Modern Warfare 2 • Page 2

Do us a favela?

A fresh glimpse at the single-player campaign suggests the team is bringing a new level of skill to its work. "There's a hundred little changes you might notice, and a hundred you won't," says Bowling, as he loads up a mission set inside a favela - a slum, I had to look it up - in Rio De Janeiro. "This stuff ranges from lighting effects and things like blood-splattering patterns, to little details involving how much more responsive the environment is and how much more is moving around at any time."

He's not kidding: the level of detailing in the campaign missions can be a little overwhelming. As new protagonist Sanderson lurches through the traffic jams of downtown Rio to spy on some kind of underworld meeting, he can soak up atmospheric touches like a plastic Hula girl model on the dashboard of the car he's in. Later, he can admire lumpy chunks of brain that splatter the windshield when the meeting goes haywire, some of which belong, rather disconcertingly, to Sanderson's driver.

After that, it's down to business: out of the car, and into the grim alleyways of the shanty to pursue the fleeing baddies on foot. Trashcans and tenements, chicken wire and old tyres: it's hardly a first for a videogame, but the sense of activity going on around Sanderson is unsurpassed. Good old Soap is on the radio, barking orders and providing a nice layer of cockney backchat, while enemies scatter away from gunfire and take up positions on overhead walkways.

Throughout, Infinity Ward lays on the claustrophobia with a series of great false scares, one of which, featuring a barking dog snapping away beyond a chain link fence, provides such a shock that I almost spit coffee all over my notepad, which would have been something of a tragedy, as it was the last one in my secret stash, and Paperchase has stopped bloody making the only kind I like.

In amongst the chaos, the frantic chase, and Soap's impossible orders to capture the target alive, there's always just enough time to spot the various things Infinity Ward is getting right - the space within each encounter to tackle every enemy a variety of ways, or animation details like the underhanded grenade fling, or the way Sanderson's hands casually knock one clip out of the gun as they replace it with the next - and when it's all over and the mission's run its course, I look down to discover that what felt like 30 seconds of single-player has actually been five or 10 minutes.

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Bleeding out in co-op is a bit like Gears, except Marcus Fenix never used the phrase, "I need some 'elp, Geezah!"

For most of us, the wait to find out what happens next is nearly over. For Bowling and the rest of Infinity Ward, however, this is a much-needed lull in the schedule: with release approaching, the team that went from COD4 straight into Modern Warfare 2 without skipping a beat is getting something of a holiday.

It will all be fairly short-lived, however. "When the game does get out to the public, it all starts up again," smiles Bowling. "We'll be playing every night, watching the lobbies, checking Twitter and hearing the feedback, as well as going directly to our community and just asking: what do you think? What do you want?

"Based on that feedback, the entire team will go back and start creating post-launch content: the things people want more of. In our heads we might think we'll just be releasing more stuff for standard multiplayer, but the Spec Ops could turn into something no-one expected it to be, and people could be saying, 'We love this stuff: we want more Stealth missions, we want more Elimination missions!' You can be sure we'll be focusing our attention on what people actually want."

All of which means that, in some small way, this Christmas, a nice little chunk of one of gaming's biggest franchises rests in your hands.

Modern Warfare 2 is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 10th November.

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