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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 pack shot
Developer:Infinity Ward
Publisher:Activision
Genre:First Person Shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.modernwarfare2.com/
Release Date:November 10th, 2009 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

As a critic, it's my job to ignore the hype and see through to the core of the product, and never have I had to do that more than with Modern Warfare 2 (MW2), possibly the most hyped game of all time. It seemed to have gone on for months: screenshot after screenshot, video after micro-blog, carefully drip-feeding the public a little MW2 at a time, forcing many other developers to rush games out or put them back till 2010 to avoid the crush of MW2 - clearly it was a juggernaut of epic proportions.

And so here we are, the day of release: "The game of the decade" screams one review, "flawless" shouts another, but from my underground bunker near London, the best I can say of Modern Warfare 2 as a whole is that "It's pretty good."

Yes, I'm not going to jump up and down over this game, because where other reviewers may have been taken in by Activision's shiny PR stunts, I can see the truth of the experience - It's more of Infinity Ward's brilliance, but not anything especially new.

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That's not to say the game is bad, far from it. The single player campaign is a brilliant, globe-trotting adventure ripped straight out of a Hollywood action flick, the multiplayer is a refined version of the addictive COD4 multiplayer, and the Spec Ops mode was a clever addition for those of us who felt short-changed by the lack of a co-op single player campaign - it's the complete package, but it's nothing new. And unfortunately, despite the single player campaigns brilliance, it commits the cardinal sin of gaming - It's really short.

Despite critics and fans alike calling for a longer campaign, the developers have instead offered a series of missions full to the brim with action. Whether you're hunting Russians in a blizzard and driving a snowmobile off a cliff in Siberia, storming an oil rig and a castle in Russia, launching missiles from a circling Predator drone or gunning down enemies by the dozen in the slums of Rio De Janiero, the campaign is a blast to play through. The problem though is that it's only about 4 hours long - and that was on hardcore mode.

Another problem for me was the controversial scene, which places you in the shoes of an undercover agent infiltrating a terrorist organisation about to commit an atrocity - which you have to take part in. If you chose not to skip the level (Infinity Ward being sure to offer you the chance to skip the level first) you have to gun down civilians in a level, which could have been a cutscene. Though that particular section is the catalyst for the storyline, the overwhelming feeling I got was that Infinity Ward included it just to be controversial - especially as if you don't skip the level, you have to shoot at least one civilian or the terrorist leader kills you - it's ridiculous.

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But that aside, and despite its disappointing length, the single player is great fun, filled with explosions and action, even if the plot itself is confusing, largely pointless and has a twist which seems just plain silly - Tom Clancy this ain't.

The multiplayer, however, is a refined version of the multiplayer gameplay loved by all from COD4. This time there are many more ways to customise your character - while you can still create 5 character classes, there are hundreds more weapons, symbols, titles and equipment choices available, and I took great pleasure in assembling a soldier for every occasion.

Another addition to the multiplayer is the evolution of the 'killstreak reward'. Now, instead of UAV/Airstrike/Helicopter, you can choose what you receive when you get a certain number of kills, with my personal favourites being the C130 gunship (which you can use much like the gunnery level in COD4), the Predator missile, which is fired and steered remotely, and the sentry gun - an intelligent mounted weapon ideal for closing off avenues of attack - the limitless customisation options on offer is an excellent evolution of the perks system.

The multiplayer maps themselves are varied and fun to play on. While there are still a few levels culled from the single player campaign many of the maps are custom built; though there is a lack of any massive maps for sniping - the majority of them seem to be designed for short-range combat.

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However, though the customisation is excellent and the gameplay as great as ever, the multiplayer itself remains largely unchanged from the COD4 formula. While there are a couple of interesting new additions, such as the third-person deathmatch (which plays a bit like the Rainbow Six series) the multiplayer follows the same formula as the game's predecessor, and doesn't offer anything new, other than addiction to its cleverly-designed gameplay once again, and the return of Prestige mode for gamers with too much time on their hands.

The Spec Ops mode is a brilliant addition to the series, though it seems to have been added later, probably to meet demands for more co-op gaming in the MW2 mix. The mode places you and a friend (sadly it's capped at 2 players) in a series of different encounters, like sniping enemies from afar, racing snowmobiles against the clock or covering each other in a fight to the death deep in Rio's favelas.

It's a surprisingly good mode when you're playing with someone who takes the game seriously, and the short nature of the Spec Ops missions makes you want to try again and again to get a three-star ranking on each mission - not an easy thing to do with some of them, as the Call of Duty supply of rent-a-goons is seemingly endless.

That said, the developers have been careful to deal with one of the major flaws of the previous game, namely the constant respawning of enemies, which is no longer a problem - once you've cleared a room of opposition, they're gone for good.

Graphically the game is quite the looker. The textures on the weapons and environments are stunning and the smoke from grenade explosions, muzzle flashes in the distance and animation of the soldiers themselves is spot on, continuing Infinity Ward's brilliant eye for design in the last game.

The sound is also brilliant. Weapons and grenades sound meaty and satisfying, and the brutality of combat really hits home when you hear the bullets whizzing by, or the low rumble of a Harrier jet flying overhead as it mercilessly guns down your fellow soldiers - it's all designed to suck you in, and it succeeds brilliantly.

Summary

I'd say that while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is undoubtedly an excellent game, full to the brim with multiplayer action, globe-trotting antics and more set-pieces than you can shake a silenced M16 rifle at, the short single player campaign, inconsistent plot and pointless 'controversial' scene let it down somewhat. It's definitely worth buying if you loved Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, just don't expect a massive step in a new direction - especially as the end of the campaign makes it clear there will be a third part to Infinity Ward's tale of treachery and deceit.

The bottom line
8.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Brilliant multiplayer and Spec Ops modes
  • Globe-trotting and varied single player campaign
  • Stunning graphics and gameplay

Not so good stuff

  • Pointlessly controversial at points
  • Poor plot, short storyline
  • Not the big change some were expecting
  • Party chat blocked in some multiplayer modes


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