Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review
Trying to decide whether to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? Find out why you should bite the bullet and pick it up in this review.
This is full on, rampant violence in a realistic setting as you play for the fate of the world as we know it. The Call of Duty series has become a guilty pleasure of sorts: like 24, you know it is fundamentally right wing. It conforms to a vision of the world where the west is genuinely under siege and a handful of bitter, hardened, black ops grunts can save us by spilling enough blood to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool. Regardless of the politics, the game is beautifully crafted, hugely enjoyable and features astounding visuals and an overall level of polish you only find in a handful of top titles. So tool up, poise that trigger finger and get ready for war.
The single player campaign is stunning, cinematic action from start to finish. As is traditionally the case with Call of Duty the single player campaign can be comfortably completed in a few hours but they are amongst the most action packed you’ll spend gaming. Working for the unpleasant General Shepherd you’ll take on five different roles and join ops in Afghanistan, Rio, Washington and Siberia. War has broken out thanks to a nasty Russian nutjob and you have to finish it and unravel the conspiracy behind it. The story is well handled but completely secondary to the action.
The gameplay is standard first-person shooter stuff. Strafe and shoot, cover the angles, hold right mouse to aim and left mouse to fire. The controls and mechanics of FPS games have been incrementally improved over the years and they work perfectly here. The linear environments feel anything but thanks to some clever level design. The enemy AI are reasonably intelligent and they will take cover and even throw back grenades on occasion. The real effect of ramping up the difficulty is higher numbers rather than smarter play but some of the missions are definitely challenging.
The campaign is stunningly cinematic with superb direction, visual effects and animation. It is very much like taking part in an epic action movie. Once you’ve completed the missions you unlock Special Ops which offers a series of one off tests: clear a favella, defend a spot in a map or rush through a sequence as fast as possible. You can earn 1, 2 or 3 stars in each challenge and as you complete them you unlock more. These challenges distill the fun gameplay and offer some excellent replay value for single player fans finished with the main campaign.
The gameplay is really a joy. It feels fluid and exciting. You don’t often control vehicles directly: though there is a memorable sequence where you have to escape on a snow mobile, more often you are in the gunning position and zoom through on rails. The exhaustive list of available weaponry is awesome. The usual suspects are all present and correct but the variation in shotguns, sniper rifles, RPGs, pistols and even machine guns means you’ll be able to find something suited to you. Since ammunition is limited you’ll likely change guns frequently as you pick up a fresh one from one of the corpses littering the streets and you often find weapon caches.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is just gorgeous. It really is the best looking game I’ve played on the PC in recent times. Even the training camp opening had that wow factor that had me shouting to my bored wife to take a look. Whether drowning a Russian soldier as you board an oil rig, being blasted off into space or crouching in a shack in the favella waiting for that guy to pop his head up once more the game never looks less than amazing. The level of detail in the environments as you rush through them is really quite incredible. From the graffiti and poster covered walls of the shanty town to the piles of empty drink cans on the computer desk in the cave hideout the artists have really gone to town.
The character models, outfits and weapons have an authentic feel. The animation work is tremendous and the action is always fluid. The explosions and gun fire effects are really top class and if you get shot blood specks will spray your screen. The HUD is minimal and intuitive, never leaving you in doubt about what is expected of you. The intro presentation for each mission is worthy of a top action movie and overall level of polish, all the way to the end credits, is way beyond most games.
The audio is a vital part of any game and Modern Warfare 2 features brilliant sound design. The sound effects themselves are very realistic and offer plenty of feedback about the action around you. The musical score really fits the action and lends it a truly epic feeling. Best of all is the voiceover work. Lance Henriksen plays General Shepherd, Craig Fairbrass plays Ghost, Billy Murray is Price and the best performance is given by Kevin McKidd as General ‘Soap’ MacTavish (of course a Scot has to sort this mess out!).
Traditionally many people bought Call of Duty for the multiplayer and Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t disappoint in terms of the modes on offer (see screenshot). All of the typical FPS multiplayer modes are there along with a few extras and Mosh Pit allows you to play a random assortment. The multiplayer mode also has a ranking system so you’ll gradually earn awards and move up the ranks, allowing you to choose titles and emblems and unlock new modes.
The longevity in a game like Modern Warfare 2 is in the multiplayer battle and after my first Kill Streak I was completely hooked. There was a bit of a fuss about the new multiplayer system IWNet, the lack of dedicated server support and the limited numbers, 9 versus 9 maximum. I found matches no problem at all and on PC it seems to run very smoothly but for hardcore multiplayer addicts this will be a disappointment. The map design is excellent with lots of choke points, vantage spots and multiple angles on intersections. The maps seem to be balanced for the low numbers but it does still seem to be a backward step and I’ll miss the epic scale battles that were possible in some of the previous games.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 left me with a stupid grin on my face. I felt like a super soldier in a squad of James Bonds after playing the campaign and came down to earth with a bump after a brief stint in the multiplayer arena. This is a highly polished game with good solid gameplay, mainstream FPS mechanics and a decent amount of replay value. If you are going to engage in the single and multiplayer aspects this is a must buy game.