Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Reader Review
Okay, so if there was an award for ‘most obvious game to review’ this month, I’d surely be thanking the lord and my family by now, but the exhausting popularity the Call of Duty series has garnered over the past few years doesn’t mean that we can all accept it will probably be great and go home. So perhaps the most disappointing thing to say about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is that, beyond the plethora of hype and mass marketing, it is unfortunately an exceedingly good game. The review could end here really. They were marketing it as if it would be brilliant, we all thought it would be brilliant, the Daily Mail got a bit riled about something or other, and here we are - it’s out, and it’s everything we thought it would be - that’s right, the ‘B’ word. Change that award to ‘most predictably boring game review’ and ill have to buy a new trophy shelf.
So what’s the meat and bones of the situation? Well, I’m glad you asked. Despite all of your efforts in the original Modern Warfare, the Ultranationalists are at it again, having replaced the now very much dead Zakhaev with Vladamir Makarov, one of Zakhaev’s former right hand men. Essentially, there is a new bad Russian man standing in the way of freedom, and with the British and American army not being too picky on motives, it presents a perfect opportunity for them to invade something. Throughout the game you’ll be joyfully expelling led in Brazil, Russia, Afghanistan and even in the American suburbs. Already it’s sounding a bit too close to home for some, and it is, particularly in one level in Moscow airport which has received fairly wide controversy with regards to it’s contents. I won’t drag on about it, as every concerned mother and stern faced news reader in the country has probably already told you. But for the record, it is handled incredibly well and isn’t simply the ‘hey, lets slaughter innocents because it’s fun’ kind of atmosphere those who don’t like ‘youths’ would have you believe. In fact it’s an incredibly sobering experience, providing the single moment that elevates the story beyond it’s ‘shoot the baddies’ core into something much more reflective and jarring.
Outside of these more visceral moments however, it’s best if you don’t pay attention to plot details or you may go batshit insane. The story is riddled with more holes than the Russian populace by the time the credits role, and you won’t know entirely why everything happened. In many other cases, this could be a game-breaker, but thankfully Call of Duty has always been about moments, not the greater whole. You won’t have a clue what’s happening half the time, but you will care about it, and you will enjoy it, because the game is so unrelentingly cinematic in it’s execution. Modern Warfare 2’s set pieces are, in a word, stunning, and the way they integrate into real-time game play is sometimes breathtaking.
And it is these moment’s which make the single player campaign, in truth, as the core gameplay itself remains pretty much unchanged, excluding a few tweaks. There's a new HUD and a generally tighter feel to the controls. Dog’s aren’t as much of a pain in the arse as they were in the first game (or fourth, depending on your fondness for counting), seeming to be more content with yapping and biting at you a bit, rather then wrestling you to the ground and making lunch with your throat. There is also a nifty new gizmo on one of your weapons that can sense heartbeats - hardly a revolution in gaming but it’s a nice touch. Overall the campaign is more of a continuation of Call of Duty 4, with tighter pacing and some surprising scenarios providing a more inventive and varied experience. It still unfortunately clocks in at about 6 hours on medium difficulty, but brevity is no issue when not a moment is wasted on filler.
Of course for many a short campaign will be just the thing, as they can blast through it in a day and get straight onto what really matters in a Call of Duty game - and indeed in life - the multiplayer. Much like the campaign experience, it’s a case of extreme familiarity where it counts, whilst providing just enough tweaks and refinement to make it an advance over its predecessor. The whole experience is more accessible, with less focus on just rewarding the talented and instead giving a little back to those that break out in cold sweats and hide from everyone. There are numerous alleviators to noob-pain that come in the form of what can only be described as noob-perks. Basically these are little helping hands when you aren’t playing your best. For instance, when you die a certain amount of times without a kill, you get the option of mimicking your next killers loadout so that you can gun him down with the very same hardware that tore your face off moments before. Purists will bemoan these changes, but purists bemoan everything.
However, there is some bemoaning going on within the PC world that is fully justified. You may have noticed this is indeed the PC version I am reviewing, so it’s time for some PC specifics. First, the good: it is incredibly well optimised, looking absolutely fantastic on mid range machines and in terms of playing like a port, forget about it - it plays like it never left the warm bosom of the PC all those moons ago. However, as you may have heard, the online is rather lacking in features. For instance, there is no dedicated server support, with everything being handled by Infinity Wards IWNET, replete with an auto-matchmaking system that means clan matches are off the cards unless the fates happen to land you all on the same server. There’s also no mod support so that the only extra content will be exchanged in coin with Activision’s questionably chubby fingers caressing at the sidelines, and the player number has been reduced from COD 4’s 30 something and beyond to a mere 18.
And so, particularly on PC, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is a hard game to judge. If you own a console, buy it, as it will only be everything Call of Duty 4 was but bigger, better, more polished and more refined. If you own a PC however, you have to weigh up what these console concessions mean to you online. I don’t play in clans, I don’t develop content and I don’t have any friends, so it is killing as usual from my point of view, but I do agree it was nonetheless an inconceivably stupid move to make, and acts only to scorn the very audience that got Infinity Ward where they are today.
It shouldn’t be so surprising that the game itself meets expectations. After all, they had all the money in the world and the comforting knowledge that they could have you play as a US Marine sternly wiping his arse with sandpaper for 5 hours and it would still sell more copies than the Bible. Thankfully the series' overall quality is fast becoming as assured as it’s sales figures, but it’s disregard for it’s home turf will leave Infinity Ward's future place within the PC community shaky to say the least. However, for those that can live with these concessions and loved Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare is well worth your time.
And hey, slaughtering innocents is fun.
8 / 10