reviews\ Nov 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 - PS3 - Review

It was just two years ago that developer Infinity Ward released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The first in the series to take place during present day, the game redefined the series and, arguably, the first-person shooter genre as a whole. The solo campaign was brutal and realistic in a way that few games were before and the multiplayer was deep and utterly addictive. There’s no denying that many of today’s shooters have been greatly influenced by Modern Warfare.

Now the curtain has been pulled back on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and while it may not have quite the same impact as the original, it’s still a top tier game all-around. I use some reservation with my praise because, as good as the game is, it doesn’t top the original’s solo campaign.

Perhaps the most glaring shortcoming here is the plot. Presented in the familiar ‘briefing’ style that the previous game sported, the format just doesn’t hold up. Modern Warfare 2 seems relatively outdated here. I don’t necessarily think the game should have sported lengthy cutscenes, but when I feel like plot points are flying over my head (You need flow chart to sort out all the locations and characters); it might be time to think about a new presentation style. There are some major, earth-shattering events that occur in the game, but the presentation doesn’t give them the proper impact at all. The story itself is certainly adequate and the writing is good, so it’s really a question of how the story is told more than the story itself.

Modern Warfare 2 does execute one plot point particularly well. In a bold and shocking move, the game puts you in the shoes of a double agent infiltrating a terrorist cell. You play through this sequence alongside the terrorists as they shoot hundreds of civilians in a crowded airport. It’s extremely effective and highly disturbing. The game even gives you the option to skip this sequence because of its potentially offensive nature. Although, let’s be honest, the curiosity would probably eat you alive if you chose to simply skip it. It’s just too bad that the rest of the plot couldn’t have been executed so well.

Luckily, the gameplay fares much better than the story. Missions feature great variety and flow, and a few very cool additions. A personal favorite is the Predator UAV. The previous game allowed you to call in relatively ineffective air strikes; in select parts of Modern Warfare 2 you actually take control of a remotely operated aircraft on the fly and reign devastation upon advancing enemies. This is an awesome addition and I wish it was utilized more frequently.

The game also features more vehicle levels than before. These are welcome additions, as they break up the standard shooting segments nicely. They also add some nice cinematic touches.

But most of the game is still on foot and in the trenches. And it feels very much like Modern Warfare. And while that’s actually a very good thing, those looking for a revolutionary new experience will be disappointed.

It’s also worth noting that the campaign is very short. It’s hard to imagine a competent player taking more than 6 hours to complete the default difficulty. I don’t think it’s a huge issue, however, as the overall experience is very good. There are plenty of jaw-dropping, thrilling moments and the action moves along a bit better than the previous game. It seems like you spend far less time pinned down, fighting endless hordes of enemies.

While the single player experience may not top the previous game, it’s comparable and easily ranks among the best the genre has to offer.

But there is much more to the Modern Warfare 2 package than just the campaign mode. A new addition this time around is a separate Special Ops mode. It consists of a series of challenges for which you will receive a certain star ranking. Stars unlock more challenges. Many of these can be done solo, but the emphasis has clearly been put on completing them cooperatively. These challenges encompass just about every mode and strategy that is utilized in the game. Some of these are simply surviving a few waves of enemies, while others involve stealth or vehicle racing. There is even one where you and a friend team up to complete a mission with one providing air support from the AC-130 gunship featured in the first game.

Special Ops is more than just a bonus. It features a ton of challenges and could easily suck up more time than the campaign. This is a great addition, although it would have been a nice touch for Infinity Ward to implement leader boards for the challenges. Still, it’s an excellent compliment to the package.

Perhaps those who will be most impressed with the game, though, are the ones who played it for the competitive online multiplayer. Infinity Ward has done a fantastic job in taking a great experience and making some genuine improvements. They provide a generous number of play modes, all of which are a lot of fun thanks to the excellent map design and typically solid controls.

One of things I really like here is how, in addition to be genuinely fun, the game goes out of its to give you incentive to keep playing. The class system is excellent, but Modern Warfare 2 also adds more in terms of rewards than ever before. Earning experience unlocks new weapons and even attachments and special perks. Even killstreaks have been expanded, and allow for more customization, including a variety of deadly and potentially game changing attacks.

There are also some fun customization options for call signs and emblems that just add that extra bit of flare that you expect from a truly polished product.

Multiplayer also looks better than ever, with a level of detail and scale which is genuinely impressive. And as you would expect, all the modes look great. The campaign may not be much more than a fresh coat of paint, but Modern Warfare was a great looking game to begin with, and the slight improvements are more than enough to make it gorgeous even by today’s standards.

Modern Warfare 2 will also give your sound system a workout. The thunderous sound design puts you right in the battle with great surround and heavy bass. The only slight problem is that it ends up being slightly overaggressive. Essential dialog can be lost under all the effects. And the game’s breakneck pace doesn’t really lend itself well to reading subtitles. The game’s score is also a disappointment, as big name composer Hans Zimmer (along with a laundry list of others) provides a generic action score that is completely forgettable.

Thanks to the feverish hype surround Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the game take some flack solely because the single player is short and just a hair less compelling than the original. More level-headed gamers who give it chance, however, will find a fantastic campaign mode in its own right, a surprisingly addicting set of challenge modes and the absolute finest first-person shooter online multiplayer around.

Review Scoring Details for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Gameplay: 9.4
The solo campaign may not trounce the original, but it’s still a first-rate shooter. The Special Ops is great and multiplayer is the best on the market.

Graphics: 9.3
The fantastic, gritty visuals are a step above the original with some excellent new visual effects and animation.

Sound: 9.5
The sound mix is as thunderous and impressive as you’ll find. Unfortunately, dialog gets lost a bit too easily among the chaos and the music is about as generic as it comes.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 9.0
While it’s certainly more of a refinement than a revolution, Modern Warfare 2 implements it’s new features seamlessly within its tried and true formula to create a game that feels just different enough while remaining faithful to its origins.

Multiplayer: 9.5
An excellent mode is made even better with fantastic maps, fun perks and customization.

Overall: 9.3
The multiplayer is phenomenal, the special ops are addicting and the campaign is one of the best you’ll play. Only the relatively short length of the campaign and its accompanying story presentation issues keep this from being all it can be.


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