Modern Warfare 2 lives up to the hype.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 hit stores last week as possibly the most anticipated video game release ever. Does Modern Warfare 2 live up to the hype?
The short answer would be yes.
In a nutshell, Modern Warfare 2 is just a whole lot more of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. There are minor to significant improvements here and there, sure, but if you've played the first Modern Warfare then you definitely know what to expect here as there aren't any truly groundbreaking changes or additions present. There's another short and sweet campaign and another long and involved competitive multiplayer. Added is a Special Ops mode which features a few co-operative missions, a bit more fireworks in the solo campaign, and some welcome modifications to the multiplayer game.
The single player campaign has been the topic of most of the conversation thus far. Modern Warfare 2's campaign stretches far beyond the aspirations of the story of the first game, and suffers a bit for it. There are numerous plot holes created by the lack of sufficient explanation of the events unfolding in front of the player's eyes. While these types of holes might be expected in a story that involves such grandiose events as Modern Warfare 2, they may have been alleviated by the addition of a longer campaign. Like the first game, the campaign tops out at around 6 hours, and this essentially leaves only the short loading screen dialogue pieces to explore the intricacies of the story or the motivations of the characters. Fortunately the shortcomings of the plot are picked up by an incredible amount of "oh sh--!" moments during gameplay itself. I found myself beaming for several minutes after finishing the gulag level due to the sheer awesomeness revealed after the final wall breach. It's the way the game distracts you from the plot pitfalls with these purely awesome moments in gaming that preserves the value of the campaign. All in all, I enjoyed the campaign, and I'd compare it to your average Hollywood action movie: It's really, really enjoyable if you focus on things like Soap's badassery rather than the plausibility of the geopolitical events occurring in the game.
There isn't much to say about the way the game plays because not much has changed. The game still controls beautifully. The Call of Duty series has been the standard-bearer of first person shooting ever since the first game in the series released, and it's mirrored this accomplishment by representing great first person control for consoles since Call of Duty 2 was released at the very beginning of this console generation. The entire control scheme returns from the first game, and everything felt smooth and comfortable despite the fact that I hadn't played the first Modern Warfare in over a year. The familiar feel of the grenade pings and the sound of hitting your target in multiplayer return, as well.
Multiplayer is nearly unchanged aside from several small modifications, which isn't at all a bad thing. It's now possible to designate your kill streak rewards along with the new death streak rewards. If you find yourself dying repeatedly -- which you are likely to if you haven't played the original game -- you can designate a set of rewards for yourself including the ability to steal your killer's created class, increase your health for a short time, and more. There's also the ability to shoot down those pesky UAVs. Infinity Ward has also taken a hint from Street Fighter IV's online play and created an enormous set of user titles and icons to be unlocked by completing specific tasks, which is a nice touch. There's also the obligatory bevy of new maps. Competitive multiplayer is a slightly improved version of more of the same, which is exactly what Infinity Ward should have done with the game. About the only complaint I can think of would be the difficulty that new players will experience as they try to crack into the already-installed userbase of Call of Duty 4 players migrating over, but this is addressed by Infinity Ward's incorporation of death streak rewards. After two years the title of best online competitive multiplayer experience has finally been taken from Call of Duty 4 -- by its sequel.
The biggest new feature of the game is Special Ops, which is a set of side-missions not unlike the epilogue of the first game that can be played either alone of co-operatively. There's not much to write home about if you're playing these by yourself, but once you join up with another player they begin to provide some depth that was missing due to a lack of a co-operative mode in the first Modern Warfare. At first it may seem like a tacked-on feature to quell the complaints of a lack of co-operative mode in the campaign, but there is a good amount of value to be found here. The "star system" of organization works very well, and the missions themselves are quite varied and interesting enough to warrant their own mode. You can rest assured that these aren't just multiplayer scenarios pulled for use in co-operative play. The lack of four-player support is somewhat of a disappointment, however. Some of these missions would have been a great deal more fun with three teammates rather than just two.
In the end, Modern Warfare 2 is exactly what it's billed as: An augmented version of the first game. Some may complain about the lack of real innovation from the first game to the second, but I personally didn't experience any of the feelings of staleness that I felt during World at War from playing through each of the three modes provided by Modern Warfare 2. Without staleness, why change a good thing? Change for change's sake is never advisable. It's true that there are a lot of gaming franchises out there such as the Treyarch-developed World War II-set Call of Duty titles that are badly in need of an overhaul. Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare series certainly isn't one of them. This is a very good, very polished effort from Infinity Ward, and if you had any sort of affection for the first, this is an absolute must-play for you.