Modern Warfare 2's campaign is a masterpiece, in the worst way

Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is a masterpiece, in the worst possible way

I feel like it’s on the mind of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 to try and be as unbiased and schematic as possible, so to start with let me point out that there are 17 missions in this campaign. Six of them are good. Five of them are what we might describe in conversation as “OK”. Three of them are bad. And the other three are some of the worst Call of Duty creators, whether Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games or others, have ever produced.

According to this forensic assessment, Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is generally verifiably OK, in the sense of being neutral. If it were a set of Bluetooth headphones or an 18-button mouse, and I was advising you how to invest in a broadly competent new electronic device, Modern Warfare 2 would be a “buy” recommendation. I can hereby confirm that the product you receive from Activision is worth trading in your $70 – or $23, if you roughly divide Modern Warfare into thirds and take the campaign purely as its own product.

Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

But write in the spirit of modern warfare 2 – as in, schematically, passionless, edgeless – also means writing about it in a way that throughout many of its aforementioned 17 missions (at a rate of around $4.11 per mission, at new excluding multiplayer) must be cheated or cheated; playing ball with developer Infinity Ward, who repeatedly tries to convince you that his game is bland and halfhearted and doesn’t try to do anything provocative. It swears.

Its authors deploy a technique by which each playable character, protagonist or playmate praises, praises and encourages each other repeatedly:

“How can we get it back? »

“By breaking and entering.”

“And that’s why I love the Ghost.”

Or, in the same cutscene, about 60 seconds later:

“While Rudy finds Al, I’ll use the cameras to help Ghost plant charges in key areas.”

“Hijacking and sabotage. Well done, Johnny.

“I learned from the best, LT”

“Alejandro is the toughest guy in the regiment,” Rudy said during the rescue mission. And then Price appears and blows up a helicopter so that Rudy, Alejandro, Ghost and Soap can escape. “Who is it?” asks Alexander. “A friend,” Ghost replies. “I already love him,” says Alejandro. Combined with that tagline from all the trailers – “The ultimate weapon is the team” – it’s like all the characters in modern warfare 2 belong to a sort of modern man’s emotional support group, where they swear at the start of every meeting to always boost each other’s confidence and offer positive affirmations. It sounds silly and easy and just like bad writing, but I think it’s actually a very clever technique on Infinity Ward’s part: the shining light of the protagonists’ teamwork and camaraderie becomes that genre beard or smoke grenade to hide, or at least tone down and make acceptable and seemingly innocent anything the game does that might be considered controversial or distasteful.

Soldiers from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) sitting in a helicopter, bathed in red light

Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

See, modern warfare 2 will do all this sporty and nice teamwork, but then it’ll go the other way, and seem to be, so to speak, stepping on those pedals labeled Meaning and Theme and Imagery, and all of a sudden you walk through the Trump wall on the US-Mexico border, or play the role of the real missile that kills Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. But then there’s a reversal or refraction, where whatever you think you’ve experienced that may have been meaningful or thematic or related to any type of real-world imagery is transfigured and undermined. It’s kind of genius.

The general, although he is Iranian and has white hair, a white beard and died by missile, is not Soleimani but “Ghorbrani”. The mission where you just bombed a Mexican town, which each of the characters notices was full of civilians, is followed by a mission where if you accidentally shoot a civilian, you are disciplined by the game and forced to restart. The greatest example of this kind of narrative sleight of hand, this fantastic trick to make you think you saw something and then insist that you didn’t, somehow. another without actually removing the thing you thought you saw, comes in that aforementioned border mission. As Mexican special forces, you walk through the United States where people are yelling at you to get out of their yard, and you’re finally apprehended by the American police, who then realize who you are and let you go, saying, “This is hard to differentiate yourself from the cartel. And for a moment it’s like modern warfare 2 says something – that would take a long time to articulate, but something – about race and prejudice. But then you walk into another house, and there’s people screaming and yelling at you to get out of their yard, and they’re Hispanic.

I mean, do you see the genius in that? Do you see how modern warfare 2 says something and then doesn’t say it, but in a way you might not notice, but also leaves the writers, developers and Call of Duty entity a loophole from any accusations of intent or of subjective belief? In a postmodern world of alternate facts and the end of the meta-narrative, where it seems there are no answers, truth or anything you can fully believe or trust, and everything changes everything time i think modern warfare 2 is a kind of masterpiece. And now I imagine them using this quote, “Modern Warfare 2 is kind of a masterpiece,” on a poster or something later, and whatever surrounds it won’t matter.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 was released on October 28 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game has been reviewed on PS4. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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