Review by Exodist
"A decent campaign and online service, but not quite as good as the legendary Call of Duty 4."
From memory, the original Modern Warfare, or, Call of Duty 4, wasn't hyped particularly much. It was almost a sleeper hit, gaining its mass popularity mostly through the addictive but also excellent online, which really took off and gained the game mass popularity. Modern Warfare 2 is a victim of its own hype in many cases; most people just assume that because the game has been hyped so much, it's got to be the best thing ever. Whether Modern Warfare 2 is a good game or not is how you look at it; some players will expect it to be completely amazing, find out it isn't and either say it was disappointing but still good, or that its outright rubbish. For myself, the game lived up to what I wanted it to be and this didn't make me disappointed, however I still recognise the game has a lot of problems. It's a good game, but don't hate it to merely be against the crowd.
The storyline in the game is absolutely ridiculous. Its set a little while after Modern Warfare 2, and you play as some guy whose name I've already forgotten, but you're under the command of Soap, the main hero of the previous game. You play once again as both American and British at different points in the game, with most of the attention focused on the British character. Some things happen and some stuff goes down and I didn't really understand it all that much. As with the other Call of Duty games the story line is detailed in the briefings in between the missions. However, they hardly make sense and are rather boring so it's quite hard to follow the storyline. Instead, you'll just appear in different places with more and more guys to kill, so it doesn't matter. However, if you then decipher the storyline, it still doesn't make much sense and is rather summer block buster centric, rather than a realistic storyline as seen in CoD4, you get a nonsensical sequence of events and are just along for the ride. That said, a few of the plot twists that happen in game are decent enough, and the ending sequence was pretty good. Not the actual ending though, that was pretty rubbish.
Gameplay wise, the game hasn't really moved forward at all. The single player campaign is same old, simply featuring different set pieces and some new guns. That said, it's an exhilarating ride and incredibly fun. Its simple, just run around, grab some weapons, aim down your weapons, kill the enemies, move from point A to B and you're sorted. There are a few differences, such as a short vehicle section at the start of the game, which actually controls rather well, and a rather intense sequence during one of the Favela levels where you escape a group of enemies, rushing toward the helicopter in order to escape. Again though, the gameplay isn't really any different and you're more or less playing the exact same game of two years ago. However, the set pieces do drive the game forward and this is what makes it more fun than a lot of other FPS' out there. The formula didn't change, but the design was still the driving force of the campaign, making a new game, which, whilst not trying anything new, provides a lot of fun moments, ensuring the campaign is never dull. That said, the campaign is incredibly short, lasting about 5 hours on the normal difficulties. Another issue is the difficulty, however I'm all for the new difficulty. The game has gotten rid of the re-spawning enemies and it shows. There are less grenades (unlike the ridiculous amount seen in World at War), and the game is just generally easier. This does mean that Veteran difficulty is a walk in the park compared to the previous entries (took me a further 6 hours to beat Veteran after the first playthrough), however this also makes the game fairer, and still fairly challenging. Just don't expect hours and hours of anger, but that's a good thing, right?
With cooperative play missing from the campaign, a whole new mode obviously in competition with Treyarch's Nazi Zombies from World at war was added into the game: Special Ops. Whilst these missions aren't entirely original, instead just borrowing levels from the campaign (and even one from Call of Duty 4, the Chernobyl level), and giving you a few different objectives. However, they're incredibly fun, but only if you attempt them on Veteran with a friend. Not to say you need to be skilled, you could still find them pretty fun, however on Veteran they're quite challenging and longer, and it's a real accomplishment when you finish them (I'd say the hardest one is probably the Estate Takedown which took me and my friend absolutely ages to do). Basically, you choose the mission, then choose a difficulty which gives you different milestones, for example, you might have to survive five waves instead of three, or kill 40 enemies instead of 30. It's rather simple, but as I said, they're really fun and offer a decent distraction. It took me about 15 hours to complete them all on Veteran with my co-op friend, however once you've done them all to the best of your ability, you're unlikely to come back for more considering there are no leaderboards. You can only invite your friends, although you can play split-screen, which is useful. However, with a bad connection the game seems rather prone to severe lag which I encountered a few times, much to my annoyance.
Now, for what a lot of players will actually consider to be the main feature of the game: the online. Simply put, I feel Call of Duty 4 has a much better online mode. Firstly, the maps were better. The maps are decent, but there are some maps I really dislike too, such as Rundown, Derail, the awful Wasteland (from the original Call of Duty, which clearly shows a difference in the quality of multiplayer maps they've made over the years), and Rust. There are some pretty good maps too though; my favourites are Highrise, Sub Base and the great Terminal. It's just one of those things, different people will like different maps more than others, but for me I felt that generally the maps didn't meet the quality of CoD4. The customisation however is excellent and far surpasses that of CoD4. You have much more varied choices to choose from, and provided you get the right ones, the call signs are pretty good too. What really lets the game down is more the technical side of things.
Firstly, the no party chat decision to me was really bad. Why can't I talk to my friends as I play Call of Duty? Am I really going to bother talking to a friend who is on the other team to cheat? It's extremely annoying to come across some whiney little children who don't know how to play properly and throw weak insults around instead of playing the game properly (one kid shouted I'm gonna get a stinger missile in there apparently unaware stinger is vehicle lock on only). Let's be honest, no one uses the voice chat properly and you'll do just as well without voice chat in a game of Team Deathmatch. The lack of party chat is a big miss and makes playing with friends a little harder, a feature I'm truly disappointed at the lack of. Secondly, the lag in this game is awful at times. I remember rare instances of lag in CoD4 and even then it was usually just a dodgy private match connection (i.e. whichever one of your friends was hosting) or when the host had quit. The game lags so often and it's really frustrating when it hits, probably all the time I get lag in the game I just quit since it's usually there to stay. Why the game lags so much I have no idea, but you'll notice it a lot more of it compared to CoD4 and it's highly frustrating.
They also introduced Host Migration, but majority of the time this feature doesn't actually work. Sometimes it'll work almost instantly and you're back in the game and its fine. Sometimes it'll work fast but you'll lag loads, sometimes it'll take absolutely ages (anywhere above thirty seconds) and the rest of the time it just fails. You'll get kicked back to the lobby and it's quite frustrating when you were just sat there for a minute waiting for it to migrate the host for it to just give up. That said, the matchmaking on this game is, as ever, pretty quick so you won't be waiting about five or ten minutes just to play a game like Halo 3. That said the listed problems are ones you'll encounter plenty of times during play. You will see lots of lag in occasions and the game will fail to migrate on multiple occasions. There are plenty balance issues concerning the kill streaks (Chopper Gunner is fine but 5 rockets to take out an AC-130 is ludicrous) and a few glitches, but there have been some patches including balance to the infamous Akimbo Model 1887's which, I admit, were great. I've played MW2 online for around six days played time according to the game, reaching third prestige before I got bored and moved on. To me, that's worth the asking price of the game alone, and since you're probably not going to find it much cheaper for a while, if you have access to LIVE the game is worth it purely for the online. When the online is working properly, no lag, good team and players, you'll have fun. But at the same time it can be very frustrating (the kill streaks) and doesn't feel as well designed, or balanced, as CoD4. Not as good, but still a good online mode overall.
MW2 is just one of those games you can't escape. It's a good game with a fun but pretty standard single player affair, and fun, deep online service held back. Simply put, if you don't have the game already, it's definitely worth it, just make sure you have access to the online since you'll find the game a bit of a rip-off if you don't, with its short campaign that, whilst offers to some thrills, is rather ludicrous and doesn't cross any boundaries with its fairly standard FPS mechanics.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 07/06/10
Game Release: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (EU, 11/10/09)
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