Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Review: Call of Duty- Modern Warfare 2

I know this Modern Warfare 2 review is about two months too late, but I don’t get early copies of games, I had to find time to fit it in amongst all the other games I’m playing and I refuse to rush through a title in a single sitting and spend a handful of hours online before giving my final opinion. I took my time with Modern Warfare 2. Here’s what I thought:

I’ve been a fan of first person shooters since the original Wolfenstein, so I like to think I know a thing or two about how the genre should be done.
I won’t say Infinity Ward has perfected the act of shooting terrorists, but I can’t personally imagine what else could be done to make it any better. I break any FPS into four equally important criteria—Control, single player campaign, multiplayer and fun factor. So how did MW2 stack up?

Control-wise, MW2 is as good as it gets. You know a developer got everything right when you start forgetting there’s a controller in your hand and, honestly, it feels like I’m controlling this thing with my mind half the time.

The single player campaign has been getting a lot of flack in the media and on message boards. Yes, the industry leaders should be pushing the genre forward, and yes, they made some poor attempts at doing just that, but I can’t really complain when I’m having this much fun.

The story is told almost exclusively through between-mission voiceovers with maps and schematics whizzing by as if we’re in the world’s most high tech control room yet incapable of looking up to see who is speaking.

What begins as your average terrorist plot evolves into your average series of twists with little sense to be made of a messy, average narrative. Did I mention the story was average? The game jumps around the world seemingly for no other reason than to give you different locals to blow up. So, as the story goes, don’t expect much more than a weak attempt at intrigue used to chain together a fantastic series of set pieces.

I feel I have to at least mention the now infamous “No Russian” mission wherein, as a deep cover agent, you join terrorists as they mercilessly mow down hordes of innocent civilians and wave after wave of police officers.

I believe Infinity Ward was trying to make a point and draw an emotional response with this mission, but I think they succeed in making the player feel all the wrong things. I’m not sure such a mission could ever be properly included in a game and not feel out of place, but I respect IW’s decision, no matter how poorly executed, to try to make players do more than just pull the trigger.

You have the option to skip the mission without missing out on anything else, so that’s at least a nice favor. But if you’re going to allow people to ignore it, what’s the point of trying to say something in the first place?

While the story driving the game is lame (and one type of mission-ending twist is used FAR too many times for a single game), everything that happens in-level is pretty damn awesome. Take every big moment from every war movie you’ve ever seen and cram them into a single, frantic, white-knuckle package and you end up with Modern Warfare 2. From epic chases (on foot and in vehicles), to overwhelming shootouts and even a couple interesting quicktime events, MW2 has it all.

At about six hours, the story is short, but it’s a concentrated dose of visceral fun. So, again, I find it hard to complain. Especially when the disc offers so much more than this single experience.
The multiplayer options are what’s going to keep this game in everyone’s console until the inevitable Modern Warfare 3 drops.

A series of 20 or so Spec Ops missions have been torn from MW2, MW1 and a couple extras and reconfigured for co-op play. While all but two are playable on your own, playing with a friend can be a boatload of fun. I firmly believe a singleplayer story is important to have in these types of games but, when the story doesn’t call for co-op, it’s nice to have the option to play these types of missions with friends. Various star ratings and difficulties means everyone should find a dozen or so extra hours to pour into Spec Ops alone.

Finally, we have the straight up online multiplayer. I think I can safely say nobody does online twitch shooting like MW2. It’s superb.

The maps are complex and well thought out, there’s more than a dozen game modes, the weapon and class upgrades are addictive, dozens of additional challenges are available to keep you striving for more than that next headshot and there are more random unlockables than I can possibly count.

There’s seldom a hiccup with online stability and, all-in-all, I can’t think of a better way to play a shooter online.

My only complaint is, shy of adding a personalized tag in front of your name, there is no clan support. In a game seemingly built for clan play, I am baffled by the lack of a true clan interface. It’s also a hassle to just jump in and join a friend.

These small gripes aside, Infinity Ward deserves all the praise they’ve received for creating such a fantastic shooter. The bar has once again been raised.

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