I played through Modern Warfare 2's single-player campaign no more than a week ago, proceeded to play through it again, and have finally decided to do a review on it. The minute I completed the single-player portion of it I couldn't wait to drop by Listal and write up a glowing review. Nothing's changed in that regard, but I felt perhaps giving my thoughts a little more time to marinate was probably in the game's best interest.
So here we are. The Modern Warfare 2 hype has died down and in the ensuing aftermath magazines and online gaming publications have spoiled Infinity Ward with nothing but positive reviews for their highly anticipated mega-hit. As much as the critics loved it, I'm not too sure about the fans. I've heard everything from "It's just a glorified expansion pack" to, and I laugh to myself as I type this, "The first was better." After my last review - which was coincidentally on the first Modern Warfare - you should know that I cringe whenever biased fanboys hype up Call of Duty 4 even more than it already is. And with this review coming from a CoD fan who openly admits to enjoying Treyarch's World at War more than any of the others, leave that grain of salt at home because, and you can quote me on this, Modern Warfare 2 isn’t just the best Call of Duty I’ve played thus far, but one of the best games I've ever had the joy of playing.
Those familiar with hot shot director Michael Bay's movies (funny, this is the second time I've dropped his name in a matter of months) will find a lot of similarities and references to them throughout Modern Warfare 2's six hour campaign. The one referenced the most is the Nicolas Cage/Sean Connery action vehicle The Rock, and when you reach these moments in the game, there's no doubt in my mind that those familiar with the film will find themselves grinning from ear-to-ear. Infinity Ward is no stranger to referencing movies in their games as each CoD developed by them has slyly nodded towards war movie favorites like Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the Gates, and Black Hawk Down, just to name a few. What makes these moments so much fun to partake in - especially those in Modern Warfare 2 - is that there are so many like them.
MW 2 really does look and feel like an epic summer blockbuster with a controller attached for audience input. The first Modern Warfare was all kinds of ridiculous, but Infinity Ward have successfully cranked the dial up so high and so quickly that they damn near snapped it off. There's absolutely nothing in this game, real-world or not, that should be taken the least bit seriously. Modern Warfare 2 is easily one of the most ludicrous, over-the-top, and downright brain-dead games I've ever played. Even with that said, I loved every minute of it.
I could sit here and list each and every one of the amazing set pieces that dropped my jaw, but in doing so I would give away practically the entire game. Let me put it this way; if you high-fived your friends and pointed at your TV screen while exclaiming "Did you just see that?!" during MW 1's Shock & Awe mission, MW 2's entire six hour duration will probably send you to the hospital. Not only are the set pieces more elaborate and more satisfying than ever, but the sheer number of enemies on-screen is nearly overwhelming. Infinity Ward has also fixed that vexing franchise issue where enemies continuously respawn if the player doesn't begin to advance. Even so, IW have upped the number of on-screen enemies considerably and as a result of that, made this one of the more challenging games in the CoD canon.
Referring back to the "expansion pack" comments, I have a bit of a rebuttal to the folks making that claim. Every sequel I have ever played is usually nothing more than a "glorified expansion pack." Apparently modern gamers don't understand that if a developer finds massive success with a certain formula they'd be fools to change it. Treyarch utilized said formula for World at War, so what should stop IW from one-upping their own formula. There is absolutely no difference between the first Modern Warfare and the second aside from some cosmetic and slight game play differences, but logic dictates that there probably wouldn't be. Even when comparing the first and the second, MW 2 completely obliterates the first without so much as breaking a sweat. Everything that worked in the first is back, everything that didn't work has been excised, and those aforementioned set pieces make the ones found in the first game look like child's play in comparison.
I was much relieved to find that Infinity Ward's winning formula has gone unchanged. The controls remain the same and the core game play has been totally untouched. What has been changed, or at least updated, is the already powerful graphics technology that backed Modern Warfare 1 and has been carried over to its sequel. IW has touched up the engine to the point where it barely looks as if it's the same technology. Besides the tonal shift in locales, the excellent character models also deserve a mention. They are probably the best they're ever going to look, and this is probably the closest this gen that we're going to get to photo-realistic textures, architecture, and character models. Everything encompassed by the powerful graphics engine is astoundingly detailed and just flat-out beautiful. I'd really like to see Infinity Ward's updated technology earn some kind of best-of win for the traditional end-of-the-year awards. It deserves it.
If you know me well enough, you should already be fully aware that I won't be touching on the multi-player portion of this title. I will, however, mention the new Spec Ops mode. What it is is basically a single-player or co-op (that's left up to the player(s) own discretion) competition mode that rewards you based on set parameters given to you before undertaking any mission. It's amazing that the same scale and spectacle seen in the single-player portion of the game has been carried over into a mode most other developers would use as a pretentious game play augmentation in which to increase the shelf life of their game. Not only has Infinity Ward use the Spec Ops mode as an amazing way to stretch the game's overall length, but also an as interesting way for gamers to take what they've learned from the single-player campaign and put it to use in a sort of objective-based challenge mode.
Modern Warfare 2 really is one of the year's best and will probably end up winning Game of the Year even though I have already heard complaints directed towards the length of the single-player campaign. But again, my opinion of the first Modern Warfare's single-player mode can be carried over to MW 2; it says what it has to say, does what it has to do, and doesn't waste any time beating around the bush. I personally found the length of the campaign to be perfect and I stand by that statement. Multi-player gamers will probably get a bigger thrill out of it (if that's your thing) than those who aren’t, but rest assured single-player gamers, even with the brevity of the single-player campaign it is definitely an epic experience you’ll want to play through again. If you haven't picked up MW 2 yet, do so immediately.