Modern Warfare 2? Modern Warfare 1 minute and 58 seconds more like. Nobody from Infinity Ward has made the trip to gamescom, the nervous Activision man demoing the biggest game of the year is under orders to refer all questions not on his script to Infinity Ward in spite of this absence, and the hands-off demonstration is a Special Ops level with a par time of 90 seconds. At least we get more than our money's worth.
Spec Ops is a serious undertaking in Modern Warfare land, considered the third key game mode alongside the single-player campaign and the presumably world-conquering multiplayer. It's inspired by the Mile-High Club level at the end of the first Modern Warfare, and basically amounts to a bunch of unlockable time trial levels for one or two players.
There are split-screen and online co-op options, but today we're seeing it in solo and one level - apparently unlocked quite deep into Spec Ops - called Breach & Clear, in which you're expected to tool up, breach through a wall and then clear the area as quickly as possible under heavy, sustained attack from all directions, including elevated positions. Your time will eventually go towards leaderboards, we suspect, since Nervous Activision Man says Infinity Ward hopes you will compete for better times with your friends. But naturally he can't actually confirm whether it has leaderboards or not.
He can say what the little stars next to each difficulty setting are though - you gather them by completing Spec Ops levels and then use them as currency to buy access to others. In Breach & Clear's case you can play on Regular, Hard or Veteran, with one, two or three stars conferred depending on how much action you can take.
Beginning in a room with a choice of loadouts, Nervous Activision Man picks up a hefty assault rifle and breaches, which also starts the clock. This busts through the wall and slows time so that you can admire the flying corpse of a nearby Russian on the other side, as the explosive spittle of masonry drifts across your vision and you take in the layout - seemingly borrowed from that Alcatraz washroom scene in The Rock, complete with balconies overlooking disused, crumbling communal showers, through which you duck and scamper as the probing red beams of laser sights cross streams all around you.
The goal is simply to escape, but it's easier said than done. Despite Nervous Activision Man's precise bursts of fire, the screen is constantly lashed with blood splatters, whited out by flashbangs, and poked and prodded by incoming fire and grenade damage indicators from what it turns out in the end are 19 rather angry Russian terrorists. One of them marches forward with a riot shield, which makes a nice melee toy once he's dispatched, and is soon stylishly embellished with a scorch mark where it takes a round across the transparent visor.
Nervous Activision Man is adamant that there are people testing the game who can get the time down to 17 seconds thanks to astonishing precision, which suggests there's a spawn pattern to learn, although he also insists that it feels dynamic enough to survive plenty of repeat play - which of course he's putting in over the course of gamescom. It's certainly difficult to tell whether the enemy placements are fixed from my vantage point, and it's easy to believe his observation that co-operative games play out very strategically, with players breaching at opposing ends of the room and then having to quickly combine to take out the bad guys.
All the same, it's hard to make any judgements based on 1 minute and 58 seconds of gameplay, and even the sight of a crisp 20 note wasn't enough coax the pad out of Nervous Activision Man's hands. Brief impressions? It's clearly a game mode with enormous potential - not just for expanding the game's repertoire, but for extending what we all expected to be huge longevity anyway. It's also lovely to see a videogame running at 60 frames-per-second in these days of 720p30 or worse, and there's no question that it's an astonishingly polished first-person shooter. Infinity Ward may have struggled to make it to Germany, but they don't seem to be struggling with current-generation hardware. Roll on 11.10.09.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 2 or whatever it's called is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 10th November.