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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.

Multiplayer, Graphics & Audio, Final Thoughts

In addition to the typical multiplayer mode, MW2 introduces “Special Ops” mode, one that sees you go solo or with a friend through scenarios loosely based off of missions in the regular campaign. Each scenario found here, 23 in all, have three difficulty levels, although some particular scenarios are much easier on Veteran difficulty than others. Aside from unlocking achievements, nothing is earned by completing Special Ops, but the missions are still great fun, especially when trying to complete them with a good friend.

While Call of Duty prides itself on an immersive single-player campaign, it’s the multiplayer that millions of gamers care about more, and there’s not much reason for disappointment here. In addition to a slew of new weapons and a fleet of brand-new levels, “kill perks” have been added. Like regular perks (special bonuses you can take advantage of during multiplayer), kill perks reward you for kill streaks, and the higher you go, the better the possible reward.

Before joining a multiplayer map, you’ll be able to choose up to three kill-streak perks based on whatever sounds interesting and also your skill level. If you regularly kill 10 or more people in a row without dying (remind me to never play against you), you’ll have access to the best rewards in the game, such as deploying a chopper gunner or being able to utilize an AC-130 gunship. Hit 25 kills in a row (are you serious!?) and you’ll gain control of a tactical nuke, which essentially ends the map immediately and declares the detonator’s team victorious.

From a graphics standpoint, the screenshots shown here tell all. Modern Warfare 2 is without a doubt, a great-looking game. That said, it’s not a true high-end PC game like some others on the market, which is something that’s sadly becoming all too common. To put it in the simplest terms, although MW2 looks fantastic on the PC in all of its high-resolution glory, it’s essentially a port of the console version, and this is proven on numerous occasions throughout the single-player missions.

I’m a fussy gamer, I admit. Although I’ve played game consoles alongside the PC my entire life, I’ve always considered the PC to be the platform to show off the most elite of game titles. Since Call of Duty is a series that began on the PC, and really has done a great job up to now in showing off what the platform is capable of, I tend to expect to be wowed in the same way with each subsequent release. There are times when I let minor graphics “glitches” slide, but there are a couple in Modern Warfare 2 that stand out and are laughable at best.

Take these two screenshots, for example:

The one on the left shows a mission that happens early in the game. As you can see, most of the level looks great. But look at the building about 100′ in front of the player. See something wrong? Of course, it’s hard to ignore… the building has some ultra-low resolution texture applied, and amongst the rest of the scene, it looks foolish. The second screenshot is even more petty, but I hope some will agree that it’s an issue nonetheless. In the distance, you can see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro… but look at just how blocky it is! It’s not like that in real-life, so why should it be in the game, especially when it’s something everyone is going to look at?

Aside from minor annoyances like these, I have no major beef with the graphics overall, and despite it being a “console port”, there’s lots to look at, and some of the scenes were developed incredibly well. There’s a ton of variation throughout the game, which is evidenced by the fact that all of the screenshots I’ve included in this review look entirely unique when compared to one another.

In the audio department, Infinity Ward excels… for the most part. The orchestral music does well to add to the overall atmosphere and pace of a mission, and coupled with screams from your team and gunfire, the game’s bound to get your heart beating fast at multiple points throughout the game. Like the graphics, there are some minor issues with the audio, but most of that has to do with spoken dialog being repeated too often, or being spoken too late.

There were times during the game where a teammate would say something after there was a need to. To give a real-life example of what I mean, it’d be like you putting a carton of milk in your shopping cart, and then someone asking you to grab a carton of milk. More noticeable are the times when teammate repeat themselves over and over. There’s a lot of dialog in this game, but it’s very noticeable when it happens. Again though, despite it being an obvious flaw, the highlights of the rest of the audio make up for any downsides.

Final Thoughts

Before I sum up my likes and dislikes, I should touch on a couple of the controversies that are surrounding the game, especially the PC version. As we found out weeks ago, Infinity Ward has seemingly lost its desire to cater to PC gamers as it has in the past. The most notable features lacking in the PC version are dedicated servers and an in-game console, both of which don’t even need to be explained to a veteran CoD fan.

Rather than have dedicated servers, IW has introduced a match-making technique that pairs you up with others based on various factors, namely latency. This creates an obvious issue. If you’re connecting to a host that has an unstable Internet connection, and they already have 10 or more players connected to them, then that’s not going to give you the ultra-low latency you’re looking for. This is a major downside, but it has a minor upside, which is if the host gets disconnected from the Internet, the game will automatically seek out the player with the best ping, and after a ~5 second delay, you’ll be back in the match. That’s a buzz-kill, but it’s better than forfeiting the match entirely.

There’s also the lack of an in-game console, which affects those hosting a server, and those who like to tweak the gameplay. It also entirely rules out the ability to mod the game in any way, which is a major bummer. Does the lack of this and dedicated servers render the game a “non-buy”? It depends. I’ve personally not run into game-breaking issues with the online multiplayer, but reports around the Web show that others have. I might experience issues in the future, but up to this point I haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to online play as I’ve wanted. For casual gamers – those who just want to get through the campaign and enjoy online multiplayer, you’re not likely to notice anything lacking.

Another, and more actively talked about controversy, is the “No Russian” mission. Here, the player takes the role of an undercover investigator who’s working with Russian terrorists. The mission takes place in an airport, and massacre is the only word to use here. Hundreds of innocent people are killed, and unless you’re as hard-ass as they come, the mission will affect you. For those who don’t want to play through the mission, it can be skipped with no penalty imposed. For those who want to play it but don’t want to kill civilians, you’re free to. It’s not until near the end of the mission when killing becomes a requirement, and by then, civilians are long out of the picture.

To wrap things up, I’m going to have to vote that yes, this game is worthy of the hype. There’s a lot that bugs me about the game at the same time, but the compelling single-player campaign, fun Special Ops missions and upgraded online multiplayer (XP improvements, kill perks) make this one great package. For anyone who doesn’t play much online, then I might advise holding off, unless you don’t mind spending almost $10 an hour for your gameplay. The seven-hour game time is a bummer, but the fact that it’s exhilarating from start to finish helps negate any regret there.

That wraps up the review of Modern Warfare 2, but the fun isn’t quite over yet. If you’re interested in seeing how your prospective graphics card handles the game at the most common resolutions, turn the page for all the details! If you want even more gooey goodness in way of more screenshots, you can head to page four.

    Pros

  • “Short, but sweet.” couldn’t be more true here.
  • In parts, the graphics will literally “wow” you.
  • Lots of variation in the gameplay, and many ways to kill.
  • Huge number of weapons and attachments.
  • Multiplayer has nice upgrades, especially with XP and kill streak perks.
  • Special Ops a nice addition, will keep you and a friend busy for a while.
    Cons

  • Evidence of being a “console port” too obvious in parts.
  • Spoken dialog sometimes repetitive, or delivered late.
  • Number of enemies at one time is far-fetched at times.
  • Some of the NPC models are duplicated far too often (even the clothing is exact).
  • 7 hours to complete the game might sway some gamers.
  • No in-game console?
    Borderline

  • Removal of dedicated servers is disappointing, but not a deal-breaker.
  • “No Russian” mission is graphic, and disturbing.

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Page List:
Top

1. Introduction & Gameplay
2. Multiplayer, Graphics & Audio, Final Thoughts
3. Performance Benchmarks
4. Extra Screenshots