Thursday, November 12, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review

Yo Oscar Mike!

Two of the three words mentioned are one of the most said phrases in what is considered the most anticipated game of 2009 and probably in video gaming history so far; beating Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the forth child by veterans of the modern first person shooter genre known as Infinity Ward. Originally following in the footsteps of Medal of Honor and the intensity of World War II, the new world decades away from the great war is specialized by the folks at IW. Unlike the historically written cases where events were already written, the Modern Warfare series gives the developers in making a more free form interpretation of what our future may be later on especially with countries like the United States of America in conflict within the Middle Eastern zone. Along with an interesting narrative in relation to our current situation outside our homes, the first game excelled in expanding the single player and multiplayer experience by making very fluid and engaging moments of action that is still rivaled by other shooters. When a sequel comes, everyone who has been a fan of Infinity Ward's work and/or the Call of Duty series expects a step up. Just like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare before it with going into new territory, Modern Warfare 2 does the same and then some.

Taking place five years after the original Modern Warfare, Ultranationalist member and terrorist Imran Zakhaev is still dead but yet his spirit hasn't been forgotten when Russia ultimately becomes controlled by the said political party with Zakhaev being recognized as a hero and martyr. Peace exists on both sides of the Earth but one man who was a major associate of Zakhaev named Vladimir Makarov wants to end it by any means. It's then up to the multinational counter-terrorism unit Task Force 141 led by Call of Duty 4 protagonist Captain "Soap" MacTavish to stop Makarov from creating any catastrophe.

In Call of Duty tradition, the player follows multiple protagonists with Task Force 141 operative Sergeant Gary "Roach" Sanderson being the most prominent. Roach will assist Captain MacTavish to such missions including retrieving a lost module in an airbase located in the Russian mountains and saving hostages in an oil rig. Aside from 141's activities, the perspectives of both the character and the environment changes where the action hits home with such characters like Private Ramirez and the United States Army Rangers defending Washington D.C. from invaders.

The plot discusses issue of terrorism may not be destroyed by a gun shot to a leader's head which explains Makarov's intent of revenge. By playing through, it's a bit vague of what he is going after but his introduction in Modern Warfare 2 especially in the controversial airport massacre level, it's good indication that he is someone that should be despised. It also deals with the theme of escalation where it becomes very prominent by the second act. With that being dealt with, it's doesn't try to go very subtle on events as it tries to shock you every couple of missions. The game provides little to no breathing room. Sometimes it's excessive but for something that has a strong Jerry Bruckheimer vibe (as opposed to the more realistic narrative of Call of Duty 4), it's acceptable.

Being a Call of Duty game, it follows the tried and true format just like usual. In cases where successors sticks to its guns, it can feel feel boring but for Modern Warfare 2, it's constantly exciting. The content is dense when shooting at the enemies with from a moving helicopter or clearing a room full of baddies and even civilians. You will witness tanks assaulting hostile houses while your squad moves up and takes down the enemy. When an area of enemies is defeated, you know they are defeated as this sequel lacks one of the most common issues in single player; which is the infinite waves. When playing, the game can trick the player that there is no end to enemies but in execution, it is very likely a large force. It doesn't force the player to move up and find a checkpoint to end the battle but encourages to eliminate the opposing force with excellence

The lack there-of makes the very challenging veteran difficulty less annoying and more enjoyable; while nonetheless very challenging. The battlefield and the AI seem to be one with each other as they know how to flank and take the upper hand instead of just being cheap sharpshooters. The design is still linear while having open room for both sides to take part and conquer. Still being stuck into two weapons only with grenades, the player can use new gadgets to get the upper hand including the addictive UAV Predator missile which can exterminate numerous foes at once without consuming too much ammo.

Task Force 141 infiltrating

Similar to the first Modern Warfare, the sequel contains specific varied sequences where you might have to defend a building from an invading force or stealth-fully get from point A to point B. It also includes controllable vehicle scenes which includes Roach and Soap having to escape by means of snowmobiles. The sequences and how the enemies currently act keeps the pacing going at a constant rate. When comparing to the lengths of both Modern Warfare games, the second one goes on faster yet can be finished about the same time as the original. Never a bad thing though because it's short and sweet.

Though great and all, I can safely say that Modern Warfare 2 bears so much similarities to its predecessor. There is no actual blatant improvement as opposed to the changes from Call of Duty to Call of Duty 2 to Modern Warfare. But when the campaign being much larger in context, it's very minor.

One of the biggest reasons that the first Modern Warfare became really popular was its multiplayer which contained very fun playlists as well as a role playing game like leveling system where people are rewarded with weapons and perks that can change the tide of a match by doing special tasks and challenges; and as well as kill people. It gave people an initiative to keep on playing especially when taking part in the Prestige Mode where they build up their rank all over again and again and again. That never went away in Modern Warfare 2. The framework is still the same with such popular modes such as team deathmatch and headquarters with its regular and hardcore settings (although old-school is gone). New modes include a third person perspective creating a new and interesting way to play the game; it feels very odd to view your player model yet feels fluid and and reactive during action.

Most of the new maps feels varied and exciting to play through. Some range from the symmetrical (Highrise) and the very condensed (Scrapyard, Rust). Old favorite from both Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2, Brecourt (now titled Wasteland) has returned with a new face lift. Some of these maps fit for specific playlists where Rust is great for small term deathmatch while Terminal is euphoric for domination.

The leveling and rewards system has improved with subtle changes. No more always unfair active perks such as juggernaut and martyrdom, people must die constantly in order to get some of these boosters. With kill streaks, there are now death streaks which can help get a player who might be trailing to get back into the game. It can help new users to get comfortable with the already ready and hardened multiplayer community. The kill streak system has improved with providing more types of rewards including a supply drop that can contain ammo or a random kill streak or even commandeering a gunship for the player to take down enemies right from above. Another interesting kill streak reward is the tactical nuke which destroys everybody and ends the game with the winning team containing the person who used the reward. But at 25 kills, it will be very rare for anybody to witness it. That leads to the initiative for the player to wisely pick which streak will fit for their playstyle as the limit is to three.

Besides destroying the opposition itself, people can destroy the opposition's rewards. Similar to shooting rockets at the chopper in the first Modern Warfare, people can now destroy the opponents' gunships, planes, and even the UAV recon plane disabling any chance of the enemy to find you. In order for everyone to have a equal chance, they make the rewards penetrable to destroy. It causes the rocket launcher to be a necessary weapon as opposed to originally being a perk. The explosive launchers as well as machine pistols and shotguns are moved to the secondary weapon side while the usual rifles and machine guns are still primary. A new weapon in both single player and multiplayer called the riot shield provides a new way of how to play the game where the shield-man is creating a defensive line for people behind him. Being indestructible, it can benefit objective based games where teamwork is necessary.

Some new identity based additions also exist in multiplayer with now titles and emblems that can help characterize any player.

The snowmobile getaway

The newest mode to Modern Warfare 2 is the cooperative capable Special Ops mode which was influenced by the bonus Mile High Club from the original Modern Warfare. It's simply a challenge mode with different types of objective for the player(s) to complete. The mode uses assets from the main campaign and as well as the first Modern Warfare. It can be played alone or with a friend through split-screen or online. The differences with playing alone and with a buddy is key with some missions where communication is golden. Some of these include a mission influenced by the ghille suit mission in Call of Duty 4 where the goal is to get from point A to point B. The environment though is very dense with heavy foliage causing enemies including camouflaged ghillied enemies to blend in completely. Having a friend for a case like that can really help find the snipers. It's an exciting mode with so much tension and fun that it can encourage players to play it again and probably at a harder setting.

Despite being a sequel on the same generation of consoles as Call of Duty 4, it looks fantastic from the dark and torn Washington D.C. to the faces of character like Soap and ally Ghost. Running at 60 frames per second, it can add so much visual fidelity while still being consistently smooth. You will be amazed and speechless to what you will see. The sound is a big improvement as well with such things as the believable ambient-scapes and battle chatter from your teammates. The game recruits popular talent including sci-fi hero Lance Henricksen and video game voice veteran Keith David as prominent characters throughout the campaign. The voice of Soap (played by Kevin McKidd) is probably the strongest video game performance this year after never hearing a word from him while playing Call of Duty 4.

There were controversies before the launch of the game but it doesn't stop Modern Warfare 2 from being absolutely fantastic. There are some problems that plague the game but it's very little as opposed to the seemingly larger than life campaign, the fun Special Ops, and the still addicting multiplayer. Infinity Ward always knows how to make an exceptional product since day one and this game doesn't end the mark.


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