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A cutscene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

A cutscene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. (Activision)

Campaign

When I think of Call of Duty, I think about the first-person shooter that wants to be known for its realistic experience of military duty on the first floor of combat. This would prompt me to ask my veteran and active-military friends to rate the game in terms of realism.

As a civilian with no combat experience, to write about a first-person shooter to a military audience is nothing short of hubris.

As it stands, I joined Stars and Stripes out of my inspiration from having veteran or active-duty friends.

Bubbles is an active-duty Army soldier who can only confirm that he was present toward the end in Afghanistan.

Julian was a communications reconnaissance specialist in the infantry in the Marine Corps at the beginning of the war on terror.

Ricky was trained as a human resource specialist but the Army placed him on guard duty in Afghanistan.

Ricky – the first friend that I made in Washington D.C. – seemed to be the best person to answer this. He’s a combat veteran who holds a position at the Department of Homeland Security. I told him that I got a copy of Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare 2 to review and I decided to have him play to see what he thought.

I played the game first.

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The story begins with Ghost, one of a series of operators working in a joint task force called 141, ordering a drone strike on a high-ranking Iranian general who is purchasing military equipment from the Russians. A clear reference to Qassim Soleimani’s assassination.

The next mission requires you to pursue the highest ranking general of the Iranian forces, Hassan. At which point, you discover that the Iranians possess an American-made missile and Hassan has escaped. A Gen. Shepherd of the Pentagon then explains that there are more missiles missing. This prompts part of 141 to pursue Hassan in Amsterdam to find out what happened to the other missiles. They discover that Hassan has moved on to Mexico and is working with a cartel called Las Almas.

This prompts Capt. Price of 141 to get a hold of Mexican special forces operative Alejandro Vargas to try to prevent the general’s nefarious plans for the United States. The scene begins with a border patrol vehicle stopping migrants and Mexican special forces looking for the point where Hassan is attempting to cross into the U.S. The Mexican special forces get over the border wall in pursuit of Hassan. CIA officer Laswell, who works closely with Task Force 141, warns Mexican special forces that they lack jurisdiction, which prompts the Mexicans to tell Laswell to keep reaching for the FBI and the local police.

The rest of the campaign is a series of twists and turns that end with a very different final boss level than previous Call of Duty games.

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After playing the game, I was enthralled by the level of immersion that the game provided. The haptic feedback from the PlayStation 5 controller felt like you were pulling the trigger of a gun. You ran as if you were carrying stuff. Your running speed wasn’t insane, and it was in short bursts.

The graphics were above and beyond. The however-many-teraflops of graphics rendering from the PlayStation 5 made the environment so realistic that you wondered why you couldn’t smell dirt, sand, and forest environments.

I enjoyed the story.

I appreciated how this year’s Modern Warfare is inspired by actual historical events.

However, what is interesting to think about is that the assassination of Soleimani was probably the most impactful military moment when the developers were writing Modern Warfare 2. I am sure that Modern Warfare 3 will be inspired by current events, i.e., the war in Ukraine.

Moreover, I thought the intra-agency cohesion was realistic. The 141 working with the CIA, the CIA speaking with DOD, the DOD talking to anybody willing to kill Hassan.

However, I wondered still. How realistic is this game to those who have answered the actual call of duty?

This made me that much more interested in hearing what Ricky had to say.

Ricky is the All-American man. He’s also built like that.

During the war on terror, he served for the Army in Afghanistan and probably carried an M249 like it were a packet of peanut M&Ms.

I would see photos with him and his unit standing in front of base signs and the like.

After leaving the Army, he did a stint at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but he now works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at DHS.

He, in my eyes, is the ideal person to have play this year’s Call of Duty, which had issues of border security, threats of terrorism, and geopolitical issues.

When Ricky comes over, I ask him to rate the game based on the following:

How immersive is it?

How realistic is it?

How possible is it?

I pass Ricky the controller. I let him know this review is in his hands now.

The first sequence has barely begun and immediately Ricky declares, “Sam, I can already tell you this is the most realistic Call of Duty ever.”

As Ricky marks the general as the target, he gleefully remarking on how amazing the graphics are.

The next moment Ricky is piloting the drone to strike the general.

At this point, he is all in on this game.

Now, Ricky is hunting for Hassan and saving the crew of a helicopter that crashed. He is also – now formally declaring – this is the most realistic first-person shooter that he has ever played.

I asked him if it reminded him of his days in Afghanistan. He pauses the game.

It brought him to a memory of when his commander was hit by mortar fire.

It was to be one experience out of many more where he didn’t know whether he lost a friend or not.

His first impulse was to find who did this, and he wasn’t in the mood to take no for an answer.

His unit had to talk him out of it, because war, as Ricky would explain, requires clarity.

You have to be able to move forward without processing the loss of your friends or accepting the possibility of death and yet be paranoid enough to stay alive.

Even if Ricky wanted to kill everybody who fired at his base. He would still face the uphill battle of finding out who did it.

People who tend to shoot mortars never have a target in mind. They’re just aimlessly directing their fire towards the base.

It brought him back to wondering if he was alone in thinking if 2012 was the hardest year for the Army or if it was just him.

Ricky stops his story.

He’s back to shooting insurgents approaching the helicopter that crashed.

As he is shooting, I asked him if he was ever behind enemy lines like that.

He says, “Even worse.”

He brings me back to 2012. President Barack Obama is just re-elected, and his defense goals entailed winning hearts and minds.

At this point in the war, it was about winning over the Afghan and Iraqi people to place faith and support in their transitioning governments.

This entailed allowing foreign military forces on to the base.

Ricky would describe a high-stakes environment where anyone who entered could secretly be an adversary.

“But it’s about hearts and minds, Sam!”

Ricky, in the game, is now crawling towards a house filled with terrorists, but he keeps dying.

After several deaths in, he goes, “How about you Mr. Video game reviewer play this part?”

I laughed and died.

At this point, I wasn’t reloading – I was just respawning. (We had to restart that level, because we couldn’t find ammo for the rifle.)

Now, we’re playing in Amsterdam.

I ask him if pulling the trigger on the controller reminds him of his old gun.

“Sort of,” he says.

Since I felt this was his review as much as it was mine, I ask him who he sees playing this game and who he would recommend it to.

“They’re gonna be veterans like me who pick this up and play it. We can play it without having flashbacks to our times abroad. They’re also gonna be other guys who pick it up and will want to relive the moments of their time abroad.”

He moves on to the second and third types of people who would pick up Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2.

The second are the everyday gamers who will play this for fun.

The third are the guys on base who play it while stationed abroad.

“I would remember these guys well. These are the guys who you would see after a full day outside, wanting to play Call of Duty back on base. It was weird.”

His in-game character is now on a boat where they have shot two people who work for the cartel.

I ask him if whether I can be assured that this game is realistic.

He takes a moment as his in-game character to point out the blood splatter, the mechanics of killing someone in the game, and the overall graphics to tell me that this is the most realistic first-person shooter that he’s ever played.

After a while, Ricky finds himself playing as Alejandro.

We pass by the border patrol catching migrants.

Ricky points to the screen as he sees border patrol pull up, acknowledging that DHS exists in the game.

(This is probably the first game ever that alludes to border patrol.)

The next scene was coming up and I was wondering how Ricky was going to feel about it.

When Ricky realizes he must jump the border, I ask him if he wouldn’t mind Mexican Special Forces if they came over like this.

He had no issue.

Unfortunately, this is part where Ricky stopped playing with me.

Verdict on the campaign

If you ever wanted to be on the first floor of a wide-ranging conflict, this tour of explosions, guns, and grenades will get you there.

The graphics and combined features of Modern Warfare 2 for next generation consoles provides the most realistic combat experience for video games as possible.

The plot, partially built on headlines of yesterday, provides the ultimate what if scenario about missiles in the wild.

I highly recommend this campaign.

Multiplayer

Before I even had the chance to play the multiplayer, I got a call from Julian on Tuesday of the week of the release.

Julian is a barber, but he was a communications reconnaissance specialist for the infantry for the Marine Corps.

Months before this review was even conceived, I was going to ask my veteran and active-duty friends to play a series of video games.

Julian was among the first I contacted.

Julian recently finished the game that I assigned to him: Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare.

While Julian liked the game and finds it realistic, it seems he finds the multiplayer to be the most realistic part of Call of Duty.

This is where he and his fellow veteran friends gather to play.

Here, he and his friends employ the same tactics that they used during Afghanistan.

As Julian is talking, he says, I do this, because “I like to relive the moments.”

However, it is not without its own cost.

Julian describes how the same tactics and maneuvers would cause him to have “flashbacks”. Moments that leave him paralyzed, feeling as if he is reliving the moment itself.

I remember from when I used to live near him that he would not eat for periods of time due to flashbacks.

It made me think of what Ricky said.

I was skeptical that someone would be willing to relive the moments, but Julian was my prime example of the veracity of Ricky’s point of view.

Julian is who I was thinking about when I first turned on my console at midnight on October 28th when the multiplayer was released.

And it was not without merit.

This is the most realistic video game multiplayer that I have ever played.

It has your classic multiplayer games like Team Deathmatch, hardpoint, or domination.

Yet, its latest game modes are to be admired.

There is prisoner rescue, ground war, and ground war invasion.

One game mode in particular stands out, ground war.

Ground war is probably the most realistic multiplayer mode ever concocted for the Call of Duty franchise.

It takes 32 people and pins them against another 32 people.

You can use helicopters, an Abrams tank, and a stryker.

The objective of the game is to hold on to key locations for as long as you can in order to get 250 points.

When playing in this game mode, you feel the expansiveness of a full military force attempting to capture a small city.

It’s what Battlefield 2042 tried to do but Call of Duty did beyond effectively.

Verdict on Multiplayer

While Ricky and I both thought the campaign offered its dose of realistic combat, the multiplayer does that and more.

This is by far the craziest, coolest, and most immersive multiplayer that Call of Duty ever published.

If you are looking for endless amount of hours of gameplay, you will find it here.

I highly recommend the multiplayer.

Verdict on the game

While this game borders on reality, it is still fictional.

As Bubbles, whose military exploits can’t be shared, said, “To be honest, it doesn’t really depict s#&t, just in the scope of the fact that it’s a game.”

He points out that grenades aren’t easy to throw and don’t go as far as you think.

That these games don’t capture that element of time when a grenade lands near you or when an I.E.D. explodes next to you.

Bubbles still notes that the equipment and communication seem pretty accurate.

While Bubbles may have experienced the real Call of Duty as some of you may have, he still says, “Call of Duty is the most realistic military first person shooter” that he’s ever played.

This year’s is no exception.

This is the first next generation console game that is a must-have.

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