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Ghost from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

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Modern Warfare 2’s campaign looks to reprise Call of Duty’s greatest hits

Modern Warfare 2 takes players form car chases to stealth missions to skyscrapers

Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Infinity Ward is trying to bring Call of Duty’s brand of blockbuster action back to Modern Warfare. The studio unveiled Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s story campaign on Wednesday with a trailer that introduces the game’s main squad of operators and its primary threat. But the real draw is a move away from the self-serious tone of 2019’s Modern Warfare and a return to the huge shootouts, skyscraper infiltrations, and stealth raids that Call of Duty’s campaigns are famous for.

While the trailer didn’t shed much light on the game’s actual missions, Polygon had a chance to check out an in-person preview of the campaign that included several levels. According to Infinity Ward, the studio approached Modern Warfare 2’s campaign by trying to put a fresh spin on the Call of Duty franchise’s best levels and level types while adding new archetypes as well.

A soldier in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) standing in front of a burning car Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022)’s campaign.]

The newest Call of Duty entry is a sequel to Infinity Ward’s previous game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. It follows Task Force 141, an elite international team of operatives that includes returning characters Captain John Price, Sergeant Kyle “Gaz” Garrick, Lieutenant Simon “Ghost” Riley, and Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish; a few new faces, like Colonel Alejandro Vargas and Corporal Phillip Graves; and CIA Station Chief Kate Laswell, who is going from an overwatch role to a more active role in combat this time around.

The story takes place just after the U.S. military kills a hostile foreign general, leading to a threat of retaliation that, naturally, only Task Force 141 can stop. Their mission to ensure global security takes the team all over the world, which gives Infinity Ward a variety of settings for all manner of classic Call of Duty-style missions.

A soldier with night vision goggles in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

The first mission we saw during the studio’s presentation was set at nighttime, which should feel familiar if you’ve ever put on a pair of night vision goggles in a Call of Duty game. Though this mission takes place on a larger scale than previous night missions have, it’s still all about sneaking through the darkness, taking out unsuspecting enemies, then laying on the trigger when all hell breaks loose.

Another mission we were shown takes place on the roof of a Chicago skyscraper that players have to infiltrate. Soldiers descend the side of the building on ropes, swapping between different stances to gain the tactical edge on their enemy. Infinity Ward said this mission was Modern Warfare 2’s take on a traditional Call of Duty rappel level, like Ghosts’ “Federation Day” mission. Similarly, the Infinity Ward team also mentioned, but did not show, a stealth level with Price that involves long-range sniping, another series staple.

A slightly newer type of mission takes place in Amsterdam in a quiet marina where the player has to stealthily swim around, taking out guards one by one, armed with only a knife. This swimming feature appears more detailed and advanced than any previous Call of Duty game, featuring the ability to dive, obscuring vision for both the player and enemies, and affecting the way bullets travel. In fact, Modern Warfare 2 game director Jack O’Hara said he hopes that one day people will think of water missions as another type of classic Call of Duty level.

A boat full of soldiers in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

Part of the reason for his optimism is that water was a huge focus of Infinity Ward’s for Modern Warfare 2. According to the studio, it took its time making sure that waves behaved correctly, damage was properly calibrated, and swimming and moving in water felt fun rather than frustrating. Thanks to this extra care, swimming and larger bodies of water like rivers will be part of all of Modern Warfare 2’s modes, including multiplayer and the Warzone successor, whenever that’s released.

Another newly improved mechanic in Modern Warfare 2 is driving, which starred in another level we were shown. In this mission, players embark on a high-speed chase that quickly turns into a shootout. To help even the odds against the army of enemies, players can use new maneuvering features, like the ability to quickly swap seats, and even stand on the roof of their car to hop into a fresh vehicle.

A soldier standing in a helicopter in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2022) Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

If some of these levels sound a little sillier or more over-the-top than what appeared in 2019’s Modern Warfare; that’s definitely on purpose. According to Infinity Ward, the studio wanted the sequel to be more “entertaining” than the previous game, focusing on maintaining realism but mixing in more exciting moments, rather than staying tied to the grittiness of Modern Warfare.

With all these levels already teased, it seems that Modern Warfare 2 will have quite a bit of variety in its single-player campaign. Plus, with several months left before the game’s Oct. 28 release date, it’s possible that Infinity Ward has a few more surprises left to reveal.