Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review
Tomorrow there will be no shortage of volunteers, no shortage of patriots.
The sequel to one of the best selling games of all time is upon us. Infinity Ward tried to drop the “Call of Duty” but instead settled for some really small font, and bring us their follow-up to the shooter that set the bar for realistic modern combat games, Modern Warfare 2. With a shuffled multiplayer offering, added co-op mode and one of the most intense and gripping single player stories you have experienced yet Modern Warfare 2 talks the talk, and sometimes walks the walk.
The single player story is a direct sequel but takes place some time after the events of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. You will hear a lot of familiar names, some you may even remember, if you were paying attention. If you haven’t played the first Modern Warfare you will be lost in terms of the specific players but the overall story is good enough to stand on its own and soon you won’t care that you don’t know who Zakhaev is. I’ll try to give away as little as possible but there will be some setting points that I just can’t leave out. This is a story straight from an action movie, but a rather well written one. There is no high level information, no news-real, you won’t be party to high level talks between generals, but you will be right in the middle of a lot of firefights and explosions. I’m only exaggerating a little when I say you will want to actually catch your breath between each level. The game is fast paced and, with the exception of a few specific battles, generally less difficult than other CoD titles so you won’t find the action broken by repeatedly dying in one spot (unless you’re playing on Veteran). The story is far-fetched but at times very striking in its presentation as reality; it frequently has you asking “could this happen”?
From covert missions through snow covered mountains, to the lawless slums of Rio, to the controversial “No Russian” level (you’ll see), to a truly chilling battle through the modern suburbs of Virginia; Modern Warfare 2 impresses and astonishes. It also includes, in my opinion, one of the greatest reunions in video game history. This is the best shooter campaign I have played to date, yet also one of the shortest. On Normal difficulty you are looking at just over four hours.
First let’s talk about Spec Ops. This is a co-op mode new to the Call of Duty series and, since it can be played solo, does a lot to make up for the length of the single player campaign. In this mode you and one other friend take on a series of scenario missions that range from “kill everyone here” to race this snow-mobile down a mountain faster than the time posted. Though I would have much prefered a return to co-op in the single player campaign, there is a lot of fun to be had here. Teamwork is truly key and my favorite level, hands down, involves one player in an AC-130 gunship and one player on the ground. The players must communicate or risk being obliterated by the AC-130s guns. The gunner must be sharp or the player on the ground will be overwhelmed by the onslaught of enemies. A friend of mine played this one with me and it was an hour or so of us yelling “get under that bridge while I take this truck out” or “Nope, I was in that building you just nailed, restart”. As fun as this mode is, I can’t help feeling this was thrown in because someone important asked the devs “why is there no co-op?”.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Call of Duty without multiplayer. Modern Warfare 2 looks to do many things different, but two things remain the same; the general feel of run and gun and the instability. The boldest thing Infinity Ward did with the multiplayer was leave in the same old game joining and disconnection issues we’ve become so familiar with. I would have far preferred they fix these issues we all have getting dumped from parties and disconnected from games than the updates they made to the multiplayer rules. This has been going on for the last three entries in the Call of Duty series and it feels like Activision is saying they don’t care, you’ll buy the game anyway.
If you can overlook the tech issues, there is a decent multiplayer offering here. There are a large variety of the latest greatest killing machines on offer for you to unlock and more and varied kill streaks to use. The perks and addition of custom death streak perks will leave you with no illusion you’re playing the first Modern Warfare. This being said I found at times it felt like Infinity Ward was flailing; trying to please everyone. The hardcore riflemen were tired of you unleashing the dogs or launching air strike after air strike so kill streaks take more kills to obtain. In contrast they added the game ending Tac-Nuke for a 25 kill streak. Martyrdom is gone, but you can take a perk that allows you to knife other players from ten feet away. The changes don’t always seem to be made with balancing in mind just appeasing X group of complainers with X change. Still with added game modes, more variety of kill streaks and some of the best weapons on offer in any game, it’s not hard for beginners to get in there and do some damage.
Most of the achievements are obtained in the single player campaign, most can be obtained by finishing the game on Veteran difficulty. There are a few added in to the co-op, Spec Ops, mode. For a game that focuses so much on, and so many people buy solely for, multiplayer why are there zero multiplayer achievements?
The same old multiplayer is dressed up in sweeping changes to loadouts, kill streaks and perks. At the end of the day you’ll still be playing games where only half of your party made it into the game, the others stuck in limbo or a completely different game lobby. Spec Ops is a welcomed addition, though not as welcome as campaign co-op would be, and the single player offering is outstanding. At the end of the day, you will enjoy the multiplayer games you end up in, if only until the next CoD. Activision sticks to what works, and has another hit on their hands here, but I wonder how long that can last without some evolution?
Final Score: 8/10