The campaign of “Modern Warfare II,” which runs about seven hours, give or take, picks up with the characters from the 2019 version, a part of something called Task Force 141. Once again, the narrative of a “Call of Duty” takes place across multiple nations, featuring various forms of bad guys waiting to get shot in the head. Where to start with this story? Let’s see, there are missing missiles, which the powers that be think have been stolen by a villain named Hassan Zyani (Ibrahim Renno), who works with a terrorist organization known as Al-Qatala. As your team, including fan favorites Ghost (Samuel Roukin) and Captain John Price (Barry Sloane), tries to track down the missiles, they discover that a Mexican drug cartel is also involved, led by a mysterious villain named El Sin Nombre (the excellent Maria Elisa Carmago). Of course, some shady Americans and a few double crosses will come into play. This is a world with many threats and only you can take them down, soldier.
Of course, the shallow narrative here is just the skeleton on which to hang explosive action sequences, some of which shred realism in a manner that would make any blockbuster filmmaker think twice. The greater point is that games like “Call of Duty” can get away with things even the most extreme blockbusters can’t, and it’s not just because of budget. A sequence like the convoy mission in this game—in which you have to jump from car to car to continue chasing a fleeing cartel, just leaving absolute carnage in your wake—would destroy all suspension of disbelief required to enjoy an action movie. But these games have been pushing for “bigger, faster, more” with each installment. They thrive on chaos.
In fact, the game falters most when it pulls back from that chaotic energy. A few stealth-based missions are clunky in terms of design. People don’t play “Call of Duty” to sneak around looking for the elements needed to create a tool to pry open a locked door (and bringing this mechanic back into the climax of the game is a real mistake). And a mission where you’re sneaking through a cartel house feels half-baked, as if the developers were just buying time before they could blow something up again. I also noticed more glitches than usual including enemies who just kind of stood there and waited for me to shoot them. Still, when the game gets explosive, it’s hard not to get carried away by its impressive momentum.