Latest installment in popular Call of Duty series improves on already high quality franchise
Issue date: 11/20/09 Section: Focus
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Makarov, a Russian ultranationalist terrorist seeking revenge for the returning characters' heroic actions in the previous game, executes a nefarious plot involving an attack on a Russian airport, starting a violent conflict between the United States and Russia. It is worth nothing that one character is forced to participate in this gruesome attack on innocent bystanders, but in order to dampen the controversy behind this scene, the player is provided with the option to skip this part altogether by a friendly warning that appears before the scene begins.
Varying with the mission, the player will take control of a few soldiers and special agents involved in a story that quickly weaves their roles together as it progresses. The missions are comprised of carefully scripted action sequences, while maintaining a strong enough sense of realism that minimizes the player's suspension of disbelief. The scenarios encountered in the game offer a generally unbiased account of the unfortunate paradox that is modern war, placing the player in realistic combat situations that allow for the firsthand experience of some of the most extreme horrors of violent conflict and why in some cases it may be absolutely necessary.
While continuous and well thought out, the scenario begins to spiral toward ordinary action flick fare during the game's third act. Although the final mission and ending sequence are on par with the intensity of the rest of the game, it all ends abruptly, leaving the player with concrete evidence of a sequel in the future and a great yearning for just a little bit more.
The above would be a bigger issue, however, if the game weren't extremely visually convincing or an absolute blast to play. The game's crisp, photo-realistic graphics, fluid animation, and immaculate attention to detail place you directly in your combat boots, and take you to faithful and painstakingly rendered battlefields in Afghanistan, Russia, Brazil, Washington DC, and even suburban West Virginia. No detail is spared, from the physics of sundry debris being scattered about by gunfire, to the characteristic street art found in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. As in the previous games, an extremely intuitive and logical control scheme with a relatively simple learning curve is present that will have the player executing tactics and surviving truly epic gunfights in no time. The single-player campaign on the "hardened difficulty" level takes about eight hours to complete, providing a great experience of reasonable length, while remaining easy to fit into the busiest of workloads.
The game does not end here for players who are just getting fired up from the completion of the campaign. Modern Warfare 2 features a Spec Ops mode that can be played with a single player or cooperatively with friends or other players online. Spec Ops mode takes 25 of the single player campaign's shining moments and rehashes them into standalone challenges that allow players to experience some of the most thrilling sequences of the game together in lieu of a cooperative campaign.
These scenes are molded from their story-driven forms into arcade-style missions with basic objectives such as obstacle courses, tactical defense survival situations, vehicular racing sequences, and sneaky stealth missions that will force players to work together and take fresh approaches toward familiar scenarios.
Arguably the most popular feature of the game is the online multiplayer mode, where players can take their custom avatar to a vast selection of maps and gameplay modes to do battle with many players across the globe. Modern Warfare 2 maintains the previous game's solid multiplayer formula, while adding even more options to keep the gameplay fresh. The player is able to increase their rank up to a maximum of 70 based on gameplay performance. Scoring kills, getting revenge, capturing the flag, winning the game, or completing a list of personal challenges gain the player valuable experience points needed to increase in rank, which with advancement unlocks a wide spectrum of customization options. These options include a massive arsenal of weapons, tactical equipment, and special abilities called perks, that unlike in the previous installment, can now be upgraded. Kill streak abilities can now be customized, allowing the player to choose three abilities to deploy as a reward for racking up combos. These range from enabling temporary use of an unlimited radar, to launching a game-winning tactical nuke if one can manage to take out 25 opponents in a row without falling. Titles that can be attached to the player name can also be unlocked through a variety of achievements, from the standard military ranks such as "General," to the tongue-in-cheek "Blunt Trauma."
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an excellent, well-rounded game with very few flaws, most of which can be found in the single player campaign, which remains excellent despite these flaws. To some, the Spec Ops mode may feel like a cooperative mode cop-out, but this new challenge mode simply does away with the boilerplate and brings the team straight to the action. The online multiplayer mode remains top notch, with many improvements to an excellent schema. The release of the game has been said to have broken all sorts of entertainment sales records, grossing $310 million in sales in the first 24 hours alone. Delivering such a great gameplay package, one is left to wonder how Infinity Ward will build off of this success, and await their next release with great anticipation.