while the scenario feels overwhelming, knowing that Ramirez’s guns still work means that at least for me, something can still yet be done to get the civilians out. Modern Warfare suggests that the Russians are a highly capable of fighting in such a manner, and while such a thought can seem fanciful, it turns out that RAND analysts have run simulations (usually against China or Russia) that indicate in the event of an actual conflict, the loss of blue forces would be unacceptably high.
- This isn’t to say that blue forces couldn’t come out victorious, but the reality is that achieving objectives would not be a walk in the park (as opposed to engaging the PLA of say, ten years ago): cyberwarfare would be the most critical infrastructure that would fall first. Of course, diplomacy is key to sorting out disagreements before they boil over: contrary to what some may believe, warfare is detrimental to all those involved, and the world in general needs to vastly improve suppressing political memes and mechanisms for dealing with social media, where misunderstandings could potentially be the catalyst for unprecedented catastrophe.
- After clearing away the Russian forces inside the Herbert C. Hoover Building, Ramirez comes upon a cache of captured Javelin missiles and promptly uses them to lay waste to Russian armour and helicopters alike. The potency of Javelin missiles in Modern Warfare is probably an exaggeration: I’m destroying enemy armour with a single round, and I imagine that in reality, enemy vehicles would possess reactive armour or active protection systems. On the other hand, a single rocket could be enough to knock a vehicle out of the fight if it hits the right spot, and this could be enough to make a difference in a given engagement. This sort of thing is often seen in Girls und Panzer: while Miho and her team may not have the best firepower, even knocking the treads off a tank they can’t otherwise beat buys Ooarai enough time to regroup.
- On the topic of Girls und Panzer, I’ve still not heard any news about the BD for Das Finale‘s third act. I’ve noticed that there’s been a definitive trend in the release patterns for anime movies, with movies taking increasingly longer to hit the shelves. Ten years ago, with K-On! The Movie, the wait was around six to seven months, but today, eleven month gaps are not uncommon. If I had to speculate, I would suppose that this is a measure meant to curb overseas piracy and maximise domestic sales. One way or another, if I intend to write about Girls und Panzer (or whatever other anime movie I wish to), the wait for BDs is not a deterrent. Readers have my word that I will be writing about Das Finale‘s third act once it’s available.
- The last mission in the second act ends when Ramirez’s Black Hawk is shot down, and while he survives, he and the Rangers prepare to make a last stand against overwhelming numbers. To emphasise the desperation and urgency of this moment, Ramirez only has one full magazine left to him, and the firefight ends when a searchlight illuminates the area, washing everything out on a blazing white light. With this, I step into the final act of Modern Warfare 2: this past weekend, I’d been focused on finishing the Jupiter Manhunt in The Division 2, but with the Victoria Day long weekend coming, it would be nice to wrap up Modern Warfare 2 and potentially kick off Black Ops: Cold War as time allows.
Modern Warfare 2‘s second act succeeds in conveying a sense of scale that was absent in the original Modern Warfare; the latter felt very focused, like a James Bond movie where a group of special forces’ heroics and courage stave off world war, but here in Modern Warfare 2, the wrath of a nation has been unleashed. With the stakes apparent to those who play the campaign, there is a greater urgency in everything that players do, whether it be Ramirez fighting through vital locations on the Eastern Seaboard in a desperate bid to give the American forces anything they can to regroup, or the grim resolve MacTavish has in recovering Captain Price such that the protagonists have a shot at taking Makarov out. Modern Warfare 2‘s set-pieces are of an incredible detail, and it now becomes apparent as to why Modern Warfare 2 is counted as being the best Call of Duty both in terms of its campaign and multiplayer; with regard to the campaign, the story dares to challenge players and tear them from their comfort zone. War isn’t a glorious activity about heroics, nor is it about singular acts of daring and bravery to fend off madmen and their machinations. In the streets of American suburbia, it becomes clear that the world runs along a razor’s edge, and players constantly have a sense of unease as they fight through Modern Warfare 2, uncertain of what’s to happen next as the shadowy men occupying the corridors of power move their forces around the globe as one might play chess. What is clear, however, is that even the will of a single person in the right place, at the right time, can indeed make a tangible difference, and with this in mind, I am very curious to see how Modern Warfare 2 wraps up: while I know the general details surrounding the plot, I’ve been good with avoiding spoilers surrounding the game, and as such, I anticipate that Modern Warfare 2‘s final act will impress, as well as leave me with a few topics for consideration well after the end credits roll.