wess's Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360) review

A well crafted, if not perfectly implemented, online experience

Having never played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I still basically knew what I was getting myself into when I picked up Modern Warfare 2.  I was pretty sure it would have crazy, competitive online multiplayer with a campaign that was short, underwhelming, and honestly felt a bit tacked on.  And lo, those assumptions turned out to be completely correct.  
 
The game's single player was a short, intense, theme park ride style adventure that threw massive explosions in your face around every corner.  It is certainly a spectacle, and worth playing through once, but even though it was over pretty quickly, I really got tired of it before it ended, and since then have had absolutely no desire to touch it ever again.  I think what really turns me off about the single player style of MW2 is how constant checkpoints seemed to make Infinity Ward think it was ok to just make things as hectic as possible, so that your first time playing most parts ends very quickly from the random gunfire and explosions that surround you.  This design really just enforces a run and gun play style, where your best bet is to throw yourself into the fray and die repeatedly until you randomly make it through.  Sure, you can play it slow and take your time and all that, but most likely what will end up happening is you'll spend 15 minutes clearing enemies only to be killed by somebody who just spawned, meaning you have to start the sequence over.  Something about that setup just rubbed me the wrong way, but who knows?  Maybe I'm just not very good at the game.
 
But, as I knew it would be, the multiplayer is where MW2's real meat is - and it is tasty.  I quickly got sucked into the unlock-fest and constantly watched my kill/death ratio, even though I started with a fabulous 0.5.  Levelling up, unlocking new perks, weapons, killstreaks, and equipment, and seeing my ratio eventually rise above a 1 was some of the most fun I've had in a multiplayer setting ever.  Sure, some of the maps are annoying (I'm looking at you Wasteland), and yeah there are/were some annoying glitches that people use to kill me a lot, but somehow, I still enjoy playing, so I call that a solid win.  The range of different classes you can make, killstreaks you can use, and maps you can play on really keep the experience running for a long time, and while I will never prestige, that's an option for people who want to gain bragging rights for putting a lot of extra time into the game.  Really, MW2's multiplayer is a geniusly crafted experience that is only hindered by occasional glitches/exploits, horrendous spawning, and (at times) a pretty poor matchmaking system.  Playing by yourself has fairly few matchmaking issues, but with any size group it can sometimes take 10 or more minutes to get into a match, which is just absurd considering my Xbox is telling me that 9 bajillion people are playing.
 
An actually surprising thing for me in MW2 was the inclusion of the Spec Ops mode, which is a cooperative-focused mode with quite a few missions to undertake.  Since I haven't played all of these, I can't comment on the whole, but I do know there is some variety in the mission types, and they offer a good challenge as well as an alternative to playing alone or online.  Since you are fighting enemy AI the Spec Ops missions can suffer from the same problems as the single player, but the inclusion of a second person who can revive you makes the experience feel more balanced and just makes it more fun.  Really the best thing about Spec Ops is that it makes you feel like you actually bought a complete game, rather than just a multiplayer game (even though the multiplayer is still certainly the focus).  The sad thing about the game's problems (especially in regard to multiplayer) is that these should have all been fixed through extensive testing, but we are left to deal with them.  The flip side is that, despite the problems, I would still recommend MW2 to any fan of shooters and/or online competetive multiplayer.

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