In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2022 (opens in new tab), each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
I started playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 like an ex-smoker who's sneaking Marlboros again: just a little pew pew here and there when my Steam friends are offline, just for the nostalgia, not because I really like it. Now, of course, I'm frequently up late fiddling with handgun attachments, trying to feel a little more like John Wick in round after round of Hardpoint or Team Deathmatch. Hooked again, after all these years.
Modern Warfare 2's guns are blazingly fun to wield. It's everything about them, really: the way they handle, the reload animations, those tantalizing CoD hit markers and that headshot "swizzt." The granular customization is the star, though, as Morgan talks about in his review. I've fallen deep into the gun tuning hole, and at this point I'm half playing Call of Duty and half just mucking around in the gun garage, adjusting recoil smoothness and bullet velocity and aim-down-sight speed, sometimes to squeeze a slightly better K/D ratio out of the next round and sometimes just for the joy of theorycrafting.
When I do well, I'm never sure if it's because I'm playing better or if it's because of the loadout tweaks I'm making. Am I just the vessel through which a 3% greater chance to shoot first manifests?
It's really as if I'm playing Call of Duty Player Manager, where I adjust a CoD player's strategy—should they focus on hip accuracy or ADS stability, speed or recoil control?—and then run them through a simulated match to see if it did anything, except of course that I'm playing those matches. You could mistake me for an automaton, though, if you saw me silently gawping at my screen. I go into a Call of Duty trance.
My only hesitation when selecting Modern Warfare 2 as my Personal Pick was vanity: liking CoD isn't very cool. I mean, it's CoD. It's like saying that Burger King is your favorite restaurant. In 2022, the cool kids are into gloomy anti-capitalist detective adventures, ugly pixel-collage roguelites, and FromSoftware apocalypses—games that are discussed in essays with titles starting with the word "on," like, "On Intimacy and Yearning in The Lands Between." If they turn their noses up at Call of Duty, they're not wrong to do so. Reveling in bloody military adventurism isn't a very enlightened thing to do, and despite Call of Duty's various attempts at some kind of moral grayness, there's nothing subversive about its paranoid, macho worldview. Tearing up a Middle Eastern city with M16s and airstrikes just doesn't seem like the sort of popular entertainment you'd find in a society that's evolving toward greater virtue.
It sure is fun, though. To me, Modern Warfare 2 is more fun than Warzone and the new DMZ extraction mode. I don't really like MW2's big Ground War mode, either, which includes vehicles like Battlefield. I'm enjoying a return to the close-to-medium-range combat of classic CoD, in part because I'm doing surprisingly well: I'm often at or near the top of the scoreboard, even when exclusively using a sidearm I'm trying to level up as I seek out a more perfect John Wick experience. I suspect crossplay has a role in that success, which isn't to say console players are bad, just that the total pool of players has increased for the PC version. It used to feel like I was exclusively matched with ex-Quake pros when I played Call of Duty on PC, but not anymore.
So, every other night I sneak away to take a few drags of the old CoD, with its guitar riffs and Double XP tokens. My usual multiplayer gaming group has not jumped at the opportunity to send $70 to join me, and I don't blame them. My Modern Warfare 2 habit will probably subside in not long—only Rocket League is forever—and I haven't played the campaign and don't plan to. Still, it would've felt disingenuous to make any other game my Personal Pick this year. The game I enjoyed most in 2022 was not a 100-hour RPG epic, or any game that might induce thoughts more sophisticated than "damn I gotta clip that triple kill." It was Call of Duty.
I wish Modern Warfare 2 crashed less often (although the crashes do serve as a cue for me to go to bed) and that everything about its dreary war theme were different, but it's an exceptional multiplayer shooter that makes its 2008 predecessor look primitive, something I didn't used to think was possible, since adding more guns and gadgets seemed to me like the problem with CoD's direction ever since the first Modern Warfare. Infinity Ward proved me wrong there, and also proved that my tastes are still just as basic as they were back then. Pew pew.