Wednesday, November 30, 2022

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," Has Shock but Lacks Much of Any Awe

Note: This review contains spoilers for the plot, or what there is of it.

First off, there was a, "Modern Warfare 2," game in 2009 but I'm talking about the 2022 version. If you are confused that is perfectly okay. For those of you familiar with the, "Call of Duty," franchise, it has focused on conflicts from World War II, to possible future wars, to the modern-ish day. Some of the games are a bit insightful and at times have an interesting message to impart about war and its futility--nothing close to, "Spec Ops: The Line," but something. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II," doesn't have much of a message besides, "America, Love it (and Some Allies) or Go to Hell in Cool Fiery Explosions."

This is a game where a bunch of bad buzzwords have teamed up to put the United States in danger via a Mad-Libs-styled team of Iranian terrorists, Mexican cartels, and Russia (depending on the era of the Call of Duty games Russia is a friend or huge foe). To combat this mix of dangers it falls upon America along with some other friendly troops (a Brit named Ghost, a Scottish fellow named Soap, and some, "Good," Mexicans who aren't corrupt among other random folks). The result is a big and dumb jingoistic action movie where rules keep the good guys from getting the job done and sometimes they have to violate international laws in the name of freedom. It's a cynical paradox but one that is never actually thought about in any deep manner. This is a game that views the World through a prism of good, evil, and little else. Ed Smith of Polygon called it, "A masterpiece in the worst way." That said, even something vapid and visceral can be admittedly mindless fun.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," is a series of moments and vague political gesturing in search of a plot. There are people who hate our freedom and want to destroy us, we have to go after them before they can hurt us, morals be damned. Should our efforts to stop bad guys result in cool night-vision shoot-outs, hopping truck to truck on a dusty highway, or raiding an oil tanker in a blinding rainstorm (it looks great on the PS5), then all the better. Will there be the usual betrayal halfway through where someone who you thought was on your side turns out to be evil? Well yeah, this is a, "Modern Warfare," game! 

This is where I give the one, count it one, piece of credit that is due to, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2." Another villain in the game turns out to be a private military company/PMC. Anyone who is familiar with these entities knows they are basically mercenaries who can be hired by any country and follow none of its laws/rules of engagement. At first, you work with them but then they turn out to be jerks, and the fact that this game takes any stand at all beyond the usual, "Pro-war, pro-intervention," one and says that maybe PMCs are bad is at least...well, not admirable, but something, maybe?

For real though, if you want to read up on some history when it comes to America and PMCs a whole lot of shady stuff can be found (just Google, "Blackwater," for starters). At least this game takes a stand of sorts that hiring people to fight your wars could be a bad idea (I mean, the, "Metal Gear Solid," series touched on this years ago, of course, but at least this game is doing the bare minimum in one element). I agree with Claire Jackson of Kotaku in observing that once Shadow Company is revealed as a villainous entity the game gets a bit more interesting story-wise, although I was entertained by some of the bombastic parts in the earlier segments--you hang upside down from a Helicopter at one point by a rope shooting at terrorists, it's zany.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," is generally as deep as a muddy puddle. Just like a puddle, it provides an ugly reflection of one way to view the World. Puddles can be fun to jump around in, however, splashing about and having a good time. Still, you eventually need to go back inside and wash all the grime off. I had fun with this game, but I'm ready to rinse the cynicism and its simplistic messaging of, "Us-versus-them," away. I imagine there are real people who view international politics with a rhetoric as reductive and spiteful as this game, but I honestly hope they are kept as far away from any real power as possible.

4 out of 5 stars in regards to fun.

1 out of 5 stars when it comes to having an actual message.

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