Even more Modern Warfare-r
Coming into Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, I had a high set of expectations, primarily set by Infinity Ward's previous game; Call of Duty 4. CoD4 came completely out of left field for me, revitalising my interest in what I believed to be a tired, played-out franchise; the change of setting, compelling campaign, and addictive multiplayer making it one of my top 5 games of 2007. Riding in on this wave of euphoria and excitement Modern Warfare 2 had a lot to live up to.
The campaign follows a similar shape to that of its predecessor in that it lasts 5 or 6 hours dependent on difficulty, and switches between multiple perspectives to tell its story from a variety of angles. I initially played through the campaign on Hardened difficulty, having completed the previous game on Veteran, and I found the game to be considerably more challenging than its predecessor, to draw attention to the Favela levels set in Rio de Janeiro which included checkpoint sections that held me up for 15 or 20 minutes of trying to pass. In terms of the storytelling in the campaign, it rests at the higher end of the genre, having said that the probability of events and bombastic nature make it closer to James Bond, than Black Hawk Down of the first Modern Warfare game. The campaign makes heavy use of set pieces, and mixes things up with a couple of vehicle sections, and one spectacular section with no gunfire at all. One particularly impressive aspect of the campaign is the sheer size and scale of the levels, showing the improvements IW have made to their engine in the last two years. The variety of locations presented is also impressive, from airports, to the forests of Kazakhstan, via the slums of Rio and the heart of Washington DC itself.
A relatively under-explored feature in the game is the inclusion of a co-operative Special Ops mode which sets the player and a partner (AI or human) on a set of 23 missions, the majority of which re-use elements of the campaign maps. There is a lot of variety presented in this missions from sniper sections reminiscent of the Chernobyl level of CoD4, to one particularly compelling mission that has the players split up, with one riding shotgun in a helicopter, whilst the other advances on the ground. These missions help to add replay value to the non-competitive experience, especially with the incentive to replay missions in order to earn more stars.
The multi-player is arguably the most eagerly awaited aspect of the package by the series' fans, and it does certainly not disappoint . The 18 player count remains the same as its predecessor, as are the majority of the modes available, including; deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, headquarters, and various other objective based games. The roster includes 16 brand-new maps, of which a large number "borrow" elements from the campaign maps, but as ever with Infinity Ward they feel well designed and offer a good amount of variety in setting, from the mansion and its outlying buildings taken from the campaign (Estate), to a pair of skyscrapers and the open killing field that lies between them (Highrise). In terms of player customisation many of the features introduced in CoD4 are back including weapon loadouts, Perks, and Killstreaks, although all have a few interesting twists. Some major changes have been made to weapon classes, such as moving shotguns and "launchers" into sidearms, this reflects the focus on anti-aircraft capabilities given to the player to balance out some of the more powerful Killstreaks. Perks have also been rebalanced, such as the loss of Martyrdom, meaning you can generally approach a downed foe without fear of exploding. However, Martyrdom is not gone from the game entirely, it has been added as one of the new "Deathstreaks", which are unlocked if the player has died mulitple times in a row without making any kills, which can happen to the best of us. Other Deathstreaks include Painkiller, which respawns the player with triple health for the first 10 seconds. Another new feature is the ability to customise one's own Killstreaks, from a list of 10 or so, at the highest end these include battlefield flatteners, such as a Harrier, the AC130 gunship, and even a tactical nuke, which kills everyone on the map and ends the game, however to earn the nuke the player must make 25 kills in a row without dying.
In conclusion, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is a refined, and satisfying experience. It delivers what the fanbase is looking for in all the right ways. However, it is not the earth shattering revelation the its predecessor was, as it takes the elements from the previous game and improves them in a bigger and louder sequel. After all, how else are you to, "Go loud soldier!"?