Feb 27, 2013

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t need an introduction. Being called the “most anticipated game of the decade” may somehow even be an understatement, and nothing less was expected after the praise and success of Call of Duty 4. As more people played CoD4, the fan base grew, and reached sales numbers that were astronomical in the video game industry. With its excellent presentation, great campaign, and robust multiplayer, fans saw this as the pinnacle of First Person Shooters. The story telling and voice acting were top notch. The graphics and sound blew the competition away… but could Infinity Ward really repeat or top the success of CoD 4 with Modern Warfare 2? They just may have.

Modern Warfare 2 is a little different from other games in the series in that right from the main menu, the game is separated into three different parts - Campaign, Special Ops, and Multiplayer. You can tell this was done deliberately, almost as if they understand that everyone is buying the game for a different reason. However, it makes the game almost feel like three separate products, rather than one with all of these things included. Luckily for us, they are all included, but they do all have different feels and enjoyment levels to them depending on your personal preference. One of the things Call of Duty games always receive acclaim for is the campaign mode. Call of Duty 4’s campaign was about as close to perfect as you can get in an FPS, where it seemed like every little detail was polished and double checked just to make sure it was done right. From the beginning of the opening mission to the ending of the game, it did a great job of drawing you in. The biggest reason for this was the pacing; it seemed like every level flowed fluidly into the next, and the action was spread out to a perfect extent. Combining this with an actual story that had substance (doesn’t happen often in FPS’s!), excellent graphics, sound, and voice acting, there wasn’t much to not love. The length was just right, and the game was either a perfect challenge, or downright brutal on veteran difficulty. There was something for every fan of FPS’s to enjoy and then some. That’s why when it came to Modern Warfare 2, I was actually looking forward to it more to continue the story than I was to play multiplayer.

Infinity Ward wasted no time at the beginning of Modern Warfare 2’s campaign, starting it off action heavy right from the beginning. Much like the first game, you have the timed run through of a refresher course, which is really just a tutorial disguised as pure gameplay. More games need to learn to make the tutorials feel integrated into the game instead of alienating it, so developers, take notes. From here, the story picks up just like you’d expect from CoD4. After the action heavy level, it’s followed by a more stealth level, and this seems to hold true throughout most of the game. This tends to depend on the character you play as, and just like in CoD4, you will be switching between two characters; Roach and Ramirez. Even while juggling between the two characters, different areas, and different countries, the levels are perfectly balanced between take cover and shoot, run and gun, and stealth. While the levels themselves may be paced very well, the overall campaign in total isn’t. There are quite a few boring missions to be had, and one or two levels that I would call the worst out of both Modern Warfare games.

The pacing in Modern Warfare 2 also suffers because of the way it’s presented at the beginning of the game. Being a direct sequel, I can’t really go into plot points without spoiling anything, but there is a specific mission I’m going to talk about here. If you are trying to avoid any and all spoilers, then skip past the rest of this paragraph. This mission is fairly close to the beginning of the game, and it’s called “No Russian”. This was the controversial scene that leaked prior to release and I’m sure many did their best to avoid the spoilers and didn’t read about it. Well, there is a specific reason the game asks you twice upon booting up if you’d be offended by it, or not. “No Russian” has to do with you playing as an undercover American agent working alongside the main terrorist threat, Makarov. I won’t spoil the importance to the story, but the entire mission has to do with Makarov and his men (including you) walking through an airport killing hundreds of innocent civilians. Since you are undercover, you can’t do anything about it aside from having the option to not join in on the shooting. The entire level is essentially in slow motion at walking speed, as you watch innocent people get tortured. Hm. While it does set up the story for Modern Warfare 2 from here on out, I personally think it failed completely at making a point. It seems like Infinity Ward wants to prove that video games can be like movies, and shouldn’t be subject to harsher criticism… but this wasn’t the way to go about it. I wasn’t offended by it in any way; I was more annoyed that they would choose a controversial road, as if a game like this really needed any more publicity. Why not give players the option to blow their own cover? They could find a way to make the mission end while continuing the story in the same way, so why not put it in the player’s hands? I will also go as far as saying that most of the levels following this scene even bring the adrenaline carried from the beginning to a screeching halt. Aside from one or two, the following few missions are extremely boring or generic, and the game really doesn’t pick back up until halfway through Act II.

The story of Modern Warfare 2 is separated into 18 missions, spanning three acts. Act III is where Modern Warfare 2 really shines, as all seven missions are good enough to not put the controller down for. They salvage the slower parts of the campaign and make the whole game feel worth it. There is no game in recent memory that finished strong enough to overlook its shortcomings, but Modern Warfare 2 nailed it. They are on par, if not better than the best missions in CoD4, and that’s saying something. They aren’t “All Ghillied Up” epic, but they come pretty damn close.

Modern Warfare 2 does have some shortcomings that shouldn’t be overlooked, though. First and foremost, you will be lucky if the campaign breaks the 4-5 hour mark on regular difficulty. It took me roughly 8-9 hours to complete the game on Veteran, whereas I feel like some individual levels in CoD4 took me that long. The levels here do feel like bite sized areas compared to what you might remember, so keep that in mind. It doesn’t take away from how great the second half of the game is, but it does takes away from the complete package. Fortunately, that blow is softened by the inclusion of Special Ops mode, which we will get to later. Other issues are just things that should be included in a game like this at this point. The environments still aren’t as destructible as they should be. If I can kill people by shooting through walls, why can’t I also blow them up? I don’t need full destruction, but a little would be nice. Car explosions and window breaking have been around since N64, I think it’s time we move on to bigger and better things. This leads into the other issue, which is how scripted the game is. I understand that it adds to the cinematic and movie-like feel, but they could at least leave players some choices, like my idea for the “No Russian” mission. I 100% prefer games that have some type of linear fashion, but there should be SOMETHING I have control over. I feel like some of the buildings and things can’t be blown up, just because it would ruin the scripting. Either way, most of these complaints, aside from length, are minor in the scope of the whole picture.

Special Ops can be best described as an arcade mode. It takes specific parts from various missions in the campaign and creates a goal, from killing all the enemies on a map, defending a point for a certain amount of waves, breaching, reaching a goal in time, racing, etc. There really is every type of mission you can imagine, and the best part is that you can play them all solo or co-op. There are over 20 missions in total, and you earn stars depending on the difficulty you play on. Some of these are more challenging on Veteran than anything in the campaign, and feel like they add more to the single player itself. While it doesn’t totally make up for the single player length, it does provide a few more hours of gameplay in an original and fun way.

The reason these other modes are short probably has to do with the incredibly polished multiplayer. Infinity Ward has gone all-out to improve upon CoD4’s multiplayer, and from what I’ve played they seem to have done a great job. I wasn’t an active online player on CoD4, but with Modern Warfare 2, I get hooked a bit more than I did before. The overall gameplay really hasn’t changed at all, but the changes to the perk system seem to have ironed out a few of the issues that existed previously. It gives the player complete control over which perks suit them best (essentially a class system) and rewards them with killstreak items that they choose to use. I also love the addition of third-person mode, because it changes things up in those moments where I start to get bored. While boredom still sets in, I think it comes down to my personal preference of what I look for in a multiplayer game. The only major complaint I’ve had with it so far is that the maps aren’t nearly as fun as the CoD4 maps, but this is something that I'll hopefully get over the more I play. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is one of the few games that has managed to live up to the hype it created. The game is a complete package, with a few minor complaints that hardly spoil the experience. To those who were only buying for single player - be wary. It is extremely short, but Special Ops mode makes up for quite a bit of what it is lacking. The single player has a few low points, but fades them out with how incredible the high points are. The multiplayer has taken another leap forward to what other FPS’s can only hope to reach, whether you think it’s for the gameplay, or the ranking and unlock system. While Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t do a ton to upgrade itself over CoD4, the overall package is still highly polished and worth a purchase.

+ Second half of the campaign is excellent
+ Voice acting, Sound, Presentation, Graphics.
+ Special Ops Mode adds to the overall depth of the Call of Duty franchise, and strengthens the shortcomings of the single player campaign.
+ Upgrades to multiplayer to give the player more control.

- Campaign length is extremely short. (4-5 hours on regular difficulty)
- No major upgrades over previous versions to make it stand out.
- Could be a bit less scripted.

Grade - A-

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