A Modern Marvel
The original Modern Warfare, released 2 years ago, was a critical and commercial success by all standards. I spent hours playing through 2 ladders of prestige mode online, along with plenty of other gamers, eager to rank up for that next perk or unlockable weapon. A short but fun campaign allowed gamers to team up in co-op as well. The game redefined online play, and brought the theater of today's wars into our living rooms.
For the most part, Modern Warfare 2 is more of the same - a lot more. The single player experience is scripted like something out of a summer blockbuster - short on story or character development but heavy on action. Each level begins with a rough outline of the plot during load screens. Usually the player is dropped right into the action, and it doesn't stop until the level is complete.
The online play is deeper and more addictive than ever. The rank system, unlockables, perks, clans and so forth are fleshed out in much greater depth and detail than the first Modern Warfare, and it's sure to delight the multiplayer hounds. After playing through spec ops and the campaign, it's very obvious that the major focus of MW2 was given to the online experience...and it doesn't disappoint. Environments differ greatly from level to level, and the amount of easter eggs and hide-out spots continues to amaze.
The addition of a Spec Ops mode allows teams of two players to overcome different kinds of challenges - many of them based on the campaign. This was a fabulous add to an already great game. For those who may play through the campaign first, spec ops is a great way to work your way into a multiplayer online experience. Each level deals with different obstacles and enemies, sometimes splitting players up between an AC-130 and a ground soldier, forcing cooperation in order to finish the level. Wonderful amounts of detail have been put into Spec Ops, making it a welcome addition.
The weapon options in MW2 are excellent. Realistic firing and design make them an integral part of the game. During multiplayer the next weapon is always that much better, requiring you to spend the extra time in order to rank up for it. Level design has been created for optimal balance during multiplayer matches. Each environment demands different styles of play which can either lead to gamers only playing levels they like - or helping to create different techniques. The sound design is also perfect. Everything from weapons to footsteps in the snow sound authentic and on point.
On the downside, the storyline in MW2 is lacking - which is a common theme in the Call of Duty franchise. Elements of a plot are told by voice actors during a load screen, while only small twists develop during (usually at the end of) a level. It's the main reason I feel MW2 doesn't deserve 5 stars. Fans of single player experiences will find it lacking...Infinity Ward does have the resources and the franchise to attract some strong writers, and I feel they could've done more with the story to cement the game as an 'all time great'.
That being said, Modern Warfare 2 is amazing. It's a must own for any hardcore or casual fans of shooters and it definitely lives up to the hype and marketing blitz in the mainstream media. If you've got a couple extra bucks, Modern Warfare 2 is worth the price.