Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
*** DUE TO THE SIMILIARITIES OF THE PS3 AND XBOX 360 VERSIONS OF THIS GAME, WE HAVE COMBINED THE TWO REVIEWS INTO ONE ***
Developer: Infinity Ward
Players: 1-4 (Online: 18)
Required Hard Disk Space: 50MB
Online Broadband Required
Supports all HD Video Outputs
System Link: 2-18
Online Multiplayer: 2-18
5 MB to Game Save
A couple of years ago when many people, including myself, were getting somewhat tired of first person shooters, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came along and rejuvenated the whole experience. Both the single player and online experience were quite a thrill ride. For months on end I could not put the game down. One year later, Call of Duty: World at War touched down with a big splash but it was nowhere near the tidal wave that Modern Warfare provided. Well for the past few months, easily the most anticipated game of the fall, and maybe even of the year, has been the Call of Duty franchises sixth instalment - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Given the success of the first Modern Warfare game, to say that my expectations were high would be an understatement. Does Modern Warfare 2 live up to my hopes and give me that invigorating feeling I had when I played Call of Duty 4? Let's find out shall we.
The Call of Duty franchise has always raised the bar when it comes to visuals in a first person shooter and Modern Warfare 2 is no different as the game’s graphics are once again outstanding. Using an enhanced version of the Call of Duty 4 engine, Modern Warfare 2 is simply a stunning game and Activision has another Call of Duty title that they can be very proud of. Everything from the impressively detailed Russian Airport terminal to the claustrophobic Rio de Janeiro shanty town areas, Modern Warfare 2 is a game where your jaw will drop more than once. From the moment you put the game into your console of choice, everything is eye-popping and a lot of the animations are overwhelmingly good. Modern Warfare 2 runs at 60-frames per second and as a result plays silky smooth, and this includes when playing online in the cooperative or adversarial modes. Even during some of the most chaotic moments with enemies everywhere, bullets whizzing by, and explosions blasting from all angles, the game runs better than I could have imagined.
Similar to previous COD instalments, the environments in Modern Warfare 2 are incredibly detailed and look very good, not to mention you get a great deal of variety as well. Modern Warfare 2 does not limit you to one desert-like setting or slap you in a WW2 country for the entire single player campaign. Instead, mission settings in the game include Afghanistan, Rio de Janeiro, Siberia, and Washington D.C. From one mission to the next, you get a completely different look and the result is stunning featuring plenty of eye candy. Whether it be a blizzard-like environment or the streets of a Washington, D.C. suburb, Modern Warfare 2 never has you sitting back and yawning while you wish the end of the level was near. Modern Warfare 2 also features some realistic looking character models and even the enemy AI characters look great. My only concern with the characters is the lack of customizable options. I would have liked to have been able to modify the look of my player; however what you do get is impressive and this is only a nitpick point. Otherwise, the character animations this time around are incredibly realistic and very life-like.
To say the battle combat is intense in Modern Warfare 2 is an understatement. The explosions, high speed ski-doo scenes, tight quarter combat, destructible environments, and all the intensive battles around you, everything you have come to visually associate in Call of Duty games are in all their glory in Modern Warfare 2. Bottom line the combat feels real and is comparable to something out of a Hollywood movie. Everything is a bit better this time around and it really shows as Modern Warfare 2 is as good as it gets as far as games which push the next generation consoles graphical hardware.
The sound in Modern Warfare 2 is an excellent compliment to the fantastic visuals. The Call of Duty franchise as a whole has always been strong in the audio department and this latest release is no exception. From the solid soundtrack, scored by none other than Hans Zimmer, to the sound effects and soldier chatter, Modern Warfare 2 features terrific sounds which should only be experienced in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
The biggest enhancement as far as the audio is concerned has to be the musical score. Hans Zimmer does a wonderful job with the game’s soundtrack as the big sweeping hollywood-esque orchestra tunes match very well with the scenarios that take place on screen. Considering this is Hans Zimmer’s first attempt at a video game score, the result is truly impressive as he sets the perfect mood. I found the soundtrack really enhanced the gameplay experience. The music effectively 'amps-up' as the action becomes much more intense and nothing is more gratifying then when the music settles down and you realize the action has subsided.
Another noticeable improvement is the incredibly realistic weapons sounds. I know what you are thinking; this is nothing new to the franchise as World at War's weapons sound equally fantastic. Yet, every time I seem to fire up a new Call of Duty game the weapon sounds blow me away. The modern shotguns, pistols, sub-machine guns and grenades all have very unique sound effects. Modern Warfare 2's modern weapons sound incredibly good and have once again, dare I say it, raise the bar for how weapons should sound in a first person shooter.
The voice acting and battle chatter which takes place between you and your squadmates is once again bang-on. It can sometimes sound a little over-the-top, and there are some "oh brother" moments; however, at the end of the day the voice acting combined with a great storyline makes for a more engrossing experience this time around.
Last year the COD franchise went back to their traditional World War II roots which is a time period that has been re-hashed to death. It was well received but didn't quite have the lasting impact COD4: Modern Warfare had a year before World at War. COD4 was set in a fictional near-future world and came as a breath of fresh air for many with the new settings, new weapons, and new gameplay twists. It also a bench mark in online gaming and many gamers absolutely loved the modern twist to a franchise which had always been about WWII. After a two year hiatus, Modern Warfare has returned and the single player storyline picks-up 5-years after the events of the first game. A terrorist group seizes control of Russia and declares Zakhaev (the dude you blow away at the end of the original Modern Warfare game) a hero. Meanwhile, Vladimir Makarov, one of Zakhaev's former lieutenants, begins a campaign against Europe by committing numerous acts of terrorism. After a series of events early in the game, Russia invades the US which triggers mayhem and the resulting events form the main story of Modern Warfare 2.
Similar to previous instalments within the Call of Duty series, you assume the role of various characters during the single-player campaign, changing perspectives throughout the progression of the story. For the majority of the game, you assume the role of Sergeant Gary "Roach" Sanderson, a member of an elite, multinational commando unit known as Task Force 141. Most of the action takes place in various parts of Russia; however, as I mentioned above there is some combat in Brazil, the US, and Siberia of all places. The story is decent but does start out rather convoluted. Often I wondered what was going on. That being said, you really start to get entrenched into the games storyline about half-way through the game making it really difficult to put the game down. The twists that come at you really set the tone. That being said, I believe that for many the game’s visuals, sound, and combat will overshadow the game’s storyline.
The single player experience will take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours on normal difficulty to complete depending on your skill level. Additionally it may take you some extra time to complete it if you want to search out all of the game's hidden intel items. It should take you longer to complete the story on the more difficult skill settings should you decide to go this route. The single player experience does feel very short but this is nothing new for the franchise. The game has a hectic and fast pace and you are often racing through missions where you can hardly enjoy the scenery around you; nevermind collect intel items. For me, I felt the single player campaign was a perfect length and the hidden intel will only give me more incentive to go back and play the game again for a second or third time. Bottomline, the single player experience is a great ride as the combat and different types of weaponry you utilize throughout the game is impressive.
I should mention the single player experience does contain a much talked about mission which has generated its share of controversy. The game gives you the option of skipping this level without any consequences which may appease some, but make no question about it the mission will undoubtedly have many raising their eyebrows. I do not want to spoil it for anyone but I have to say I did find the infamous level a tad unnecessary. The scenes may help lend some depth and gravity to the games overall; objective but I cannot help but think "what’s next?" or “how far will developers go?”. Sorry folks, but I am one of those who feel the level could have been omitted. Thank god for the mature rating. That being said, the developers certainly accomplished what they said out to do by getting you more emotionally invested in the story and the eventual outcome of the game.
Another issue I had with the game is the regenerating enemies. There are certain points in many of the levels where if you don't push forward and risk getting killed the enemies will continually reappear. I can't count how many times I would be stuck behind an obstacle and I would seemingly take out every enemy in sight thinking I was safe. Moments later a new set of enemies would magically start to appear and I was back to square one. It was a very frustrating experience indeed as enemies just kept respawning over and over again. If Infinty Ward wanted to give a level of realism here, the enemies should eventually die in these moments instead of just respawning until you move up to a magical checkpoint.
Even if Modern Warfare 2 is a little on the short side for some, the co-op mode from World at War is back with some new wrinkles. Modern Warfare 2 includes an entirely new gameplay mode called Special Ops which supports 2-player cooperative play via online or split screen and is unique from the single player story campaign. Special Ops pits players into a gauntlet of time-trial and objective-based missions. You can also rank-up as you unlock new Special Ops missions, each one being more difficult. Missions not only include highlights from the single player campaign, but also fan favorites from COD4: Modern Warfare. The co-op mode once again is terrific as it is highly enjoyable playing through the games spec-op missions again an online friend. Playing with another player adds a whole new element of strategy to the game as well, not to mention the co-op mode runs as smooth as silk.
For many, the Call of Duty franchise is all about the online multiplayer gameplay. When COD4: Modern Warfare came along with its unique ranking system, slick weaponry, razor sharp visuals, highly enjoyable maps, and silky smooth online play, many praised the game for being the best online shooter we have seen to date. As I sit back and write this review, I ask myself whether Modern Warfare 2's online play is better than the first. That is difficult question at this point, however one thing is for certain the online play in Modern Warfare 2 is just as good as the first.
Once again, the core of online game of Modern Warfare is back again. The game plays and looks great. The online play runs incredibly smooth and the innovative rank-up system is back with some additional features. Instead of rehashing some of the online aspects from the previous COD games I will focus on some of the new capabilities, customization, gamestates and modes.
This year the ranking system includes some unique customizable Killstreaks. For instance, kill four enemies in a row and you can deploy a 'care package'. When the package is dropped to your location it will either contain a Predator Missile, a Sentry Gunm, or refill your ammo just to name a few. The Predator Missile is my personal favourite. Here you open a brief case and direct a falling missile on top of your enemies. More often than not I seemingly missed my target but with enough practice the missiles could be deadly.
There are several different game types available such as Team Death Match, Free-For-All, Capture the Flag, and Domination to name a few. The list of different game types is impressive. Fans of online shooters will be familiar with all the game types; therefore I believe they need no further explanation. Bottomline, all your favorite game types are included and all play just as they did in COD4 and World at War, which is a good thing as they all played solidly in those previous titles.
Some other notable new additions include the ability to view more comprehensive post-match reports, viewing the final kill for a particular match, a more evolved create-a-class, and yes we have some new weapons this time around. Throwing Knives and the Riot Shield are some of the more obvious new additions; however, many new machine guns have been added to the mix as well. At the end of the day though the best part of the online play in Modern Warfare 2 is the upgrade and rank system which has been vastly improved. The rank and class system will once again have you playing for hours on end as the more you play the more you rank up. If you are prone to using one type of weapon for all your online matches then you won't rank-up as fast as a guy who is always using a different gun. So in essence the game rewards you for your ability to use a variety of different weapons. With each rank you achieve new weapons, attachments, challenges, and new perks. The challenges are small tasks you complete when playing online. Half of the challenges are specific to the different weapon classes, while the other half are just random tasks. One last note, it was nice to hear the signature COD4 heavy metal guitar riff when I rank up.
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