Artificially Orchestrated Shock and Hype Without Substance
Will an obvious attempt to provoke an emotional outrage carry you through a wall of text? You tell me! But I will tell you, it did not carry me through Modern Warfare 2, the current version of a soon to be announced sequel.
The Modern Warfare 2 plot is a garbled mess of disjointed set-pieces rarely making any sense and that never come together. The individual scenes are void of any originality and appear to be thrown together from a couple of Clancy novels blended with Hollywood movies of the 90ies, such as The Rock. As the player, you are wildly hopping from continent to continent without really knowing what and why you are doing the things you do. Many levels are only there for their shock value and usually covered with a thick orchestral soundtrack of pseudo "let's get emotional" music. Especially the Airport scene fails at being disturbing and is a rather cheap attempt to solicit media and player attention with a calculated lack of taste. To call the resulting plot and the decisions by the main characters nonsensical is a gross understatement. Infinity Ward seems to forget the basic balance of power in politics: there is no conventional warfare between nuclear powers. Since this is by far not the only plot hole, even the most lenient player will eventually be forced to stop making excuses and start ignoring this story mess.
Single Player Gameplay:
Playing the game is as much of a turnoff as the story. MW2 might as well be an on-rails shooting gallery, which ironically it sometimes becomes when breaching walls. Venturing off the suggested patch means you die. Not knowing all the corners in which enemies will stand, and get you from behind once you passed a walkline, means you die. Not using the weapon the game wants you to use, means you die. It is really hard to defend the game for that, when machine gun fire cannot penetrate plastic shields. The game is not that hard, you simply have to learn what to do at every turn and stick exactly to the plan the game has for you. There is not even the slightest hint of sandbox elements to MW2. In short, MW2 is Time Crisis with WASD commands. Good thing health is regenerating fast, because the game did in no way receive the sort of polish and balance to be playable any other way. People treasuring good fps gameplay will be very disappointed. MW2 sacrifices all modern fps gameplay options in favor of cinematic action without ever achieving the amount of quality Uncharted 2 delivered in that department. Both games try to do very similar things, but where Uncharted succeeds in getting your blood pumping, MW2 simply fails. Part of it has to do with pressure management. MW2 kills the player way too fast, so early on players will learn to go into "Trial & Error" mode, effectively ruining any attachment to your character, who is reduced to be a guinea pig for which turn to take in order to advance the level. Not since Rick Dangerous has this sort of gameplay been this apparent. Attempts of the game to combine racing and shooting elements are fairly competent, with levels being very linear and the behavior of the vehicles reduced to the lowest common denominator of a Atari 2600 game; albeit with Michael Bay first person shaky camera syndrome.
This is the PC Version I am talking about, so the evaluation of technical aspects differs from what I would think about console versions. Sand and snow storm effects in the early levels do have some very rough edges to it. It is reminiscent of an age where light effects were not rendered in 32 bit color depth and the volumetric fog of a Quake 3 was not invented yet. The detail in geometry of the levels is good, but quality of the texture details varies form scene to scene. Player and enemy models will have many details, while textures on walls and buildings are often too plain. A dashboard of a car might be modeled in great detail with a lot of effort going into each texture, but the wall of the first building outside that car might appear as flat and artificial as a wall texture in Quake 2. It is also very apparent that Infinity Ward had no impulse to exceed console limitations when it came to textures on the PC. While that allows MW2 to run just as fine as on machines that ran CoD4, owners of high end rigs might feel a bit abandoned. Mouse control is executed perfectly and always the way it should be. The music is your average sound-scape of gunfire and orchestral Hollywood soundtrack. It will be in the comfort zone of most players, but not be something you notice standing out either.
If you are just inclined to join a match as quickly as possible, then MW2 is happy to do that for you. In terms of how the game plays, there is little difference to CoD4. MW2 is all about trapping the player in that MMO grind, offering him better perks for playing more of the game and then showing them off online. It is the pantheon of the addictive elements of WoW applied to a shooter. You will know if you fall for that or not. Veteran PC players will miss a long list of features and will have to make a hard decision if that breaks the purchase for them. Especially since MW2's single player mode is not exactly everybody's taste when it comes to story and gameplay. The lack of dedicated servers severely restricts the number of maximum players and the Peer2Peer style of packet distribution puts a further strain on your Internet line. Multiple players sharing one connection can have its perks, but it also can have the same severe downfalls a L4D has in this department.
The single player mode alone is hardly a reason to spend this much money. If the game does not click instantly on you, then you can only suffer through a campaign you will most likely not be inclined to play again. MW2 simply lacks the gameplay depth to go in again and it offers no choice to try things differently. Single player MW2 is your typical throw-away rental game. The multiplayer is more worthy of your mighty Dollars. Just take a hard look how much your fun in CoD4 really depended of dedicated servers, player modifications and 20+ player matches. Ask yourself, if you would pay money again, to essentially play the same thing all over. Chances are good you won't be offended by the new PC multiplayer experience. But compared to what PC players are used to receive, the multiplayer feature-set definitely lacks on the technical side. However, on the multiplayer gameplay side, MW2 delivers; by being CoD4 V1.5. Players should seriously ask themselves why they love this game. Did marketing make you into a fanboy drone overlooking all the flaws? Are you just bowing to peer-pressure? For the love of your money, try to be at least a tiny bit reluctant to jump on the bandwagon of this game. As bright as MW2 shines now, it might burn out really fast on you.