Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360, PS3)November 17th, 2009 | Written by Alex Quevedo | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360
It’s about that time of year again. Publishers put their pistols away and pull out the big guns. Now is the time where the wallets stop emptying, and the latest edition of Call of Duty marks of the signaling of the season. Modern Warfare 2 is one of the biggest releases of the season (arguably THE biggest release), and for good reason. Its predecessor was a smash success when it released in 2007, selling millions of copies and still ranking among one of the top played online multiplayer games. That created a lot of expectation for developer Infinity Ward to live up to. Thankfully for gamers, they have lived up to it in almost every way.
Modern Warfare 2 takes place five years after the events of the original. Despite what you tried to do, Zakhaev (the original enemy) has been turned into a national hero and martyr after ultranationalists took control of Russia. His protégé, Vladimir Makarov, has now become the main threat, extracting numerous terrorist attacks against Europe. When Makarov engages in a massive attack on a Russian airport, the prompting attack forces Russia to start a war with America, and things really pick up from this point, putting you through vicious battles on a much larger scale than the original Modern Warfare.
Yet again you assume the role of various characters, though most of your time will be spent in the shoes of Sergeant Gary “Roach” Sanderson. Sanderson is part of Task Force 141, an elite commando unit headed by former playable character, Captain Soap MacTavish. You will encounter a few other characters during the game, but the biggest names are Ghost (part of Task Force 141) and Sgt. Foley (Rangers).
So how does the plot rank? It’s certainly not one of the greatest plots seen in gaming but it certainly ranks pretty well. Amongst other Call of Duty games, you can only really compare it to its direct predecessor. And it is certainly much more involved and intense than Modern Warfare. MW2 has its plot twists but in sensible ways. In almost every way, this game is trying to get as cinematic as it gets. The plot would fit very well into a large-scale Hollywood film (teetering on a Michael Bay dream, sans beautiful women). Of course, Infinity Wars leaves itself some breathing room at the end, so we will see a sequel barring any unforeseen issues.
Emotionally, the game is gripping at times and disconnected at others. Admittedly as an American, one can get tingly when fighting through the burning streets of a Russian-invaded Washington D.C. However, Infinity Ward’s attempt at an emotional immersion sort of falls flat on itself. We’re talking about the aforementioned airport massacre level.
It’s been causing plenty of controversy in various news outlets, who have been livid about a video game “letting you play as a terrorist.” When you actually play the game, you will see that you are a CIA operative and aren’t required to kill any civilians. Playing through this level for ourselves, we felt IW was trying to give you a look into the evil of a terrorist. It’s a commendable attempt, but we just couldn’t get into it very much. There is too much disconnect from it, oddly due to the immersion. The scene would fit very well into a film, where you can simply sit back and take in the drama. But here, where you have control, you can’t do that. There’s too much for a fine line that it creates awkwardness in the level.
But beyond that, Modern Warfare 2 is beyond solid. You have the very action-oriented campaign that mechanically handles great. And now in addition to the expanded multiplayer experience, you have Special Ops missions. As you may pick up from the name, these are situational experiences that can be played out with another person, whether online or split screen, or solo. Some operations are taken directly from the game but there are other ones that are a mix between this Modern Warfare and the last one. Some situations are feasibly done by yourself, but if you really want to succeed and grab three stars on all operations, take a friend along. For the record, there are operations that require two players regardless, which are beautifully designed, such as one person running across a barren field trying to survive as the second player provides air support with a helicopter.
The game’s true lasting power once again lies in its multiplayer. It takes Modern Warfare’s skeleton and beefs up the body a bit. The Barracks have added challenges to essentially every aspect of multiplayer. So that means you’ll be able to unlock big upgrades to your perks and equipment. You will even have upgradeable kill streak “rewards.” They work like a kill streak, but are meant to help get you into the game if you’re getting waxed. Your options are to have a small timeframe of extra life, take the characteristics of your killer and the familiar martyrdom (grenade drop).
One of the benefits of the new online system is host migration. If the game’s host drops their connection, the game will automatically switch hosts. It slows things down, but it is certainly better than dropping the game completely. We only encountered this switch once, however, in about 10+ hours of online play.
The new maps play out relatively well and you will notice that, like in the game, there is a very vertical feel to them. Not all of them have this effect, but a handful that let you perform a more tactical approach. The vertical element can really give the advantage to the team with the higher ground, so prepare to put up a good fight if you expect to stay in the game.
While at times the action can make you whiz by the environments, slowing down will allow you to take in the beauty of the environments. There isn’t quite the real-life detail as seen in the last game with Chernobyl, but Modern Warfare 2 has its own great detailing. And best of all, you won’t have any hiccups or lag. The audio stays up to par with the last game. This game might be a little brighter and crisper than the last, but it isn’t a dramatic upgrade.
Modern Warfare 2 culminates in a definite buy and a great way to start off your season. It is an improvement over its predecessor, but more in the form of small things here and there as opposed to any major overhauls. But you know what? It works, and it works very well. So if you haven’t already, go out and pick it up.