The Modern Warfare series returns for its sophomore effort and has with it enough hype to sink the Titanic. The biggest question on everyone’s mind is will the game be able to truly live up to the hype that it has garnered over the last six months. Infinity Ward excels at creating games that deliver that sense of cinematic intensity that few other developers can match. The first Modern Warfare was a testament to that on several levels. Then of course we have the might multiplayer that could make or break the series with a single blow. Needless to say no matter which camp you are on the latest Call of Duty title is certainly one that will deliver an intense and satisfying gaming experience.
This time around the game is broken up into three sections for you to choose from the main menu. This has become the norm in a lot of FPS and online-focused titles so it was only a matter of time before IW jumped on the bandwagon. The core single player experience is here with a roughly six hour campaign that is full of intense firefights, controversial scenarios and again some of the most epic moments you will find in any shooter. The new addition entitled Spec Ops allows you to join a friend either via online or split screen to tackle some side missions that take place in various environments from the single player and beyond. And of course the real core of the game is the returning competitive multiplayer that will no doubt claim many a sleepless nights to anyone who is a fan.
Let’s start with the campaign mode as that is where most gamers are likely to begin their journey. The CoD franchise has always been about epic moments and of course chaotic firefights. MW2 is certainly no exception and believe it or not this time around things are even on a larger scale than the last. Each level is an intense rollercoaster ride that will have you talking about it for days. A lot of this is thanks to the improved graphics engine that really brings these environments to life, the fact that the game runs as smooth as it does with so much action and detail on the screen is an achievement in itself. One of the biggest changes you will notice is the blood spatter. Now instead of simply getting a shaky camera and some red you will get some red jelly on your screen for effect. It actually works quite well though some people complain it is distracting. There were times that I lost track of enemies because of it, but it also made me more cautious about getting shot.
The single player experience as I mentioned is not as long as some had hoped. I clocked my first play through on normal at just less than six hours. There are some out there claiming to beat it in under four. Granted this is racing through the game, but still you cannot deny that it is a bit on the short side. Still this is one of the most rewarding and intense games you will play through. Think of it as a summer popcorn movie and you will know what to expect. The difficulty also seems ramped up a bit as I found myself dying a bit more than in the original game. I have heard this varies by player so you may not notice it at all. Now if single player was the only thing the game offered it would certainly be questionable as to whether it was worth the $60 price tag, but it is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
My biggest surprise though in this package is the Spec Ops mode. Here you can tackle a series of missions either alone or with a friend online or split screen that span various environments, some ripped directly from the campaign game. What is so addictive about these missions is the focus on teamwork. Racing through them alone on easy is a cinch, but when you are resisting wave upon wave of enemies while bunkered down in cover with a buddy on Veteran, you begin to truly appreciate this new mode. There are highlights scattered throughout the 23 missions, each one offering up three stars to earn depending on difficulty. I am not usually a guy that feels the need to complete games on the hardest setting, but the addictive nature of these missions has me rethinking strategies over and over.
When you team up with a partner online the fun increases tenfold. There are missions tailored specifically with this in mind such as the chopper and AC-130 missions. In both of these one player takes to the skies while the other hoofs it on foot. Laying down cover fire and letting your partner know when to move up is as addictive as it sounds. I spent a solid night of playing this mode only to want to go back and play more; not just to earn stars, but to also try different tactics for each scenario. Spec Ops is probably the single best new addition to the series and I hope to see more missions available as DLC in the future.
The final piece of an already impressive pie is the competitive multiplayer that has kept fans of the series playing the original up until this game released. Something that has legs that can last for two years has to be special, so when IW set out to improve upon that they had a monster task ahead of them. MW2’s online mode is one of the most balanced and fun experiences you will have with a shooter, ever. The killstreaks make a return, but this time they are all the more impressive. If you can manage to earn 25 kills in a row without being taken down you gain access to a nuke that instantly ends the match. The perks system also makes a return with a lot of the problematic enhancements removed to help further balance the game. Leveling up online and earning new items and perks is as addictive as you remember, and the game runs great online. Sure PS3 owners had some hiccups when the game first launched, but the incredible team at IW addressed the issues and is already working to fix all the bugs users have come across.
The maps are also much more impressive this time around. They do their own part to balance each match by eliminating most of the camping that was found in the previous game. They are also large and full of alternate routes to reach almost any area so that one player does not gain the ultimate advantage and make the experience no fun for everyone else. To be honest IW could have copied and pasted the original system and given players new maps, but you can really see the effort poured into this entire package. The visuals in the multiplayer have even been overhauled from the original game making it one of the most impressive looking shooters online.
Speaking of visuals this game is easily one of the most impressive I have seen to date. IW has taken the liberty to create some of the most interesting set pieces for each level and of course the multiplayer maps. Things in the environment all react to your presence and some of the detail is just insane. What has always impressed me most about the series is the fact that the game runs at such a smooth frame rate regardless of how much action is happening on the screen. The audio receives the same treatments with a soundtrack comprised by Hans Zimmer that wraps itself around each situation and changes with pivotal moments better than some Hollywood movies. The voice acting rounds out the presentation package with a bang. Everyone here sounds fantastic and the lines are delivered so well you would think it was pulled from direct military conversations. The story is a little too deep to follow when combined with the action, but if you take the time it is actually well written and intense.
Modern Warfare 2 is an outstanding game that is sure to please all fans of the series. If you are looking at it as solely a single player affair the price tag and shortness of the campaign might not be enough to justify it. However, of you want the whole experience this game is one of the most complete packages you will pick up this year. While it may not reinvent the wheel, it makes it a much more enjoyable ride. I am sure that no review will deter anyone from already picking up the game, but if you are still on the fence and want to experience the entire package then Modern Warfare 2 is a must buy this holiday season.