The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II- Part I Review and Reflection, Globe-Trotting With Task Force 141

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” –Saint Augustine

Three years after the events of Modern Warfare, Captain Price and Task Force 141 have worked under the command of General Shepherd. Lieutenant Simon “Ghost” Riley participates in an airstrike in Al Mazrah against the Iranian general, Ghorbrani, using a new ballistic missile system. This act results in Major Hassan Zyani taking leadership of the Quds Forces, and Hassan immediately embarks on a campaign of revenge by allying with the Al-Qatala, a terrorist organisation. Shepherd deploys Riley, along with Captain John Price and Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish to Al Mazrah, but when a helicopter is shot down, MacTavish must reach the crash site and defend it until friendly air support clears the area out. MacTavish and the 141 soon discover that Hassan’s managed to get his hands on the same ballistic missiles that were used to assassinate Ghorbrani. Incensed at this revelation, Shepherd demands that these missiles be destroyed, and CIA Station Chief Kate Laswell volunteers to investigate, promising that she’ll deliver Hassan to Shepherd. She heads for Amsterdam, and meets up with Price, where they manage to capture one of Hassan’s couriers. Upon learning that Hassan is now in Mexico and working with the Las Almas cartel, Mexican Special Forces Colonel Alejandro Vargas is sent to apprehend Hassan, but his operation is unsuccessful, and Hassan escapes. This prompts Task Force 141 to participate: despite fierce resistance from both the Las Almas and corrupt segments of the Mexican army in the cartel’s employ, they manage to keep on Hassan’s tail, and call in a friendly AC-130 to provide air support. This is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II‘s campaign about two hours in: a welcome return to form for the Call of Duty franchise that represents a solid start to one of this year’s most anticipated titles. While a continuation of 2019’s Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare II represents a significant return to the sort of story that the classic Modern Warfare games are known for. Here in Modern Warfare II, the campaign opens with cutting-edge American missile technology being appropriated by rogue actors, and the process of investigating, sends familiar faces across the world, and down a perilous slope as they seek to recover them.

Right out of the gates, Modern Warfare II has seen Task Force 141 visit the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Al Mazrah, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Mexico. When done well, globe trotting in a game brings players to a wide range of locations and allows the art teams to really exercise creativity, in turn producing an experience where every level potentially can be visually distinct. In Call of Duty, the Modern Warfare and Black Ops series took players to every corner of the globe, from the most remote reaches of Siberia and Antarctica, to Vietnam, London, Paris and New York City. Although the object of each mission is inevitably to fire awesome guns and complete an objective by going loud, the opportunity to visit a myriad of places in Call of Duty has made these games especially enjoyable. 2019’s Modern Warfare reigned this back to some extent, and most of the campaign is set in the desert nation of Urzikstan. The end result was that Modern Warfare‘s campaign felt more grounded, less bombastic and spectacular as earlier titles. While the gameplay was still remarkable, the lack of variety in the settings did make the game feel a shade more drab. Modern Warfare II addresses this completely, and this is evident even though I’ve just gotten started with the campaign. Locations are diverse, and vividly rendered. Whether it be the cool of an Amsterdam autumn, or the arid skies in Mexico, Modern Warfare II brings back yet another aspect of the Modern Warfare series that was, while understated, an integral part of the experience nonetheless. Settings diversity contributes to Modern Warfare‘s themes, that conflict can reach anywhere in the world, and by bringing players to an impressive array of locations, the game reminds them that the consequences of warfare are far-reaching, devastating no matter where one goes. This was made evident in 2009’s Modern Warfare 2, which saw a massive Russian invasion of America and placing players into the shoes of a Marine who would go on to fight through familiar suburban locations to repel invaders. Modern Warfare II is a return to form, and on top of being instructive, being able to fight my way through, and explore so many different locations, is one of the reasons why the campaigns in Modern Warfare are so enjoyable: every mision in Modern Warfare II looks to be memorable in its own right.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Modern Warfare II marks the first time I’ve played a Call of Duty at launch; previously, I’ve always stuck with buying the games on a massive discount. However, between all of the footage I’ve seen of Modern Warfare II, my experiences with the open beta, and Call of Duty‘s recent track record of delivering games that have been consistently good, I decided that this time around, I would see for myself the thrills surrounding a Call of Duty launch. I have experienced Battlefield 1and 2042 at launch. was solid, and was okay, but 2042 proved to be interesting because my old desktop had precluded me from playing the multiplayer extensively.

  • I still had fun with Battlefield 2042‘s private matches against AI bots, and in this way, the game still proved entertaining despite falling short: against AI bots on private matches, I could still unlock weapons and attachments to my heart’s content, so I wasn’t really bothered by Battlefield 2042‘s shortcomings. With this being said, the game does lack its predecessor’s sense of intensity despite having larger maps: Battlefield 2042 doesn’t give off the same vibe as the earlier titles did, and I found myself feeling a sense of emptiness in the Battlefield Portal maps.

  • Conversely, Battlefield 2042‘s All-Out Warfare maps have slowly gotten improvements, and together with the fact that I was still able to unlock all of the base game’s content against AI bots, I have no regrets about buying the game at launch. Here, I’m about two hours into Modern Warfare II‘s campaign at the time of writing, and the price of admissions to get a week’s head start on things was worth it – I know for a fact I’ve got availability now to play the campaign, so I decided to capitalise. In life, I’ve found that the relationship between money and time is thus: either one spends more money to save some time, or one spends more time to save money.

  • The situation determines which of these two is more appropriate, and responsible decision-making means weighing one’s options so that in the long run, one saves a balance of both time and money in accordance to their needs. In this case, I’m not sure if I’ll have time to game in the future, so I figured that it’d be okay to treat myself and enjoy Modern Warfare II now. Right out of the gates, the first full mission was a blast, entailing the pursuit of Hassan after a missile strike takes out Ghorbrani. Like Call of Duty 4: Modern WarfareModern Warfare II opens with a night mission and a helicopter crash.

  • The first goal is to fend off Al-Qatala militants while defending the crash site. When playing through Modern Warfare, I noticed that there were a lot of close-quarters missions involving IRNV goggles, and while these missions were fun in their own right, speaking to the importance of stealth and concealment in high-risk operations, the end result was that a lot of the missions in Modern Warfare ended up being extremely short, often being able to be completed within the space of ten minutes. For me, the optimal mission length is roughly fifteen to twenty minutes: long enough to feel like I accomplished something, but not so long that I’m left wondering where would be a good time to take a break.

  • Unsurprisingly, without IRNV,  visibility in night missions is virtually nil. I vividly remember how in Call of Duty 4, some night missions were set under a full moon, so visibility was good enough such that one didn’t need to worry about using IRNV. This is not the case in the more modern games, where nights are very dark. Having the night vision goggles, on the other hand, brings everything into sharp relief, and originally, this is what prompted Captain Price to say that with the goggles, things become too easy: Al-Qatala militants don’t have access to the same tech and this gives Task Force 141 the advantage by turning darkness into cover.

  • When I decided to pick up Modern Warfare II‘s pre-order last week, I was suddenly seized with a desire to enjoy some sushi. I ended up going for such a lunch today; my assignments have reached a point where things aren’t quite so hectic, so I was able to step out for lunch. I picked up the local sushi joint’s “I Love Salmon” combo and their tempura shrimp California rolls. The former features three pieces of salmon sashimi, four pieces of spicy salmon rolls and three pieces of salmon nigiri. I’ve developed a liking for raw salmon, which is a tasty treat high in Omega-3 fatty acids, anti-oxidants and other nutrients. While perhaps less healthy, the tempura shrimp California rolls were also delicious, being a ordinary California roll with two twists; the crab is replaced with a full piece of tempura, and the top is dusted off with flavourful tempura flakes.

  • The combination of a sushi lunch and greenish hues accompanying IRNV in Modern Warfare brings to mind memories of Japan and Alien Isolation. Although these two topics are seemingly unrelated, I am reminded of Awkventurer’s latest gaming escapade, during which Alien Isolation was streamed. Alien Isolation brings back memories: I picked up the game back in 2016 and played through it while I’d been nearing the end of graduate school, although unlike Awkventurer, who had viewers encouraging her and offering tips, I went through the game completely alone, and found myself so intimidated by the reactor basement level that it took me a week’s hiatus before I found the courage to continue.

  • Alien Isolation was a fantastic game, being able to run with everything maxed out on even the humble GTX 660, and this is one of the advantages of being a variety streamer: Awkventurer is able to share both gaming experiences and travel in Japan, rather than remain constrained to one topic or area. Now that I think about it, I could be said to be running a blog in the same way. Although my approach means I’m still ineligible for AnimeNano (which has the rather stuck-up requirement that the only anime blogs they feature are those that deal exclusively with anime), writing about a range of topics means I’m able to explore more horizons.

  • As it stands, I don’t see a particular merit to being aggregated to AnimeNano: this blog is mainly an avenue for me to journal out my thoughts over time, and it’s a pleasant bonus that I’m able to converse with folks here. I’ve gone on enough tangents now and should return to Modern Warfare II, where I’ve finally finished clearing out all of the homesteads. As MacTavish, players start the mission armed with the EBR and VEL 46 (the MP7). I have noticed that the weapons in Modern Warfare II utilise a mixture of real and fictional names.

  • The reason for why this is stems from licensing issues; it costs to get the permissions for using certain weapon names, so it’s much easier to make a facsimile of a real-world weapon and then get creative with its naming. This is how GoldenEye 007 named its weapons, and while it’ll take some time to get used to all of the new weapons, I imagine that over time, I’ll manage. As ammunition began running low, I swapped over to what I think is the M4 carbine so I could clear the warehouse out. Like Modern Warfare, the first full mission ends with the protagonists discovering a surprise during their assignment. Here, it’s the fact that the same type of ballistic missiles used to kill Ghorbrani are present here, in Al-Qatala hands.

  • After Laswell and General Shepherd share a conversation, determining that it is of utmost importance to destroy the missiles and figure out how they got smuggled out, Task Force 141 head over to Amsterdam, whose ports make it a suitable spot for smuggling. General Shepherd returns in Modern Warfare II, but because the original Modern Warfare 2 had set the bar for what Shepherd’s role was, even after one cutscene following the first full mission, I couldn’t help but feel that later down the line, Shepherd would become an antagonist in some way.

  • However, because no nuclear device was detonated in the Middle East and taking out some thirty thousand soldiers, Modern Warfare II‘s Shepherd will need to have some other motivation for betraying the protagonists. Here in Amsterdam, I snuck around in the waters as Garrick, taking out Al-Qatala patrols before reaching a yacht. Garrick is equipped with throwing knives to start, and dispatching guards gives access to both a suppressed pistol and the MP5. Water in Modern Warfare II was a major part of the game’s marketting, adding new dimensionality to how Warzone 2 combat encounters would play out. In the campaign, players are given a taste of how one can utilise the water to their advantage against human opponents.

  • I did find it strange that, on the occasions my cover was blown, the mission didn’t fail instantly. After dispatching the guards who’d been alerted to my presence, things immediately fell silent again, leaving me to continue onwards. Once inside the boat, Garrick clears out the remaining hostiles and learns that Al-Qatala is working with, of all people, the Las Almas, a Mexican drug cartel. As it happens, I’m still making my way through Ghost Recon: Wildlands at present, where I’m one province away from clearing all of the level three provinces. I’ll write about my experiences up until now in a future post.

  • That players have fought the Al-Qatala militants and Las Almas in Modern Warfare II so far shows how different the world is now compared to where it’d been back in 2009; Skyfall had captured these sentiments quite succinctly in suggesting that in the days of old, things were easier because one’s enemies operated under a flag, but in the present, one’s enemies are decentralised and hidden in plain sight. Moreover, whereas antagonists of older games were quite plainly bad guys, antagonists today are more layered, and their treatment renders them more complex.

  • In order to learn of Hassan’s location, Laswell joins Price and Garrick in Amsterdam. This mission is extremely short and can be finished in five minutes, ending with the capture of a courier who knows where Hassan is hiding, but as the first bit of daytime, it really showcases the IW Engine’s capabilities. Having looked through Modern Warfare II‘s very extensive list of settings, it was not lost on me that ray-tracing isn’t an option. I was a bit surprised to learn Modern Warfare II doesn’t have this, especially considering how good everything looks.

  • In fact, Modern Warfare II‘s requirements aren’t terribly steep considering how polished everything looks: the recommended requirements, for 60 FPS at 1080p, is an i7-4770 and a GTX 1060, although folks with a GTX 960 and i5-2500K could still run the game at lower resolutions and settings. Having said this, the GTX 1060 isn’t going to be running everything at the highest settings, and it does take some experimenting to strike a balance between visual quality and good frame rates. Any GPU more powerful than the GTX 1070 will yield better performance even with the settings turned up, and while this is a good show of how well-optimised Modern Warfare II is, it is clear that the venerable Pascal series is becoming outdated, despite still offering some of the best performance-to-value on the market.

  • For me, I’ve got everything maxed out for 1080p, and on the RTX 3060 Ti, I’m getting around 120 FPS, with a 99% FPS of around 80 (i.e. 99 percent of all my frames are above 80 FPS). It is not lost on me that my monitors, which are nearing a decade old, have a refresh rate of 60 Hz, and that means effectively, I’m still only getting 60 FPS. To fully capitalise on the RTX 3060 Ti, I’d need to buy a new monitor. As nice as having a 27 inch 1440p monitor would be, my current monitors still run just fine, and since fancy monitors are a “nice to have”, there’s really no need to switch.

  • Back in Modern Warfare II, I take on the role of Rodolfo Parra, a Mexican Special Forces operator who’s been sent in with Alejandro Vargas to help find Hassan. Vargas’ mission takes him to the US-American border where Hassan is suspected; he’s supposedly hiding out in the American suburbs. The clutter here brings to mind the back alleyways of my old neighbourhood, which had been an established community located in the middle of town. Although there’s one central shopping area, the neighborhood wasn’t particularly walkable, but on the flipside, it was also located close to several excellent walks.

  • The mission to find Hassan draws blanks, and results in Parra being ambushed. Although Las Almas intends to shoot Parra in the head, Hassan appears and intervenes, ordering that Parra be allowed to burn to death instead. Fortunately, Vargas appears and manages to get Parra out. In the process, Vargas learns that Parra had learnt of Hassan’s plans, of a ship crossing the Atlantic to deliver something of note. This corroborates what Task Force 141 is working on, and the pursuit of Hassan continues.

  • Players resume the story from MacTavish’s perspective, and this mission, in the mountains of Mexico, MacTavish is armed with the M4 and a highly customised P90, the PDSW 528. There’s no stealth component to this level, and although players are armed with suppressed weapons, one can go loud. Stealth missions serve to break games up and encourage tactical play over run-and-gun tactics, but in an FPS, I’ve always found that firefights demanding one to keep their cool under pressure to be the most engaging. The original Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 had excelled in this area, as did Battlefield, but I did find that later on, Battlefield 1 and V‘s campaigns both seemed to favour stealth over direct confrontation.

  • I understand that this is supposed to accentuate the message that fighting isn’t the answer half the time, but in a game that’s marketted as a first person shooter, it makes sense that the first thing one can do is shoot bad guys. There are dedicated stealth-based games out there where sneaking around and quietly dispatching foes is how things are done, but Call of Duty and Battlefield are games where one can (and should) run with unsuppressed weapons. Modern Warfare II has, so far, given players a chance to engage in fierce firefights, and I am finding the game’s design ways more fun than that of Modern Warfare‘s.

  • The revelation that segments of the Mexican Army were in cahoots with Las Almas speaks to how, when there are corrupt elements in a system, it is easy for the bad guys to get ahead. Small details like these remind players of why dealing with narcotics and those who produce them is never a clear-cut issue, especially when drug cartels are sufficiently wealthy as to buy their way into a system and convince people they’re the good guys. This is an issue in Ghost Recon: Wildlands, a third-person tactical shooter that does an excellent job of giving players a sandbox environment where the aim is to bring down a drug cartel in Bolivia. Nuances like these are why narcotics continue to be a problem: if it were so simple, law enforcement agencies would’ve already rolled in and taken down the leaders.

  • As the corrupt segments of the Mexican Army showed up, I ditched the PDSW 528 in favour of the RAPP H. Modelled on the HK21, this belt-fed LMG fires 7.62 mm rounds and has a 750 RPM firing rate. It’s useful for taking out the soldiers that show up, but as Task Force 141 are overrun, they are forced to retreat into the forest. I ended up switching back over to the M4, which is equipped with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher here. For a time, video games featured the M320 over the older M203, and while the M320 is generally seen as being superior, some soldiers report that the M320’s grip makes the system more cumbersome to use than the M203, and the side-loading mechanism is trickier.

  • Moving through the Mexican mountains, I am briefly reminded of Yama no Susume and my own descent at Prairie Mountain a few weeks earlier. While heading down a mountain is not easy, it would only become more tricky with additional equipment; MacTavish and the others must jump across gaps and make their way down a cliff in order to continue their pursuit of Hassan. The dangers of this mission are accentuated by attention paid to how MacTavish moves. In earlier games, MacTavish would simply be able to jump down, but in Modern Warfare II, small delays resulting from MacTavish stopping to stablise himself adds realism to things.

  • Although it wasn’t strictly necessary, since the M4 is a decent weapon for closer ranges, I ended up ditching the RAPP H for the VEL 46. Generally speaking, I find that in any given modern military shooter, the assault rifles are versatile enough to dominate medium ranges, can be made to work at longer ranges and will get one out of a jam in close quarters if needed. This results in a situation where the other weapons aren’t quite as useful, and for the most part, this leads players to stick to assault rifles as their go-to weapons. However, if a campaign mission offers different situations for players, the other weapons become more appealing. PDWs and submachine guns tend to excel in close quarters situations where handling and mobility is important.

  • Having now reached what I think is about a quarter of the way into Modern Warfare II, it suddenly hits me that I’ve never mentioned the mission briefings in this franchise. I’ve always loved watching them because they provide an excellent highlight of what every mission entails, and since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, watching the briefings have been an essential part of the Modern Warfare experience. Since 2019’s Modern Warfare, the games have included photorealistic cutscenes, and I found myself thoroughly impressed with how good everything looks.

  • When I watched Cold War‘s cutscenes, my older GPU didn’t render them fully, leaving artefacts on the screen. Since I’ve moved over to my current desktop and acquired a new GPU, I’ve not actually gone back and played Cold War. I am quite curious to do so, especially now that I’ll have a chance to replay the game again with all of the settings set to maximum, and with ray-tracing enabled. On the topic of ray-tracing, I’ve heard about how Portal is getting a ray-tracing overhaul as free content for all owners. The results look quite stunning, and now that I’ve got a ray-tracing capable GPU, I’m rather excited to see how things handle.

  • Upon reaching the bottom of the cliff, Task Force 141 make their way through a river to cut down the distance between themselves and Hassan. Here, I reach a truss bridge, and after some close air takes it down, perspective switches to that of an AC-130 gunner, courtesy of General Shepherd and Shadow Company. These names don’t bode well, especially considering what happened in Modern Warfare 2, but for now, it does mean that I’ll have a chance to do something not seen since Modern Warfare 3‘s gunship mission: operate the main guns of an AC-130 gunship.

Modern Warfare II utilises the latest and greatest version of the IW engine, allowing the game to simulate physical interactions with unprecedented realism. Moreover, a new tile-based streaming system enables the game to render highly detailed textures when one is nearby, while dynamically adjusting the level of detail to ensure performance and visual fidelity are balanced. Coupled with an updated rendering and lighting system, Modern Warfare II is able to produce photorealistic visuals without overwhelming GPUs. Activision has stated that to enjoy the game with reasonable framerates at 1080p, all one needs is a GTX 1060 and an i7-4770K, but the game itself is capable of running on a system with an i5-2500K and with a GTX 960. The visual depth in Modern Warfare II is exceptional, especially considering the hardware requirements, and by this point in time, it is clear that Infinity Ward and the IW Engine has become superbly capable. Modern Warfare II becomes a fantastic show of what the IW Engine can do, and together with a game whose elements have created anticipation, it is easy to see why there is so much excitement surrounding the latest addition to the Call of Duty franchise. Having now made my way through about a quarter of Modern Warfare II‘s campaign, I am finding myself gripped with the gameplay, narrative and immersion: the game uses the latest and greatest methods to ensure it handles smoothly, but at the same time, the story and storytelling methods both bring back memories of what had made the older titles so compelling. By combining old and new into Modern Warfare II, this game represents an excellent way of appealing to franchise veterans who’ve played the older titles, and at the same time, present to new players features they’ve become accustomed to in more modern titles. At the time of writing, the early access to the campaign is over now, and this means that the other modes in Modern Warfare II are available. I’ll be continuing on with my journey through the campaign at my own pace, but here, I will remark that I am glad to have had a week’s head start on things: November is looking to be a fairly busy month from a blogging perspective, and every advantage helps.

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