Ok, I won’t write a cheesy intro paragraph about Modern Warfare 2. You know what this game is. I won’t even make a statement about how you have to have been hiding under a rock to not know. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all familiar with this game, its controversies, and some of its more publicized info leading up to the epic launch this week. This is without a doubt the biggest title to drop this year. So, with all of the hype, how did it stack up?
This was maybe the hardest review I’ve had to write for this site, simply because of all the hype, the expectations and strong reactions to this game. I decided to do things a little differently. The game is clearly divided into 3 fairly big components. I have strong feelings about each one, which made giving a final score difficult. So I wrote a review of each one separately. Hope you’re ready for the read.
Single Player Campaign
I won’t beat around the bush about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the predecessor to Modern Warfare 2. I loved the solo campaign to the 2007 game. It was so solid and cohesive that it instantly vaulted that game to my “game of the year” over other notables like Halo 3 and Uncharted.
I came in to Modern Warfare 2 with a lot of expectations about how this game’s story was going to play out. With all of the commercials and the airport scene controversy (where the player is undercover with a group of terrorists as they slaughter innocent civilians in an airport), it was hard not to. One of the things that stuck out to me in the game’s ads was the myriad of locales that it seemed to take you to. So much, in fact, that I started to wonder how much the game was going to jump around, and would it feel discombobulated?
Yes, is the answer. Let’s get this out of the way. After playing a game with storytelling as brilliant as Uncharted 2, MW2’s solo campaign is a huge step down. From a story perspective, the game was just all over the place. By the end of it, I didn’t understand what the main bad guy was even trying to do, and ultimately, the airport scene is a big fail from a storytelling standpoint, for reasons I won’t spoil in this post but might expand on in the comments. Basically, Infinity Ward claimed it was necessary to stew hatred in you for the game’s bad guy. However, it was poorly set up (thus not inspiring hatred or any sort of connection) and in the end there’s no payoff for all of that hatred. But I digress.
Normally, I don’t care about stories in many shooters. But to be honest, I thought the first game’s narrative was to tightly delivered, that I expected just as many great things from this one. In that regard, it was a let down. That doesn’t make it bad, though, from a gameplay standpoint, which I’m sure is what many of you are dying to hear.
The first half of the game is quite honestly a drag in that regard. The opening missions are clearly trying to wow you with a few bit set piece moments, but the whole thing just feels like it’s screaming about how cool and exciting it is. The first 3-4 levels are over too quickly, unless you count the Favela level, which is one of the worst video game levels I’ve played in this generation. I was honestly pretty bummed until about halfway through Act II, when the game slowed down, and delivered IW’s signature huge scripted events. The ones that make your jaw drop and get you pumped about the game.
There are several of those “holy crap” moments and memorable missions throughout the second half of the game, and I loved it. You travel to a Russian gulag, jump rooftops in Rio de Janeiro, fight through a war-torn Washington D.C. (the reveal of the Whiskey Hotel is one of my favorite moments of this generation), and even take a brief detour in space. Don’t worry, you don’t actually fight there. During this portion of the game, I felt a callback to what I loved about Modern Warfare, and wasn’t disappointed in the slightest when I finished it.
Overall, the game is a blast, and while it doesn’t quite live up to the original in terms of its cohesiveness or giving that one “Ghillies in the Mist” type experience, it is still well made and worth every penny. Basically, if you can suffer through the boring and “trying-too-hard” factor of the first half, you get a great pay off.
The game doesn’t stop at campaign. I’ll admit, when I first heard that Modern Warfare 2 wasn’t going to have co-op multiplayer for the main campaign, I was fairly disappointed. After all, World at War managed to have 5 player co-op and implemented it decently. I’m a big fan of co-op anything, so it was a bit of a blow. However, Infinity Ward did announce that there would be a handful of co-op missions in a new mode called Special Ops.
While this certainly relieved my disappointment, I can’t say I was ever as pumped for Spec Ops the way I was for the main campaign. I mean, a handful of missions is hardly anything to get excited over. However, the other day I was able to spend several hours in Spec Ops with a buddy of mine (some of you will know him as Damn Dangerous), and I had so much fun. What IW didn’t get in to is the fact that each co-op mission has 5-6 sub missions, making for somewhere between 20-30 co-op levels in the game. We played it for 2-3 hours and didn’t even get through all of them on the easiest difficulty. Not because they were hard, but because there are just so many.
The amount of content here is surprising, in a totally positive way. Spec Ops takes some of the best moments of the campaigns levels and gives you a co-op objective for them. It also includes a handful of levels from Call of Duty 4, as well as some brand new missions that couldn’t quite make the cut for MW2, such as a suspension bridge that is on the verge of collapsing while you fight repelling enemy soldiers. It really is a ton of fun, and something I just wasn’t expecting from the game at all. There seems to be enough content here to keep anyone busy for a long time.
This is the crowning joy of the game. I reviewed the XBox 360 version though, so keep that in mind. Won’t be diving into the PC version, but the gameplay here is simply fantastic. I enjoyed the CoD 4 multiplayer mode, but this already has me enthralled in a totally different way. While I dislike the exclusion of the party chat functionality, I still predict that I will be addicted to this game for months to come.
As with CoD 4, awards are dished out a steady and rewarding pace, constantly giving your avatar new abilities, weapon load outs and customizations, all while moving you up in rank as you gain more kills. The gameplay is fast and frenetic, in some ways moving beyond that of the original.
I think one of the most fascinating things about the multiplayer in MW2 is the balance of perks, deathstreaks and killstreaks. No longer do you just gain rewards for killing in 3, 5 and 7 increments. Now, you can adjust your killstreak to all kinds of kill levels, and even get perks that lower the amount of kills needed for victory. You can call in predator bombs, care packages, harrier jets, helicopters, UAV jammers, EMP bombs and even a nuke at 25 kills, if you’re feeling ridiculous.
Gone are the tiresome perks of old such as Martyrdom and Last Stand. However, those are not removed from the game, but rather given to players who have died many times in a row, earning a killstreak bonus. This levels the playing field slightly for struggling competitors, and keeps things mixed up enough so they stay interesting. I think one of the cooler deathstreak awards is copycat, which allows you to steal the class and weapon load out from your most recent killer. This makes for some interesting scenarios, and puts matches in a constant back and forth.
I played about 5-6 hours of multiplayer over the weekend, and I’m hooked. This easily earns a great score from me.
And there you have it. The biggest game of the year, if not one of the biggest releases of all time, reviewed. Like I said before, I have such distinct impressions of each of these portions of the game that it’s really hard for me to identify it as one comprehensive package.
I know some of you don’t care about some of those components, and some of you will care about all 3. If I were to combine those 3 scores, I believe I’d come up with an A, but that feels too low for a game that I’m probably going to be playing for the next six months or longer. So for those of you who have played the game- what do you guys think this game deserves? Go!
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