Reviewed: December 30, 2009
Released: November 10, 2009
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Finally the release of the much-anticipated sequel to 2007ís Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has dropped and the wait has never been sweeter. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 picks up after the events of its predecessor and awes you from beginning to end. The original Modern Warfare brought a whole new look to the series and was quickly my favorite of the series after just a short while of playing it. Infinity Ward returns to call all players to active duty across several systems including the PC, which I will cover in this review.
One of things that really drew me into the first Modern Warfare was the story and of course all the modern toys at my disposal. Now war has come to our shores in this excellent first time ever sequel. Like the majority of my friends and fellow gamers, I got my first look at Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox 360. Shooters however are usually always best when played with a keyboard and mouse in my opinion.
Modern Warfare 2ís story kicks off after the events of the first title. Players are given a brief recap of the previous story and then sent through the obligatory boot camp tutorial. For those of you who havenít played the first game, I suggest picking that one up too, although knowledge of the first story isnít critical Ė just more rewarding. There are several major upgrades this time around though most of the cool ones are found in the multiplayer. As far as the single player experience is concerned, I did find the very beginning a little helter skelter. There wasnít much story to go on at first and I found myself a bit lost. This is really my only real issue about the single player campaign of Modern Warfare 2.
As I mentioned above when PC gaming is concerned I am always favoring keyboard and mouse setups over a controller. This is mainly because of the use of mouse offers a superior aiming system. The controls are pretty solid and responsive and for those that use mice with side buttons I found it easier to pull off melee knife kills and grenade tosses by assigning both to those buttons if applicable.
Modern Warfare 2 boasts a lot of gameplay options this time around. The three main modes that players can engage in are the single player campaign, multiplayer and the all-new Spec Ops mode. The main story while it doesnít really bring anything new to the table is fun and took me around 11 hours to beat on Hardened. For those seeking a bit more of a challenge, Veteran difficulty will take a bit longer, as youíll most likely be dying a lot more due to some incredibly brutal enemy AI.
The AI, both ally and enemy is better than before offering a much more realistic experience. The chatter heard when youíre pinned down or flanking is more involved than ever before. If your squad says there are tangos behind a car or dumpster, they really are there. If you pay attention to what they are saying then youíre less likely to be completely blindsided and it makes the levels go a lot faster.
One of the things in the single player campaign that I do like is the level design. This is especially true when Iím fighting my way through a neighborhood that could very well have been mine. While this is one of the most disturbing experiences in my gaming career, it is an awe to behold.
Before you even start the game you are given the option to skip the ďreally disturbing partsĒ. While I didnít skip these parts, which Iím sure youíve read about or seen on the internet by now, I found that had I skipped them I would have missed out on an experience that I will never forgetÖever. Without giving anything away its one of those scenarios that leaves you in deep thought about the world around us.
Spec Ops allows for some engaging co-op fun. While itís not a co-op campaign like in World at War, which I passed up, I found them to be quite fun. There are five levels of challenges ranging from Alpha to Echo, each with their own missions for a total of 23 scenarios lifted from deleted scenes and material from this and past Call of Duty games. You are graded and rewarded with anywhere from one to three stars based upon completion times or the difficulty level youíre playing on. You can do these challenges yourself but it best if you do it with a friend. Players can team up with another player via the Internet to tackle these together to gain the maximum amount of stars. One of my favorite challenges is where you must aid a second player as they travel on foot through enemy territories from an attack chopper.
The real improvements to Modern Warfare 2 are found with in the expanded multiplayer. One of the biggest features is the newly expanded kill streaks roster. Once you reach level 10 these bad boys kick in and the fun begins. You gain access to bigger and better kill streaks as you go like a Harrier strike or the mother of all kill streaks, the tactical nuke. Fear not, the kill count doesnít stack from match to match. Thank God.
Infinity Ward also thought of those players that just have crappy game sessions or just plain suck in one way or the other with the newly implemented Death Streaks. These reward you when you are getting destroyed and have no kills to your name. This comes in handy when youíre outmatched and outgunned. While there are several Death Streaks to unlock the primary one, Copycat, allows you to use the weaponry of the last person that killed you after three consecutive deaths. This will let you use weapons that you otherwise donít have access to in most cases.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 also features a much-improved Perk system from the original Modern Warfare. One of the things I will mention is the Pro Perks. These are gained by completing the challenge for say Sleight of Hand for instance. If you accomplish that challenge requirement you will be able to bring up the sights faster when you unlock Sleight of Hand Pro, which can be a lifesaver. There are a ton of perks to unlock and many challenges to complete, more than one review can cover, so discover away. The traditional rank up system in place in the first Modern Warfare is still there complete with unlocks such as weapons, attachments and camo. Players can still choose to enter Prestige Mode and start all over again if they want to at level 70.
One of the only downsides and one of the biggest gripes amongst the PC community is the lack of dedicated servers and the 32 person matches got nixed. Infinity Wardís decision to make the experience the same across all of the major versions is not really a bad choice honestly. Sure it may make a lot of people upset but you still get a kick ass experience either way. Players are now limited to up to 18 players during certain matches, which is more than enough for the map designs provided.
I would assume that if you are reading this review that you have at least seen or played the original Modern Warfare, which was one of the most gorgeous titles that I ever laid my eyes upon. Modern Warfare returns with that same level of excellence and surpasses it to a whole new level. The amount of detail that I saw on my 1920x1080 monitor with max settings was absolutely mind blowing. The sheer amount of individual animations on the clothing and gear mixed with the superb real-time physics makes this one of the best looking PC titles Iíve seen this year.
While the fight on our home turf is one of the most hollowing experiences in my years as a gamer it is also one of the most beautiful atmospheres in any game Iíve played to date. The fiery flames of a tree on fire to the sight of a house having the side blow out by a tank as you run down a street is like watching a Norman Rockwell painting ripped up in front of your eyes. The engine used has come a long way in just two years and it shows ten fold.
One of my favorite effects is the new blood splatter used when you take damage. To think that just two years ago we were still used to seeing the usual red damage tint on the screens that got progressively worse. Now we have blood splatter that actually hinders vision and adds a more realistic feel to the world. The lighting effects used when in night vision mode when youíre in Washington D.C., as well as little details like light refraction on a damaged riot shield are all just simply amazing. I was also impressed with the rain and blowing snow effects seen in various chapters of the story.
Modern Warfare 2 features some amazing sound effects, both with the environments and the weaponry. Iíve never heard any of the weapons used in this game in real life but they sound damn good. Infinity ward has done a fantastic job at capturing each of them for our listening pleasure. You literally can tell the difference between a M4A1 and an AK-47 as they are being fired at and around you. But as I mentioned above I absolutely love the battle chatter. Not only does it help you meet your objectives but it also immerses you in the whole experience. I also have to give a big nod to Hans Zimmer for creating a fantastic score for Modern Warfare 2. He truly is a musical genius.
Modern Warfare 2 did take a bit of a hit on the overall story presentation, which is something that I look forward to in a Call of Duty title. But the added Spec Ops mode and expanded multiplayer more than make up for that. Itís not enough to make it a perfect 10 but itís darn close. There is so much stuff to unlock via multiplayer as well as the 40+ hidden intel pieces scattered throughout the single player that youíve got plenty to keep yourself busy for quite some time. I also like all the different call signs and emblems that you can earn by completing certain requirements via multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a game that I will be playing in one capacity or another for quite some time. I plan on testing my skills on Veteran, earning stars and ultimately climbing the multiplayer ranks. I also plan on earning all the PC achievements that finally have nothing to do with the multiplayer portion. The story was incoherent for the most part, only making a bit more sense later on, but the ride was action packed to the very end. It is obvious that Infinity Ward is at the top of their game and I can only imagine whatís coming next. Until then, this is definitely a must buy, despite the surprising $60 dollar price tag for a PC title. Grab your gear; youíre in for one hellava ride.