Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

Posted on December 5, 2009 by


The original Call of Duty games were WW2 first-person shooters, pitting you against the evil of those pesky Nazis and their accursed smoothly-run train service. The games were made by two separate developers, Activision and Infinity Ward, who took turns to ensure that a new CoD could be brought out on an annual basis, like some sort of violent Beano annual.

Two years ago, Infinity Ward (Generally agreed to be the better of the two developers) decided that everyone was sick of re-living the D-Day landings, and brought us Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (attack of the colon). Modern day shooters aren’t by any measure rare, but the change was refreshing and CoD4 was hailed as the best game in the series thanks to a compelling story, original set-pieces and the incredible mustache possessed by Captain Price, who many gamers subsequently wished was their real dad.

It did things you expected; so when a helicopter went down, yours got turned around to rescue them. Then it did something unexpected; so that when you’ve fought through hell to  save the other helicopter and escape, some rotter sets of a nuke, creating a shockwave that brings you and your chums down in fiery ball of wreckage and death. You would then continue to play as the marine as he drags himself from the wreckage, breaking his legs in the process, crawls through the bodies of his fallen comrades (I still think they were just pretending, the jokers), and lives long enough to see the mushroom cloud towering over the city before he dies of extreme radiation poisoning. (or develops super-powers. Or a third arm).

The following year, Activision took us back to WW2 and nobody was very interested. This year, IW return to continue the story.

Modern Warfare 2 is set five years after the conclusion of CoD4. Despite the best efforts of the Marines and the SAS, the Ultranationalist foes of the original seize control of Russia and declare Zakhaev, -the original big bad- a hero and martyr. Meanwhile, Vladimir Makarov, one of Zakhaev’s former lieutenants, begins a campaign against Europe by committing numerous acts of naughty terrorism like kicking puppies, punching babies and killing commuters.

The Americans (the big damn heros) put a promising young soldier undercover into Makarov’s terrorist organisation, where he is forced to commit acts of terror against civilians to keep the guise up. You don’t actually have to, you can just watch, although this may seem suspicious to the other terrorists. Perhaps you could pretend to have asthma. This doesn’t work, however, and the world finds out that an American soldier was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Russian Civilians and Russia finally has an excuse to get its war-face on. They invade mainland America and proceed to go to town, destroying everything, killing everyone, and clogging up the drive-thru at McDonalds. The invasion is only halted by the launch of a nuclear weapon into washington DC. This isn’t a game that pulls it’s punches.

Non player characters die in droves, as do an unprecedented number of actual player characters, for once subverting the usual rule that the players character is made of iron or something. This comes across as pretty cheap, though. As if they realised that the shock impact that killing the player’s character in the original was the bestest thing ever and needed to be repeated ad nauseam until you stopped caring about the characters even a teeny bit.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this game. Particularly the levels where you slaughter innocent civilians in an airport, which the game asks outright if you actually want to play before you even start the game. I personally don’t see what the fuss is about. It’s a game. It’s not real life. I’m not going out killing people with huge machine guns as part of an organised terrorist unit. It’s no different to the ability to run down pedestrians in GTA IV, (Which I don’t like doing because it messed up the paintwork) or beating zombies to death with hockey sticks in Dead Rising. Or stabbing them with a parasol. Or a cardboard box. Or putting stuff over their heads and laughing as they stumble about blindly.

The general plot is, in all honesty, a bit incomprehensible. You flit around the world, shooting bad guys, and that’s as far as I can work out what’s going on without actually going to Wikipedia. On the middle difficulty setting, I ploughed through the game in a little over five hours, which is three hours less than I took me to complete the previous Modern Warfare. It then had the balls to tell me that after everything I’ve gone through in the plot, that the story will ‘be continued’. Presumably, in two years when the next one comes out. I suspect it will only last two hours and consist of a flashing message on-screen saying ‘press X not to die’.

I’m not saying it’s a bad game. Much of the first hour of gameplay consisted of ‘Oh, Snap!’ moments, coming at a steady rate of about once a minute, but this soon wears off. It doesn’t really do anything the original Modern Warfare didn’t, and in some points the game even feels a bit rushed. The characters are cardboard cut-outs who exist to parrot out lines like ‘stay frosty’, which is the most obnoxious and annoying thing I’ve heard in any video game this year, (A very difficult thing to achieve) and makes me deeply loathe playing the Marine parts of the game as a result.

Graphically it’s… pretty much the same as the last one. I guess it looks a bit better, the engine having been tweaked here and there, but if you play the two back-to-back, you can’t really tell when you stop playing CoD4 and start playing MW2 (except for those bits with the titles, but you could go out and make a cup of tea for that part). This isn’t a bad thing, as it does look very good, but you don’t really find yourself with much time in-game for sightseeing, as those dastardly Ruskies keep trying to ventilate your brians.

The big deal about the game is, really, the multi-player. That was what people really remember CoD4 for, as it instantly became one of the most popular online multiplayer games in the history of gaming. I don’t intend to comment on the multiplayer because I care about the single-player a lot more than the online play, which consists of being screamed at by eight-year olds with tourettes who claim you’re cheating if you kill them in any manner that might be described as ‘skillful’. Oh, and people with knives who can apparently teleport themselves across the goddamn map.

All I can say is, I’m very happy that the game didn’t get put out at a specially higher price, as was originally planned, (This was attempted because they knew it would sell in the millions, regardless of what they did and wanted to hawk in as much cash as possible, which put me off in the first place) because it just wouldn’t have been worth it. It’s possible that having played through the single player campaign, you might then spend hundreds of hours online, but speaking for the single player, it’s only really worth a rental. The Multiplayer might bump it up to being worth real money, but for the time being it isn’t impressing me.

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