Review by Penisore

"Aggravating yet Addicting"

First, let me say that this review is coming from someone who has extensive experience with the COD franchise, in particular the two Modern Warfare titles. I consider myself to be a skilled player, particularly in the multiplayer modes in both COD4 and COD:WAW. These game modes are COD's bread and butter, and I highly doubt anyone is purchasing these titles for their campaign modes alone. Sadly, when it comes to MW2, the campaign is probably the most fun anyone will have.

My prejudice against MW2's multiplayer is not due to my inability to truly master it, as I've garnered multiple games in which my Kill-Death Ratio was above 15 and my overall K/D is about 1.35. Nobody plays these sorts of games to lose, and although some of us will enjoy ourselves no matter what our final scores are, there are multiple elements to the game that really kill the fun.

But before we dig into those, I'll discuss my love for the single-player modes. The campaign itself is very immersive, and the story unfolds in a manner that actually makes you think, and doesn't fully tell its tale until the last scenes. Things unwind in a sort of Tarantino-esque manner, backstory melding into the present and vice-versa. Some knowledge of the original Modern Warfare's story will definitely better your understanding and enjoyment this time around. The missions are all vital to both the story and the flow of gameplay, as you'll never spend too much time doing the same things. One second you're infiltrating an enemy base in a blizzard, the next you're escaping on a snowmobile and the next you're hunting down wanted suspects in South America, only to turn around and become a double-agent masquerading as a terrorist. The campaign is also incredibly challenging, even on Regular difficulty. I've woken some neighbors attempting to beat some of these missions on Veteran mode. All in all, the campaign is the showcase of MW2, and that is inevitably what flaws the game as a whole the most.

The Spec-Ops mode is no doubt enjoyable and extends the replay value of the game to an extent beyond multiplayer, but matchmaking is non-existant so unless you've got a friend nearby or online whom you can invite, you're going solo and many of these missions don't even allow solo play. Still, you'll enjoy yourself throughout these side missions. The variety is a definite plus.

As far as the basic game mechanics go, overall MW2 is polished and smooth. The graphics are a moderate improvement over the original MW, as is the audio. Guns look and sound more realistic, the voice acting is top-notch, and the visual effects are rather stunning. The controls are as seamless and accurate as one would expect them to be, showing no variation from the original model and offering very little learning curve for beginners.

But now, I dig into what really hurts me the most about this game, and that is the unbalanced, unforgiving multiplayer mode. Infinity Ward seemed to consider the "More is More" idea when constructing the new multiplayer, and frankly, they got more right than wrong in this regard. Adding customizable, unlockable titles and emblems adds a new collectible dimension to the game and certainly works to keep me playing despite my frequent aggravations. The class system is still an important feature, as leveling up also keeps you involved. But, the gameplay itself is so flawed and adhered to a specific style of play that its hard to start playing knowing what you're typically going to get. I refer to the act of camping, in which a player will either continually stick to one spot which provides good cover and wait for others to cross his line of fire, or will move around the general area and camp in various spots to confuse others. While this behavior is fine by me, and I often do the same in this game, the maps themselves seem constructed to benefit this style of play. Multiple buildings, windows, corners, twists and turns abound in any given level, with rooftops and underground passages also giving campers multiple options. What makes this even worse is the balance of weapons and perks. Once one unlocks the SCAR assault rifle, one seldom uses anything else. Same goes for the Model 1887 shotguns, which one doesn't unlock until very late but still are the most unbalanced and unfair weapons I think I've ever seen in an online multiplayer game. Early on, your options will be very limited, especially in terms of secondary weapons. Its worth it to play through and unlock more, but extremely difficult to be successful no matter what you do. Perhaps this is Infinity Ward's version of "balance", but I consider it flawed in comparison to COD4, where the balance was all based on limited options and those with superior skill were always victorious. Now, luck and hiding play more of a part in victory.

Other complaints? The killstreak system. The balance that existed in COD4 is gone, and now we have something called a Care Package. For a 4 killstreak (or 3 with the proper perk being used), anyone can possibly get some of the game's better rewards (anything but the Tactical Nuke, thank God). So, for 3 kills we will occasionally see a Chopper Gunner, or the devastating AC130. This is unbalanced gameplay. Also, the entire idea of a Tactical Nuke is absurd, and has created an abundance of what are called "Boosters", usually two players who work on opposing teams. One simply finds the other, and attempts to kill him 25 times in a row. Combine the abundant hiding spots of these maps with the new "Tactical Insertion" item (which lets you choose where to respawn), and one can see how these "Boosters" will quickly have you up in arms.

All complaints aside, Infinity Ward obviously put a ton of effort and innovation into their new multiplayer system, and on the whole it is vastly improved. I would only recommend a few changes, including the total removal of the Tactical Nuke, a gun rehaul to create more balance, removal of the Tactical Insertion item, moving the Care Package killstreak reward to 5 kills instead of 4 (and making items such as Predator Missles, Precision Airstrikes and Sentry Guns more prevalent in Care Packages, rather than UAVs and Supply Drops), and, if future map packs are planned, more open-air maps akin to some of COD4's better levels.

As an overall package, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is worth the money, and the effort at becoming skilled at it's bread-and-butter game mode, multiplayer. You should enjoy both the campaign and spec-op modes, but just be prepared for an unbalanced multiplayer experience. Hopefully IW takes some steps to correct this in the future, as they've got about 80% of it right, and with the proper adjustments, will have developed the ultimate FPS video game.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/05/10

Game Release: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (US, 11/10/09)

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