Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty Modern Warfare took the world by storm with its gritty take on more recent military actions of the world we live in. Gone were the Germans we’d so relentlessly pushed back in the name of freedom for 3 previous games and a new direction was born and welcomed immensely. Introducing ex cast members from British soap opera EastEnders as the main voices throughout the game, the tough as nails characters endured all and sundry as they vied to take down the terrorist like opposition. It seems a long time ago since we slapped the disc in the tray to play the single player portion of the game, but for many, the game’s multiplayer is where the longevity was to be found with its use topping the most played on Xbox Live lists for a while.
After a seemingly long wait, and another visit to WWII in between, Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2 (MW 2) has been released onto the world bringing forth more guns, more shouting and its fair share of controversy thrown in for good measure. However, with the bar raised for first person shooters, how well does the game hold up? Is it more of the same or does it raise the already high bar set by its predecessor considerably?
MW 2’s story is set in various topical locales across the globe. You’ll take control of two new (and silent) characters this time and will swap between special forces and marines. The game thrusts you into the thick of it from the offset once you’ve run the gauntlet in the rather current Afghanistan. The game offers an arcade take on shooting action where there’s little realism here despite the looks and a definite onus on fast paced running as gamers can jump in and pretty much act all gung-ho on those who oppose you. The shooting itself is solid, and there’s a distinct level of weight to the weapons you’ll be using throughout the game, whether that’s a modified AK-47 to .50 Calibre sniper rifle, to pistols like the classic Desert Eagles. Shooting up the enemy is as satisfying as it gets as a few well placed bullets will drop most, although as outlined in the tutorial mission, firing from the hip is not encouraged, and the use of the iron sights being more favourable for keeping up the accuracy – that’s unless you’re wielding a meaty shotgun and are literally right on top of your opponents.
So what’s changed, as MW 2 seems to be a carbon copy of its predecessor in terms of the basic gameplay. Aside from a fresh story, new terrorist leader to hunt down and slightly different goons to fight, there are some changes to the gameplay that are quite apparent. The main changes are noticed with the enemy AI which seems to have been tweaked considerably since the first game and especially when compared to Call of Duty: World At War. For starters you’ll notice a lot less grenades being thrown by the enemy, and some equally clever use of flash-bangs followed by being rushed whilst you’re blinded. The enemy will also move around more, something we’ve seen in Quantum of Solace which uses the same game engine. No longer are there infinite enemy respawn points and invisible checkpoints, in favour of enemies that move around cover and try and come at you from all sides rather than just the full frontal assault. These actions are perpetuated by the more open level design for most levels, with few being of a claustrophobic nature. In this regard the game feels a lot more realistic, and generally less frustrating, but this in itself presents a more easier experience overall which is great for casuals, and perhaps not so good for the hardcore.
Some other changes are the inclusion of dual wield weapons which although might look cool running down dusty streets with two Uzi 9mms seems a little like fan service more than anything, as they offer no real tactical advantage other than restricting your accuracy and allowing you to pray and spray for a prolonged period. Also worth noting is the health of your character which seems to be able to take a fair few hits before hitting the ground. This is even more apparent on the game’s supposedly extra tough ‘Veteran’ difficulty which compared to previous Call of Duty games is a walk in the park. There’s also a rather imposing sticky aim which you can’t switch off for some reason, even though there’s a further option to turn off aim assist in the options menu. It’s weird and can sometimes throw you off, but does point to a game which seems geared towards overall mass acceptance rather than appealing to the hardcore few.
The missions on offer are varied and completely engaging where you’ll be one moment climbing up an icy rock face and infiltrating a snowy base, or breaching rooms on an oil rig and rescuing hostages to chasing down a target through the slums. There’s even some self imposed controversy in one mission where you play as an undercover agent alongside the bad guys, but less said about that the better. There’s no doubt that Infinity Ward have thought long and hard to present enough variation to keep the most wandering of minds engaged from start to finish and with the pleasant mix of urban warfare taking center stage fused with those missions which are more solitary makes for some compelling moments.
You always feel a part of the mission due to the impressive cinematic direction the game showcases, and often you’ll be fighting alongside fellow team mates in the most precarious of situations. It’s a grand excuse to hear those London East End accents and courageous yanks spewing lines that indicate what’s going on around you. The check point system seems to be pretty fair too, so should you take one too many for the team you won’t have any agonizing sections to repeat, thus keeping the story moving along with ease.
There’s some neat looking effects on offer in this game, although it’s hard to tell how much has been improved from Call of Duty World At War – if any improvements at all considering the length of time between the two game releases. You’ll find some excellent character models throughout, whether that be canine companions to Marine Sergeant there’s a lot of detail here. Some of the surfaces can look low res, but when looking at the game as a whole from textures to lighting it’s certainly grandiose.
The levels have also been afforded a little more variety and rather than stick with tried and trusted abandoned warehouses and military bases, there are some missions in more familiar locales which make for welcome changes. One mission sees the marines fighting out amongst what would normally be a peaceful neighbourhood, and another placed amongst replications of familiar retail establishments. MW 2 does do variation very well and that’s certainly in line with keeping player interest peaked at all times.
There are so few niggles with the graphics that it’s a testament of the hard work the developers have laboured over making things work just right. Only a few minor glitches made their way into the game, such as friendly AI getting stuck on a vehicle at one point, but nothing game breaking or intrusive.
An excellent orchestral score has been utilized, fused with some cinematic tones to create a rather splendid assault on the senses. Some sombre pieces alongside tense and dramatic melodies certainly provide an engaging and complimentary backdrop to the action gameplay and stealth where applicable. However, those voices are the stars here because like the previous Call of Duty games, there’s a lot of shouting in the thick of the action. Friendly AI will point out targets for you, and generally tell the story as you play rather than taking the player out of the game via cut scene. It’s a welcome method of story telling and with the return of familiar voices ‘Gaz’ who is now ‘Ghost’ and Captain Price (Bill Murray) who will always be remembered for his roles as Don Beech from UK TV series the Bill and Johnny Allen from classic soap opera EastEnders.
Now here’s an area which has seen vast improvement considering the brevity of the single player in the first game. Whilst it might be easy to breeze through the story missions this time in a similar time scale as before, the inclusion of the all new Spec Ops mode adds on the hours considerably. For lone players the Spec Ops mode adds a number of short but sweet scenarios to play through (taken from the main game and some extras from Modern Warfare 1) where completion gains stars which when accumulated unlocks more missions to try. It’s a rewarding process and one that offers suitable challenge even for the most hardened MW gamers. The bonus here is the option to team up with another player either locally in split-screen, via system link or online via Xbox Live. With plenty of missions to tackle as well as Infinity Ward’s own times to beat makes for a mode that can add on as much hours as the story. That’s not taking much away from the story though because purists should replay the story again on the now not so tough Veteran difficulty for added challenge.
Aside from the game’s single player and co-op antics with the rather excellent Spec Ops the multiplayer is back, once again free from achievements but also packing lots of reward for prolonged play with ranks and perks making a return. The adversarial multiplayer was huge in the first game and now with more maps and more weapons to play with MW 2’s multiplayer should top the most played on Live lists asserting the game’s dominance and ease of play. For gamers not connected to Live then the inclusion of four player split-screen local play is very much embraced with open arms and allows teams of two to go head to head for MW supremacy huddled around a large TV screen. Adding all the parts that make the game together and you’ve got one hell of package that should and will keep lone players well occupied and those with online friends even more engaged. Perhaps it’s time to lock the doors and shut the curtains, or better yet send the loved ones away on holiday for a few weeks.
There probably wasn’t any doubt that MW 2 would deliver considering how popular the last game was and the Call of Duty series as a whole. Whilst not the most complex of shooter (you simply aim, shoot and follow your nose) what is on offer is engaging, offers an easy to follow story that doesn’t intrude too much on what the game does best. There is an air of familiarity overhanging the experience, but in many ways this is the game’s biggest asset considering how universally appealing Modern Warfare was. However, for the record, the missions this time round feel a little by the numbers to a degree and pure brilliance such as the amazingly well thought out ‘All Ghillied Up’ mission from the first game are all but absent in favour of more visceral action sequences.
whether you’re a fan of solo play or multiplayer, there’s enough meat here to keep the most ardent of gamers well occupied. Taken as a whole, the game sets the standard for any future shooters and raises the bar in terms of available content for on and offline players. Rather than offer a carbon copy experience of the first game, Infinity Ward have gone the extra mile to make a more sturdy package oozing longevity from every orifice. That’s music to many gamers ears considering how short games are getting nowadays. The only gripe here with the single player portion is how easy the game has become for more seasoned vets, however the difficulty ramps up considerably with the solo play Spec Ops mode. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a must have game and one that should stay in your collection…period. The only way this game is going to be toppled in by Modern Warfare 3 whenever that comes out.