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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
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by Rob Williams on November 20, 2009 in Gaming

Following-up to a hit like Modern Warfare must have been tough, but Infinity Ward has done a great job of delivering what we hoped to see, while tossing in many other surprises as well. Let’s take a look at the game from all angles, the fine and the rough, and finish things off with a look at performance across numerous graphics cards.

Introduction & Gameplay

Not too long ago, debates of whether or not the game industry would ever overtake the movie industry in terms of profit were common. But things have sure changed since then, as the game industry has proven itself that it has what it takes to not only match some of the revenue figures from Hollywood blockbusters, but in many cases, surpass them. Modern Warfare 2 is exactly the kind of game that contributes to such success.

During the first 24 hours it was on sale, MW2 sold a staggering 4.7 million copies across all platforms, resulting in revenue of $310 million. Think about that for a second… $310 million. Some Hollywood movies are lucky to see that kind of revenue in the life of a film, let alone see it in a single day. Yes, MW2 was one of the most hyped games of 2009, and it broke a record where pre-orders were concerned. Whether or not the game delivers enough to warrant that success will be explored throughout this review.

Modern Warfare 2 is the sixth entry to the Call of Duty series, and the proper sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It takes place five years after the conclusion of the original, which saw Imran Zakhaev, the leader of the Russian Ultranationalist Party, shot dead by the character in your control, Captain “Soap” MacTavish. Despite all attempts from the SAS to refuse the Ultranationalists control over Russia, it happened, and Zakhaev ends up being hailed as a hero.

The story continues here with Vladimir Makarov, a former Lieutenant of Zakhaev’s, who has decided to reign terror with heinous attacks all over Europe. To aide in putting every piece of this jumbled puzzle back together, the game assumes you the role of multiple characters throughout the game. On some occasions, you’ll be playing through a scene of a recent event, so that you can better understand the current situation and what’s in store for the future.

Though the game spends the majority of its time in Russia, other locales include the USA (Washington, D.C. and Virginia), Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and also Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Due to how the storyline is structured, you bounce from location to location all throughout the game, rather than complete an entire tour all at once. Because of the shared locales, the environments in some missions may seem familiar, but never do they feel rehashed.

The game’s comprised of 18 missions in total, divided among three acts. Each act takes longer to complete than the one before it, and you’ll be able to complete the entire game in 7 or 8 hours, depending on the difficulty chosen and your skill level. Like previous Call of Duty’s, Modern Warfare 2 might be a short game, but it’s action-packed and keeps things interesting the entire way through. Never are you left bored, because time doesn’t allow it.

Looking back over the time I spent getting through the game, I’m impressed by just how much variation there is in the gameplay. At one moment you could be going through a village taking out opposers, and the next you could be snowmobiling down a mountain on a 60° decline. Infinity Ward pulls many tricks out of its hat to keep gamers excited and immersed. There were a few missions I wasn’t stoked over, but that came down to difficulty mostly, not outright boredom.

One thing that the Call of Duty series prides itself on is the wide selection of weaponry, and given the fact that there’s a unique weapon in the game for about every 10 minutes of gameplay, and that’s not counting grenades, you’re bound to use different weapons throughout the entire game. You of course have the regular collection of shotguns, rifles, machine guns, pistols and and rocket launchers, but unique and ridiculously fun “special” weapons exist as well. One example is the Predator launcher, which is part laptop (for navigation and launching), and one part missile in the sky. There’s little that’s quite as refreshing as taking out 10 or more enemies from the opposite side of the map in an instant.

Enjoy killing faux rebel soldiers in video games? Then Modern Warfare 2 is for you. At numerous points throughout the game, I couldn’t help but think, “Geez, are they serious?” because of the number of opponents I had to deal with. Sometimes, I found it to be a little overkill, as it simply meant I had to camp an area for longer than I would have liked (resulting in what I call a “cheap way of prolonging gameplay”), but such an onslaught does force you to use strategy, and in some cases, choose your weapons more wisely.

The overall difficulty of the game depends on a couple of things, namely your skill level, and difficulty chosen. Regardless of which difficulty you choose, though, the AI is never going to seem entirely realistic or smart, and because of that, some missions might feel a bit easier than you’d expect given your chosen difficulty level. Missions that will prove deadly for pretty-well anyone on the Veteran difficulty will be those with wide-open areas, as it’s impossible to take cover all the time.

The AI in the game isn’t horrible, and at some points it’s highly realistic, but along with that and scripted parts, there are many oddities found throughout the game. One example is something I noticed in the 10th mission, “The Gulag”. This mission is based around a prison with enemy towers, and on each tower is a machine gun covered with a tarp. If you don’t shoot the men on these towers, one will eventually come over and haul the tarp back to get it off the weapon. But if you kill all the enemies before one of them has a chance to do that, the tarp will take itself off. It seems minor, but an event like this has no effect whatsoever on the gameplay, so it’s really strange.

While the game does suffer a few oddities, or annoyances, I can’t complain too much with the overall campaign. The highs far outweigh the lows, and that’s what matters. Of course, there’s more to Call of Duty than just a single-player campaign, and in Modern Warfare 2, those come in the form of Special Ops and multiplayer, which I’ll dive into on the next page.