|System: X360,PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Infinity Ward||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 11, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-18||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
Before Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released there were basically only two major options for the majority of FPS gamers. There was either the Halo series or one of the plethora of shooters that took place during World War II. Then Modern Warfare came seemingly out of nowhere and offered us a third option, a well crafted modern-day shooter whose story dealt with issues that were currently relevant to the world and also happened to include an amazing online multiplayer component.
While the first Modern Warfare had the luxury of being a relatively unknown quantity before its release, its success has set the expectation bar very high for its inevitable sequel. Now the follow up is finally here and I'm happy to say, it's a fantastic game, living up to and exceeding all of these lofty expectations.
As one might expect, the story of Modern Warfare 2's (MW2) single-player campaign picks up after the events of the original Modern Warfare. It's been five years since Imran Zakhaev's death, but the Russian Ultranationalist organization hasn't died out, instead finding a new leader in the form of Vladimir Makarov. As you play through the game from several different soldiers' perspectives including Pvt. Joseph Allen, Gary "Roach" Sanderson, and even now Captain "Soap" MacTavish, you're given a unique look into what some people are willing to do to accumulate power or to stop others from doing so. The story is definitely full of interesting twists and turns, betrayals, and unbelievable events, but I will refrain from getting into specifics in order to remain spoiler free. Suffice it to say, MW2's story is very compelling, with easily as much impact as the original's.
In fact, there is one mission that takes place in an airport early on in the game that is sure to strike a chord with many players and has already caused a swirl of controversy around the title. While it is easy to criticize or demonize the events that take place in this mission when taken out of context or separated from the game's narrative, it makes perfect sense in the game and is one of the most memorable levels I've ever played. Sure, it can still be pretty disturbing and horrific, but it is ultimately the player's choice whether to play through it or not. This is because when you start a new game of MW2 you will be prompted to choose whether or not to skip playing through this potentially disturbing level. If you do choose to skip it, you won't be penalized by way of achievements, game completion percentage, or even story as you'll still get a summarization of what occurred.
Controversial level included, MW2's single-player campaign is action-packed and a blast to play through. There's obviously a large amount of shooting goodness to be had, but there's also a ton of variety thrown in to keep you on your toes. During the course of the campaign you'll find yourself manning turrets on the back of Hummers, painting targets with a laser sight, climbing up snowy cliffs, sneaking through enemy-infested blizzards, evading pursuers on snowmobiles, running and jumping across rooftops, breaching doors and shooting surrounding enemies in slow motion in order to save hostages, whitewater rafting, and even taking a brief space walk. While the standard firefights in the game are entertaining all by themselves, these additions can help to break up long gun battles, keeping them from ever feeling stale.
Luckily, MW2's checkpoint system is fairly forgiving, most of the time because it can be easy to get overwhelmed by enemies when playing on the game's harder difficulties. Your foes are rather intelligent, repositioning if you get too close, constantly using cover and placement to their advantage, frequently flanking or sneaking up behind you, and tossing grenades to force you from your position. You'll find frequent checkpoints throughout each level, which will automatically activate, keeping you from having to slog back through long firefights because you didn't quite make it out of the way of a well placed sniper shot or grenade. This keeps the frustration level low while playing, although the game is still very challenging and you'll likely find yourself needing to rethink your strategies in some segments in order to ultimately make it through to the next checkpoint.
It is a bit of a bummer that there's no co-op play in the single-player campaign, but you and a buddy can still have a great time in MW2's Special Ops mode. This mode allows for one or two players (online or split-screen) to work together to take on a series of challenges, some taken from portions of the single-player game and some all-new, in order to earn stars.
There are five different categories listed from Alpha to Echo, each with their own set of increasingly more difficult challenges. These challenges can range anywhere from stealthy missions requiring you to make it to an extraction point to destroying every vehicle on a collapsing bridge while being attacked by repelling enemies. There are several different game types to be had here including assault, timed assault, wave defense, elimination, stealth, timed escort, driving, and timed driving just to name a few.
Each challenge can be played on one of three difficulties: regular, hardened, and veteran. Each of which will net you one, two, or three stars, respectively, or if it's a timed challenge, the game will grant you stars based on your finishing time. Earning these stars will not only be necessary to raise your game completion percentage, but accumulating them will also unlock the later challenges for play. Taking these challenges on by yourself can be pretty daunting, as this mode is clearly meant to be played with a friend. Luckily, players who choose to tackle these challenges together can also do so using different difficulty settings, just in case the two of you are not at equal skill levels.