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Video Game / Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

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This page assumes you have played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), all spoilers for that game's singleplayer campaign and Spec Ops missions will be left unmarked. You Have Been Warned!
"Mexican Special Forces, 141, they are your brothers now!

"The ultimate weapon is team."

The one where the Mexican cartel allies with terrorists.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is the nineteenth overall game in the Call of Duty series, and the sequel to the Continuity Reboot of Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare sub-series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019).The game was released on October 28, 2022 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC, marking the series' triumphant return to Steam after the previous four titles released exclusively through Blizzard's service.

Three years have passed since the special forces unit that would become Task Force 141 eliminated Russian despot Roman Barkov, and put an end to his occupation of Urzikstan. As the years passed, Al-Qatala has turned into a formidable army, supplied with advanced military hardware by Iran. After a mission to assassinate Iranian General Ghorbrani, the search for his second-in-command, Quds Force Major Hassan Zyani, leads to the discovery that Iran - and now Al-Qatala - have long-range missiles.

American long-range missiles.

Now, Task Force 141, with help from the Mexican special forces unit "Los Vaqueros" and the Private Military Contractors of Shadow Company, must find and stop these missiles before Al-Qatala can fire them and kill thousands of people. Along the way, they may find out that not everyone has a vested interest in finding out where they got the missiles from...

In addition to the returning multiplayer and Special Ops modes from the previous game, MWII marks the introduction of Warzone 2.0, a reboot of the original Warzone acting as a separate free-to-play game. It features the return of the previous Battle Royale modes along with the addition of DMZ, an extraction-type Looter Shooter mode where players explore maps, taking on contracts while fending off not only other players but also AI enemies, including bosses with unique gear for those who manage to take them down.

A follow-up, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, was announced in August 2023 for release on November 10th of that year, developed primarily by Sledgehammer Games.

Not to be confused with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 from 2009.

"We need tropes." "I can get us tropes.":

  • Actionized Sequel: The campaign returns to the series formula of blockbuster setpieces with higher stakes and larger conspiracies compared to the slower, more introspective tone of the 2019 game, including a lengthy car chase, a gunship mission, and fighting against a tank on foot.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Subverted, Shadow Company mercenaries fight alongside TF141 in multiple missions in Mexico, contrasting to Modern Warfare 2, where they showed up specifically to murder TF141 members. The quote above is spoken by Graves himself, telling his men to treat Task Force 141 and Los Vaqueros like true comrades when providing support for them. They later turn on their allies when Shepherd orders them to cover up their botched job, which as it turns out was the starting point for the crisis TF141 is dealing with in the first place.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
    • Contrary to Soap and Ghost's dynamic in the original Modern Warfare 2 where Soap was the higher-ranking soldier and Ghost was his Number 2, Soap is instead still a Sergeant here while Ghost is explicitly and remains a Lieutenant like in the other game, making Ghost one of Soap's CO's in the 141.
    • Likewise, the outcomes of Shepherd's betrayal can't be more different this time. Instead of Shepherd buried with honor in Arlington while Task Force 141 goes on the run, it's now Shepherd who's forced to go off the grid after his treachery was brought to light by Laswell, while Task Force 141 has their reputation as a counter-terrorism unit remain intact. And Shepherd doesn't seem to even have any idea Makarov even exists.
    • While Soap here was still personally chosen to be in Task Force 141 by Price, they're not the Bash Brothers that they were in the original Modern Warfare trilogy even if they do have history together; Soap is mostly paired up with Ghost in missions and Gaz is still Price's right-hand man not unlike the first game of original trilogy. However, the final level still pairs them together, setting the stage for a future dynamic between them.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Despite his protests otherwise Shepherd here is arguably worse than his original counterpart who, while a General Ripper, sincerely believed that his actions were necessary to create a stronger America in light of what happened in the Middle East; here, he's simply trying to cover up an illegal dealing he fucked up and let get captured by any means necessary and throws his allies under the bus as to Leave No Witnesses to his crimes. Fortunately, things go very, very downhill for him quickly unlike his original counterpart, so his reputation gets damaged in the process.
  • Adaptational Wimp: General Shepherd here is no longer the Four-Star Badass that could take on both Soap and Price in hand-to-hand combat; here he's a pencil-pushing general working in Washington trying to cover up his dirty work and is ultimately The Unfought as he flees and goes off-the-grid once he's found out. He's also not the secret mastermind behind a plot to start World War 3 and usher in a new age of American global dominance, just a corrupt general trying to cover up some past dirty deals of his that went badly.
  • A Father to His Men:
    • Colonel Alejandro Vargas deeply cares for those under his command, going as far as to run into a burning house in order to save the life of one of them. Vargas' rage at Shadow Company stems from them not just backstabbing him but also imprisoning his men, and thus he's all too eager to get back at the PMC after Ghost, Soap, and Rodolfo break him and the other Vaqueros out of prison.
    • Philip Graves himself is one even after he reveals his true colors to Task Force 141 and the Mexican Special Forces, as he has a repertoire and care for the men under his command in Shadow Company, and frequently cares about them enough that one of the main reasons he goes on such a massive manhunt during the crackdown of Las Almas on Soap and Ghost is because they killed some of his men during their escape. And, when push comes to shove, he chooses to go down swinging with his men rather than run away, getting into a tank and fighting personally with them until he finally goes down himself.
  • Age Lift: Not to the same extent as Price but still present. In the original Modern Warfare 2, Soap was a seasoned veteran, being a Captain and all and leading his own team in the 141. Here, he's notably younger and still a Sergeant. Other characters - like Alejandro and Ghost - call him a "kid" at certain points.
  • A.K.A.-47: Played straighter than usual for the franchise, to the point where even iconic weapons, ones whose names were unmodified in previous games, or are in the public domain aren't safe; it would be shorter to list all the guns that weren't renamed. At least in the week 1 multiplayer beta, the only weapons that have a somewhat correct name are the classic M4 and M16. Some even ended up with different fake names between the multiplayer beta and release, like the SIG P220 being the "Bruen .45" in the beta and then changing to the "P890". The fake manufacturers are about half related to their real manufacturers (e.g. Tactique Defense is analogous to Fabrique Nationale as they're attributed to both the SCAR and P90, XRK is essentially Glock) and half not related to their constituent weapons (e.g. Bruen gets the SIG guns but also the Steyr AUG and AAC/Q Honey Badger, Bryson is attributed both Mossberg shotguns and Remington rifles).
    • H&K is bland-named to "Lachmann & Meer", with the G3 battle rifle and all its derivatives consolidated under a singular platform of the same name. With the exception of the HK21 as the "RAPP H", each receiver in the platform has a naming scheme that is usually prefixed with Lachmann and suffixed with either the receiver's caliber or purpose:
      • G3 -> Lachmann-762
      • HK33 -> Lachmann-556
      • MP5 -> Lachmann Sub
      • MP5SD -> Lachmann Shroud
      • PSG1 -> LM-S
      • The MP7 was initially included in the scheme as well during the multiplayer beta, despite not being based on the G3 platform (though still being an H&K weapon), named the "LMP". Its name in the final game is instead the "VEL 46", and is the current sole weapon in the "LMP" platform.
    • AK platform weapons in the assault rifle class are prefixed "Kastov" and suffixed with either caliber or the latter part of the actual weapon's model name. The two AK-derived submachine guns, the Bizon and Vityaz-SN, have a different naming scheme, while the RPK is still the RPKnote . Interestingly enough, the game still lists these guns as part of the "AK platform" in the description for the Vityas-SN.
      • AK-103 -> Kastov-762
      • AK-105 -> Kastov-545
      • AKS-74UN -> Kastov-74u
  • All-or-Nothing Reloads: Averted. Reload animations are split into segments. For example, start to reload, then switch to another weapon after detaching the magazine. When you switch back, the animation will continue with you attaching a fresh mag.
  • America Saves the Day: Inverted. Unlike all prior Modern Warfare games, you don't play as a US military member for roughly half the campaign. Instead, the two primary playable characters and their squadmates are British SAS operators in Task Force 141, with help from Mexican Special Forces and token American goodie Laswell. Considering the mess they are cleaning up is Iranian terrorists attacking the US thanks to Shepherd screwing up his illegal dealings and ordering the assassination of their General, this is a scenario where foreigners literally save the US from the consequences of their leaders' actions.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: For a majority of the story, players control either Gaz or Soap, two British members of Task Force 141. However, players are twice put into the role of Ghost for very brief sections of the campaign, and one entire mission is spent controlling Colonel Vargas' right-hand man Rodolfo (who almost only speaks Spanish). You are also given control of a TV operator of an AC-130 for this game's gunship levels, and there is even a brief mission where the player controls a Shadow Company operator.
    • The latter case is even carried over to the multiplayer, where activating the Chopper Gunner and AC-130 will now switch you over to the dedicated gunship pilot/gunner crew in a short cutscene. There's even new cutscenes for when the killstreaks are shot down, allowing you to experience the horrifying deaths of the aviators firsthand. Strangely, the chopper pilot is always shown in the third-person, while the AC-130 operator's perspective is the standard first-person viewpoint.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the highway chase during "Violence and Timing," the enemy drivers will not shoot at you, aggressively try to sideswipe you, or otherwise try to avoid being boarded when you switch vehicles.
  • Arc Words: "It happened on my watch." See Central Theme entry below.
  • Armor Is Useless: Zigzagged. Throughout the campaign, various characters, both minor and major, like Ghost, take hits and survive because of their ballistic plates, which is referenced by others. This extends to gameplay, where some enemies wear armor that allows them to survive a burst of gunfire. However, sufficient amounts of firepower and explosives will crack their armor, their helmets are less durable than their plates, and it doesn't fully cover them, meaning you can bypass their armor with a knife/takedown, assuming you can get close enough without getting shot. It also doesn't make them fireproof, so a direct hit with a Molotov cocktail will kill them instantly.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: Some weapons, including an entire weapon class, have different per-shot damage values depending on what fire mode is currently selected, as discovered via in-game testing by players.
    • Most assault rifles have a slight boost to per-shot damage when going from full-auto to semi-auto. Two weapons in this class (M13B and STB-556) are unaffected, while the M16, as of Season 1, instead has a damage penalty when switching from burst to semi-auto, as the weapon had its per shot damage when hitting the head or the mid-section and below slightly reduced when the weapon is in semi-auto. Notably, this change prevents the weapon from killing with 2 headshots within its effective range (pre-patch, it could do so in either fire mode, but post-patch, this is only possible in 3-round burst mode).
    • Battle rifles also do more damage while in semi-auto than they do in full-auto. Notably, the per-shot damage difference between the 2 fire modes is sometimes large enough that firing on semi-auto generally results in targets going down in one shot sooner than on full auto, with two weapons in this class (Lachmann-762 and FTAC Recon) capable of a one-shot kill to the head within effective range in semi-auto.
    • The Glock 17 and 18, featured as the X12 and X13 Auto respectively, have different per-shot damage values to differentiate the two pistols from one another, with the former killing in 3 - 4 shots (with headshots at any range reducing this number by 1), and the latter in 4 - 8 shots (with no headshot bonus). Likewise, the full-auto Magna variant of the Desert Eagle, added in Season 3 as mid-season content, also has reduced per-shot damage values.
  • Artistic License – History: Alejandro repeats the Mexican folk myth that the word "gringo" comes from the Mexican-American War, in which Mexican civilians would yell "green go home" to the supposedly green-coated American troops. However, the US Army wore blue uniforms at the time.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • The "ballistic missiles" in the story are actually cruise missiles (i.e., they fly on guided or directed paths, at constant speed, towards a precise target).
    • Shepherd's uniform is the Class A version of the Army Service Uniform, which was phased out of the US Army in 2015.
    • As a lieutenant colonel and sergeant major, Alejandro and Rodolfo wouldn't be directly leading small-team missions (they'd more realistically be serving as mission control like Baseplate and Overlord in the original trilogy). This is partly justified later in the game, however, when Shadow Company seizes Los Vaqueros's base.
    • MARSOC is deployed alongside Task Force 141 in Chicago to hunt down Hassan in the final mission. Under the Posse Comitatus Act, MARSOC and other US military personnel are not legally allowed to operate on US domestic territory. However, there is a justified exception to this rule in that U.S. troops can operate when law enforcement is considered inadequate to handle nuclear and radiological threats, and it's not known if Hassan's ballistic missile contained such materials.
    • The FTac Recon firearm is chambered in .458 SOCOM. A battle rifle uses fully powered cartridges, and .458 SOCOM is not a fully powered cartridge, so to most it would probably make no sense why the FTac is even in the "Battle Rifle" category to begin with. It's not technically incorrect, however - though firearms in intermediate cartridges took over for general use by being more controllable, much lighter, and with acceptable levels of penetration compared to battle rifles, the latter are still used in cases where a weapon in an intermediate cartridge is lacking in the necessary range or power, and in that case .458 SOCOM fulfills the same basic role as a battle rifle, that being a bullet designed to give the M16 platform greater power.
    • The Expedite-12 shotgun, based on Benelli's M4 Super 90/M1014 semi-automatic shotgun, has weapon parts that can turn it into the FABARM STF 12 pump-action shotgun. Neither the M4 Super 90 nor the STF 12 have interchangeability with each other, and the Expedite still fires in semi-automatic after being converted into the STF 12.
    • The Cronen Squall, a battle rifle added in Season Three is based on the LoneStar Future Weapons RM277, though it is chambered by default in "6.8 Wrath", an in-universe version of 6.8x51mm SIG FURY, rather than its proprietary 6.8 TVCM polymer-cased round. The RM277 fires in either open or closed bolt depending on selected fire mode (Full-auto = Open, Semi-auto = Closed), similar to how the FG42 rifle worked. However the Squall is depicted as always firing in open-bolt in both full-auto and semi-auto settings, and its various reload and inspect animations can't seem to make up their mind as to whether the gun is operating in open or closed bolt mode.
    • Even more egregious is the MX Guardian, a shotgun added mid-Season Four that is based on the IWI Tavor TS12. The TS12 is a semi-automatic shotgun that feeds from a set of three tubular magazines. Each tube must be manually reloaded and the tube cluster must be manually rotated to line up the next tube when all the rounds from the current tube have been fired. The Guardian is a fully-automatic shotgun that feeds from a singular removable helical magazine, which is impossible given the magazine is triangular-shaped.
    • All the shotguns can use Dragon's Breath rounds but for the automatic shotguns (the Expedite-12, KV Broadside, and MX Guardian) this could be problematic in real life, as specialty shells like Dragon's Breath do not usually possess enough explosive energy to properly work the bolt of an auto-shotgun and would need to be manually cycled (essentially reducing the weapon to pump action like the Bryson 800 and 890).
    • The Lockwood Mk2 (Marlin Model 336) can accept any type of ammunition the other marksman weapons can and this includes AP rounds, which are spitzer-tipped. In a weapon like this that uses a tube mag it's not ideal to load such rounds because the sharp point on such rounds can trigger the primer on the next round in the tube if it's jostled (which, being something that generates recoil, isn't unrealistic). If this happens the bullet in front will fire off, which then fires into the next bullet's primer and so on, blowing apart the entire tube.
  • Bad Boss: Diego, the Cartel's top enforcer, violently beats up one of his underlings after catching him taking up drugs without permission from El Sin Nombre. Later on, Valeria, the boss's personal sicaria, in reality El Sin Nombre herself, physically threatens the same enforcer with a knife for letting Soap see their faces.
  • Badass in Distress:
    • Laswell is kidnapped at the end of "Recon By Fire", after the boat she was using for exfil is discovered by AQ and boarded. This leads Price to carry out an emergency rescue mission, and by the time they get to the car she's being held in, she manages to kill one of her captors in the chaos.
    • Later, Colonel Vargas is captured and incarcerated in a high-security prison by the Shadow Company after the latter takes over his base and apprehends all of his men. He's later rescued by Soap, Ghost, and Parra who in the process also manage to free the rest of the detained Los Vaqueros soldiers.
    • Lastly, Soap is put at the mercy of Hassan after surviving an intense encounter with his men after scuttling his last missile, about to be summarily executed by defenestration and is only saved just seconds before Hassan could by Ghost blowing his brains out from across the way while the Major's busy gloating.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Recon By Fire opens with a pair of ghillied snipers assumed to be Price and Gaz surveying the mission area who promptly get sniped.... by the real Price and Gaz from further back, also in ghillie suits.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Hassan is ultimately this, as while he does present a clear threat throughout the plot, he is nothing more than an Unwitting Pawn to multiple parties, one of which is heavily implied to be Vladimir Makarov as to hurt America for an inevitable war.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: This exchange between Soap and Ghost:
    Soap: Did you see the caged dog?
    Ghost: Big geezer. If he barks, shoot him and repo quickly. Don't get compromised.
    Ghost: What has two legs and bleeds?
    Soap: What?/Don't tell me...
    Ghost: Half a dog.
    Soap: Sorry I asked.../I asked you not to tell me!
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!:
    • In Recon by Fire, Gaz can find a container filled with not only drugs and money, but also usable gold-plated AKs and Desert Eagles. Las Almas's top enforcer, Diego, is also armed with a golden Desert Eagle as his weapon of choice and keeps a stash of golden AKs in his armory. Soap can use both of them for himself after killing Diego and raiding his armory respectively.
    • Averted with Valeria, AKA El Sin Nombre herself, who prefers a Desert Eagle with a more practical and utilitarian finish befitting of her military background.
  • Book Ends:
    • The game begins with the player in control of Ghost, as he lasers a target for a missile strike that kills Iranian General Ghobrani. At the very end of the game, the player takes control of Ghost once again to personally eliminate Iranian Major Hassan Zyani with a sniper rifle as he tries to throw Soap out of a high window.
    • MW19 ends with Price and Laswell discussing the aftermath of Barkov and Hadir's actions and what happens next in an Urzik tea house, with Price mentioning forming a task force with Gaz, Soap, and Ghost. MWII ends with Price and Laswell discussing the aftermath of Shepherd and Hassan's actions and what happens next in an American bar, joined by Gaz, Soap, and Ghost.
  • Captain Ersatz: Several of the multiplayer operators are clearly based on Modern Warfare (2019) ones, for example, Koenig (a mask-wearing Austrian) is a dead ringer for Krueger and Hutch (heavyset, bald African-American with a beard) resembling Raines fairly closely.
  • Car Chase Shoot-Out: In Violence and Timing, Laswell has been captured by Al-Qatala and is being transferred right into Al-Mazrah through Urzikstan. She's being transported in a black SUV in front of a massive convoy so Task Force 141 and ULF have to fight through the whole convoy. After almost falling down to the ground from Nikolai's helicopter, Gaz quickly has to land on a truck and proceeds to fight his way through to the head of the convoy, shooting down Al-Qatala soldiers and hijacking their vehicles along the way. Later on, landmines, bomb drones and even an APC get involved.
  • The Cartel: The Las Almas Cartel and its leader El Sin Nombre are one of the main antagonists in the campaign, controlling the eponymous Mexican city through generosity, corruption, and brutality. They are also involved in smuggling drugs and terrorists to the US and Europe.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Alone is full of these between Soap and Ghost. It's implied that Ghost is extra chatty in this mission to help Soap stay calm as he navigates around Shadow Company, setting traps and crafting tools along the way.
  • Central Theme: Responsibility. Laswell, Price and Ghost take their responsibilities and fix the issues that happen on their watch (finding out Hassan has American missiles, Laswell getting kidnapped on an op, and Graves' betrayal respectively). Meanwhile Shepherd and Graves attempt to cover-up their botched delivery of the missiles and pay dearly for it (Shepherd runs away when the third missile is launched towards the Pentagon while Graves dies in a tank fighting Soap).
  • Colonel Badass: Not only is Colonel Alejandro Vargas the commander of Los Vaqueros, he's also the deadliest and toughest member of the already badass regiment. In fact, he is so badass that his men have a saying: "The only thing that can kill Alejandro, is Alejandro".
  • Combat Pragmatist: Knowing that TF 141 are well-trained soldiers and have him cornered he decides to jumps in a tank to give himself a greater advantage over the team. It doesn't save him from being immolated as Soap blows up the tank with C4 scattered around the arena.note 
  • Culture Clash: Soap and Ghost experience a bit of this when they first arrive in Las Almas. When a truck full of armed men passes through their convoy, Soap immediately reacts in alarm and readies his weapon, but is calmed down by Alejandro who tells them that such things are normal around this part of the world. Later, they also react in surprise at how children are playing under the watch of armed sicarios and dead bodies are just left to rot in the streets, and, more distressingly, how the Mexican Army soldiers coming in behind them were paid off by the cartel.
    Soap: Kids, guns and balloons... That's a new one.
  • Dark Action Girl: Valeria, Las Almas Cartel's top sicaria (the female equivalent of sicario) is a fierce warrior and the eponymous El Sin Nombre herself.
  • Decomposite Character:
    • Story-wise, the traits that General Shepherd had from the original Modern Warfare 2 are split between his namesake here and the Shadow Company commander Graves, with the former maintaining his position in the US military and political power while the latter is more A Father to His Men and a ruthless Blood Knight; both, however, maintain a disguise of being the Big Good until their dealings reach a point where they can no longer accept any witnesses to the situation.
    • Gameplay-wise, several weapons that could be rechambered for alternate ammo types to change their role are decomposited into "weapon families" with each ammo conversion being a distinct weapon, e.g. the STB 556 assault rifle born from the 5.56mm conversions for the AUG submachine gun from 2019, or the FTac Recon battle rifle from the .458 SOCOM conversion for 2019's M4. Since you still unlock later weapons in a given family by leveling up one of the previous weapons, it doesn't amount to too much other than that you can put one more attachment on later weapons in a family, since the ammo conversion isn't taking up a slot. The only caliber conversion that was carried over from 2019 in some way, shape, or form is the 5.56x45 to .300AAC Blackout conversion, though rather than being available to the M13B (like it was in 2019) or any other rifle in 5.56x45, it's now exclusive to the ISO Hemlock.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In DMZ mode, players who are bleeding out can plead other enemy squads in the vicinity to revive them. The person being revived will automatically join their rescuer's squad. This often results in killed Operators joining the very squad that just killed them.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Farah Karim, who was a main character and arguably the main protagonist of the first game, only appears for a single mission in this game's story mode. That said, while Urzikstan was a major location before, this time it has very little to do with the main story.
    • Nikolai, who already had a small role in the previous game has a sole appearance here in the same level that Farah features in, though given he seems to be working with Farah, this also makes sense.
    • Russian enemies don't feature as much as they did in the previous game even though the Big Bad is unknowingly a proxy for Russian Ultranationalists. Instead Al-Qatala, the Cartel who is allied with them, and Shadow Company make up the large bulk of the enemies.
  • Denser and Wackier: While it does have some segments that avert this (most obviously with the mission "Alone") the story and set-pieces of the game are generally much more outlandish and over-the-top than the 2019 game, and the overall tone resembles more of a 90's action movie or the original Modern Warfare trilogy than the last Modern Warfare's more gritty, realistic take.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • The dialogue for the final part of "El Sin Nombre" varies depending on whether Soap infiltrates the penthouse via sneaking in manually or taking Diego's keycard, and whether or not the player is detected.
    • In the mission "Hindsight" if Dipaolo does not crawl towards the gun after his car is destroyed, he will be hiding from the Russian PMCs in the car rubble and will live a tad bit longer. Though as he is scripted to die, he still tries to shout a warning to Graves from within the car and is killed quite quickly afterwards.
  • Dirty Cop: In addition to a quarter of the Mexican Army soldiers, the Cartel also have bankrolled a large numbers of Las Almas local police officers to look the other way on their dirty businesses. A fact that was revealed as Shadow Company brutally purged these corrupt cops and rounded up their families in the streets as part of their Judge, Jury, and Executioner spree in the city.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The whole situation is the 21st century version of the Iran-Contra Affair.
  • Downloadable Content: In the multiplayer modes, the four returning MW2019 operators are only available to those who purchased the Vault Edition of the game. Inverted with Roze, who could only be unlocked through a skin pack or the Season 5 Battle Pass in the previous game, but only requires the completion of a simple challenge this time.
  • Dramatic Irony: In the mission "Hindsight", Laswell explicitly states that the Shadow Company's arms delivery mission two months ago "did not go as planned". During the doomed mission, Graves and the Shadows talk about it being a cakewalk and that they'd be back in headquarters by breakfast.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Not only do Los Vaqueros operatives under Colonel Vargas represents the cream of the crop of Mexican special operations forces, but they're also one of the few branches of the Mexican military that were not corrupted by the Cartel's pocket and influence and are valuable allies for Task Force 141 throughout the entire game.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Zigzagged in regards to Shadow Company:
  • Evil All Along: As it turns out, Shepherd's illegal dealings are what caused the plot to happen, and Philip Graves himself is in on it too, and serves as Shepherd's dragon.
  • Expy: The Konni PMCs from "Hindsight" are clearly based off the infamous Russian Wagner Group.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Save for the flashback missions and prologue, the entire game takes place over the course of a week from October 28th to November 4th.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Graves is revealed to be such; despite his earlier camaraderie in working with Task Force 141 and the Mexican Special Forces in the first half of the game, once his true colors are revealed and he goes on a tyrannical killing spree through Las Almas to root out the cartel corruption, it's clear he's little more than a well-spoken sociopath who felt restrained by being with the "boy scouts" in the military, and started his own company to have the freedom to do as he pleased.
  • Final Boss: Graves, the leader of Shadow Company and Shepherd's dragon, serves as the boss in the climax of the game when he jumps into a heavily-armored tank to fight to the bitter end against Task Force 141. Hassan, while the final opponent that succeeds him, is more of a Cutscene Boss that goes down in a single shot to the head from Ghost.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Philip Graves. Or as one cartel member notes, "Phil (Fill) Graves." Graves starts living up to that line the very next mission. Well, more than usual.
    • Shepherd orders Ghost to destroy Hassan's first missile instead of letting Laswell find intel on whose hands it has gone through or letting it return to the U.S., reacts negatively when Soap asks Hassan who he got the missiles from, and orders Graves to destroy the oil rig which the second missile's container is on with the second missile itself. It's almost as if Shepherd is tying up loose ends. Graves shows a few signs himself of showing his true colors shortly before that, pleading to Shepherd that he and the 141 be given permission to execute Hassan after they capture him in Mexico.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Colonel Vargas notes that soldiers are often recruited by the Cartels due to their combat training. One such soldier is none other than the El Sin Nombre herself, Valeria Garza. Who, upon her reveal, turns out to be a former member of the same Mexican Special Forces unit as Alejandro's (albeit in a different squad) before deciding to join Las Almas Cartel as their top sicaria, and eventually taking up the mantle of the Cartel's leadership herself.
  • Funny Background Event: In "El Sin Nombre," a masked Soap is allowed to walk about and mingle with the guests at a Mexican cartel meeting. Two of them will notice you eavesdropping and, not wanting to be overheard and assuming you're a local, will switch from Spanish to English for their highly-incriminating conversation.
  • Fun with Subtitles: A very subtle example that also neatly averts Interface Spoiler. When the subtitles are on, heroic characters have their names in blue, neutral characters (mostly civilians) in yellow, and enemies in red.
    • During the interrogation of El Sin Nombre, Valeria's name briefly appears in blue when she proclaims her squad was clean, until Alejandro immediately reveals the incident where she took over the Las Almas cartel.
    • In the cutscenes where Graves and Shepherd reveal their villainous natures, their names aren't rendered in red text until the Wham Line. Shepherd's turn is highlighted further by having his name progressively change in color from blue to yellow and finally red.
    • For the first time in the series, the mission text intro outlines which characters are playable for the mission when multiple player characters are involved (For example, Gaz and Soap's names are highlighted for "Ghost Team" to show that players will be controlling them at different parts of the mission).
  • Geo Effects: In Dark Waters Task Force 141 and Shadow Company have to assault a moving ship in order to stop a missile launch (the missile is on an oil rig, but the ship has the launch controls). The ship rocks back and forth, causing its cargo to careen with it, and unlucky players or enemies can be crushed if they are sandwiched between two containers. Good thing the enemy's disregard for proper safety measures makes for a thrilling setpiece.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Vladimir Makarov is revealed to be the commanding force behind the Russian Ultranationalists supplying the Middle East, and more directly Hassan Zyani, after stealing Shepherd's supplies in order to weaken America in their proxy war in hopes of igniting a potential real war which he can only benefit from.
  • Great Escape: In Prison Break, Soap, Rudy and Ghost infiltrate one of Las Almas' prisons where the Shadow Company has detained all the Vaqueros.
  • Guide Dang It!: In Dark Water, hacking the missile involves relaying certain digits. Some "digits", however, are actually letters since they are written in hexadecimal, but the game doesn't tell that to the player.
  • Gun Accessories: II employs a new weapon attachment system wherein any one attachment, once unlocked, can be used by any compatible weapon once the weapon in question has unlocked the appropriate slot. For the most part attachments are universal, whether between weapons in a platform (barrels, stocks, rear grips and magazines) or across all weapons (optics, underbarrels, lasers, and the like), some of which have their own distinctions but nowhere near as strict (most grenade launchers are unlocked in one weapon family but can be used by weapons in another one or two, muzzle devices and ammo types depend on your weapon's caliber, and lasers have three different sets depending on the weapon in question but which are functionally identical to one another). New to this game as well, once a weapon has been leveled to the max (or near to it, in some cases) you can even tune the attachments, changing something about the attachment in question to increase one attribute but decrease another (e.g. adjusting the weight of a suppressor, making it slightly heavier for smoother recoil or slightly lighter for faster aiming).
  • Guns Akimbo: All handguns can be dual-wielded but the FTAC Siege wasn't able to until Season 4, the season after its release.
  • Gunship Rescue:
    • In Close Air, Shadow Company uses an AC-130 gunship to provide air support for Task Force 141 as they try to escape from the Mexican Army, then capture and escape with Hassan. Equipped with 25mm autocannons, a 40mm cannon and laser-guided missiles, it is used to bombard whole areas and can quickly decimate dozens of men. It also comes with flares to ward off anti-air missiles.
    • When Task Force 141 and Los Vaqueros storm the Shadow Company-occupied airbase in Ghost Team, Price and a Vaquero pilot managed to repossess a single Apache helicopter gunship stored within the base that they use to wreak havoc on the rogue PMC's ranks.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Downplayed with the new armored enemies seen throughout the campaign. They're much less durable but also much more common than the Juggernauts of previous Modern Warfare titles, often appearing several at a time, being just as manueverable as regular troops, and seen being fielded by all enemy factions. They are still quite heavily armored compared to regular Call of Duty enemies, requiring about 10 or so assault rifle shots to break their torso armor or a few headshots to break their helmets, after which it takes a few more shots to kill them. They're particularly challenging on the higher difficulties due to the Rocket-Tag Gameplay caused by the player's reduced health, since unlike regular enemies they can still shoot you even if you shoot them back.
  • Heroic Mime: Averted like in previous game, every single playable characters in the Campaign are fully talkative even when playing as them.
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: The notorious leader of the Las Almas Cartel, El Sin Nombre, turns out to be Valeria, who's walking around posing as El Sin Nombre's sicaria.
  • Improvised Weapon: Soap has to make do with a few when he loses his gun twice in the game, the first time during Alone while avoiding Shadow Company, and during the final mission after disarming Hassan's missile and he has to kill two of Hassan's heavily armed guards. Some of the weapons Soap can craft from items he can find lying around range from non-lethals like smoke bombs to trip mines with mouse traps as a trigger.
  • Insistent Terminology: In one of the dialogues in "Recon By Fire", the British Price corrects the American Laswell every time she calls the sport "soccer". This is par on course with most Brits, as they get rather annoyed when Americans refer to the sport as soccer.
    Price: It's football, Laswell. It's football...
  • Interservice Rivalry: A particularly vicious example where Mexican special forces operatives were forced to fight against their corrupt counterparts in the main army who had been brought under the Cartel's influences and payroll.
  • Is That a Threat?: Ghost asks Graves this when he dismisses Task Force 141 and Los Vaqueros and tells them to leave without anyone getting hurt.
    Ghost: Are you threatening us?
    Graves: Soldier, I don't make threats. I make guarantees.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Word for word spoken by Ghost once Shadow Company not only betrays them but decides to declare their own twisted martial law on Las Almas, ruthlessly cutting a path through the corruption the cartels wrought that disgusted them while they were coming in. As Soap and Ghost make for an escape from the town, it's clear hundreds of people (both innocent and not) are dead throughout the region as a result of the bloodbath Shadow Company created enforcing their so-called justice, with even the local police not being spared from them (not that a good number of them didn't deserve it, mind you).
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Shadow Company after betraying Task Force 141 and Los Vaqueros began to butcher both the Cartel and the local police, but the former are brutal criminals and the latter is stated to be very much corrupt and turn a blind eye to the Cartel's wrongdoings (or even assisting them if required). While they may have deserved Shadow Company's cruelty, their families certainly did not.
  • Last Chance to Quit: Price offers General Shepherd the chance to call off Shadow Company and hunt Hassan together, but he refuses.
  • Leave No Survivors: A given mechanically since this is a first-person shooter, but in "Dark Water" Shepherd explicitly states the ROE as No Quarter, since the rig is manned solely by cartel and al-Qatala about to launch a terrorist attack.
  • MacGuffin: The American-made missiles at the core of the conflict. They are supersonic missiles with a range of at least 1000 miles, and as the assassination of General Ghorbrani demonstrates, they are devastatingly powerful. Their container-based launch platform, similar to Erusean container drones means they can be smuggled into countries via standard shipping lines and be transported undetected.
  • Meaningful Name: The Honey Badger suppressed carbine, an iconic weapon for the franchise since Call of Duty: Ghosts, makes a return in this game. Its in-game name, Chimera, is a reference to the in-game model of the weapon being a chimera of not only the original iteration of the weapon produced by AAC and the modern (2017-2020) iteration of the weapon produced by Q, it also incorporates elements from the SIG MCX due to the in-game version of the Honey Badger being treated as a platform-mate of the MCX, with both weapons being part of the Bruen Ops platform.
  • Meta Twist: Played with. Like in the original MW2, General Shepherd does betray the protagonists, but it's not to start a war, and he didn't deliberately supply a casus belli to the enemy. In fact, he's trying to prevent war and save lives, by covering up the fact that the antagonists got stolen US missiles from a botched US covert shipment to Middle-Eastern allies. A shipment Shepherd was in charge of. Price says Shepherd is just trying to cover his own rear, which is a lot less altruistic than his previous version. See also Adaptation Relationship Overhaul and Spared by the Adaptation.
  • More Dakka: Besides the usual assortment of full-auto rifles three weapons in the handgun class are full-auto: the X13 Auto (Glock 18), FTac Siege (TEC-9), and most surprisingly the GS Magna — a full-auto Desert Eagle shooting .50 AE rounds (with as much muzzle climb as such a thing would imply). There is also a full-auto shotgun (the MX Guardian — a ficitonalized IWI Tavor TS12 with a removable magazine, even though the real TS12 isn't full-auto). All of the weapons in the Battle Rifle class can be fired full-auto but only the TAQ-V (FN SCAR-H) and Cronen Squall (LoneStar Future Weapons RM277) are set to full-auto by default.
  • Multinational Team: Just like in previous games, Multiplayer playable characters (now divided into private military companies SPECGRU and KORTAC factions) are comprised of operatives from various countries and military units. So far, in addition to the returning Price, Ghost, Soap (all Brits), Farah (Urzikstani) and Shadow Company operative Roze (American), as well as American and Russian Mil-Sims, we also got new operatives from countries like Austria (Koenig), Britain (Nova), Costa Rica (Gus), China (Zimo), Greece (Kleo), Japan (Oni), Hungary (Fender), South Korea (Horangi), Mexico (Chuy), the United States (Hutch & Luna, the latter immigrated from Singapore), Canada (Reyes), Poland (Gromsko), Norway (Aksel), France (Calisto), Ireland (Conor), Italy (Stiletto), Egypt (Zero), Nigeria (Zeus) & Denmark (Klaus).
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Dark Waters takes inspiration from the missions The Only Easy Day... Was Yesterday and Crew Expendable. Task Force 141 has to infiltrate an oil rig carrying missiles, though here, it's a single cruise missile as opposed to several SAM batteries. Later in the mission, they transfer over to and assault a nearby ship containing the launch hardware for said missile, with the on-deck gunfight segments taking a couple of pages from the latter mission. The team is also ordered to kill everyone manning the oil rig and the ship... in other words, the rules of engagement is "crew expendable".
    • The "Kastov" name for Kalashnikov rifles is a reference to the fictional country of Kastovia from 2019's Modern Warfare.
    • A building in the Farm 18 map resembles Pavlov's House from the very first Call of Duty game.
    • A car model in the Farm 18 map has a Kastovian license plate. Considering Farm 18 is stated to be in eastern Siberia, nowhere near where Kastovia would be...
    • The multiplayer map Taraq is a modern adaptation of Neuville from the very first Call of Duty game.
    • The Desert Eagle model shown has an extremely similar two-tone finish to that of the original MW2 Deagle, but with the colors reversed - whereas the original model had a black barrel and slide riding on a chrome frame, the current one has a chrome barrel and slide over a black frame.
    • The three-digit code to the door leading to Valeria's holding cell is 627. 627 was Captain Price's prison number during his time incarcerated in the Gulag back in Modern Warfare 2.
    • Hitting Price with a flash grenade can cause him to yell out this line:
    • A Cartel enforcer jokes "What the fuck kind of name is Soap?", similar to Price's first words to him in CoD4.
    • Recon by Fire is basically All Ghillied Up but it's Gaz and Price investigating a Spanish fish hatchery, including a segment where they have to crawl past a patrol. Price directly quotes several of MacMillan's pieces of advice during the mission.
    • After rescuing Alejandro, Ghost says "Shepherd burned us", the exact fate that his MW2 counterpart suffered.
    • 141 and Los Vaqueros temporarily form a "Ghost team" to take back the latter's Las Almas compound from Shadow Company, with everyone, including Ghost, wearing a certain iconic skull balaclava.
    • Once again, Shepherd betrays the 141 and attempts to have them eliminated via Shadow Company. However, Shepherd's attempt is far less successful this time as all four members of the 141 and their reputation survived the betrayal. Ghost, in particular, manages to even get the drop on Shadow Company in order to make his escape alongside Soap, unlike his original counterpart being caught off-guard by Shepherd's betrayal and being killed for it.
    • The number of people that could die from Hassan's missile strike on D.C. is 30,000, the same number that Shepherd lost to the nuke during "Shock & Awe". Unlike that time though, you stop the missile before it reaches its target.
    • When Laswell refers to Makarov as "someone new", Price says he already knows him, which is true, because Makarov was the overarching villain of the original Modern Warfare trilogy.
    • The stinger of the game shows terrorists executing a False Flag Operation hijacking, with the final command "No Russian," referring to the airport attack in Modern Warfare 2. The mission "Alone" replicates the aesthetic, as an unarmed and wounded Soap is helpless to stop a civilian massacre.
    • In addition, the mission "Alone" is also a nod to "Embedded" from the previous game. Both missions has the player witness various atrocities committed by forces from a superpower country (United States and Russia) led by a rogue general (Shepherd and Barkov) against the civilian population of their neighboring country (Mexico and Urzikstan) who they believe is sheltering members of a criminal/terrorist organization (the Cartel and ULF/Al-Qatala). Additionally, the player is also put in the control of a lone soldier with limited equipment who is forced to scrounge for weapons under the guidance of a single NPC (Ghost and Farah).
    • "Close Air" and "Hardpoint" are re-creations of "Death From Above."
    • "Violence and Timing" is similar to the highway chase of "Game Over."
    • Ghost tells Soap in one cutscene that "no one fights alone", which was one of the original slogans for the very first Call of Duty back in 2003.
    • At one point in "Dark Waters", trying to climb a stairway causes an Al-Qatala fighter to drop a grenade down it at you, after which Ghost calls them "cheeky bastards", echoing a scene from "Mind the Gap" from Modern Warfare 3.
    • Call of Duty 4 featured a G3 that was then replaced for Modern Warfare 2 with the FAL. Here it's reversed, with Modern Warfare featuring an FAL that was then replaced for Modern Warfare II with the G3 (and a series of other weapons based on it, for that matter: The HK21 and PSG1 hailing from the first Black Ops, the MP5 being a staple in most modern-day CoD titles, with the HK33 being the only new addition).
    • Al Mazrah, the setting of Spec Ops, the Ground War maps, and the first Warzone 2.0 map, has several areas that reference multiplayer maps from previous games, stretching from far back as the original game to the 2019 Modern Warfare (Taraq Village's layout is a recreation of Neuville, and it has the 2019 version of Rust nearby), but primarily from the original Modern Warfare 2: Al Malik Airport has a similar design and layout to Terminal, Al Safwa Quarry is heavily influenced by the original Quarry, the building from Highrise shows up in the city proper, and the Sattiq Cave Complex is similar to Afghan (complete with the crashed plane out front being added in Season Two). Several Burger Towns can also be found all throughout the map.
    • The handgun added with Season 5 Reloaded has an empty inspect animation wherein the player character, after looking over the empty magazine, holds it in a reverse grip under their firing hand's wrist and mimes stabbing someone with it, mirroring the animations for the tactical knife from the original MW2. The melee weapon added with the update is likewise an ice-climbing pick much like the one used in "Cliffhanger".
  • The New '20s: Most of the game takes place from October 28th to November 4th in 2022.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • While "hero" might be a strong word for what Shepherd is by end of the game, logistically speaking, he is supposed to be the Big Good for the United States military and the only reason the plot gets as tense as it does is because of his failures to not only be honest with his allies but his literal fuckup in trying to part with American weapons illegally to fight a proxy war with Russia. If it wasn't for Price and his team going rogue against him—thousands of Americans would have needlessly died (including himself) and both the Pentagon and American military would have suffered a devastating blow.
  • No-Gear Level: In Alone, Soap finds himself on the run, injured, isolated, and missing all his weapons and gear in Las Almas as he's just been betrayed by the Shadow Company. He now has to stalk through a city while the Shadow Company mercenaries sweep through the area without guns or real weapons, and has to scavenge crafting materials like pieces of metal, bindings, glass bottles and so on to improvise tools and fight his way to his allies.
  • Nostalgia Level: Like MW before it, MW II was given classic Modern Warfare multiplayer maps over its lifespan. Showdown, Shipment, and Strike originate from Call of Duty 4, Dome is from Modern Warfare 3, and Shoot House from the 2019 game. Also, while it's subtle, Taraq is actually a cleverly disguised remake of Neuville from the very first Call of Duty.
    • For the first time in the series since the original Modern Warfare 2 in 2009, a third-person viewpoint playlist is available for online multiplayer.note 
  • Only in It for the Money: Since Shadow Company is a PMC, at the end of the day they only care about who signs their paychecks (in this case, Graves). Otherwise, they have almost no motivation for what they're doing.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": The passcode for every security door at Los Vaqueros' base is "627".
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Soap declares his intention of getting revenge on Shadow Company during Alone as such:
    Soap: Makes me want to commit a few war crimes of my own...
  • Plot Parallel: Much like the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Shepherd pulls a Face–Heel Turn and betrays his allies in Task Force 141 for a selfish agenda. However, unlike his Well-Intentioned Extremist goals of the original, Shepherd here is completely self-serving and trying to cover his own ass for a colossal and illegal fuck up on his end in trying to Leave No Witnesses to his crime of trying to fight a proxy war against Russia by arming other countries fighting them with American weapons.
  • Present Day: The game released on October 28, 2022, and the first non-prologue mission takes place then as well.
  • Punch-Packing Pistol:
    • The starting X12 pistol in Warzone 2.0 has vastly superior per-shot damage figures compared to its counterpart in regular Multiplayer, giving players that have dropped in during the beginning of a round a way to level the playing field a bit in the event they encounter another player that managed to loot a weapon, such as a rifle or some sort of automatic weapon, before they do.
    • Normally on Hardcore, any and all multiplayer weapons pack some serious punches, whether they're rocket launchers, handguns, assault rifles, etc... But being based on a Smith & Wesson Model 500 revolver, the Basilisk is one of the most punch packing guns in Tier-1. The only drawback is that it can only hold 5 rounds in the cylinder before needing to be reloaded.
    • The .50 GS (a .50 AE Desert Eagle) on Tier-1 is also very devastating. Holding 7 rounds by default and having pretty impressive damage, your opponents are going to catch a load of crap trying to deal with you. In the campaign, it's capable of one-shotting armored enemies with a single headshot, something only bolt-action sniper rifles can otherwise do.
  • Punny Name: Phillip Graves, when shortened to just Phil, sounds like "fill graves". A high-ranking member of the cartel even points this out if you give them Graves' name. Very appropriate for the ruthless leader of Shadow Company, who betrays his own allies and then personally leads his PMC on a massacre of a small Mexican city.
  • Qurac: A few Campaign missions and Multiplayer maps are set in the United Republic of Adal (U.R.A.), a neighboring country to Urzikstan and just as torn apart by war, particularly the city of Al-Mazrah, the setting of the Special Ops and Ground War maps and the first map in Warzone 2.0. Urzikstan itself also briefly returns in "Violence and Timing".
  • Quick Draw: Modding a pistol with any grip attachment that has the "Pistol Fastdraw" benefit affixed will allow that pistol to be quickly drawn and wielded with one hand while the long gun is held to the side with the off-hand, an action that takes approximately half the time that it would normally take even just to let the long gun drop on its sling and draw the pistol to hold with two hands. Switching back to the primary is also faster this way, unless you reload, sprint with, or inspect the pistol, at which point your character lets the primary drop to play out the usual animation and take the pistol into its normal two-hand grip.
  • Recycled Title: This is the second game in the series to this name following the original from 2009. The official marketing does make a slight distinction by using Roman numerals ("II") as opposed to the original ("2").
  • Red Herring Shirt: Sergeant Major Rodolfo Parra, Colonel Vargas's second in command and playable character of the Borderline mission, seems to be set up to die in the same mission after Hassan injures him and burns down the house where he's in. However, the good Colonel manages to rescue him from the burning house in time and he later becomes another vital ally for Task Force 141, even more so after Graves and Shadow Company betray them.
  • Remake Cameo: Glenn Morshower, who voice acted as Overlord in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, plays this game series' universe's General Shepherd.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • The assassination of General Ghorbani in the game's opening mission Strike is very similar to the real-life assassination of General Qasem Soleimani of Iranian Quds Force in January of 2020.note 
    • Starting from Kill or Capture, the Al-Qatala notably have what looks like US guns (M16s and M4s), uniforms and protective gear, vehicles, and, as Ghost notes, night-vision goggles. After America pulled out of Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban grabbed lots of abandoned US equipment very similar to the stuff the enemies have. One of the most discussed items were tens of thousands of night-vision goggles.
  • Rogue Protagonist: Velikan upgrades from being a playable operator in the 2019 game to a boss in Special Ops and DMZ.
  • Rogue Soldier: In the missions "Cartel Protection" and "Close Air", Task Force 141, Los Vaqueros, and Shadow Company are forced to engage corrupt Mexican Army troops under the payroll of Las Almas.
  • Run for the Border: As in its name, "Borderline" mission has Alejandro and Rodolfo chasing down Hassan and his Cartel allies into the American side of the US-Mexican border.
  • Samus Is a Girl: El Sin Nombre ("The Nameless" in Spanish), the invisible and feared leader of the Las Almas cartel, was always referred in conversations with masculine articles and pronouns, both in Spanish and English. Needless to say, the characters were surprised when they learn that her true identity is one Valeria Garza, a woman who is supposed to be the capo's personal sicaria (hitwoman). Even more so when they also learn that she has a history with Colonel Vargas as a former operative of Mexican special forces.
  • Scaramanga Special: The pistols used by the terrorists on the airplane in the after-credits scene are assembled from metal components concealed in flashlights, in their safety belts, on necklaces, and 3D-printed plastic pieces simply hidden on their persons. The magazines are hidden in the in-flight meals.
  • Sequel Hook: Shepherd is on the run and off-the-grid after being caught both illegally transporting American weapons and having them stolen by the Russians, and the next Big Bad is set up to be Vladimir Makarov...who sets off an airline hijacking with two very familiar words for fans of the series: "No Russian."
  • Shield Bash: Riot Shields, which can be found in a handful of levels, are extraordinarily useful in that the AI will never shoot at a player's legs, and a single bash can kill any unarmored enemy. Armored enemies take 3, but your bash resets faster than they recover from the first hit.
  • Shout-Out: Apart from the many mythology gags towards previous Call of Duty titles, MWII also has one to the films Sicario and its sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado, which involves a military taskforce fighting The Cartel smuggling terrorists, right down to having a map set in a US-Mexico border town and in Mexico, having a character named Alejandro, and the protagonists being betrayed by their American backers.
    • One of the unlockable camos for the multiplayer weapons was simply called "2087", with a similar black, yellow, cyan and magenta color pattern.note 
    • The weapon inspect animation for the Basilisk is incredibly similar to Ocelot’s gun twirling in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, right down to the sideways spin Ocelot performs.
  • Shown Their Work: Anyone who knows about guns and militaries will most likely shit on the FTac Recon for being placed in the Battle Rifle category instead of the Assault Rifle category since .458 Socom is not a full powered cartridge. However, its placement isn't strictly wrong because it's designed as a bullet to give more power to the M4 platform, in the same manner as how proper battle rifles, though replaced for general use with intermediate-caliber assault rifles for being lighter and more controllable, are still in production and use for when intermediate cartridges don't have the necessary range or power.
  • Smoking Gun: In the mission "El Sin Nombre", when Soap is pressed by Valeria to prove that Shadow Company exists, Soap tells Valeria to look in his pocket, which contains a Shadow Company patch provided by Phillip Graves.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Ghost and Soap exchange some witty jabs from time to time, most notably in the mission Alone where Soap snarks that the reason Ghost must wear a mask is because he's ugly. Ghost counters that he's quite the opposite.
    Soap: I'm in the coffee shop.
    Ghost (over the radio) Get us a tea.
    Soap: Fuckin' Brits...
  • Spared By Adaptation: Both Gaz and Ghost, who die in their respective games in the original trilogy survive the entire game despite multiple close-calls throughout. Funny enough, it's both Captain Price and Soap who nearly bite it multiple times throughout the game with far too many close calls, with Soap especially even taking a grievous wound from in the shoulder from Graves that risks him bleeding out during a Stealth-Based Mission in Las Almas, not unlike how he died in the original timeline. Also, unlike the original game Shepherd survives due to being The Unfought instead of Final Boss, but is wanted by the U.S. Government for his illegal dealings.
  • Spy Speak: The stinger has a version of this spoken between a flight attendant rolling out a food cart during meal service and some passengers who are Makarov's men and are signaling the attendant to pass them the loaded magazines for their smuggled weapons.
    Airline attendant: Beef, chicken or fish gentlemen...?
    Passenger: Salad, please.
  • Starts Stealthily, Ends Loudly: As special forces soldiers, the heroes regularly start their mission quietly, discreetly infiltrating enemy territory before it ends in a loud firefight. For instance in Wetwork Gaz and Price discreetly approach a dock in Amsterdam where a smuggling operation is undergoing and they have to swim underwater and quietly dispatch the patrols on boats or piers. However, once they board the barge, they are forced to go loud and shoot down enemies. In Recon By Fire, Price and Gaz, again, infiltrate a hatchery used as a cover for a smuggling operation for the cartel and have to sneakily snipe all the guards on the way in, but get into a shootout with the remaining cartel members in the tunnels under the lighthouse.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Multiple times during the game there are mandatory stealth missions that either limit the usage of weapons or completely strip the player of their ability to fight at all and necessitate bobbing and weaving through far more numerous and powerful enemies, with the escape from Shadow Company in Las Almas and the final battle against Hassan in Chicago chief among them.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: The two tracked vehicles used in the Ground War mode are the "Heavy Tank", a large AFV resembling a mix of Israeli Merkavas and Russian MBTs but armed with an autocannon instead of a proper tank gun; and the "Light Tank", which is a Bradley-style infantry fighting vehicle minus the troop transport capacity. A single unit of those Heavy Tank variants is also used by Graves to try to kill Soap and Parra at the end of the penultimate mission.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: One late-game challenge in DMZ mode before the Season 4 reset revolved around doing this to various bosses: the Bombmaker, who sets traps all throughout Tsuki Castle, needs to be killed with a claymore; the Chemist, who uses the M13B, needs to be killed with that weapon; and the Helo Commander must be killed while you yourself are in a helicopter. With the rework, there's now only the one challenge to kill the Bombmaker with a crossbow, the same weapon he drops.
  • Tech Tree: Compared to previous Call of Duty games, where weapons are unlocked in a strict order and attachments have to be unlocked for every individual weapon, this game gives much more freedom and interconnectivity in your ability to unlock things. Many weapons are now locked behind "Platform Mastery" rather than simply your level, giving you one weapon through ranking up normally and then unlocking further weapons in its platform through leveling up that specific weapon (e.g. getting the Lachmann-762 battle rifle from ranking up, and then the LM-S sniper rifle and Lachmann-556 assault rifle from leveling it), and attachments are treated as "universal", whether within a specific platform (things like barrels and stocks), dependent on the bullet the gun fires (muzzle devices), or across every weapon (optics, lasers and the like), unlocked simply by ranking a specific weapon and then available for any other weapon it's compatible with.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Ghost and Soap share this sentiment when they witness Shadow Company's atrocities on the citizens of Las Almas after the mercenaries betray the 141.
    Ghost: Tyranny. It won't stand.
  • Title Drop: During the intro cutscene for "Violence and Timing" Price has this to say while arguing with Shephard over saving Laswell from Al Qatala:
    Shepherd: We can't just send in the cavalry. These things take planning and preparation.
    Price: These things take violence and timing. I can do both. Kate's life is in a fuckin' hourglass.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Al-Qatala is a far more dangerous threat than they were in the first game, having upgraded from wimpy technicals to APCs, and their fighters have gone from irregular forces, to looking more like soldiers with more standardized, yet advanced equipment who can evenly match the regular military. All thanks to arms and fund backings from Russian Ultranationalists and Iranian Quds Force.
  • Trojan Prisoner: In El Sin Nombre, Soap willingly surrenders himself to one of El Sin Nombre's lieutenants as a meeting between all the important persons in the pocket of the cartels is being conducted. Offering intel on who attacked the cartel's territory, he uses the opportunity to infiltrate the mansion and try to find the mysterious head of the cartel.
  • Truer to the Text: Soap has a redesigned appearance from his previous cameo in the last game to resemble his iconic appearance from the original trilogy, and later, during the assault on the Shadow Company compound to claim revenge on Graves for his betrayal, Ghost ditches his Custom Uniform and instead puts on a garb similar to his original outfit and the classic mask from the said trilogy as well, sans the sunglasses.
  • The Unreveal: Ghost unmasks himself before his team at the start of the final act where he ditches his new mask for the original (which the rest of the team also dons), but his face remains off-screen during the reveal.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: It was said that the Cartel use generosity to consolidate their influence over the city population of Las Almas, adults and children alike. All the while ruthlessly abducting, torturing and killing anyone who opposes them, including rival gangs and honest cops. This has long been true of Narcos and other organized criminals, around the world. Shadow Company, on the other hand, didn't even bother with publicity and goes straight to the killings.
  • Wham Line:
    • Shortly after killing Hassan, Laswell tells the 141 that the Russian Ultranationalists are the ones who attacked Shepherd's illegal convoy (under the name of Konni PMC), as they are now working with someone new. After showing them a photo, Price and the rest of the team reveal they know who he is as they share concerned glances with one another, before giving her his name:
    Price: Makarov.
    • Another Wham Line has its impact delivered by not the line's content, but who the line is being said to.
    Las Almas guard: (to Valeria) Sin Nombre, we have to go now!
  • Wham Shot:
    • In the second mission, 141 discovers a missile launcher in the hands of al-Qatala. Upon opening it up, they find an American flag printed on it.
    • In a post-credits scene, an unseen man on a plane is shown assembling a gun out of concealed parts. He receives a text from someone asking if he's ready, and upon confirming receives a very familiar and haunting instruction:
    No Russian.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • "Alex", who originally appeared to have perished at the climax of the first game but was later revealed to have survived and joined Task Force 141, isn't even mentioned in this game, not even by Kate Laswell, who was his handler and close friend at the CIA. Raid Season 1 (which takes place after the campaign) later reveals he led a team into an old Soviet missile bunker and went MIA, explaining why he wasn’t around for the campaign.
    • Likewise, Khaled Al-Asad, the new leader of Al-Qatala, isn't mentioned either. Considering AQ still plays a large role in this game's story, this is very surprising. It’s implied he’s holed up back in Urzikstan fighting the ongoing civil war against the Urzikstan Liberation Forces.
    • Furthermore, Lerch and Velikan, the two Shadow Company operatives from the previous game, were also nowhere to be seen nor mentioned despite Shadow Company playing a large role in the story. Averted with Roze who's revealed to have resigned from the Company and joined the KorTac sometime between the events of the two games.
  • Wretched Hive: Las Almas fits this trope to a T. A downtrodden Mexican city bordering the U.S. where Cartel gunmen freely roams the streets, half of the local military and police forces are corrupt and homicides are so common that rotting human corpses in the alleys only warrants a brief glance of disdain. Sadly, this is also holds true for a lot of real life Mexican cities and towns under the control of drug cartels. Colonel Vargas claims it is far worse in Las Almas that no other place in Mexico measures up to that level of corruption.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: A consequence of the more interconnected unlock system for attachments is that actually equipping an attachment on a weapon requires you to level it to the point where it would get an attachment, which unlocks the appropriate slot. You could have three different optics unlocked from leveling the M4, Bryson 800 and X12, but you're not going to be putting any of them on the SAKIN MG38 until you play with it enough that it unlocks an optic as well.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: It's possible to unlock weapons early by taking them from someone else in DMZ mode and extracting with them. This is particularly pronounced with the M13B added in Season One, as extracting from DMZ with one, whether from the Chemist in Al Mazrah or another player, is the only way to unlock it.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The mission Dark Waters sees Task Force 141 assaulting an oil rig to stop a missile launch. When they finally get to the missile, they find out that it doesn't have any launch equipment onboard, and realize that the nearby ship contains that hardware.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: General Ghorbrani, like his real-life inspiration, was a very polarizing figure to say the least. While the US and Western countries view him as a commander of a terrorist organization and a threat to their national security who needs to be eliminated at all cost, Major Hassan and the rest of Quds Force (including Al-Qatala), on the other hand, view him as a revered national hero who seeks to free the Middle East from continuous Western oppression and deems his assassination as a war crime. This conversation between Graves and Hassan sums this trope very well.
    Graves: You're the commander of a foreign terror organization.
    Hassan: I can say the same to you.