Review: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2

Infinity Ward, the small team that broke off from the original Medal of Honour series, are back with a vengeance, and this time they have killed all opposition with their sequel, based on the hugely successful Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Within 24 hours of its release, the game managed to set a new record in not just the gaming industry, but also the media industry as a whole. It has created more revenue than the previous heavyweight champion, GTA4, and then proceeded to slap Batman (The Dark Knight movie) in the face – KAPOW! The big question on our lips is why, what is the recipe for Modern Warfare’s success?

The game was released on November 10th with all flavours being catered for – PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 saw a joint release – but it was not a smooth release. Many regions such as Australia had a close call with the game being almost refused release due to content, in particular a certain airport level which allows you to control a terrorist executing civilians. Personally, it is quite disturbing and seems out of place in the game but Infinity Ward have added an option which allows players to skip this level and still be able to complete the single player campaign.

This brings us to the first topic of Modern Warfare 2, the single player campaign. In similar fashion to its predecessor we are briefly thrust into the story through an introduction movie. The story starts 5 years after the first Modern Warfare, where a power vacuum is filled by a new terrorist dictator, Vladimir Makarov, one of Zakhaev’s former lieutenants. After the premise of Zakhaev, ultra nationalists regain power in Russia and see Zakhaev as a war hero and a martyr to their cause. Battles will have you playing various soldiers in different arms of the military, and taking place globally from Afghanistan to the United States. Many of the original characters are back, and the story gets intense when Allen, an undercover CIA agent, has infiltrated Makarov’s organisation and participates in a massacre of civilians at a Russian Airport. His identity is known to Makarov who executes the agent and leaves his body at the airport for Russian authorities to find. This triggers an all out war between Russia and the United States.

Not to divulge any more of the story as it is short, so short in fact, that you will finish the single campaign in no time. From the beginning training area to the scrolling credits at the end can take in-between 4 to 5 hours, which is disappointing to say the least. Game play is identical to the first with enemies constantly spawning from thin air, and requires the player to move forward on a single path till the next save point, so original CoD (Call of Duty) players will feel at ease here. Does this style really work though?

The single player campaign can feel repetitive, like chewing on a mouth full of plain crackers. After a while your jaw gets sore and you just want to spit it out. Thankfully Infinity Ward gives us a thirst quenching drink, we are provided a break up with some epic cut scenes and intense music with constant voice over radio commands, which gives the illusion of your importance in the missions. The game can be comfortably finished on its hardest mode (Veteran), provided you get lucky breaks on the spawning of enemies, and the helpful game saves every five steps taken, ensure you progress through the missions.

The graphics are first rate, and in fact so visually impressive that at times you could easily be mistaken for watching a war movie. This is further reinforced with in-game scenes where your character almost falls off a cliff and is saved by a comrade, but for some pointless reason the player has to button mash for this scene to play out successfully, or else you fall off the cliff – visually spectacular but leaves you wondering if your participation was even necessary. This game style has worked for the Call of Duty series in the past but I believe its days are up, and a change is due in order for it to compete with the more advanced single player provided in other games.

Multiplayer is back and it seems that most of the development time was spent on this area alone. Infinity Ward have left the feel and style of their sequel, the same as the original which is great – why ruin a good thing? Maps have become smaller in size to relate with the adjustment in players per side – being reduced to 9 versus 9. Some will see this as a bad thing, but honestly it provides for a tighter, more intense game. You will find the same leveling system is in place as the original; it allows players to unlock weapons, add-ons and further customisations. A smart new edition is Death Streaks; similar to Kill Streaks but as you can guess it works on deaths. If you are not having the best of games and die several times in a row, you will be granted a Death Streak bonus. This can be very helpful in turning your luck around, and perhaps the tide in battle. For some, it will be good news to hear that the martyrdom ability has been somewhat toned down. It has been added as a Death Streak and will require a player to die 3 times before it can be used.

PC players will find that dedicated servers are no longer an option and have been replaced with peer to peer over the Steam network – similar to Xbox Live. Most of the time there is no issues with this new system, but occasionally you may experience latency problems when connecting to an overseas host.

When it comes to audio, the game has spared no expense. Equal to the graphics, the games audio is as epic as a thunderstorm. The actor from Black Hawk Down and Transformers provides his voice over on radio commands. Original voice overs from the first game have returned, and also rapper 50 cent. What will really shock you is that Infinity Ward have somehow acquired Hanz Zimmer to compose the game’s score. Yes, the Academy Award winning composer. This really goes to show the money involved in the games industry these days. Audio can sometimes be overlocked, but in this case, it’s the audio that saves the single player campaign.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 really feels like more of an expansion pack to the multiplayer aspect of the original than a sequel. The single player campaign can almost be written off; it is too short and the game style leaves much to be desired. With the multiplayer, although the improvements and additions are plentiful; in most cases they are not major, which makes it difficult to justify an entire release of a sequel. So what you basically have is, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare with a fresh coat of paint splashed over it, and a new price tag. All negative comments aside, at the end of the day, it is still a well crafted game and will have you playing multiplayer for a long time to come. Visuals are eye popping and the audio is probably some of the best you will ever hear in any game. Here comes the big but – it is always difficult to release a sequel that exceeds its predecessor, when the original was already amazing. With the original being already successful, the sequel automatically inherited this recognition and gained the assumption of being bigger and better – this would explain the huge sales. It appears that Infinity Ward have taken extreme care to not stray far from their first release, unwilling to take the risk of presenting something radically different. So effectively, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an updated version of the mutiplayer from the original, disguised with a new single player campaign and the number 2 at the end of its title.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

About the Author

Nightshadow is an avid PC gamer, but occasionally strays off to the Xbox360 for some console action. Frequent writer for Gameolio - he has a strange obsession for uniquely flavored soft drinks such as Cherry Coke, Passion Fruit, and Buzz Monkey. Currently Playing: - Mafia II - Age of Conan - Red Dead Redemption