Ripping on to store shelves and tearing through sales records faster than slugs from a M4A1 assault rifle, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has arrived.
Modern Warfare 2 is developer Infinity Ward’s successor to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The game is a first-person shooter that picks up five years after the events of the previous game and chronicles the blood-soaked tale of a new conflict between the multinational military squad Task Force 141 and Russian Ultranationalists under the leadership of an evil terrorist named Vladimir Makarov.
To describe MW2 simply: it’s a balls-to-the-wall, roller coaster ride that puts you in total control of a summer blockbuster action movie. Peaking with frenetic chases and paranoia inducing ambushes, then bottoming out with slow-paced but tense sniper missions, there is never a dull moment in this game. MW2 offers a healthy overdose of tightly packed thrills, rock-solid gameplay, and a narrative is so wild it can be exhausting. Fans of action cinema, take special note: you will have a hell of a time spotting movie references on the fly as you white-knuckle grip your controller and are in the driver’s seat of a living, breathing action epic.
MW2’s globe-trotting campaign is about one thing: extremely awesome sights and sounds. It ties together a series of carefully crafted set pieces that feature impressive attention to detail and are set in a wide-array of spectacular locations. The burning American monuments shown in the game’s trailer are only the beginning. Its variety of environments adds wondrous scale to the game, spanning the back alleys and rooftops of Rio de Janero, dirty streets in Afghanistan, snow covered cliffs in the Russian countryside, to quaint neighborhoods in Virginia and much more. Modern Warfare 2 goes overboard in a valiant effort to top its predecessor and succeeds triumphantly.
This well-deserved victory does not come without a warning. Make no mistake, there are some crazy, messed-up things that go down in this world. So much so that the developers felt the need to include a “Disturbing Content Warning” that appears at the beginning of the game and allows you to skip should you choose to do so. I am specifically referencing MW2’s infamous airport level, which if you don’t know about by now, you probably haven’t been watching the news.
The airport is a very controversial section of the game that puts the player in the shoes of a CIA operative working under deep cover for a Russian terrorist. It pulls no punches. You are 100% complicit in an act of extreme terrorism. For this and more, the game carries a deserved M (Mature) rating, but it does its job allowing you to opt out of the sequence. Understandably, if taken out of context this option probably makes the sequence look like a bad thing, but it isn’t. The sequence is an absolutely vital part of the story that is told from a new and interesting interactive story-telling direction. And although the sequence may put the player in a very uncomfortable, disturbingly violent situation, it is the catalyst that sets in motion all of the events in Modern Warfare 2. It also does an extremely excellent job of creating a deep sense of hate toward the game’s main antagonist, Vladamir Makarov. I’ll admit I was shocked when playing the sequence, but by the start of the next, I was revving in my seat to track this vicious bastard down and stop him before he could make his next move. In that regard, it totally worked for me in completing the experience, which is what this game is all about.
Technically speaking, Modern Warfare 2 looks sharp and is really dedicated to keeping its frame rate running smooth at all times. This makes the action look incredible. Everything happening around you is supported by a great, cinematic soundtrack, awesome sounds of gunfire and explosions, and exceptionally strong voice work from its cast. I call extra special attention to the voice work. Film legends Lance Henriksen and Keith David deliver in spades. They speak with a level of conviction (as only their iconic voices can) that sells the plot even in moments when it starts to spin out of control. When the fight gets really hairy, there is an extra special sense of relief when you hear a familiar voice call out “Oscar-Mike”, which, if you’ve ever watched an episode of Generation Kill, you know means “we’re ok and on the move”. The voice talent is beyond top notch. Not only that, the game’s character modeling has made an impressive leap. Faces have actual character in them. If you are a fan of John Carpenter’s The Thing or They Live and have ever had dreams of kicking ass right along side Keith David in his prime, then you are in for an extra special treat.
Beyond the faces and the voices, the game’s epic score is a movie-music lover’s delight. It ranges from brooding and disturbing drones to sweet, somber patriotic ballads. The unfolding drama is solidified by the musical talents of Hans Zimmer, who along with Infinity Ward’s team, has made it possible for the developers to deliver a thrilling start-to-finish experience that Jerry Bruckheimer on his best day could only hope to do.
If you’ve ever been interested in a first-person shooter, buy this game. If you’ve had the desire to live out spectacular action sequences from your some of your favorite movies, buy this game. Modern Warfare 2 is an essential purchase for 2009. You won’t regret it.
Special note: I chose not to focus on the multi-player aspect of MW2. This is by no means a reflection on that section of the game at all. Combat shooter veterans know what they are in store for with an Infinity Ward title. The people who would really be interested in a multi-player review are too busy playing MW2 to bother with it right now. For the rest, it goes without saying that Infinity Ward delivers the multi-player experience as only they can: spot-on, locked tight, and fully loaded. (Written by Nick Creature)