Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC

November 10, 2009

Activision, Infinity Ward

Call of Duty 4’s release in late 2007 was a bit of a shocker, as it managed to burst straight past expectations, taking literal days out of the lives of gamers. Not only did Modern Warfare have the most exciting single player campaign in the Call of Duty series, but its multiplayer component remains one that has its ideas borrowed by other trailing games in the industry. Call of Duty 4 had one of the largest online followings, for good reasons: it was ridiculously balanced and addictive.

Two years have passed since the beautiful blockbuster hit. Returning to the battlefield with a downright sequel, gamers may be wondering if Infinity Ward really put in a true effort or if they’re simply cashing in on the gimmick. Well, rest assured all you shooter fans, Modern Warfare 2 does enough to deserve your cash and accolades, and much more.

Picking up five years after the events of Call of Duty 4 (presumably 2012), Modern Warfare 2 follows the events of a terrorist organization that hates America and righteousness and justice, and a group of soldiers tasked with bringing these bastards down. This setting may sound realistic, and even the characters the story revolves around are believable, but trust me when I tell you that the way scenarios carry out are anything but believable. That’s not to say that the tale of Modern Warfare 2 isn’t enjoyable. In fact, the story and its pacing are more entertaining than any other game in the franchise, but you’re going to need to toss logic out the window to truly get the most out of the narrative. The characters, both returning and new are well rounded and extremely likable, the script is very high caliber, and the game is as cinematic as you could expect from a shooter.

While the story doesn’t really have any faults with the direction it went in, a lot of Call of Duty fans might have a problem with how events roll out. If your favourite parts of Call of Duty games have been its idolizing of war heroes and the realistic scenes, Modern Warfare 2 may turn you off. In fact, it’s best to look at Modern Warfare 2 as a Hollywood blockbuster, one which rivals James Bond or Jason Bourne flicks, than it is to see it as a Call of Duty game. It strays heavily from the ways of the series, and all throughout the game you’re going to have to deal with this radical shift. If you can get past how the game is more about fighting evil maniacs than fighting bad guys, you’re going to really get a kick out of the well done narrative.

There are a good set of cinematic moments in Modern Warfare 2. Much like recently released Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, there are a great set of epic set pieces. One such moment puts you in the shoes of a terrorist, as you terrorize an airport in Moscow. It’s an emotional sequence, if a little controversial. The pacing to Modern Warfare 2 is pretty well done, moving you from explosive moment to another.

Although the story is more (San Andreas) than (IV), the gameplay generally keeps the tried and true Call of Duty formula, with some changes for the better. The weapon selection is just as impressive as you’d expect from a Call of Duty game, with the normal assortment of assault rifles, pistols, shotguns; the like. The shooting mechanics are smooth, intuitive, and responsive, which matches up really nicely with the big improvements made to the game’s AI. Both ally and enemy forces have been vastly improved in this regard, making the game feel a lot more polished and engaging. The limitless respawns of enemies have also been dropped for a more conventional and down to earth approach, which in turn opens up the level design. More than a few times was I surprisingly gunned down from behind because I had missed a few enemies. Frustrating no doubt, but still impressive, because it was due to an error on my part, not because the game likes to be a jerk.

The variety to the missions has really taken a turn for the better. One moment you’ll be using stealth to infiltrate a military base, next moment you’ll be speeding past trees on a snowmobile, then you’ll be at the helm of a minigun. Needless to say, it’s obviously unrealistic to match up with the action movie formula, but it’s a welcome change that livens up the experience even further.

The single player campaign is perhaps a little too pure for its own good, as it’s a relatively brief experience. The first run took me just over five hours on the default difficulty. If the single player campaign was all the game offered, I’d be hard pressed to recommend it for a 60 dollar purchase, but thankfully that isn’t the case at all. The campaign is only one part of the Modern Warfare 2 puzzle.

In lieu of adding two player coop to Modern Warfare 2’s campaign, Infinity Ward crafted a specialized cooperative mode titled Spec Ops, and it’s pretty damn great. These missions can be completed on your own or with a friend, and eighty percent of them are based off of moments in the campaign, and the rest are based off of the greatest moments in Call of Duty 4. There are a few standout missions in this mode, such as racing snowmobiles, or watching your buddy from an AC 130 gunship as he makes his way along the ground. It’s a very good addition, and much like Resistance 2, proves that coop doesn’t have to be tacked on.

The real meat of Modern Warfare 2 is obviously the multiplayer. As a big fan of the first game, allow me to let you know that the game is more balanced and intense than its predecessor, and just about everything about the competitive multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 is a step above what you’d expect. It’s got more legs than almost every other shooter available on the market.

The biggest new addition to the multiplayer is the big emphasis on killstreaks. As opposed to the simple UAV, Airstrike, Helicopter setup as before, there are more than a dozen available killstreaks which you can choose from. Everything from a controllable Missile to using an AC 130 gunship in multiplayer is available, and adds a brand new layer of tactics never before seen. To balance all of this out, this is available to everybody in addition to the arsenal to deal with everything.

The perks system has taken a little bit of a backseat this time, as they don’t make as large an impact as before, but they still make multiplayer a very personal and custom experience. Infinity Ward’s also added a deathstreak system, which caters to newbies, even adding to the balance in effect.

There’s still a lot of customizable classes, such as choosing your own gun loadout, what attachments you want with those guns, which perks, which equipment and which camoflage you want with your weapons. It’s almost as deep a character system as you’d find in a role-playing game, which is absolutely unheard of.

There are of course a few gripes to be had with the multiplayer. As good as most of the maps are, there aren’t as many standout venues. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the maps are very tight, vertical, and well designed, but none of them really have that standout feeling like Bloc and Crossfire had from Call of Duty 4. Of course, there’s going to be a few maps which you aren’t crazy about, but for the most part, there’s a very good variety at hand here.

Another issue I’ve had with multiplayer involves the matchmaking. Getting into a party with friends takes much more effort than it did in Call of Duty 4. Too often did I find my friends are getting booted from playlists, and our group separated, and too often did we find ourselves waiting upwards of 6 or 7 minutes for a match because of these problems. With seven hundred thousand gamers playing on Xbox Live, and about four hundred thousand playing on Playstation Network, these problems are uncalled for and inexcusable.

That being said, the experience remains just as smooth as ever, running at a blazing 60 frames the whole way through. In fact, this stellar presentation runs throughout all aspects of Modern Warfare 2. The visual presentation is a large step above most shooters out there, with outstanding lighting and character animations, very nice texture detail (an issue found with Call of Duty 4), and great weapon design. Environments drip detail and atmosphere to boot. The sound design is just as impressive as the visuals. Sound effects are authentic, voice acting is well done, and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is a nice little surprise.

Modern Warfare 2 is far from perfect, but it sure is shiny. It’s got a ridiculous story which strays from the Call of Duty formula, but that story is just as entertaining as any Hollywood blockbuster. The campaign is short, but it’s pure and well designed. If you take that, add on 2 very robust and addictive multiplayer modes, and great presentation, there are few reasons not to recommend Modern Warfare 2. The question on whether or not it lives up to the hype depends on what your expectations were. Modern Warfare 2 isn’t the best first person shooter ever made, and I’d have a hard time calling it the best game this year, but without a doubt, you’d be an idiot not to be blown away regardless.

9.1 out of 10

~ by smithbubbajones on December 4, 2009.

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