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Modern Warfare 2 Remastered: a campaign classic transitions beautifully to PS4

Revamped, remastered, remade.

Who knew that a Call of Duty campaign that released in 2009 would hold up so well today? Remastered, remade, revamped - developer Beenox delivers an excellent current-gen rendition of one of the all-time great Call of Duty campaigns. With this new rendition of Modern Warfare 2, we get vastly improved modelling and art along with remade cutscenes with new motion capture. On top of a revamped post-process pipeline and HDR support, it's an experience that still holds up today.

It's not quite the complete package, though. Unlike the original Modern Warfare Remastered, this is just the single-player campaign - multiplayer is completely excised from the product. It was a huge part of the game that will be sorely missed; faster, more chaotic than the original - with heartbeat sensors, more elaborate perks and killstreak rewards that escalated to tactical nukes. Even though we do have the 2019 reboot adding classic maps from older games to the rotation, it would have been nice to have.

On top of that, despite being a multi-platform development, it is a timed exclusive for PlayStation 4 owners - in the here and now, at least. Xbox One and PC versions will arrive further on down the line, and I'm certainly intrigued to see how Beenox tackles the Microsoft platform: the original Modern Warfare Remastered never received full-blooded support for Xbox One X.

A video breakdown of the excellent Modern Warfare 2 Remastered on PS4 and PS4 Pro, stacked up against the Xbox 360 original.

The scope of what we have to look at is somewhat reduced, but once you sit down to play, you're reminded of what made the original excel in 2009. Modern Warfare 2 was last-gen Infinity Ward at the height of its power, firing on all cylinders. Technologically, it took the existing engine and upgraded it with improved animation systems, larger map scale and increased detail on almost every level. Beenox's work on the remaster creates a similar sense of spectacle for a 2020 audience, and it delivers this despite essentially using the same core technology as the four-year-old Modern Warfare Remastered.

Xbox 360's original 1024x600 resolution (with 2x MSAA) is boosted to full 1080p on PlayStation 4 - a 3.4x increase to pixel count alone, even before we factor in the far more detailed art. Anti-aliasing is seemingly handled in post this time, and while it's not clear which technique is used, this generation has seen the COD engines typically lean on a custom-spun variant of SMAA. PS4 Pro gets special treatment, with a 2880x1620 framebuffer - match for the first Modern Warfare Remastered. In addition to the extra resolution, shadow quality also improves as does texture filtering (though this may be a simple factor of the increased sampling from the higher resolution).

The upgrades next to Xbox 360 are obviously more striking. It's hard to know where to begin when every facet of its visual design is enhanced by Beenox in some way - sometimes to the point where entire areas feel like they've been completely revamped. On top of this, in-engine cut-scenes are hugely improved. Beenox has taken the spirit and the action of the originals, but respun them to favour the huge bump in fidelity.

PlayStation 4 Pro
Xbox 360
Every aspect of Modern Warfare 2's visuals have been touched upon. Geometry for flower pots, chairs, and cars are reworked, as is the additional tiling to the ground - plus note a new volumetric light effect in the distance.
PlayStation 4
Xbox 360
Motion blur is now added to select gameplay sequences, such as this skiing set piece.
PlayStation 4
Xbox 360
Base PS4 features a boosted pixel count to 1920x1080, and compared to the original Xbox 360 image rendered at 1024x600 offers a huge leap in clarity.
PlayStation 4 Pro
Xbox 360
PS4 Pro takes the image a level higher with a 2880x1620 native resolution. Also note in this shot global shadows are adjusted from their original positions.
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4 Pro
Between the two PS4 consoles there's a small handful of differences: texture filtering is improved on PS4 Pro, while shadows also benefit from sharper outlines (see bottom left).
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4 Pro
Level of detail for geometry is matching between PS4 and PS4 Pro - with randomised debris the only major difference.

Ultimately, the comparison shots and video on this page should emphasise the level of improvement - and the great news is that we get a boost to performance too. Back in the day, Infinity Ward did a good job of hitting 60 frames per second on Xbox 360, but the scale of campaign's ambition could see the developer perhaps pushing too hard. And where Xbox 360 was hit, PlayStation 3 was impacted harder. Concentrated firefights with intense pyrotechnics were problematic, while big sprawling elements like the mall or the mountain-top bunkers in Kazakhstan, pushes the Xbox 360 frame-rate into the 40-50fps region, which never felt too great. PlayStation 4 isn't quite locked, but it's not far off it.

The same extends to PS4 Pro. Despite the bump to 1620p, the game holds to the same level. Actually to nitpick, I recorded a few drops while scoped to the high 50s, but it's rare to see much more under this. The experience as a whole holds up remarkably well on both systems, and it's nice to see that the visual improvements to the experience are bolstered by performance that sits much closer to the COD ideal.

It's a success overall and one that I recommend checking out. Modern Warfare 2 was a huge blockbuster in its day and while the times and technologies have moved on, the remastering work pays off. MWR2 looks the part, marrying up beautifully with the robust game design delivered by Infinity Ward just over a decade ago. It's a release that demonstrates that the team at Beenox have the skill to polish up the COD classics in a way that still works well today - so where do we go next? Modern Warfare 2019 has done a great job in revitalising classic maps for the latest and greatest COD engine, but I'd still love to see Activision restore and revamp MW2's multiplayer component. Beyond that, surely Modern Warfare 3 Remastered is a done deal?

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About the Author
Thomas Morgan avatar

Thomas Morgan

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

32-bit era nostalgic and gadget enthusiast Tom has been writing for Eurogamer and Digital Foundry since 2011. His favourite games include Gitaroo Man, F-Zero GX and StarCraft 2.

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