Modern Warfare 2 Review

By the time that this review goes live, most of you will have completed Modern Warfare 2. You’ve also probably increased your kill ratio exponentially online by beating me into a bloody pulp. It has become apparent that many publishers were justified in moving their games to 2010, as the record-breaking launch and millions of concurrent online players have proven how dominant the Call of Duty series continues to be. It also proves that Infinity Ward is capable of following up what many considered to be the best game of 2007, a task that some deemed impossible.

Modern Warfare 2’s opening moments are set in a US military camp stationed in a hot, desert region with sand stretching as far as the eye can see. The game’s high level of detail is immediately visible here, with a pack of background soldiers enjoying some downtime by shooting hoops, getting vehicles ready, and grabbing a bite to eat while you prepare for combat. As you run the now-standard timed training course, the silky-smooth controls are instantly understood, as the Call of Duty ‘feel’ is as potent here as ever before.

The initial hours of Modern Warfare 2’s 18 mission campaign are standard FPS fodder. The first level is a mostly on-rails affair that places you in a vehicle convoy being attacked in the tight streets and twisting alleyways of a war-ravaged village, while the second has you chasing militia through the crowded favelas of Rio de Janeiro amidst heavy gunfire. Both of these offer good, solid fun, but there’s nothing groundbreaking to be found. Then we reach ‘that level’.

Speaking over sweeping musical strings, a voiceover heard before ”No Russian” begins makes it clear that you’re about to see why the game’s “disturbing content” warning was appropriate. While Infinity Ward should be praised for their intent, the mission ends up being an exceptionally harrowing and affecting experience that fails in the end because of its disappointing execution. In particular, the fact that you aren’t forced to participate in the massacre drains the intensity out of the scene, and seeing the flight times on an overhead message board flick to ‘delayed’ as the bodies begin to pile up shows a distinct lack of taste and tact.

There’s also a question of tone, something which MW2 struggles with at times. During some missions, killing innocent bystanders while hunting ultra-nationals doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. Other levels include such insanity as a snowmobile race through the arctic mountains, complete with one-armed machine-gunning of the soldiers that try and stop you. The content of “No Russian” is entirely justified considering the events that transpire in the story, but Infinity Ward handled it clumsily at best. In a way, it feels as if they lacked the courage to see their brave intentions through.

 
The rest of the campaign is a non-stop, Michael Bay-esque thrill-ride that includes everything from an underwater attack on an oil rig to a daring rescue from a heavily fortified Russian prison. While it should only take about six hours to blow through, the single player mode is all the better for it. Modern Warfare 2 is set piece after set piece, each of which would be the high point of a lesser FPS. Six hours of unrelenting assault is much better than twelve hours of peaks and troughs, freeing up plenty of time to jump into the real reason that this game broke sales records: online multiplayer.

Modern Warfare 2 includes both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes, both of which are completely separate experiences. Special Ops is a two player cooperative undertaking that includes 23 unique, short-burst missions. Some of these are modified sections of campaign levels, while others were built exclusively for this mode. All of them do a great job of mixing up the gameplay, from one mission that features a high-speed snowmobile race to another that has one player on the ground running from enemies while the other mans the weaponry of an AC130 gunship from above. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into sculpting these missions, resulting in the kind of experience that will have you shouting constantly into your headset for better or worse.

 
 
It was going to be a nearly insurmountable task to improve upon the virtually faultless competitive multiplayer of the original Modern Warfare, but Infinity Ward managed to make doing this look easy. The new maps offer a breadth of tactics that shows IW’s mastery over their craft, and the RPG elements have been expanded upon with more weapons, a unique suite of upgradeable perks, and the newly customizable kill and death streaks. In a stroke of genius, death streaks offer a boost—like extra health or bonus weapons—if you die several times in a row, averting frustration and making sure that you keep coming back. Like its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2 defines addictive, adrenaline-pumping online gaming and shouldn’t be missed.

Modern Warfare 2 seemed destined to have become the majestic success that everyone expected it to be, resulting in a spectacle that is without parallel. It may not break new ground or push boundaries, but its high points are worthy enough to heap the praise into its lofty lap.

 

 Our Rating for Modern Warfare 2
9
TGR Rating
High-caliber single player action and intense multiplayer combat make this a must play

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