“This is for the record. History is written by the victor. History is filled with liars. If he lives, and we die, his truth becomes written – and ours is lost. Shepherd will be a hero, ’cause all you need to change the world is one good lie and a river of blood. He’s about to complete the greatest trick a liar ever played on history. His truth will be the truth. But only if he lives, and we die.” —Captain Price
With the Americans completely overwhelmed by the Russian invasion, Captain Price organises an operation to give the United States a badly-needed foothold. He plans an assault on Rybachiy naval base, near Petropavlovsk, where a nuclear submarine is docked. Upon sneaking past patrols and infiltrating the base, Task Force 141 clears out the base and secures the submarine. However, Price had intended to commandeer the submarine’s nuclear missiles and launches one for the Eastern Seaboard. The resulting high-altitude explosion creates an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out all electronics, and the Rangers take this chance to regroup, fighting their way to the White House, which was hardened against EMPs and still has power. Upon clearing the West Wing, Ramirez learns that loss of communications has resulted the enacting of Hammerdown Protocol, in which Washington D.C. was assumed to have fallen. After retaking the White House, Ramirez pushes to the roof and lights green flares, indicating that the White House is secure and sparing Washington from being razed to the ground. General Shepherd is given a blank cheque with which to pursue Makarov. Sanderson and Riley head over to Makarov’s safehouse at the Georgian-Russian Border in the Caucasus Mountains, and while Makarov is nowhere to be seen, Sanderson secures a trove of Makarov’s intel and downloads them to a DSM. Both manage to escape Makarov’s forces, but are killed by Shepard before Price can warm them of Shepherd’s betrayal. In Afghanistan, Price and MacTavish make their way through a boneyard, where Shepherd’s Shadow Company and Makarov’s men are fighting it out. Price manages to convince Makarov to give up Shepard’s location. They escape on board Nikolai’s C-130 and head over to Shadow Company’s base, located deep in the Afghanistan caves. Despite Shepherd calling in an airstrike to stop Price and MacTavish, the pair manage to steal a Zodiac and pursue Shepherd, who’s boarded a Pave Low. Price uses an M203 to bring the helicopter down, and despite his injuries, Shepherd quickly defeats MacTavish, stabbing him in the chest. Before Shepard can shoot him, Price engages him in a brutal fistfight. Shepherd gains the upper hand and explains this war was for what’d happened during the last war. MacTavish manages to pull the knife from his chest and throws it through Shepherd’s eye, killing him instantly. Price and Nikolai prepare to evacuate the grievously wounded MacTavish, with the latter stating that he knows a place. This brings Modern Warfare 2: Remastered to an end, and with this, I’ve now played all of the Modern Warfare titles in full now.
Modern Warfare 2 is widely considered as having the best campaign in the whole of the Call of Duty franchise, and having now gone through the game, it becomes easy to understand where this assertion comes from. At its core, Modern Warfare 2 suggests that while fanatics like Makarov are undoubtedly evil, worse still are rogue actors who operate with a state’s blessing. Unlike the smaller organisations, state-backed actors have financial and political backing. Further to this, having government endorsement means that such individuals (and factions) might also have favourable press coverage. Shepherd becomes a war hero after his “predictions” about Russia turned out to be vindicated, and he is given all of the resources he is needed to pursue his goals, unopposed. While undermining the checks and balances in a government seemed quite unfeasible back in 2009, when Modern Warfare 2 launched, in today’s world, state-sponsored misinformation campaigns and untruthful governments are, terrifyingly, the reality. Large news outlets lie with the same fervour and enthusiasm as fringe writers and conspiracy theorists, seeking to push a particular narrative to create hostility and doubt. Like Shepherd, these news organisations desire nothing more than to rewrite history, casting themselves and benefactors as the heroes, and push untrue narratives to vilify certain nations and their people. However, unlike Shepherd, retweets and ad revenue is the prize rather than personal glory. With the public’s opinion on certain topics firmly aligned with theirs, these factions appear to be winning, and for folks committed to all sides of an argument and a level-headed perspective on things, things do seem bleak. However, Modern Warfare 2 also indicates that not all hope is lost. In spite of this blank cheque, Shepherd’s demise also speaks to the idea that power can shift dramatically, and change from individuals fighting to make a difference. MacTavish and Price are the only ones left to oppose Shepherd, and the deck is completely stacked against them. However, armed with naught more than their training and a willingness to put everything on the line for what’s right, Price and MacTavish do succeed in stopping Shepherd. While these large monoliths seem invulnerable, striking down the leader can cause the organisation to crumble. Modern Warfare 2 thus shows that great change is affected by people with the will to see their visions through. Simply, those with the stronger will ultimately survive to write history, and so, as long as there is even a single person willing to do what’s right, said monoliths will never succeed in their intent to control thought and membership. Of course, this action doesn’t (and shouldn’t) need to be anything as dramatic as what was seen in Modern Warfare 2: even something as simple as not hitting retweet or upvoting something dubious can make all the difference in the world.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Traditionally, I go through Call of Duty games very quickly because their campaigns are quite short, and unsurprisingly, here at the end of May, I’ve wrapped up Modern Warfare 2‘s third and final act, which opens with Contingency. This is a mission to infiltrate a Russian naval base and feels like a bit of a clever callback to the All Ghillied Up mission in its opening stages; the goal is to stay quiet and evade patrols, before switching over to a more traditional “weapons loud” mission.
- Despite lacking the same atmosphere and aesthetics as Modern Warfare‘s All Ghillied Up and One Shot, One Kill, this mission to take the Russian submarine was nonetheless an enjoyable one. The remastered visuals are to Modern Warfare 2‘s credit: the original colour palette in Modern Warfare 2 was a lot greyer, with overcast skies and foggy weather, and it would’ve been a shame had the developers kept the original’s grey. Fortunately, it’s a brisk, sunny day in the remaster, allowing the engine to really shine and show off how far the technology has come in the past eleven years.
- I ended up switching off my USP for the M240B with heartbeat sensor after arriving in the village adjacent to the base. Strictly speaking, since the level has ordinary visibility, there’s no need to use the heartbeat sensors for determining where foes are, but having an LMG around means being able to lay down sustained fire. The fast-paced combat of Call of Duty means that I usually go with other weapons: while great for keeping an area locked down, the reload times on any given LMG is quite long, and for the M240B, reloading from empty takes 7.75 seconds.
- After clearing the base’s edge, I pass by a building that presumably belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church owing to its distinct onion dome. The origin of onion domes is uncertain: some theories suggest they are ornate, inspired by domes in Middle Eastern architecture, while others speculate the domes originally had a more utilitarian purpose of keeping snow from accumulating on the roof.
- As Sanderson and Price reach the naval base proper, a full-on firefight awaits: at this point, I’ve swapped off the starting suppressed M14 EBR for weapons better suited for a firefight. Every mission features a wide range of weapons, and despite the campaign’s short time, one of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed Call of Duty campaigns is the fact that when stealth isn’t a concern, one could pick up enemies from caches or off defeated enemies and give them a go: different weapons are suited for different circumstances, and equipping different weapons mean fighting through a mission in a slightly different fashion.
- In a manner reminiscent of Modern Warfare‘s All In mission, during which MacTavish and Price can only watched as Zakhaev’s ICBMs streak towards the United States, Sanderson will have a chance to watch an SLBM being launched: this moment would’ve come as a bit of a shock to players when they reached the end of Contingency level. While it seems that Captain Price has gone rogue, it turns out there’s a good reason for seizing control of a Russian nuclear weapon – the surprise it creates is integral in helping the Americans to turn the tide of battle.
- Players will briefly take the perspective of an astronaut watching the SLBM flying over towards the Eastern Seaboard. When the missile detonates in space, it creates a massive electromagnetic pulse that blacks out the whole of the Eastern Seaboard, but also results in a shockwave that destroys the International Space Station. Strictly speaking, this should not have happened – there is no media to conduct a shockwave in a vacuum, and the ISS seems far enough from the detonation so that damages done would be invisible, taking the form of disrupted electronics and high exposure to radiation from the blast. I imagine that Modern Warfare 2‘s portrayal of things is purely for dramatic effect, and in the remastered version, things look incredible.
- Back on the ground, once the EMP goes off and knocks out electronics for friend and foe alike, Ramirez’s Rangers have a chance to regroup. Sergeant Foley in particular notes that as long as their guns still work, they can still kick some ass. It’s a simple line but motivating nonetheless, and for this mission, I immediately ditched any weapon with a holographic or red dot sight: in a clever bit of attention to detail, the EMP detonation also means that anything electronic will stop working. As such, iron sight weapons are the best choice for this level, followed by ACOG sights.
- Here, I approach the White House, which is under siege. I ended up picking up an M240 with ACOG sights. There’s too much fire coming from the White House, so one must push left and take care to stay in cover: the combination of darkness and heavy enemy presence makes it easy to take damage from hidden enemies. As I pushed through the White House and its grounds, I was immediately reminded of The Division 2, whose first mission had been to fend off hostile forces maligning the White House. However, in Modern Warfare 2, the Russians have breached the parameter, and everything from the West Wing to the Oval Office is occupied.
- Seeing the Oval Office in flames was very much symbolic of how much the world we know can change in the blink of an eye. The world does seem like it’s always a razor’s edge away from catastrophe, and these days, it’s very tricky to ascertain who’s being truthful and who’s telling lies for their own gain. As I note in the paragraphs above, the main message I got out of Modern Warfare 2 was precisely that when a state authorises a rogue actor the means to play his game, catastrophe follows unless they are stopped. The flipside is that even with all this backing and support, malicious intent can be defeated by a small group of individuals who seek to do what’s right.
- As far as I can tell (not that I’d know better), there aren’t any megalomaniacs quite like General Shepherd in reality. However, I am finding that the biases news outlets are bringing to the table, and their impact on society, have become more pronounced of late. Speaking ill of foreign nations as though the news outlets and their home countries were as pure as driven snow, and outright lying about certain things to create an atmosphere of mistrust. Fear begets hostility, dæmonising other human beings to drive them apart. It is sad the world’s taken this direction rather than making a sincere attempt to understand one another: humanity’s challenges are increasingly larger than any one nation, and it follows that collaboration between the best and brightest minds will be how solutions are reached.
- This cooperation would be a lot closer without certain news groups deliberately sowing fear, and people sharing untrue stories on social media for clout. I note that individuals who tend to trust their own judgement tend to have a better go at things, and not sharing misinformation is how I choose to play my part in things. Towards the end of Whiskey Hotel, Ramirez and the Rangers succeed in lighting green flares, sparing Washington from being bulldozed. Being able to save Washington D.C. is a turning point in the war and shows that the Americans aren’t beaten just yet: there’s hope yet, and completing one’s duties, no matter how trivial, can make a significant difference.
- In pursuit of Makarov, Task Force 141 decide to separate: Riley and Sanderson head for Makarov’s safehouse in the Caucasus Mountains. These mountains run from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, and feature a combination of Alpine meadows, semi-arid regions and evergreen forests. A lot of military and techno-thriller works are set here on account of the geography: unlike the majestic Rocky Mountains or the Alps in Europe, there’s a mystique about Russian landscapes not found anywhere else in the world.
- Here, I’m closing in on Makarov’s safehouse, armed with the Walther WA2000. This semi-automatic sniper rifle is a modest long-range weapon that deals moderate damage and good rate of fire, making it a strong choice for landing follow-up shots. However, here in Loose Ends, most of the combat is actually close quarters, and a good submachine gun or shotgun would make more sense for the close-quarters environment inside the safehouse.
- Closing in on Makarov’s mountain cabin, it becomes clear that Makarov himself is long gone, leaving only behind a detachment of his forces to defend the safehouse. Task Force 141 is ambushed, with the resulting mines and mortar fire decimating most of the team. Sanderson and Riley manage to survive and manage to reach the house. After clearing out the remaining ultranationalists, I took a few moments to go exploring: while Makarov’s digs are spartan, it also looks very comfortable, the perfect place to disappear to and regroup.
- Once the safehouse is cleared, Sanderson and Riley discover a treasure trove of intelligence, including Makarov’s playbook. Precision strikes on enemy safehouses is a staple in techno-thrillers, as there’s an interest in acquiring what an enemy knows and retrieving the information that could be used to circumvent or thwart a malicious actor’s plans. While information security is understandable for things relating to national security and business, it does surprise me somewhat that anime fans take their information security seriously, as well: Japanese fans go to great lengths to make it clear that certain findings were theirs, and message-board users will ostracise anyone suspected of posting stale information.
- In the brief respite between firefights, Sanderson sets up a DSM to download Makarov’s information. I’m not quite sure why they’d use a modem for this purpose: a portable hard drive would’ve been better suited for the task. Back in 2009, the average portable external drive would’ve had a 160 GB capacity, and higher-end models would’ve topped at 500 GB. Using USB 2.0, drives back then would’ve had a maximum transfer rate of 480 megabits per second (corresponding roughly to 43 MB/s), which is much faster than what the DSM here achieves. I get that this was a design choice: the longer transfer times extend the firefight, and a modem looks far cooler than an external drive. One detail the team did indeed leverage was the fact that many small files can slow down data transfer, although fortunately for Sanderson and Riley, it doesn’t actually take half an hour to transfer everything.
- Once the download is finished, it’s time to beat a hasty exit. The odds are overwhelming as ultranationalists close in on Sanderson and Riley, the two surviving members of the team sent to stop Makarov: there’s no way to fight everyone at once, and the only thing left to do is to make one’s way down the mountain to the extraction point. Sanderson takes a hit heading down the hill, and it becomes clear that in the absence of a miracle, this mission will end in complete failure. However, a group of Pave Low helicopters are seen at the bottom of the hill, and General Shepherd is personally here to retrieve the DSM.
- In what was probably one of the biggest betrayals in living memory (more so than any anime), Shepherd then shoots Riley and Sanderson, takes the DSM for himself and has Shadow Company burn their remains. Over the radio, Price can be heard trying to hail Sanderson and Riley, warning them of Shepherd’s betrayal, but it’s much too late for the pair. Modern Warfare 2 might be mired in controversy, but the most shocking moment of the game easily goes to Shepherd’s betrayal. Suddenly, Makarov is all but abandoned, and the focus of the game shifts purely to stopping Shepherd.
- The reason why Shepherd is the bigger threat now is simply because unlike Makarov, he’s got government backing, and so, is capable of committing atrocities under the name of democracy and freedom. Modern Warfare 2 thus spoke about the dangers of a state supporting rogue individuals – with Sanderson and Riley dead, it’s down to Price and MacTavish to fight for the truth. They fare better, barely managing to escape Shadow Company long enough to discover that Shadow Company is now engaged in a three-way fight with Makarov’s Ultranationalists and Task Force 141.
- With most of Task Force 141 killed in action, the scope and scale of the conflict in Modern Warfare 2 suddenly becomes reduced: further fighting and devastation can be averted here and now if Shepherd is taken out. Modern Warfare 2 thus begins to feel more like its predecessor here, focusing on a small group of men and their determination to do what’s right, even if their actions will cause them to run afoul of the government. This is a fight that I certainly empathise with – doing right sometimes mean doing what’s unpopular, and I’ve always believed that ultimately, it is the many that determine the correctness of one’s choices in the present.
- The moment MacTavish and Price decide to go after Shepherd, they become branded as the villains and declared as war criminals. This would later form the tagline for Modern Warfare 3, where the remnants of Task Force 141 and their newfound allies, Nikolai and Yuri, continue their fight to to bring Makarov to justice. For now, Shepherd remains the biggest threat, and Price does a deal with the devil – both enemies are united by their shared animosity for Shepherd and the knowledge that unchecked, Shepherd would plunge the world further into war.
- For my run through the Boneyard, I stuck with the starting suppressed M14 EBR and, while making use of the suppressed MP5K, would switch over to the F2000 for better firepower at moderate ranges. The mission concludes with a harrowing jeep chase into the back of Nikolai’s C-130: both Price and MacTavish manage to escape the Boneyard, now with the knowledge of where Shepherd is located. The endgame in Modern Warfare 2 sends players to one of the most treacherous locations on Earth – here, both the Soviet and American armies were conquered by the desolate terrain and harsh conditions.
- I speak of none other than eastern Afghanistan’s cave network, which is notorious as the site of 2001’s Battle of Tora Bora (quite unrelated to the anime Tora Dora!), during which the United States and their allies completely failed in what would be counted as one of the largest military failures in recent history. Had Price and MacTavish’s task been of a similar nature, Modern Warfare 2 would’ve lasted for at least six more games. Fortunately, Shepherd is not quite as elusive. Here, I pass by a narrow mountain cliff overlooking a canyon while wielding the Intervention: this mission starts MacTavish with a suppressed version that’s great for picking off enemies.
- Rounding out MacTavish’s loadout is a suppressed Vector with ACOG sight. Out here in the desert, both weapons handle well and cover off enough ranges. After entering the caves, however, having a weapon with thermal optics is better, allowing one to better see their foes. The only enemy left now is Shadow Company: true to their name, enigma surrounds this fanatical, elite unit. Nothing is known of their origins beyond the fact that they’re highly trained and are completely beholden to Shepherd. Fortunately, despite their reputation, they’re no tougher than the enemies players have faced until now. Pushing through the caves, it becomes clear that Shadow Company intends to leave nothing standing: everything is wired with C4, ready to blow.
- I ended up with no screenshots of the caves, since they proved a little too dark for the blog, and so, I’ve stuck with screenshots of the outdoors. As Price and MacTavish push closer towards Shepherd, he orders a “danger close” artillery strike in a desperate bid to kill the pair, but only succeeds in blue-on-blue instead. Here, I’ve grabbed an AT4 in an attempt to try and shoot down the helicopters dropping in more Shadow Company soldiers – in the chaos, I ended up losing my starting weapons and picked up a TMP in the process.
- Much as how Modern Warfare featured a harrowing vehicle chase at its endgame, Modern Warfare 2 has a thrilling boat chase in the underground rivers of Afghanistan, eventually leading out to an open river. Both Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 saw dramatically improved visuals in their respective remasters – the caves and their rocks look absolutely impressive in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, and it was a thrill to the end of the mission as Price and MacTavish take off after Shepherd in a Zodiac.
- Like the snowmobile chase of the first act, players will have access to a weapon while they drive. The Mini-Uzi MacTavish has access to is a weaker weapon, but during these sequences, the game will aim on the player’s behalf, and moreover, MacTavish will reload after a few shots – the weapon isn’t meant to deal any serious damage, but instead, is used to fend off attackers long enough to keep Price and MacTavish alive. Price will provide the firepower; he uses an M4 with an M203 grenade launcher, and will also do his part in keeping things going – eventually, he’ll use it to shoot down Shepherd’s Pave Low and force the final confrontation.
- I ended up beating Modern Warfare 2 last Sunday during the morning: after the beautiful sunny weather of Saturday, a rainy system moved into the area. With a morning walk off the table, I decided to finish off the game, as I’d been very close to finishing. With this, I wrapped up Modern Warfare 2 exactly a month after picking it up; I’d been waiting for a sale, but having gone through it now, I can say that the game was well worth the cost of admissions. It’s a bigger and bolder presentation of the story that was seen in Modern Warfare, and features a much more impressive arsenal, as well as a powerful message. With this in mind, I still feel that Modern Warfare has the superior story and atmospherics all around: in my books, Modern Warfare edges out Modern Warfare 2 ever so slightly in terms of memorability.
- This isn’t saying much, since I had a great deal of fun going through Modern Warfare 2, and now, my attention turns towards whether or not Modern Warfare 3 might get a remaster. From a story perspective, Modern Warfare 3 is the weakest of the original Modern Warfare titles, but the game had some bold set-pieces, and also brought Makarov to an end, so it’s an essential experience for Modern Warfare fans. For me, Modern Warfare 3 also had an iconic pair of missions: the first two missions in New York are superb, comparable to Modern Warfare‘s All Ghillied Up and One Shot, One Kill in terms of aesthetic and gameplay. Since Modern Warfare 2: Remastered impressed, I will be quicker on the uptake once Modern Warfare 3: Remastered becomes available. Until then, it’s time to make some serious headway in Black Ops: Cold War, especially since now that I’ve seen that my machine is capable of running Cold War.
From a gameplay perspective, Modern Warfare 2: Remastered handles very well despite retaining the mechanics of an eleven-year-old game. The gun-play and movement remains smooth and responsive. Weapons feel a little tinnier compared to those of a more modern title, but beyond this, Modern Warfare 2 has aged very gracefully. From a story perspective, the themes of how the will of even a single person being able to make a difference was encouraging and reiterates the fact that evil can take many forms, sometimes assuming an easy-to-spot enemy, and other times, masquerade as one of the good guys. Regardless of what form said evil takes, death and destruction follow, but fortunately, the resolve to fight for what’s right, and the well-being of others, is the countermeasure. It is of consolation that as long as there is even a single individual left, there remains a chance to set things right. In the end, Modern Warfare 2‘s experience far outweigh the controversies that surrounded the game, and folks having the maturity to look past the initial shock of certain elements will find that the story to be very compelling, and still politically relevant: the actors and objectives might’ve changed in the eleven years that’ve passed, but the underlying motivations and principles remain identical. Altogether, Modern Warfare 2 was bigger and bolder than its predecessor: having now completed the game, it is clear that Modern Warfare 2 does earn its crown as having the best campaign of any Call of Duty title. While Activision and the Call of Duty franchise began floundering after Modern Warfare 3 released, the series has appeared to have regained its momentum in recent years, with several solid titles generating excitement anew. It is for this reason that I’ve decided to pick up Black Ops: Cold War; the story appears intriguing and similarly offers quite a bit to talk about, ranging from Yuri Bezmenov’s theories surrounding “active measures” to challenging individuals on what they understand about right and wrong. For a franchise whose current reputation stems from an excellent implementation of battle royale in Warzone, and engaging multiplayer, the campaigns are often forgotten, but I’ve long found that Call of Duty campaigns do say something meaningful behind all of the Michael Bay-style flash and setpieces.