Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (2022) PC Performance Guide: Optimize Your Settings for Maximum FPS

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, the reimagined version released in 2022, is now available on PC. Just like its predecessor, Modern Warfare from 2019, this sequel is a PC gaming masterpiece with advanced technology and stunning graphics. However, it can still put a strain on your system. If you’re aiming for the highest frame rates, you’ll need to optimize the settings for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2.

After spending a week testing and benchmarking the game, fine-tuning the settings, and exploring the differences between the various upscaling modes, I can confidently say that this game is highly optimized and can run on a wide range of hardware. However, to achieve a competitive frame rate, you’ll still need to adjust some graphics settings.

In this guide, I’ll primarily focus on graphics settings. But don’t forget to check out our separate guide on the best settings for Call of Duty Warzone if you want to optimize your overall gameplay experience.

Best Settings for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 on PC

Soldier with weapon in Modern Warfare II.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 offers a wide array of graphics settings. Frankly, I recommend sticking with the settings recommended by the game for your specific hardware. The recommendation system is quite reliable, although it leans more towards performance rather than image quality. However, if you’re looking to fine-tune your settings, here are the best options for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2:

  • Render resolution: 100
  • Anti-aliasing: Filmic SMAA T2X
  • Anti-aliasing quality: High
  • Video memory scale: 85
  • Texture resolution: High
  • Texture filtering anisotropic: High
  • Nearby level of detail: High
  • Distant level of detail: Low
  • Clutter draw distance: Short
  • Particle quality: High
  • Particle quality level: Normal
  • Bullet impacts and sprays: On
  • Shader quality: High
  • Tessellation: Near
  • Terrain memory: Max
  • On-demand texture streaming: On
  • Allocated texture cache size: 32
  • Streaming quality: Normal
  • Volumetric quality: Medium
  • Deferred physics quality: Low
  • Water caustics: Off
  • Shadow map resolution: Normal
  • Screen space shadows: Low
  • Spot shadow quality: Medium
  • Cache spot shadows: On
  • Particle lighting: Normal
  • Ambient occlusion: Static objects (GTAO)
  • GTAO quality: Normal
  • Screen space reflections: Normal
  • Weather grid volumes: On
  • Weather grid volume quality: Normal
  • Nvidia Reflex: On
  • Depth of field: On
  • World motion blur: Off
  • Weapon motion blur: On
  • Film grain on: 0.25

That’s a total of 38 settings, not including any display settings or upscaling options. Similar to Call of Duty Vanguard, you have a wide range of settings to optimize your performance and plenty of room to customize the game to your liking. However, keep in mind that some settings may not result in significant performance improvements, which can make the process of finding your perfect settings a bit time-consuming.

Starting with the settings that have minimal impact on performance, you can leave bullet impacts and weapon motion blur on, as well as enable/disable world motion blur and depth of field based on your visual preferences. These settings won’t drastically affect performance but can enhance the game’s visual appeal.

When it comes to image quality, focus on texture quality, level of detail, anti-aliasing, and shadow resolution. Even at high texture quality, the game uses less than 5GB of video memory (much less than recent titles like the Uncharted Legacy of Thieves collection). However, if you have more than 4GB of video memory, it’s recommended to keep these settings high for optimal visuals.

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Regarding anti-aliasing, you have the option to choose between SMAA TX2 and “filmic” SMAA TX2, each with its own quality level. While both options incorporate SMAA with temporal super sampling, the filmic version offers superior image quality, effectively softening jagged edges to mimic a camera lens effect. If you prefer a more conventional approach, SMAA TX2 is a viable alternative, albeit with similar performance requirements as the filmic version.

Another noteworthy setting is water caustics, which utilizes ray tracing technology to replicate realistic light refraction in water. While it can enhance the campaign experience, I recommend leaving it disabled for most players. It’s also worth mentioning that some reports suggest this feature may only work with GPUs equipped with ray tracing hardware.

Lastly, let’s discuss shader quality. I recommend keeping this setting on high, although you can reduce it slightly if you encounter performance issues. The crucial aspect here is allowing Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 to compile shaders on your GPU. While the game should handle this automatically, I advise checking the graphics settings and restarting the shader optimization process whenever you launch the game or install a new graphics card driver.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 PC System Requirements

System requirements for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 on PC.
Image courtesy of Activision Blizzard.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 provides four sets of system requirements (similar to Marvel’s Spider-Man), although they’re somewhat vague. Each configuration provides an idea of the expected frame rate but lacks details on resolution, which often becomes the limiting factor in many cases. However, the benchmarks I’ll discuss in the next section shed some light on the resolutions targeted by the game.

Scalability is a key feature, so you won’t need a high-end system to run Modern Warfare 2. At a minimum, the game requires 2GB of video memory and a CPU with four active threads, whether through Intel’s Hyperthreading or four physical cores on a first-generation Ryzen CPU. However, the game benefits from additional cores, so I recommend using a quad-core CPU as a baseline, with six cores being ideal.

On the graphics side, there’s a significant difference between the lower two configurations and the higher two. Keep in mind that Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 puts a high demand on your GPU. However, with options to reduce VRAM usage and multiple upscaling options, you can still achieve a stable 60 fps even on older hardware like the GTX 1060.

Interestingly, storage is another important factor. The game lists 72GB and 125GB for storage space in different places (currently occupying 55GB on my hard drive before adding the multiplayer and Warzone components). Storage space requirements are dynamic for any Call of Duty release, with an initial expectation of over 100GB and potential updates pushing it beyond 200GB. This is not uncommon for recent Call of Duty titles, particularly with Warzone installed.

Additionally, there’s the high-resolution assets cache, which adds to the storage space. This cache allows the game to stream higher resolution textures in real-time as you play, assuming you’re connected to the internet (essential for playing the game) and have enough storage space available. For most cases, allocating 32GB of space should suffice, even for 4K resolution. However, feel free to assign more space if you have the capacity and are playing at higher resolutions.

One last note: The game requires a CPU that supports AVX instructions. Please note that this differs from AVX-512, which has gained recent attention due to Intel disabling it on their 12th-gen CPUs. AVX instructions are supported by the vast majority of CPUs released in the past decade, so if you meet the minimum CPU requirements, you should be good to go.

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Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 PC Benchmarks

Benchmarks for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

Now, let’s discuss the benchmarks. I tested Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 on the most recent architectures from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions. All tests were conducted using an Intel Core i5-13600K CPU and 32GB of DDR5 memory. I also kept Resizable BAR enabled, which is recommended for most GPUs.

Surprisingly, the midrange cards performed exceptionally well, even without enabling upscaling. The lowest-performing GPU in my tests, Intel’s Arc A750, managed to maintain an average frame rate above 60 fps at 1440p, while the RTX 3070 came close to 60 fps at 4K. AMD’s RX 6600 XT also performed admirably, achieving frame rates suitable for high-refresh-rate monitors at 1080p.

It’s worth noting that the Arc A750’s 4K performance is relatively close to that of the RX 6600 XT, which aligns with previous observations about Arc GPUs. The performance discrepancy between these two GPUs narrows as resolution increases, allowing the Arc A750 to compete favorably with the RX 6600 XT at 4K, even though it falls behind at lower resolutions.

To achieve above 60 fps at 1080p, I recommend using at least a GTX 1060. For 1440p, an RTX 3060 Ti should suffice. If you’re aiming for a stable frame rate at 4K, consider upgrading to an RTX 3070 Ti. Fortunately, Modern Warfare 2 supports various upscaling features, providing flexibility to boost frame rates even if you fall short of your performance target.

Now, let’s discuss frame times. As you can see from the benchmark results using the RTX 3070, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 maintains excellent frame time consistency. Only one minor spike was observed during the benchmark run, indicating that the game does not suffer from stuttering issues related to the engine, unlike some other titles such as Gotham Knights. To ensure a smooth experience, it’s crucial to allow the game to compile shaders on your GPU before playing. Failure to do so may result in occasional stutters as the shaders are optimized.

When it comes to upscaling, it’s important to consider the following observations:

Frame times for upscaling in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

In Performance mode for FSR, DLSS, and XeSS, both DLSS and XeSS exhibit brief frame time spikes every five seconds. However, the spikes are more significant with XeSS, although this data was not collected using an Intel Arc GPU (the reason for which will be explained shortly). These occasional spikes shouldn’t disrupt your gameplay experience, and most players likely won’t even notice them. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to analyze these frame time spikes to identify areas where upscaling performance can be further optimized.

XeSS, DLSS, and FSR in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2

Characters facing forwards in Modern Warfare II screenshot.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 offers a plethora of upscaling options, including Intel’s XeSS, Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). Additionally, there’s an Nvidia Image Scaling (NIS) option in the graphics menu, along with built-in dynamic resolution support. Essentially, every player has access to some form of upscaling while playing Modern Warfare 2.

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However, it’s important to note that not all upscaling methods are created equal. FSR is limited to its 1.0 version, which is inferior to FSR 2.0, and DLSS only utilizes the Super Resolution feature, lacking the Frame Generation feature found in DLSS 3 for the RTX 4090. Modern Warfare 2 offers a wide range of upscaling options, which is fantastic, but not all of them employ the latest and most advanced versions.

Performance for XeSS, DLSS, and FSR in Modern Warfare 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

The above chart provides an overview of performance using an RTX 3070. Keep in mind that XeSS dynamically adapts to the available hardware, leveraging XMX cores on Intel Arc GPUs and falling back to a simpler AI upscaling model when additional AI processing power isn’t available. Even with an RTX 3070, XeSS lags behind FSR and DLSS in terms of performance (a trend we also observed in games like Death Stranding and Shadow of the Tomb Raider).

Unfortunately, I was unable to test Intel Arc GPUs due to a peculiar bug present in an earlier driver version and game build. However, since I haven’t come across any other reports of this issue, it shouldn’t be a concern for most users. I’ll revisit XeSS testing with the appropriate XMX cores to assess its performance relative to other upscaling options.

In terms of performance and image quality, FSR offers better performance at more aggressive quality modes, although image quality does suffer. As highlighted in our FidelityFX Super Resolution review, the initial iteration of FSR exhibits some image quality issues at the more aggressive presets, and these issues are evident in Modern Warfare 2.

XeSS, DLSS, and FSR image quality comparison in Modern Warfare 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

In the highest quality mode, DLSS outperforms the other options in preserving details, such as the grille in the middle of the screen and the bricks on the buildings in the background. Although XeSS and FSR are slightly behind in native resolution, DLSS appears sharper due to Nvidia’s aggressive sharpening. However, let’s examine the windows behind the tree—FSR fails to render the lines correctly, while XeSS and DLSS accurately depict the window details.

XeSS, DLSS, and FSR performance comparison in Modern Warfare 2.
Image used with permission by copyright holder.

In the most aggressive quality mode, significant differences become apparent. FSR shows the poorest performance, as indicated by the soft leaves on the trees. XeSS only slightly lags behind in native resolution, while DLSS appears somewhat sharper due to Nvidia’s robust sharpening technique. Notably, when observing the windows behind the tree, FSR fails to render the lines correctly, while both XeSS and DLSS faithfully reproduce the details.

DLSS emerges as the best upscaling option, offering superior image quality and performance. Surprisingly, XeSS performs admirably, delivering impressive image quality even without the full benefit of Intel’s XMX cores. Hopefully, Modern Warfare 2 will receive an FSR 2.0 update in the future. As of now, FSR is not the most viable option given the plethora of alternative upscaling features available.

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