Xbox 360 Review - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward's latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise, has finally arrived with a bang. Was it worth the wait?
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is Here
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the most anticipated game of the holiday season, probably of the year. If you need proof, look at the number of high profile games - like Splinter Cell: Conviction - that we're delayed until next year to avoid contending with Infinity Ward's latest. The numbers didn't disappoint for IW, either. Take a gander at Mandi Weem's Modern Warfare 2 write-up to get an idea of the game's success. But commercial success doesn't guarantee critical success. Is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 worthy of the numbers that it's pulling in. And does it improve on 2007's stellar Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare? The Answer to both is a resounding "yes."
Who's the FNG? - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Single Player Campaign
Inifinity Ward set the bar high with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and set a new benchmark for storytelling in first-person shooters by using the genre's immersive qualities to great effect. Like Valve and their Half-Life series, events always unfold through the eyes of the character which greatly improves the emotional and dramatic impact of those events. Fortunately, Infinity Ward have taken what they learned from Call of Duty 4 and improved on their already winning formula with grander set pieces, more thrilling action sequences, and more of the intense, emotional moments that everyone so loved in the first game. They certainly know how to tell a story, even if it's fairly nonsensical.
The major faults in the single player campaign is the story itself. It kicks off with a bang, introducing new characters and bringing back the SAS hero from the first game, John "Soap" Mactavish, now in a mentor role, much like Captain Price in Call of Duty 4. The story ramps up with the infamous "No Russian" mission (which I will get to later), but eventually it just turns into a ridiculous mess. Without giving anything anyway, once you beat the game you'll be left with plenty of unanswered questions and some poorly explained plot developments. That aside, I did say that Infinity Ward knows how to tell a story, and I was enthralled all the way through, even when I was unsure of what was going on.
The action is as intense as ever. This is another high point from Call of Duty 4 that the developers improved upon in Modern Warfare 2 with a bigger arsenal and a variety of new locations. The shooter mechanics are as solid as ever and the new environments only compliment them. There seems to be more stealth sections than the first game, but contrary to the normal taboo of stealth sections in action games, they offer some of the greatest moments in the game. One of the most fun additions to Modern Warfare 2 is the riot shield and figuring out how to take down an enemy wielding one. It's pretty terrifying when someone is rushing at you and deflecting all of your shots, but the way it forces you to think of your feet is just good game design.
In the end, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 boasts a great single player campaign, but the convoluted story keeps it from being amazing. Some of the twists exist solely for shock value, making the story as a whole far less intelligent than the first game, and making this the only section of my Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review to not get a perfect score.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Visuals
When I write reviews, like with my Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review, I'm always hard pressed to think of an accurate way to describe good visuals. If a game suffers graphically, that's easy to point out. But in this day and age, graphical power has gotten so good, the only way to describe visuals like this is "life-like." The locations, character models, and textures on everything look fantastic and show an obvious improvement over the game's 2007 predecessor. The game's framerate always runs smooth, even when in the most intense firefights.
Possibly the most impressive of all the visuals are the character animations. I'm a sucker for good character animations. In a game like this, which relies on realism to support its immersive quality, stiff or limited character animations can really ruin it for me. That's why it's so refreshing (and satisfying on a purely visceral level) to watch characters get blown backwards or spin around when I blast them with a shotgun. War is hell, and Infinity Ward knows it.
The Controversy Surrounding "No Russian"
The following paragraph of my Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review completely discusses one of the more shocking missions in the game, so if you haven't already been spoiled by all of the coverage on the "No Russian" mission, I suggest you move on to the next paragraph.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 generated a lot of controversy with its "No Russian" mission, which puts in the shoes of an undercover CIA Agent posing as a terrorist. You, along with one of the game's main antagonists and a few others, march through a crowded Russian Airport obliterating waves of police officers, airport security, and dozens, maybe hundreds, of innocent civilians.
It's no surprise that this brought a lot of heat onto Infinity Ward. It's a gutsy move. However, in the end, I was able to see it for what it really is: storytelling. You're not a bad guy sadistically killing innocents. You're a government agent killing a few to save many. Of course, that doesn't make it any less brutal, but it's not supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be powerful, which it is.
So is the level justified? Yes and no. I have no problem with a bold move such as this. On the contrary, I respect it very much. But I feel like Infinity Ward didn't take it as far as they should have. In the level, you aren't forced to kill anybody. You'll probably start shooting once the cops do, but IW has claimed that it is possible to get through the entire level without killing anybody. This I have a problem with. Your character is undercover, so I would think that if you didn't go along with the killing, the terrorists would become suspicious. By forcing you to kill innocents to protect your cover, IW would have achieved what they're going for. They would have made the level emotionally difficult and extremely powerful. The way it is now, the only reason you would ever kill any innocents is for fun. Unless they're making some sort of social commentary, I feel that the level is pointless. In the end, it's a commendable try, but not exactly a home run.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Multiplayer
This right here is the reason that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 shattered sales records on its first day of release. My Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review could probably consist of this paragraph and this paragraph alone. Call of Duty 4's multiplayer was the stuff of legends. It combined awesome first-person shooter gameplay with an RPG-like leveling and reward system. You didn't necessarily grow more powerful as you leveled up, but you did unlock more weapons, accessories, and perks, which grant you certain "powers." Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 improves on this formula by adding new perks and balancing existing ones, as well as implementing entirely new features.
One of the most exciting new features is the option to unlock new killstreak rewards. In Call of Duty 4, as well as Treyarch's Call of Duty: World at War, you were given rewards for building up a killstreak without dying. In Modern Warfare, you would unlock UAV at three kills, an airstrike at five, and then an attack helicopter at seven kills. In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, there are fifteen different killstreak rewards to unlock. You start off with the classic UAV at three kills, a care package (which can contain all sorts of rewards) at four kills, and a controllable predator missile at five kills. My current loadout consists of a harrier strike at seven kills, an attack helicopter with a controlable gun at eleven kills, and a game-ending nuke at a whopping twenty five kills. Yes, the nuke ends the game, but getting a twenty five kill streak is no easy feat.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 also boasts more weapons, accessories, and new perks, and some older perks have been integrated in new ways. For example, the full metal jacket accessory for weapons replaces the deep impact perk from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, allowing you to shoot through certain objects.
All in all, Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer suite is a pretty big improvement on what was already a stellar formula. And I haven't even gotten to Spec Ops yet!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Spec Ops - Cooperative Gaming at its Finest
Cooperative gaming has become increasingly popular and Infinity Ward recognizes that with Modern Warfare 2's Spec Ops mode. It's much more than just a tacked on mode to appease co-op gamers. Spec Ops takes missions from Call of Duty 4 as well as Modern Warfare 2 and has two players working together in a variety of ways. Some missions feature simple side-by-side battling, while others consist of one player piloting a vehicle and clearing the way for the other player who's on the ground. The missions are very creative and force you to work together in ways that you don't normally experience in co-op gaming. You can also play the missions in split screen with a local partner or with no partner at all. While playing them by yourself is challenging, it's still a lot of fun.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Overall
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 earns every cent of its millions of dollars. If you've read my Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review all the way up to this point, I salute you, but you should really be playing the game now. Either by yourself, with a single friend, or with the entire internet, this game is an absolute blast and a stunning achievement.