The surprise remaster of the second Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game lands with a disappointing thud.

It’s not because it fails as a remaster. On the contrary, developer Beenox did a bang-up job bringing the bombastic campaign back to life in glorious 4K resolution. It goes above and beyond the, ahem, call of duty here. But it’s just the campaign, and only on PlayStation 4 at least until next month.

That timed exclusivity arrangement is likely part of an old agreement with Sony and publisher Activision. But even without the pandemic and antsy gamers looking to fill their free time, it’s still a curious waiting gap. What’s the value in keeping other fans waiting for a month? There’s no point in rushing out to buy a PlayStation 4 just to play a remastered 2009 game a mere month early.

And besides, it’s just the campaign. Infinity Ward stated that rather than release multiplayer modes for the remaster, it’s going to revisit some maps and modes via its more current, 2019 Modern Warfare title. That’s the smart call. The latest Modern Warfare game is the best the series has been in years, and adding Modern Warfare 2′s popular classic maps would only improve things.

But that still leaves us with this short, prettier version of the campaign for $20, and it leaves me wondering why people should spend the money. (The only way to justify it is the inclusion of a bundle with the “classic" Ghost skin that you can use in Modern Warfare and/or Warzone, as most character skin bundles run around that price point.)

The redux is definitely prettier. Not only are texture assets improved to look sharper, the game’s HDR implementation makes each scene pop, especially since much of the game involves the Russian invasion of American soil, with many familiar sights.

The invasion made for some ridiculous and fun encounters in the original, but now the firefights in small-town suburbia, ducking behind the counter of a greasy spoon diner, all crackle with high-definition color.

The campaign was fun, but the plot remains the same and it likewise remains well beyond the border of absurdity. Call of Duty games are famous for Bruckheimer-esque degrees of over-the-top implausibility, and that storytelling impulse really started with Modern Warfare 2. Next to last year’s Modern Warfare reboot, the 2009 game is like the final act of a Marvel movie stretched across several hours. People perform impossible physical feats, escape explosions by a hair, and always are armed with the right quip at the right time. It’s a comic book military fantasy. I said as much when I reviewed the game back in 2009, where I called it “hopelessly mechanical.” It’s a first-person thrill ride, where you have little control over what actually happens.

All of that makes the absence of multiplayer all the more jarring. Modern Warfare 2′s multiplayer was unbalanced and unrealistic when it was released, but game balance mattered little to many back then when the matches were so wild and fast.

It’s not just the MIA head-to-head mode that’s jarring, it’s also the missing cooperative mode, Spec Ops. Spec Ops provided additional high-level player-versus-enemy challenges that played out like campaign missions, each with increased enemy pressure, all while coordinating with a friend. Most of the assets in that mode were ripped straight from the single player campaign. Yes, Spec Ops is a part of the 2019 Modern Warfare release, but it adding it to the Modern Warfare 2 remaster would have at least provide a little more nostalgia — and value.

Yes, this is only $20, but it’s only for a beautifully-rendered 2009 remaster of a five-hour campaign. In the end, Modern Warfare 2 succeeds as a remaster, but it’s hard to recommend as a viable product. It’s an easy recommend for anyone who never played it before, as it’s still one of the better campaigns in the series.

For people who have a strong nostalgic tie to it, the improved visuals might be well worth the price of entry. But for the rest of us, it’s just another reminder why this version of gaming warfare is best left in the past.

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