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Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War- Part I Review and Reflection, and Remarks on Yuri Bezmenov’s 1984 Warning on Ideological Subversion

“You are stuck with them. You cannot get rid of them. They are contaminated. They are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli in a certain pattern. You cannot change their mind even if you expose them to authentic information, even if you prove that white is white, and black is black. You cannot change the basic perception and illogical behavior. In other words, [for] these people, the process of demoralisation is complete and irreversible.” –Yuri Bezmenov

In 1981, SAD/SOG operators Russell Adler, Alex Mason and Frank Woods capture Quasim Javadi shortly after the Iran Hostage Crisis, learning from him the whereabouts of Arash Kadivar. They pursue to a Turkish airfield and manage to neutralise him, but not before Kadivar speaks of the enigmatic “Perseus” as being the organiser behind the crisis. Back in the United States, President Ronald Reagan approves of a black ops assignment to take out Perseus, sending Adler to West Berlin, where he meets up with Lawrence Sims, Eleazar Azoulay and Helen Park, as well as the newcomer, Bell. Bell flashes back to Operation Fracture Jaw in Vietnam thirteen years earlier, when the name Perseus first surfaced: here, Bell and Sims secure intelligence on Perseus from a Viet Cong-held village before heading back to defend their base from the Viet Cong counteroffensive. Later, Bell and Adler sneak into East Berlin to capture Anton Volkov, who is suspected of having ties with Perseus. When his initial meeting at a bar unexpectedly changes, they tail Franz Kraus to his apartment and, after Bell sneaks in, he plants a tracker in his briefcase. However, Bell is captured and brought to meet Volkov. With help from Park and Azoulay, Bell is able turn the tables on his captors and defeats Volkov’s men before capturing Volkov himself. This is where I stand in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War (Cold War from here on out for brevity) after an hour of play, and insofar, I am thoroughly impressed. In this first hour, I’ve visited the humid jungles of Vietnam, Berlin’s Geisterbahnhöfe and the Berlin Wall on assignments to locate any scrap of information related to the mysterious Perseus, who is only presented as being the single greatest threat to the Western world. There’s a sense of urgency to get ahead of things and thwart whatever his plans are, although standing in contrast with traditional Call of Duty games, Cold War also gives players a chance to experience the espionage side of the story, as well. It’s a fantastic start to a game that certainly held my attention from the first day the reveal trailer was announced in August: this trailer proved controversial for featuring segments from Yuri Bezmenov, a Soviet KGB defector who spoke of something known as Active Measures. For its controversy, the trailer did succeed in creating curiosity in Cold War: who was Perseus, and how was he related to the ideological subversion that Bezmenov had spoke of? While an hour into Cold War, it should be clear that the game has nothing to do with psychological warfare, Bezmenov’s interview nonetheless raised some insightful points about where the Western world was headed. In Bezmenov’s original interview, he suggested that the Soviet’s efforts in undermining, or subverting Western civilisation was concentrated in psychological warfare, which would take place during what he referred to as “demoralisation”. A demoralised individual is one who lacks morals, refusing to differentiate fact from fiction and blindly agree with their own ideology at the expense of facts, rendering them vulnerable to destabilisation. During this time, vital infrastructure in a country (economy, security, international relationships) would become fragile as more people lose the skills (or willingness) to do their jobs properly, and all it would take was a spark (crisis) to plunge a nation into chaos. From the ashes, a “new normal” would arise: in this society, all of the things that were previously present would be dismantled and destroyed.

Bezmenov’s interview seems hauntingly accurate in retrospect, and almost immediately, Activision was attacked for featuring Bezmenov in their promotion of Cold War: one particularly disreputable games journalist called out the trailer as being a “tacit endorsement of [Bezmenov’s] deeply flawed ideology”, being “irresponsible for the developers to disseminate his ideas without context” and expressed concern that people were suggesting Bezmenov had been describing the modern world with frightening accuracy, that leftist ideals would lead to the undermining of society as we know it. This is untrue: Bezmenov, while an opponent of Marxism, was speaking more broadly to the fact that a society unable to accept facts as being integral to reasoned discussion would be doomed to destruction. Bezmenov indicates that people whose thinking has changed as a result of having been indoctrinated early on will have a difficult time separating fact from fiction, and will tend to think in terms of black-and-white. Despite said games journalist’s attempts to discredit this, demoralisation is very much a problem that most evident on social media, where extremists with agenda mingle with those seeking approval and validation. On social media platforms, follower count, retweets, upvotes and karma matter more than the correctness of a given statement – so long as a statement adheres to a certain narrative and is published or shared by a source one approves of, it is automatically counted as authentic. Sharing is done in the hopes of getting one noticed enough to partake in the imagined benefits attached to being associated with individuals of note. This phenomenon creates a scenario where people are unable to differentiate between truth and lies: the information being shared matters less than who shared it. The end result can be devastating: indoctrinated individuals rally behind buzzwords and hold a bizarre insistence on terminology to control certain narratives. These individuals fight not for the causes they purport to support, but rather, seek nothing more than their own promotion. Similarly, in “cancel culture”, people will dreg up an individual’s perceived slights, claim this to be in contradiction with their own ideology and attempt to destroy said individual’s career on so-called moral grounds. “Cancel culture” represents an unwillingness to listen, and the stubborn belief that one’s own truth is indisputably the truth. This mode of thinking is a threat to the foundations on which the world is built: hard work, skill and teamwork do not mean anything to proponents of “cancel culture”, and through social media, such people have extended their influence to illegally impact systems they have no understanding of. In both cases, demoralisation results in people who see no alternative in making their way in society aside from undoing and undermining the efforts of hardworking people. When such individuals become enabled by more powerful actors, their threat towards a society built on collaboration and effort is immense: riots and other forms of disruption often result. Recent events have demonstrated that Bezmenov’s warning did come to pass, and it is therefore unsurprising that radicalised game journalists would see the Cold War trailer as a threat: it would appear Activision were calling out these individuals and their methods, making them known to more people. In fact, Activision’s only aim was to create a gripping and compelling trailer to raise interest in their game. Of course, the fact that games journalists would write a treatise claiming Cold War‘s trailer to be “recklessly [promoting]…conspiracy [theories]” suggests an intolerance for alternate perspectives, or at the very least, suggest an individual who is salty about lacking knowledge in C++ and the fundamentals of OO-programming.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Cold War begins in a bar as Adler and Mason pursue a suspect related to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. After finishing their drinks, Mason and Adler get to work: I ended up picking up an AK-74U, a cut-down AK-74 firing the 5.45mm rounds that is intended to offer more firepower than a submachine gun and more mobility than an assault rifle. The first two missions in Cold War are more cinematic than proper shooter experiences, serving to introduce the setting and set the tone for the remainder of the story. As such, I don’t have too many screenshots of the first two missions.

  • Here, I prepare to take a shot on Arash, which quickly goes south when another guard walks in front of him. A brief chase on jeeps follow, and while Arash is killed, the enigmatic Perseus is revealed here. Before I continue further, I’ll note that as far as politics go, I prefer not to discuss them here on this blog. With this being said, there are certain actors and modes of thinking that I absolutely do not agree with, with “cancel culture” being one of them. Bezmenov’s theories accurately represent how “cancel culture” and some other movements operate, whose members favour mob mentality and memes over everything else, and who believe their opinion matters more than expert knowledge in a given field.

  • When facts and evidence are ignored, such individuals invariably cause more harm than good. Ultimately, those who exist exclusively to use social media to push certain narratives or destroy the lives of others are no more than self-appointed vigilantes lacking any understanding of the system they oppose, and society has indulged their deluged, dangerous whims on far too many occasions. Cold War does seem to suggest that the truth that we know is not always what it seems to be, and while Bezmenov is never mentioned in the game, it stands to reason that his speech was present to warn players that twists await them, and that things aren’t what they appear.

  • Vietnam is the first of the proper missions in Cold War, with the goal being to secure a village and use the opportunity to locate Soviet intel. The last time I played through a game set in Vietnam would’ve been 2010’s Black Ops, where Mason is made to remember various operations he’d previously participated in a desperate bid to understand what the numbers in his head meant. Cold War‘s Bell is equally as mysterious, and for my play-through, I ended up going with an MI6 background, with the “violent tendencies” and “survivor” options picked for my psychological profile.

  • “Violent tendencies” increases bullet damage by 25 percent, and “survivor” increases health by 25 percent. This is optimal for a first-time player like myself: the extra survivability means I have a little more wiggle room to escape a bad situation, and extra damage means one fewer bullet needed to down an enemy. Here in this Vietnamese village, I finally had a chance to put my setup to the test: on a humid and bright morning, I stormed the village in search of intel, fending off the Viet Cong soldiers here. I climbed into a building to avoid fire and found myself a Pelington 703, the game’s equivalent of the Remington 700 bolt action rifle. This well-crafted weapon feels like a hunting rifle of the sort that Steven Rinella might use to hunt Dall Sheep or Grizzly Bear on MeatEater.

  • Owing to the global health crisis, I’d been exercising more frequently from home, during which I streamed YouTube videos to my Apple TV through AirPlay. MeatEater was recommended to me on account of how much Survivorman I’d been watching, and I immediately feel in love with the series: besides being highly informative about how a seasoned hunter thinks when out in the bush, Rinella also fully captures how he feels about every moment in a hunt, from the anticipation to lining up the perfect shot, and my personal favourite, when he cooks up some freshly-caught meat. Besides MeatEater, I’ve also discovered Andrew Davidson’s Kent Survival, a YouTube series where Davidson demonstrates his expertise with bushcraft and cooks delicious meals in the British wilderness. These series have done much to keep my morale high during these unusual times.

  • Bell starts the mission with the M16A1, which is derived off the ArmaLite AR-15 and chambered for a 5.56 mm round. Replacing the M14 battle rifle, the M16A1 entered service in 1964 and became the USMC’s primary service rifle. The A1 variant of the rifle was an improvement over the original design, which had a 20-round box magazine and was notorious for its poor reliability (its malfunction rate was twice per an average of 1000 rounds fired), but it was later discovered that the M16 had been billed as a “self-cleaning rifle” that didn’t require maintenance. Once cleaning kits and instructions were issued to soldiers, and the rifle was redesigned with a chrome-plated chamber and forward assist mechanism, reliability no longer became a concern. Cold War portrays the M16 as firing in three round bursts, which is a feature that was introduced with the M16A2.

  • Entering the village, the Pelington 703 was no longer viable – it’s an exceptional weapon for long range, but bolt action rifles are tricky to use in close quarters. I ended up switching over to the AK-47, an old classic. Counted as the world’s most reliable assault rifle, the AK-47 will never jam or overheat. It fires whether it’s wet, covered in mud or filled with sand, and its reliability has become the stuff of legends. I’ve fired the AK-47 in numerous games before, and it is high praise to Cold War that I can say that the AK-47 here is probably the best-feeling AK-47 I’ve ever fired in any game.

  • This feeling of satisfaction isn’t just limited to the AK-47 – once the shooting starts, it becomes clear that Cold War has probably some of the best, most-satisfying weapon feel of any game I’ve played in a long time, combining heavy, powerful weapon sounds with the tactile feeling of each trigger pull. Every gun in the game feels lethal and deadly, and while Cold War might not have the most accurate or diverse selection of weapons, the weapons that are available feel and handle very well. Here, I move through a courtyard after having found a folder full of intel en route to the extraction zone: the Soviet presence raises eyebrows, and it becomes clear that something is afoot.

  • With the Soviet file secured, it’s time to return to Ripcord Base. While Cold War could’ve ended the mission here, what happens instead is one of the most impressive ways of welcoming players to the game. The player takes over as the helicopter’s pilot and gunner, using the Huey’s mounted Miniguns and rockets to lay waste to Viet Cong positions amidst the Karst landscapes. There are no words to describe how breathtaking and thrilling this sequence is, and it feels fantastic to finally be here for myself. The UH-1 Iroquois, better known by its nickname, “Huey” is a utility helicopter that entered service in 1956 as a medical evacuation vehicle, and during the Vietnam War, saw extensive usage.

  • Players get to fly a fictionalised variant; the closest equivalent I can think of in real life is the UH-1 M6, which is armed with forward-facing M60 7.62 mm machine guns and MA-2/A 2.75″ (70mm) 2-Tube rocket launchers, and in Cold War, I’m armed with a pair of 12 mm Miniguns and 105 mm rockets, both of which are far larger calibre weapons than were available in reality (for one, the M134 fires 7.62 mm rounds, not 12 mm rounds). Here, I fly over rice paddies that are reminiscent of those in China’s Gulin province. Vietnam is quite famous for its terraced rice paddies, and usually, May or October would be the best time to visit; these are when the terraces are filled with water to become mirror-like and take on beautiful autumn colours, respectively.

  • Fracture Jaw is named after its real-world equivalent, during which General William Westmoreland proposed clandestinely moving nuclear warheads into South Vietnam for rapid deployment should the need arise. In 1968, the plan was abandoned, and I imagine that the object of Sims and Bell’s mission is to retrieve such a warhead as the plan was being abandoned. Sims is evidently displeased with the plan; during the Vietnam War, there was a disconnect between the leadership and foot soldiers fighting the war. I personally count this as one of the most wasteful and unnecessary conflicts of the Cold War, with the other being the Soviet-Afghan War, which depleted the Soviet’s economy and was one of the factors contributing to their collapse.

  • The Vietnam War was such a thorn in the United States’ side because the doctrine of the day had been to flatten an area with artillery and low-altitude bombing, use helicopters to drop soldiers in and clear out the Viet Cong, and then leave. The Viet Cong, prepared to fight the long war, would simply re-enter a decimated area and occupy it again. This then required additional resources to be sent in and re-take an area. In the end, despite having vastly sophisticated weapons and tactics, the United States never had a concrete objective in Vietnam besides “containing communism”, whereas the Communist North Vietnamese government intended to unify Vietnam and moreover, were prepared to outlast their enemy.

  • The end result was that the Vietnam War proved unsurprisingly unpopular amongst Americans, leading to wide anti-war and the hippie movements. In particular, one infamous picture sapped the American public of their desire for war. Dubbed the Napalm Girl, this photograph showed a naked girl of nine running from a napalm strike. The photograph created revulsion amongst the public; this was what the war was accomplishing. The right or wrong photograph in the right or wrong place and time can tip public opinion of war, and much as how Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima galvinised the American public into pushing for victory, the Napalm Girl photograph further compelled Americans to oppose their government’s decisions.

  • The power of imagery cannot be understated, and today, with social media being nigh-ubiquitous, its abuses are rampant; we are at a point where scandals and controversies happen every other day. After reaching Ripcord base, the player will need to circle it and fend off attacking Viet Cong elements. While the high visual fidelity means that enemies would be invisible and blend in with the mountainside (which is why coloured smoke was extensively used to mark positions, both target and friendly), Cold War gives players visual indicators of enemy positions. Together with the Huey’s unlimited ammunition, it becomes more of an arcade-like experience to flatten the enemies and land back at base.

  • Upon picking up one of the Fracture Jaw nuclear bombs, Bell’s helicopter is shot down. With Viet Cong fast approaching, it is fortunate that there’s an M60 lying around. The M60 is one of the most iconic guns of the Vietnam War, alongside the M16A1, and while the version I picked up does not appear to have any modifications, has enough ammunition to fend off the attacking soldiers long enough for allies to mark a position for a precision napalm strike. Once the aircraft show up and clear the area, the mission draws to a close, with the nuclear device secured.

  • After flashback indicates that Bell remembers encountering Perseus, the story returns to 1981. The mission opens with Adler and Bell sneaking through a Geisterbahnhöfe (“Ghost Station”) to enter East Berlin. These ghost stations are a surreal location unique to Cold War Berlin; after Berlin was divided into East and West, some train lines that existed prior to the divided proved to be inconvenient for the East, so they ended up sealing off those stations with concrete barriers, wiring electric fences and placing guard posts at these stations. These dimly lit stations remained visible to train passengers as they rode trains through the segments of rail passing underneath East Berlin.

  • In Tom Clancy’s Locked On, John Clark recalls a mission during the height of the Cold War, where he was asked to do a bag drop off as an SAD operative by Gene Lilly: after Lilly had been extorted of his life savings by a honey trap, Clark was supposed to hand off the money in exchange for the film negatives in a Geisterbahnhöfe to rogue Stasi officers. However, the transaction went rogue, and Clark ended up shooting one of the officers dead in such a location. This incident would later give the Keatley administration something to go after in their bid to stop Jack Ryan from winning the election. Locked On is one of my favourite Tom Clancy novels, being a thrilling blend of political intrigue and doomsday plots.

  • Until Cold War came out, I never thought I’d have a chance to ever explore the Geisterbahnhöfe for myself: after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the stations were reopened and put back into service. Former ghost stations are now fully operational, and visiting today would find them as nothing more than ordinary train stations. Most games probably wouldn’t be able to do much with the setting, either, so the odds of having such a spot to explore would be slim. With Cold War and its story, the intrigue behind Berlin’s Geisterbahnhöfe are brought to life, and here, Bell and Adler sneak past a few guards en route into East Berlin.

  • Shortly after Cold War released, I decided to check the game out on YouTube by watching my favourite channels play through them. TheRadBrad and JackFrags ended up being the two channels I watched my gameplay footage from, and out of the games, Cold War‘s campaign intrigued me. I had skipped the open beta while it was running on account of how The Division 2 had been keeping me very busy with its manhunts and the like, and I had a feeling that the download was much larger than what was worthwhile for an open beta. This proved a smart decision, as my machine wasn’t able to run Cold War with Windows 8 on account of the OS lacking support for the DirectX 12 API.

  • After exiting the dank, fetid and dark underground rail tunnels, Adler and Bell climb onto a rooftop overlooking one of the Berlin Wall checkpoints. Erected in 1961, the Berlin Wall was intended to keep East Berliners from entering West Berlin and seeking asylum there. While it was originally a simple concrete wall, escape attempts eventually compelled the East German government to dramatically expand it into a strip of death with razor-sharp barbed wire, Czech Hedgehogs, guard towers with armed patrols and even patrol dogs.

  • While sneaking over the Berlin Wall was possible, the aggressive security meant that few attempts were successful, and over the years, the Berlin Wall would come to represent the Cold War itself, splitting a country and Europe evenly in two, separated by ideology. When the Wall fell in 1989, it was to celebration around the world: the very instruments and implementers of oppression had fallen. Of course, in Cold War, the Berlin Wall is still up and running: I picked an MP5 off a patrol earlier, but firing it will instantly alert enemies to my position and likely bring the mission to a premature end.

  • Kraus will be spotted in a vehicle below, and with their target found, it’s time to tail him and figure out what he’s up to. I will go on an aside here to note that for the past while, I’ve been considering leaving the AnimeSuki community: aside from a few bad-faith actors like Verso Sciolto, Sumeragi and Toukairin (all of whom have thankfully been banned), I’ve generally had a good time discussing anime here. Among the folks who’ve made the experience a memorable, positive one are Ernietheracefan, Flower and Wild Goose. Conversations with them were always instructive and meaningful. However, most of the people I shared discussions with are no longer active these days there.

  • Instead, the community has largely been displaced by those who only talk about current events, politics and criticising anime in a bizarre, passive-aggressive voice. If their objective was to make their own ideologies known, then they have been successful. Similarly, it is clear that these individuals have no intention of sharing anime and manga related materials without tearing them down. Rather than attempt to remain in a community so disinterested in anime and put up with the likes of serenade_beta, c933103 or ramlaen, whose ramblings only convey their ignorance and closed-mindedness, it’ll be easier if I were to be the bigger person and walk away.

  • The plus side is that with the Jon Spencer Reviews community, I have no shortage of friendly, open-minded folks to run ideas by. The most important part of any community is having a group of open-minded people willing to listen; this, I find in abundance with the Jon Spencer Reviews community, and I am grateful for this. Thanks to my listening to the members, my perspectives have broadened, and I’ve been able to see things in a new manner. Having a group of excellent people also means being able to ask for feedback, and even talk about controversial things. This is a tolerant community: they’ve even put up with when I mention things like Bezmenov’s active measures previously as a part of my discussions.

  • Yesterday, I had the chance to head out for some A&W grass-fed beef burgers, onion rings and yam fries. Whether by virtue of being a little more relaxed this time around, or the fact that I was anticipating a good lunch that represented a nice change of pace, this time around, I could taste the difference in their burgers; grass-fed beef has a slightly gamier taste to it, and I’m particularly fond of it. Moreover, while home-cooked burgers tend to be juicer, I find that fast food burgers have their own appeal, with their richer flavours. Some fresh cherries rounded things out: temperatures reached a high of 27°C, so the cherries proved most refreshing. I’m probably going to wish I have some for today, as the forecast indicates today’s high will be 31°C.

  • This is one of the perks about working remotely: ordinarily, I’d pack my lunch, which consists of a sandwich and tea most days. However, there could be a return to the office at some point in the future, and with my province also preparing to reopen some businesses as of yesterday, I also was able to book a haircut. It is surprising to feel this happy at the prospect of going in for a haircut; I had an appointment booked for late April, but circumstances led to that being cancelled, so my hair’s a mess now. It’ll be nice to have short hair again. Back in Cold War, I enter Kraus’ apartment after the original plan of listening in on his plan went south. Instead, the goal is to sneak in, place a tracking bug in his briefcase and then get out. However, things aren’t so simple, and Bell is soon captured after discovering that one of the informants had also been caught.

  • After spending most of the mission sneaking about and watching things happen, agency returns to Bell’s hands: it turns out that being brought to Volkov made things easier rather than harder. Park and Azoulay ambush Volkov and his men before Volkov has a chance to shoot Bell, and once Park tosses Bell an MP5 with a laser sight, Millstop Reflex, a fifty-round STANAG drum and foregrip, it’s time to go to town on Volkov’s men. While Volkov will run away, there’s actually not a time limit on things, so players can methodically shoot their way to victory.

  • The MP5 is fun and can be hip-fired well, but for more ranged damage, I ended up picking a QBZ-83 off the ground. This is technically the QBZ-95, a Chinese bullpup assault rifle that entered service in 1995 and was a marked departure from the previous Chinese assault rifles. Since Cold War is set in the 1980s, this initially appears to be a bit of an anachronism, but looking more closely, the Chinese also had the Norinco Type 86S, a bullpup rifle based off the AKM. The QBZ-93 might therefore be seen as a fictional intermediate between the Type 86S and the Type 93 rifles.

  • Eventually, Bell, Park and Azoulay will corner Volkov at a locked door. Here, there’s the option to capture or kill him. My modus operandi has been to capture everyone so far: per Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, capturing someone alive means being able to ask them questions and probe their minds for intel that saves months, or even years of surveillance. Dead men tell no tales, and in general, an enemy is worth a great deal more alive for this very reason. I’m not too sure how these smaller decisions will impact Cold War just yet, but if other games are a reliable precedent, choosing to spare an enemy typically yields returns later down the line.

In spite of the menacing atmosphere that Cold War‘s trailer conveys, and the resulting controversy made on the basis that such messages threatened the narrative of certain games journalists or ideologies, Cold War itself is simply an immersive game with a fantastic atmosphere. The game isn’t about promoting conspiracy theories, it’s about unveiling the mysterious individual whose machinations could result in millions of deaths in the worst case. The journey to do so takes players to places in the Cold War where things very nearly went hot, and indicates that during the Cold War, both sides were fervently working to undermine and subvert the other in the name of ideology, with the inevitable result that even decades later, the devices and methods one side might’ve counted as an asset suddenly became a lethal liability. Whether it be fighting off attacking Viet Cong amidst Vietnam’s karst landscapes by dawn, or sneaking around East Berlin on a rainy night to infiltrate a Stasi member’s house to place a tracker on his briefcase to get closer to a high value target carrying information on a ghost, Cold War‘s opening chapters really breathe life back into the Black Ops series: I thoroughly enjoyed 2010’s Black Ops for its settings and themes, but as the Black Ops series continued, the campaigns became diminished to the point where by Black Ops IV, there had been no campaign. The Cold War represents an era of history where technological advancement and ideology developed alongside one another: on one hand, we found new ways of improving our quality of life and standards of living, but at the same time, the same technologies could be used to inflict suffering at a hitherto unimagined scale. As such, while the Cold War itself might be in the past now, the events and their associated lessons remain as relevant as ever; short of reading books on the subject matter, video games like Black Ops can potentially elevate the players’ interest in the time period and encourage them to learn more about the material on their own and draw their own conclusions about which mistakes in history should be avoided. Having said this, if Cold War provides an entertaining story and perspective on the latter stages of the Cold War and brings players enjoyment, whether it be through the campaign, multiplayer, Zombies mode or Warzone, the game itself has succeeded. I am therefore especially excited to see what lies ahead in the next missions; early on in Cold War, there hasn’t been much in the way of full-scale firefights, but from the firefights I have gone through, the gun play feel excellent, comparable to Battlefield V and Titanfall 2. These are two games whose mechanics are absolutely solid, and if Cold War continues to handle this smoothly, it will be a thrill to continue going through the game to see what Perseus is.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered- Act III Review and Reflection

“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.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered- Act II Review and Reflection

“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.

  • 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.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered- Act I Review and Reflection

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. Boundaries shift, new players step in; but power always finds a place to rest its head. History is written by the victor, and here I am, thinking we’d won. But you bring down one enemy and they find someone even worse to replace him. Locations change, the rationale, the objective.” –General Shepherd

Ultranationalists take power in Russia and memorialise Imran Zakhaev, creating tensions between Russia and the United States. Vladimir Makarov embarks on a bitter campaign of revenge against the west. In the Middle East, Joseph Allen participates in an operation against insurgents, and General Shepherd, impressed with Allen’s performance, recruits him into Task Force 141. Meanwhile, Captain John MacTavish and Sergeant Gary Sanderson infiltrate a Russian base deep in the Tian Shan mountains to retrieve an ACS module. Allen is placed as a deep cover operative and infiltrates Makarov’s cell: he participates in Makarov’s mass shooting at an airport in Moscow. However, Makarov is aware of Allen’s presence and kills him, leaving his body behind as evidence of an American attack against the Russians. This incident precipitates a war between the Russians and Americans; the Russians launch a full-scale invasion of the Eastern Seaboard, overwhelming the Americans. Seeking evidence of Makarov’s involvement, Task Force 141 heads to Rio de Janeiro to capture arms dealer Alejandro Rojas, who provides weapons for Makarov and is suspected to have information on his whereabouts. After fighting through Roja’s thugs in the Rio de Janeiro favela, MacTavish and Sanderson learn that there is one more individual who knows of Makarov: a prisoner held in a Russian gulag. With this, I’ve begun my journey into Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, which released in late March 2020 to general surprise. The original Modern Warfare 2 released in November 2009, and almost immediately, became embroiled in controversy with its graphic portrayal of Makarov’s mass shooting at a Russian airport. Development of this mission was a polarising one even amongst Infinity Ward. Having known about the controversy for the better part of a decade, in my playthrough, I chose to simply walk around the mission and check out what over a decade’s worth of improvement in computer graphics has resulted in without firing a shot (shooting Makarov and his men result in a game over). Upon reaching the tarmac, one must participate in a firefight with the FSB, and here, it felt a little more appropriate to return fire. However, as controversial as this mission, “No Russian”, was, the opening act of Modern Warfare 2 holds more sinister implications about conflict.

In particular, General Shepherd’s monologues leading into the first few missions speak greatly to his views on the world: after losing over thirty thousand soldiers when Makarov detonated a nuclear explosive in the Middle East, Shepherd sought to bring glory back to the United States and restore his own reputation. Shepherd’s views are decidedly that of a Social Darwinist, someone who believes that power is an end in and of itself. Before each mission, Shepherd remarks that the United States has a moral obligation to fight in every war, that there is no option of sitting one out, because it is their responsibility to ensure that the world adheres to whatever policy benefits America. Moreover, the ability to shape the course of history is a recurring theme in Shepherd’s dialogue: what the history books say is determined by the victor, those who live to tell their version of the story. Modern Warfare 2 thus sets in motion the idea that Shepherd is obsessed with victory because he fights for none other than himself, and because he ostensibly fights with the backing of the United States military, Modern Warfare 2 indicates that the worst enemies are those backed by the state. There are parallels with the real world, and Modern Warfare 2 shows how men like Shepherd can influence events at a scale that ordinary citizens remain quite unaware of. Beyond all of the politics and speeches, there exist under-the-table deals and shadowy discussions in the corridors of power, shaping and influencing the world in a way that benefits a cabal of elites for their own ends, even if it comes at a cost to common citizens. The world isn’t so black and white as one might imagine, and while Modern Warfare 2 represents a work of fiction, the fact is that there are enough complexities in the world such that bad faith actors like Makarov and Shepherd don’t seem too far-fetched, which is saying something, considering that Modern Warfare 2 garnered more controversy than any Call of Duty title before it. Consequently, it will be interesting to experience Modern Warfare 2: Remastered for myself, such that I may see for myself what the game had been about.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The site archives indicate that last I wrote about a Modern Warfare title, it would’ve been four years ago. Time flies, but as Shepherd says, the more things change, the more things remain familiar, and despite the four years that’ve passed, I’m still here, doing what I do best. After clearing the first mission and getting familiar with the controls, I ran the pit in under 35 seconds. I’m no stranger to Call of Duty, and the game recommended that I play it on Veteran difficulty for the full experience. However, on my first play-through of anything, I prefer going on regular difficulty just so I can take in the story without dying to a few stray rounds. I’ve never actually played Modern Warfare 2 for myself, so Modern Warfare 2: Remastered would be the first time I’ve set foot in the second of the Modern Warfare instalments.

  • After spawning in with the M4A1 Grenadier and clearing out hostiles attacking a bridge-layer, Joseph Allen boards a Humvee and mans a M134 Minigun. Rail-shooters missions in modern games are generally maligned – the Call of Duty franchise is infamous for them to the point where players will call a game Call of Duty-like if it has too many scripted set-piece moments. Here, players will get to watch as an airstrike levels a building: like Modern Warfare RemasteredModern Warfare 2: Remastered has spectacular visuals while at once, retaining the classic mechanics of the original Modern Warfare 2.

  • Because Modern Warfare 2: Remastered retains the same mechanics as the original Modern Warfare 2 (for this series of posts, I’ll refer to both interchangeably when discussing story, but otherwise make the distinction when considering gameplay elements), the shooting doesn’t feel quite as visceral as it does in contemporary titles. Fortunately, there is the option of enabling hit markers – while hit markers are often a sign of frustration in multiplayer matches, I primarily use them to help me know when I can turn my attention to the next target: some games have the option where killing shots colour the hit markers differently, and in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, as soon as I get a red hit marker, I know I can switch over to the next enemy shooting at me.

  • The rail-shooter segment of the first real mission to Modern Warfare 2 is a hit of a hectic one, and while playing realistically would mean firing the M134 in bursts, the way the game is set up means that as soon as the humvees come under fire, one might as well just hold down the trigger and blast away at anything that moves until the end of the sequence is reached. Eventually, a hostile will fire an RPG at the humvee, flipping it. Allen and the other USMC soldiers quickly head into the school to escape enemy fire and manage to flank their enemies.

  • One of the things I enjoy most about the remastered Modern Warfare 2 was simply how stunning the weapons look under the improved lighting system. Since Battlefield V came to a close last year, I’ve not really played many military shooters – most of my time was divided between Halo: The Master Chief Collection and The Division 2. While I returned to enjoy titles at my own pace, the Battlefield YouTubers I follow switched over to Warzone, a Call of Duty battle royale that has gained massive popularity for bringing a widespread genre into a game with generally solid mechanics.

  • I have little interest in battle royale games, but I admit that the level of customisation was quite appealing, and I found myself wishing I try out a newer Call of Duty titles. Of course, the campaigns are what appeal most to me: not playing competitive multiplayer shooters online for the past year has allowed me to relax a great deal more, and it strikes me that in gaming, I’m at my happiest when I’m allowed to explore virtual spaces at my own pace.

  • When Modern Warfare 2: Remastered had released last year, I was a bit surprised and initially held off on the purchase, uncertain of whether or not I wanted to drop the coin for the campaign that early in. However, when I noticed that Black Ops: Cold War was on sale a few weekends ago, I realised this sale would allow me to basically buy both Black Ops: Cold War and Modern Warfare 2: Remastered for the price that Cold War goes for without a sale, and as such, I jumped on the opportunity. I did something similar with Infinite Warfare‘s Legacy Edition, which allowed me to buy Modern Warfare Remastered and Infinite Warfare for the price of Infinite Warfare alone. This sale thus felt like a bit of déjà vu: four years earlier, I picked up Modern Warfare Remastered a few months before going on a vacation out to Japan, and was blown away by how refreshed everything felt.

  • However, on Cliffhanger, superior graphics don’t really make too much of a difference initially; Sanderson and MacTavish infiltrate a Russian base high in the Tian Shan Mountains (a redundancy, since 天山 literally means “Sky Mountains”), but the entire area is blanketed by a ferocious blizzard, concealing everything. Players begin the mission with a suppressed ACR that has a heartbeat sensor, which allows for hidden foes to be detected. This piece of technology is a fictional invention: real heartbeat sensors must be in contact with a user to detect their heartbeat, and it feels like an infrared or motion sensor would be more plausible here.

  • Indeed, the uniqueness of Modern Warfare 2‘s heartbeat sensor was called out in Bad Company 2, when Haggard references the heartbeat sensors and suggests that they’re for weaklings. Haggard also laughs at the idea of using snowmobiles to reach an exfil point. Bad Company 2 released in March 2010, a few months after Modern Warfare 2 came out, and contrasting the all-serious, grim and dark campaign of the latter, Bad Company 2 was all laughs as the group of misfits embark on an adventure to stop an electromagnetic weapon from falling into the wrong hands.

  • MacTavish and Sanderson have a much simpler assignment: under the blizzard’s cover, both sneak into the Russian base and manage to locate the building holding the ACS module from the fallen American satellite. This mission reminds me a great deal of a similar level in Bad Company 2, where Misfit company deliberately crashes a satellite to retrieve a component used by the scalar weapon. In a curious turn of events, this past weekend, the stage on a Chinese “Long March” rocket returned to Earth and splashed down in the Indian Ocean. In the days leading up to the re-entry, media outlets like CNN and BBC made exaggerated claims that there was a high probability of the debris landing in populated areas.

  • The reality is that space programmes will de-orbit spent rocket stages in a way so that they impact over oceans, and China, being a signatory on the Space Liability Convention, is no exception. With this being said, getting stuff to land where one wishes is to is a challenge, and in video games, it is only through pure storytelling that allow things like satellites to land in convenient places to advance the plot. Here in the warehouse, the Russians have successfully removed the ACS module: after MacTavish investigates the satellite remains, he instructs Sanderson to head upstairs and see if he can’t find it.

  • Sanderson locates the ACS on short order, but MacTavish is compromised: Russian soldiers order him to surrender, but fortunately, the pair have an ace-in-the-hole: Sanderson had placed explosives on the aircraft fuel pumps earlier, and setting them off creates enough of a distraction to take out the soldiers. MacTavish and Sanderson beat a hasty exit, all pretense of a stealth mission abandoned. The blizzard’s let up by now, and while visibility’s improved, the level still looks quite simplistic. Of the missions in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, Cliffhanger appears to have received the fewest updates simply because snow is covering everything. We’re now a ways into May, and while this means spring showers for most folks, in my area, the snow continues to endure.

  • While MacTavish will indicate that picking up an unsuppressed weapon could be disadvantageous early in the mission, once the bullets start flying, I immediately dropped my suppressed USP for a Kriss Vector. Although dealing the weakest damage per round of any PDW in Modern Warfare 2, the weapon has a very high rate of fire and great accuracy. I’ve long been interested in the Vector for its unique appearance, and occasionally run it in The Division and its successor, The Division 2: as a PDW, I find it generally reliable for CQC, although the base weapon only comes with a 25-round magazine, so I immediately modify it to use extended magazines, which adds arounds at the expense of reload speed.

  • After passing over the runway, MacTavish and Sanderson immediately fend off soldiers rocking snowmobiles and commandeer them for a frenzied ride down the mountain. To take out the pursuers, Sanderson has access to the G18, an automatic pistol that is effective in its role. However, the greater challenge in this portion of the mission is managing the snowmobile: on my first few attempts, I took a bad turn and crashed into a tree, dying instantly.

  • It took a few runs to get things right, and here, I prepare to ramp down a steep slope to build up the necessary speed in order to clear a chasm. Once this chasm is cleared, MacTavish and Sanderson will reach the exfil, where a friendly CH-46 Sea Knight awaits them. The Sea Knight is an American tandem-rotor helicopter that first saw use during the Vietnam War, and I know it best as the helicopter used to lift MacMillan and Price out of Pripyat during the events of Modern Warfare. With the second of the missions done, I thus turned my attention to the level that entangled Modern Warfare 2 in controversy: “No Russian”. I first heard about this mission before a data structures class ten years earlier, when some of my friends were discussing controversies in games. Back then, Modern Warfare 2 had been out for two years, and while Infinity Ward had intended the level to demonstrate the extent of Makarov’s evil, many felt the game had gone too far, suggesting the level should have taken place from the perspective of a FSB unit or airport security guard.

  • Listening to my friends talk about the level piqued my curiosity, but the conversation also reminded me of how fortunate I had been to be there. Not six months earlier, I had been entangled in an unfortunate incident that jepordised my undergraduate degree: during the last computer-based quiz of the year, my machine, running Windows NT 5 with Internet Explorer 6, suffered from an unusual malfunction that led the instructor to assume I’d been in violation of exam conditions. Despite my clear and consistent explanations, the department of chemistry had intended fully to put me on academic probation. Fortunately, with help from my supervisor and the student ombudsman, I was able to resolve the situation after speaking to my home faculty’s associate dean, who determined that I had not been in the wrong and would not take any action in regard to the situation.

  • Ten years ago to this day, I received the letter from the Faculty of Science informing me of their decision: the outcome of their only action and my home faculty associate dean’s decision meant I was free to partake in my research project and continue on in my program, leading to what became one of my most memorable summers. This incident is now decisively in the rear-view mirror, and I’ve resolved to never get in a situation where such mistakes might be repeated. As term began and my friends began their conversation, my curiosity was piqued: I looked up the Call of Duty franchise and ended up learning about All Ghillied Up, which led me to develop an interest to play the series for myself. This wish was fulfilled a few months later, when a friend of mine lent me his account to help him idle for Team Fortress 2 items while he was on vacation: I still vividly remember playing Modern Warfare in between studying for my physics and MCAT summer courses.

  • During play testing, some players refused to participate in No Russian, leading Infinity Ward to implement an option to skip the level outright. At the opposite end of the spectrum, players who felt that video game ethics do not correspond with real-world decisions participated in the level. I elected to hold my fire as I walked through the airport, only walking around to check out the details in the level. There is no penalty for not firing a single shot, so I chose to do just this. In reality, not shooting would blow Allen’s cover: JackFrags shot at some signs to maintain the illusion of helping Makarov. However, can’t actually shoot Makarov or his cronies (regardless of how tempting it may be to do so), otherwise, the mission ends with a friendly fire notice.

  • Seeing things happen for myself allowed me to understand why Infinity Ward had included such a mission in Modern Warfare 2. The level succeeds in conveying why Makarov needs to be stopped, and this made killing him in Modern Warfare 3 all the more satisfying. However, while I only regard No Russian as a level to beat, the mission is one of those items that remain so controversial that even today, video game journalists tend to use it as an argument for why all high-budget FPS are unethical, promoting unsafe thoughts and whatnot amongst players, claiming that people should instead devote themselves to playing indie Twine games if they wish to be well-adjusted.

  • Upon leaving the concourse, the FSB begin appearing, and since they’re armed to the teeth, it was time to finally utilise my weapons: the FSB units bring out riot shields, and those are quite resistant to damage. In order to progress, I dealt with them with a combination of flash bang grenades and the M240, or the M4A1’s under-barrel grenade launcher. Modern Warfare 3 reveals that Yuri had been in league with Makarov until this massacre: Makarov shoots Yuri and leaves him for dead, and he would later join Task Force 141. Players can actually see him here in Modern Warfare 2: Remastered, but aside from some rudimentary animations, Yuri won’t do much, and Makarov’s team actually won’t react to his presence.

  • The remastered No Russian mission has a few interesting Easter eggs in it, reflecting on how Modern Warfare‘s story evolved over the years – the remastered games would bring back elements from the new titles to tie everything together, and for many players, the Modern Warfare era represented Call of Duty at its best. From 2011 onwards until 2019, the Call of Duty franchise lagged behind DICE’s Battlefield in visual fidelity and gameplay quality. With Battlefield V failing, however, Infinity Ward has stepped up their game: 2019’s Modern Warfare was a return to form for the series, and Cold War Battlefield 6 has a lot of expectations to fulfil if DICE expects their flagship title to regain its reputation.

  • In order to get my attention, Battlefield 6 needs to have a solid and consistent set of core mechanics, good player visibility, a clear plan for content delivery, a steadfast commitment to quality, and an effective anti-cheat solution. Battlefield V‘s main strength was the consistency and satisfaction of firefights, as well as armoured combat, but beyond this, the lack of anti-cheat, bizarre decisions (such as TTK reverts) and no exploration of iconic WWII theatres made it difficult to really root for DICE and hope they’d turn things around. When Battlefield V neared the end of its support, DICE finished putting out content for the Pacific Theatre, and I had hoped this was the turning point: the gameplay was solid, the maps were excellent, and the experience was immersive to the point where I felt Actas should look to Battlefield V as how to properly capture armoured warfare.

  • As it stands, Battlefield 6 has a lot of expectations to meet, so for me, I’m in the “cautiously optimistic” camp for the present. Here, I begin the first of the favela missions, which brings the first act to a close: the goal is the capture Rojas, an arms dealer with connections to Makarov. This was the first mission I ran with Windows 10 and DirectX 12: FRAPS no longer appears to work for screenshots, so I’ve switched over to MSI Afterburner and the RivaTurner plugin. The plugin gives The Division 2 trouble, so I’ll need to switch that off when playing The Division 2, but for the time being, this setup works well enough: the resulting screenshots are of a satisfactory quality.

  • I will need to figure out a way of reducing the screenshot sizes in the future, but for the time being, I’m glad to have found a setup that works for me. I began preparations for the update last weekend, and spent the better part of this past week reinstalling software; this is why I’ve not had any blog posts since my talk on 86 EIGHTY-SIX. A week later, my machine feels as good as new, and I admit that it feels fantastic to have a rig that performs as though I’d picked it up from the manufacture yesterday. My desktop PC is now eight years old, and while its age shows in some areas, it generally still feels responsive and powerful.

  • The successful upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 8 means that I should be able to get another two to four years of life out of this desktop, saving me around 1500 CAD while I await the release of next generation Intel and NVIDIA hardware. Among the advantages of extending the operational time of my desktop is the fact that I’m now able to play Halo: Infinite once that releases. Being able to put off building a new PC now is for the better, since the microprocessor shortage and unlawfully aggressive cryptocurrency miners have made it much more difficult to find parts for a build.

  • The favela mission proved to be a thrilling mission, if unexpectedly challenging because of the fact that enemies could come from all directions. Playing this for the first time meant being unaware of the mechanics: I initially tried to rush through the narrow alleys and rickety stairs of the favela because I was under the impression that I needed to capture Rojas myself, and for my troubles, exposed myself to enemy fire. Sanderson begins the mission with the ACR and the M1014 shotgun. The ACR is Sanderson’s default weapon for most missions, and it is an extremely versatile weapon because of a balance between ammunition capacity, low recoil, firing rate and damage.

  • The M1014 acts as a superb secondary weapon for close quarters firefights, possessing unmatched stopping power that makes it great for dealing with unexpected foes. The reload is a bit slower, on account of each shell needing to be loaded manually, so I chose to leave this weapon for situations where I was caught mid-reload with the ACR and needed to deal with a foe at close quarters. After I realised that I wasn’t on any sort of timeline, I played more methodically, picking off enemies from a distance before following the waypoint to Rojas’ location.

  • The remastered version makes the visuals of the favela especially apparent; favela refer to low-income informal settlements characterised by high density and the presence of organised crime. Intrigue in favela is why the location is the setting in works of fiction, and since the 1990s, tours of the favela are offered, allowing visitors to see for themselves the culture and daily lives of residents. I feel that favela would be no different than Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City: while both have high population density, low income and organised crime, for the most part, citizens lead ordinary and peaceful lives.

  • I ended up sticking with the ACR and M1014 throughout the whole of the mission: in general, the starting weapons players have are more than enough to get the job done, although I have noticed that Modern Warfare 2‘s weapons, compared to its predecessors, are much more varied. Of note is the fact that players can pick up dual pistols, and at some point, even dual-wield Desert Eagles: this pistol is the most powerful available Modern Warfare 2, being able to drop enemies in a single shot, but because of recoil patterns, the weapon favours precision aiming.

  • Having finally linked up with Simon Riley and MacTavish, who’ve captured Rojas, this first act draws to a close. I am going to be looking to wrap up Modern Warfare 2 at a relatively brisk pace, and will return to write about the second act during the Victoria Day Long Weekend (Super Cub and Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s halfway point talks are coming up). For now, it is time to call it a night: today was a snowy and quiet Mother’s Day, during which we celebrated with a standing rib roast, fully-loaded mashed potatoes, par-seared garlic shrimp and cauliflower.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Remastered marks the first time I’ll be going through a game with DirectX 12: for the past eight years, I’ve been running Windows 8 on my main desktop. When I’d built this machine back in 2013, to counteract the fact that I had a small SSD, I redirected the user profiles wholly to my secondary storage: this machine had other users, and for their convenience, I used Microsoft’s Sysprep to install Windows 8, then wrote an XML answer file to redirect the profiles. This approach had served me well, but had the side-effect of blocking all updates. As such, I sat out the Windows 8.1 and eventual Windows 10 free upgrade programs when they became available in 2015. While merging the user profiles back onto the C Drive was possible, I concluded that a clean re-install of Windows 8 would’ve been preferred. However, I had the unfortunate case where I’d packed away my installation media, and without the activation key, a clean install and reactivation would’ve been impossible. Moreover, Microsoft began phasing out Windows 8 in favour of 8.1, so I would’ve needed to obtain a Windows 8.1 key to get started. This proved demoralising, and to the me of six years earlier, was an insurmountable challenge. However, more recently, a sale for Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War prompted me to finally bite the bullet: Cold War is DirectX 12 only, and Windows 8 is limited to DirectX 11, requiring that I upgrade. This time around, three things allowed me to make the upgrade. First, Microsoft still allows Windows 8.1 users to freely upgrade to Windows 10. Moreover, Windows 8.1 can be activated by a Windows 8 product key, and finally, there’s a way to extract the Windows product key from the BIOS. With this in mind, and the fact that I have a few terabytes of external storage, I was able to back up all of the important files off my machine, do a clean Windows 8.1 install (which I activated using my Windows 8 key), and then transition over to Windows 10. The process proved very smooth, if a bit lengthy, and I ended up reformatting my secondary disk to flush the Windows 8 user profiles from it. With this done, I’ve found a noticeable improvement to my machine’s performance: startup time is reduced to 20 seconds, and I am able to start using Chrome in another 10 seconds. I’ve gained back a terabyte of storage on my secondary drive thanks to the cleanup, and overall, the machine feels a lot more responsive. With this update done, I am quite ready to continue on with my Modern Warfare 2 adventure and begin Cold War; while this seems like a great deal of effort for one game, it was high time I upgraded to Windows 10 and capitalise on the benefits of a more modern, secure operating system anyways – this should extend the life of my desktop by another few years, and leaves me in a good spot to pick up Halo: Infinite, which I imagine would also be a DirectX 12 only title.

Yui Needs A Weapon: Revisiting the K-On! Mod for Left 4 Dead 2 with Halo Weapons

“I need a weapon.” –Spartan John-117, Halo 2

Having now finished the original two Left 4 Dead campaigns, the only thing that was Cold Stream and The Last Stand, two community missions that rounded out the game. Cold Stream sees the Left 4 Dead 2 survivors fighting through a forest in the mountains to reach a helicopter to evacuate them before a forest fire catches up with them, while The Last Stand represents an alternate interpretation of what had happened in Death Toll had the survivors gone a different route. After abandoning their truck at a roadblock, the survivors make their way into a junkyard and eventually reach a lighthouse. Here, the survivors signal for rescue from a boat, fending off hordes of Infected while awaiting the boat. These community missions are quite unrelated to the stories portrayed in the regular campaigns, providing players with a remote forest setting to explore. At this point in time, the mechanics and objectives were simple enough: having beaten the last two campaigns (and fighting with the community workshop directory, which had been giving me some trouble with the character name plates), getting back into Left 4 Dead 2 to finish off the single player experience was not particularly tricky, and I ended up wrapping up both of the community campaigns with time to spare. As noted in my previous posts, the K-On! mod for Left 4 Dead 2 had been remarkably entertaining, completely altering the aesthetic and mood in Left 4 Dead 2. However, this time around, I’ve decided to further increase the mods introduced into the game: as amusing as it had been to run Left 4 Dead 2 with Houkago Tea Time characters, even new models and sound files can get old to write about. As such, I decided to introduce an additional set of mods into the game which would modify the experience somewhat without conflicting with the K-On! mods.

This mod takes the form of Halo weapon skins to replace the original weapons. While the weapons still function identically to their original forms, the weapons look and sound different. The end result is simple: I am now running with the automatics, pistols, shotguns and long-range rifles from Halo, rather than more familiar weapons. In addition to a new, highly-detailed skin, the Halo weapons also have new firing sounds. Altogether, these new weapons feel considerably more powerful and reliable than any of the classic weapons. Every shot fired feels powerful. The base pistols and Tier 1 weapons, which had felt diminished in power compared to the Tier 2 weapons in their original form, suddenly gave the impression of being viable, lethal tools that could hold their own against the hordes of Infected. The suppressed MAC-10 felt inadequate against special infected, but when replaced with the M7/C submachine gun, players suddenly appear to have a better fighting chance. The hunting rifle is replaced by the DMR, firing rounds with a slow but reliable outcome. The Tier 2 weapons themselves feel even more effective, and when the mods are properly applied, even the introductory pistol becomes a more entertaining weapon to use. I’d first heard about the Halo weapon mods from a friend who’d been interested in asking about why the modders had removed a particularly unique skin from the marketplace. I’d speculated it might’ve simply been because the mod needed more work and suggested said friend get in touch with the modders to inquire about it. After checking out the modders’ workshop, I became intrigued, and subsequently resolved to try the weapons out for myself. The end result was highly entertaining, and after ensuring that the new mods did not conflict with or modify the way my previous mods worked, I set about finishing off Left 4 Dead 2‘s remaining missions.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I figure it would be appropriate to open with the dual M6H pistols: the original pistols felt quite weak despite being useful weapons in practise, but upgrading them to the pistols seen in Halo completely changes the impact they have. In this post, not only do I have Halo weapons, but I have Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Tsumugi wielding Halo weapons. I imagine that with this mod, once Google properly indexes my content, I’ll have the first result whenever one does a search for “K-On! Halo” or similar. All of the Halo weapon mods in this post are supplied by Adorabirb!, whose done a phenomenal job of rendering the weapons and ensuring they sound identical to their Halo counterparts.

  • The suppressed MAC-10 is replaced by the M7S suppressed submachine gun seen in Halo 3: ODST. While one cannot use the reflex sights, and the weapon handles otherwise identically to the MAC-10 in Left 4 Dead 2, there’s something incredibly reassuring about using the M7S against hordes of Infected. The Uzi is similarly replaced by the M7/C with the right mods, and with the Halo submachine guns, I suddenly feel a lot more optimistic about fighting Infected. There’s a psychological boost that results from using cool-looking and cool-sounding weapons.

  • Cold Stream was a particularly fun campaign mission – despite being non-canon, its setting makes it the next best thing to being out in the mountains for myself. It’s now been over a year since I’ve taken a hike in the mountains and had any poutine from the best poutine shop this side of the country, and I do miss it greatly. While games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Skyrim do allow me to visit the mountains and their beautiful forested trails, there is no substitution for a full day spent hiking the mountains for real, followed by a hearty Montreal Smoked Meat poutine and spruce soda afterwards.

  • My yearning to return to the mountains means that I have recently returned to Skyrim with the aim of finishing the main story off: a year ago, while writing about KonoSuba, I mentioned an interest in playing Skyrim again, and it is only now that I’ve managed to do so. Returning to Skyrim, I am impressed with how immersive and detailed the game is. I will be sharing a full post on my experiences once I am finished: at the time of writing, I am pursuing Alduin through Sovngarde, and expect that in a few weeks or so, I should be done with things.

  • Before then, however, I determined it would be best if I wrapped up my thoughts on Left 4 Dead 2 with K-On! and Halo mods first. Here, I’ve picked up the DMR: it replaces the Hunting Rifle, a weapon that I typically did not play with much on my old play-throughs on account of its poor firing rate and small magazine size. Again, the psychological changes brought on by a Halo skin were profound – the DMR’s firing rate feels faster than that of the Hunting Rifle even though the weapon stats remained unchanged, and I had a blast using it to pick off distant foes.

  • The fact a simple re-skin completely changed up the way Left 4 Dead 2 feels, despite having no actual impact on gameplay, speaks volumes to how something as simple as changing up a weapon’s appearance and sound could completely refresh an experience to the extent where Left 4 Dead 2 could feel like an entirely new game. Prior to switching out the Hunting Rifle for the DMR, I’d never used the weapon simply because its low rate of fire and limited situations where a long-range weapon made it less useful to have. However, in Halo: Reach and Halo 4, the DMR is intended more of a precision weapon filling the range between the sniper rifles and Battle rifle.

  • I ended up swapping out the FN SCAR-L for the Battle Rifle: the Combat Rifle in Left 4 Dead 2 fires in three round bursts, and while dealing less damage per shot than the other assault rifles, it compensates for this with a good accuracy. With this in mind, given how often engagements were close quarters, I generally preferred the AK-47 or M-16 where available. The Battle Rifle I ran with is the Halo 2 variant, which is my favourite iteration of the Battle Rifle in any Halo game. The mod lacks the original’s heavy-hitting sound: besides performance, the Halo 2 Battle Rifle feels solid and sounds lethal.

  • The one weapon I was most impressed with in the mod was the SRS99-AM sniper rifle, which is seen in Halo 3. This weapon excels at long range combat, and equips an advanced optic for sighting distant foes. I chose the weapon to replace the semi-automatic sniper rifle in Left 4 Dead 2, with the end result that what was originally an anti-materiel rifle with a four-round box magazine now could hold thirty rounds. The weapon sounds powerful and looks even better: the optics will depict the same view, just as the sniper rifle in Halo 3 did.

  • One of the things I needed to get used to was the fact that I’m technically still using the semi-automatic sniper rifle in Left 4 Dead 2, which behaves more similarly to the DMR than the Halo sniper rifle. If I were to go purely for accuracy, the Hunting Rifle would be better represented by the Halo sniper rifle, and the semi-automatic rifle would be replaced by the DMR skin. This would allow the mods to be more faithful to their original weapon’s roles.

  • While crossing the bridge, I ended up picking up a grenade launcher: the M319 grenade launcher is a single-shot break-action grenade launcher that functions identically to its real-world equivalent, the M79. In fact, aside from a superior construction and digital display, the weapon is more or less a M79: the M79 is the original weapon in Left 4 Dead 2, and this Vietnam-era grenade launcher was intended to give platoons additional firepower. The M79 proved effective and reliable, but being a single-shot weapon left operators at a disadvantage, limiting how much firepower they could put out downrange.

  • Moreover, carrying a dedicated launcher meant grenadiers were limited to their sidearms as a ranged weapon. In Left 4 Dead 2, this is definitely to one’s detriment, unless they were carrying dual pistols, as well. While fantastic for clearing out hordes of Infected and even making short work of the Special Infected, the grenade launcher’s utility is quite limited, and the weapon itself is also quite rare: I only encountered the grenade launcher a handful of times while playing through the original campaign.

  • Conversely, the M60 (replaced by Halo 4‘s M739 SAW) is an excellent special weapon, and when outfitted with a laser sight, becomes the ultimate weapon for taking on common and special Infected alike. Halo 4‘s SAW features a 72-round drum magazine and, while firing the same calibre rounds as the assault rifle, had a higher rate of fire and accuracy, on top of a larger ammunition capacity, making it a straight upgrade to the assault rifle. Spartan Ops missions went more smoothly the instant I picked one up. In Left 4 Dead 2, the M60 is similarly powerful, limited only by the fact that its belt cannot be replenished.

  • At the time of writing, the mod did not replace the weapon icons for the M16 or AK-47. The M16 is replaced by the MA5C assault rifle, which was featured in Halo 3 and for the first time, felt like a proper assault rifle. While the MA5C’s skin does not accurately reflect on the actual amount of ammunition remaining, the modders have taken the effort of ensuring that the digital display uses an emissive texture: in dark environments, the display will glow in the dark, which is a nice touch.

  • Towards the end of the final chapter, I picked up an M90 shotgun with a reflex sight, which replaces the SPAS-12. However, since the final part of the mission entailed pushing through a horde, the shotgun proved inadequate and I ended up dropping it for any faster-firing weapon. Shotguns have always had a limited utility in Left 4 Dead 2, and in Halo, I found them more useful against the Flood rather than the Covenant. With this being said, shotguns have always been fun to wield against the Elites, and my strategy in Halo games has always been to use the battle rifles, assault rifles and marksman rifles against weaker foes, saving shotguns or other powerful weapons for swiftly putting away groups of tougher enemies.

  • The last segments of Cold Stream requires that players reach a tall tower for extraction, and unfortunately, during my run, I ended up losing Tsumugi to the Infected. In spite of this, I still finished the mission in a reasonably efficient manner, earning myself a nifty achievement for my troubles. My best friend has indicated that there is an elegant and simple way to get the toughest achievements in Left 4 Dead 2 without breaking a sweat. I’m not sure if this is something I’ll seek to be doing in the foreseeable future just yet.

  • The last of the community missions, The Last Stand, returns perspective to Azusa, Ui, Jun and Nadoka’s perspective, as well as the grim and foreboding dark of a coastal forest. This mission starts players off with the Uzi, which the mod switches out for a M7/C Submachine gun. Insofar, I’ve referred to the Halo weapons mod in singular, but it’s actually a collection of mods one can download. Like the M7S, the M7/C feels distinctly better than the Uzi, even though the damage model remains completely unaffected.

  • It’s reassuring to know that the modder behind the K-On! mod made certain that the smaller details were properly rendered – I half expected the character models to clip or be hollow underneath, but thankfully, this is not the case. When I first played the K-On! mods, I’d heard that the modders even took into account the special attributes surrounding Mio, and while I’d never had the characters walk up onto a higher surface in campaigns with Yui and the others, I have played as Mio before. Being ensnared by a smoker demonstrated that those rumours surrounding Mio were true, and this level of attention to detail is commendable.

  • The darkness of The Last Stand meant that unlike Cold Stream, the weapons I pick up won’t be in sharp relief for everyone to check out. With this being said, having seen the M7S’ model, it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince readers that the M7/C is equally as well-designed as the M7S. Besides the same report when fired, the modder had also ensured that the submachine guns’ reloading sounds are identical to their Halo counterparts.

  • Somewhere along the way, I decided to swap out my dual pistols for the Tactical Magnum. In any real cooperative matches, such an action would be unthinkable: dual pistols offer firepower and accuracy nearly equivalent to that of an assault rifle, and so, players will hang onto dual pistols for the duration of a match if they can find them. However, since this isn’t a match with other players, I am able to switch things up for the sake of discussion.

  • I replaced the basic pump action shotgun with the M45D Tactical Shotgun. This weapon, I’ve never actually seen in a Halo game for myself before, but it’s supposed to be a straight upgrade to the shotguns seen in earlier Halo titles. I’ve heard that it is unlikely that Halo 5 will ever come to PC: of the Halo games, Halo 5 had suffered greatly from a series of decisions that dramatically altered the campaign, and this in turn led the game to receive poor reception. 343 Industries’ decision to leave Halo 5 without a PC port was likely a consequence of knowing that Halo 5 wouldn’t sell very well if brought to the PC, and instead, it appears 343 chose to focus their efforts into Halo: Infinite.

  • Because shotguns aren’t really my jam, I ended up switching it out for the MA5D with the reflex sight. Informally referred to as the recon assault rifle, this weapon differs only from the M16’s replacement in that it has a reflex sight. I’ve always wondered how Halo weapons would look with contemporary weapon attachments: in Halo, the presence of smart-link scopes means that soldiers don’t really need dedicated attachments to aim with, as a computerised system would do the work for them. Of course, with Halo 5, when the Battle Rifle was given a reflex sight, people took to complaining about it loudly online.

  • In Left 4 Dead 2, since there’s no aiming down sights for weapons without a magnifying optic, the presence of a reflex sight is purely cosmetic, and I chose this rifle purely to differentiate it from the MA5C replacing the M-16. Like the MA5C, the digital ammunition counter doesn’t actually reflect the amount of rounds one has left to them, but in the dark of The Last Stand, the glowing display is rather more visible: here, I make my way through a burning forest with Ui, Azu-nyan and Jun after fighting my way out of a junkyard to reach the safehouse.

  • The Last Stand was so-named because the original mode was about the survivors fending off wave after wave of Infected, at least until ammunition and supplies ran out entirely, leaving them to be overwhelmed. Conversely, in the campaign, players actually can escape successfully after reaching the lighthouse. Here, after exiting the safehouse, I came across a warden’s outpost.

  • Curiosity soon led me to ascend the watchtower, and I picked up another machine gun for my trouble. Whenever holding a special weapon, I’ve always found that having the dual pistols is most effective, giving me enough firepower to deal with the horde. This leaves me free to save the special weapon for the situations that demand it the most. Of the special weapons, the M60 (SAW in my case) is my favourite: possessing the same accuracy as the AK-47 and dealing the same damage as the magnum pistol per shot, the M60’s 150 round capacity eliminates the need to reload.

  • I wasn’t able to do so in The Last Stand, but locating a laser sight and equipping special ammunition dramatically increases the M60’s accuracy and damage further, to the point where it can destroy tanks and witches in the blink of an eye. On my play-through, I wound up saving the SAW for the final confrontation, anticipating that I would need its firepower.

  • This turned out to be a good decision, since a few tanks did crash my party, and with the damage the SAW deals, they were quickly eliminated. Looking around, I’ve noticed that there are also weapon mods for the melee weapons, but because I’d been interested in keeping Yui’s Les Paul Gibson, I chose not to install anything that could conflict with them. The challenge about running a large number of mods at once is that conflicts could be introduced, and it’s up to the players to choose which mod they’d prefer.

  • The mod prioritisation function in Left 4 Dead 2 is actually pretty well-written in this area: if a conflict is detected, the game will automatically load the one that’s higher up on the list, but if this doesn’t produce the desired result, one can always go into the mods menu and deactivate the ones that one isn’t interested in running. There is one more nuance about running the K-On! mod: by default, the game won’t always show the modded names correctly. Online, people suggest moving the mod .vpk files out of the workshop directory into the addons directory, which prevents Steam from automatically fetching newer versions, but also allowing all of the data to be read.

  • I’ve actually found that this doesn’t work: if one is subscribed to a mod, the game will automatically query the server for updates every time it loads. This means that every time I started up Left 4 Dead 2, a fresh copy of the mod .vpk would be downloaded into the workshop directory. Instead, to preserve my settings, one only needs to subscribe to the mod to download it, then move the .vpk out, and unsubscribe. This method is a bit cumbersome, but it does allow me to keep my settings as I like them.

  • Of course, having now completed every campaign and bonus set of levels in Left 4 Dead 2, I’m not too sure if I’ll be returning in the near future: while it could be fun to get those special achievements my friend mentioned and also re-run the game with Halo weapons, there’s quite a bit on my plate, and I’m just glad to have finally gotten the game done. Towards the end of my run, after depleting the SAW’s ammunition, I returned to the trusty BR-55 rifle to round things out.

  • Unlike my Cold Stream run, this time around, I managed to escape with everyone. Having brought back K-On! into my life in a big way, I am inclined to write one more K-On! related post before the month’s out. Once that post is done, I’ll enter May with a clean slate, ready to go through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Remastered and Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War: while perhaps a bit pricier with respect to how much time I get out of them, I’ve always had a blast going through them.

While Left 4 Dead 2 is very much a squad-based game that is best played with friends, mods like K-On! and Halo weapons transform the way the game feels, while simultaneously leaving the central mechanics intact. This seemingly minor set of changes alters enough of the look and feel such that Left 4 Dead 2 appears as a completely different game. Admittedly, the base Left 4 Dead 2 never really appealed to me in terms of its aesthetic, and I’d only picked it up because the sale price was excellent: my friend is very big on Valve games for their ease-of-modding, and I imagined that we’d spend more time messing around as a two-person team once I’d picked the game up. While we did spend a few fun-filled hours blasting zombies, the base game never really excited me to the same extent as I imagined. However, with things like the K-On! mod, Left 4 Dead 2 became considerably more entertaining, to the point where I can say with confidence that it would be worth buying Left 4 Dead 2 solely for the K-On! mod alone. At that point, the variety of mods available in the Workshop means that, were one so inclined, they could completely transform the way Left 4 Dead 2 handles: particularly well-done and extensive mods allow players to replace the existing Infected with Halo‘s Flood, and similarly, the very same techniques for using K-On! characters as character models allow for one to run with Spartans. Such mods even provide a means of changing up the HUD to closely resemble the Mjolnir armour system, customised for Left 4 Dead 2‘s inventory system. There is no ceiling on what is possible with the mods in Left 4 Dead 2, and while Valve currently has no plans for a continuation, the ability to change the experience via mods has meant that Left 4 Dead 2 has proven unexpectedly fun: what had initially been little more than a curiosity became a full-fledged, meaningful experience that was well worth the price of admissions. Thanks to mods, I’ve now finally completed Left 4 Dead 2‘s single-player experience in full, and while my friend and I are unlikely to co-op in Left 4 Dead 2 with any frequency owing to our schedule, knowing that I’ll be able to retain a highly customised setup should we take this up means that I’d be happy to co-op if the opportunity presents itself in the future.