Game Review: Modern Warfare 2

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Let us not be shy about it, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was one of the biggest games to ever be released. The game garnered mass critical and commercial success on its way to becoming one of the most played online titles of this current gaming generation. So it goes without saying that the sequel to that game would garner a feverish hype train that it would have to contend with. Now the game is here and it has a whole lot to live up to.

Modern Warfare 2 picks up five years after the events from the Call of Duty 4 and things have only gotten worse since your squad eliminated the Russian terrorist, Imran Zakhaev. For those that have not played Call of Duty 4, or for those that may be a little hazy on the previous games storyline, will be caught up early on by way of opening credits that recap past events. It tuns out Zakhaev’s death allowed Vladamir Makarov to seize power and Zakhaev is looked at as a martyr of Makarov’s “New Russia”. Terrorism runs rampant throughout the world and the task force headed up by the United States and Britain, Task Force 141, is once again put into service to covertly take care of things.

Early on in the game things go sour for the United States and then the story kicks into high gear. The level where all this happens has garnered quite a bit of publicity, both good and bad, from mainstream media outlets and gaming press alike. The level, entitled “No Russian”, puts gamers in control of a character who is participating in a terrorist attack on a Russian airport and innocent, unarmed civilians. It should be noted that gamers never have to kill, or even fire upon, the civilians and the level is meant to set up the next phase of the story, in fact they do not even have to play the level if they do not want to.

This all brings me to the only real problem with Modern Warfare 2’s single player campaign, the quality of the narrative is poor. It feels as if the game designers had some excellent ideas culled from various action movies and then handed those set pieces over to the team of writers headed by Call of Duty 4’s head writer Jesse Stern. The overarching narrative feels very disjointed and the emotional shock that the “No Russian” level was attempting to garner has instead been met with disgust, derision and in some cases apathy. Sure some may be feel the intended effect but the scene just does not have the emotional tug that the nuclear explosion from the first had.

The fact that the story unfolds primarily in game and in between levels via radio transmissions does not help matters. While it is commendable that developer Infinity Ward would rather the player experience the story, as opposed to being told the story, with such a convoluted script that spans multiple continents and features a bevy of characters, certain plot points can get muddied very easily.

However you feel about the story, it is not the real reason to play through the single player campaign. The real reason lies in the six hours of amazing, non-stop, tense action. The single player campaign plays like a Michael Bay film and by that I mean an action film on steroids. The action hardly ever lets up long enough for you to catch your breath, let alone digest the over-the-top storyline. The game is filled with exhilarating snow mobile escapes, boat chases, stealthy infiltrations, and even an assault to take back the a famous home in Washington D.C., and if you are not awed by the intense action throughout you may very well not have a heartbeat.

The single player game will only keep you occupied for roughly six to seven hours but the game packs a pair of other game modes that should keep you playing well into the next year, if not longer. The first of these modes is Special Ops. Special Ops pits players in series of various situations with different tasks to be completed, like eliminate a certain amount of enemies or reach a designated area in a certain amount of time. Some of the missions take place in environments from the single player campaign, while others will place you in locales from Call of Duty 4 or completely new ones.

The most interesting aspect of Special Ops though is that it can all be done co-operatively with a friend. Be forewarned though, to unlock all the missions in Special Ops one must venture above the Regular difficulty and venture into Hardened or Veteran, hard and harder respectively, so pick your partners wisely because teamwork, or the lack thereof, will effect the outcome of your missions.

All that leads us to the final piece of the puzzle, the shining jewel of Modern Warfare 2, the Multiplayer. Filled with sixteen maps, numerous game modes, challenges to complete, and weapons to unlock the multiplayer mode in Modern Warfare 2 is set to reign supreme as the single best multiplayer shooter on the market.

Veteran players will feel right at home and begin working their way through the expansive leveling system, while those new to the online battlefield may start out a little overwhelmed. That said new players will never feel like they are not progressing as Modern Warfare 2 finds ways to positively reinforce gamers at every step moving them ever closer to the next unlockable weapon or attribute changing perk.

Speaking of perks, Modern Warfare 2 continues the path set forth by its predecessor Call of Duty 4, offering up an expansive list of attribute changers that will help gamers and hinder their opponents. New perks, like Bling, allow players to modify their weapon choices with multiple attachments while others, like Hardline, will allow for Killstreak rewards to appear slightly faster. Killstreaks also have received a face lift and are now fully customizable and in addition to customizable Killstreaks are the all new Deathstreaks. Deathstreaks have been designed to help players who are having a hard time staying alive do just that.

All in all the competitive multiplayer aspect of the game is one of, if not the most, expansive set-ups found in any game on any system to date and it may very well keep people playing for the next year or two while developer Infinity Ward works on the inevitable Modern Warfare 3.

By now you should have come to the realization that the game plays wonderfully but you may be wondering how it looks and sounds? Whereas Call of Duty 4 was mired with a lot of dull color schemes, Modern Warfare 2 is a vibrant looking game and is arguably one of the best looking games on both the 360 and PS3 to date. Character models and animations all look wonderful and it is all done with a super steady frame rate, something that the prettier looking Killzone 2 on the PS3 could not do. The music, with themes done by Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer, voice acting and weapon effects are equally impressive, especially if you have a decent surround sound set up.

Modern Warfare 2 is an impressive piece of software that will undoubtedly keep many gamers occupied for quite a long period of time. If there is a hiccup in the game it is the single player. Clocking in with about six or seven hours of playtime, gamers looking for an expansive single player experience instead of a multiplayer one may feel a little put out. However when looked at as a whole though there are few games that can come close to what Modern Warfare 2 has delivered and gamers owe it to themselves to give it a try.


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