Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review 01/12/2009

It’s too focussed on multiplayer modes for my liking, but, rather expectantly, it is amazing.

Well how do you follow an act like Modern Warfare? It was never going to be easy, especially to myself as I still maintain the first Modern Warfare is the best first person shooter ever made (it is not “Doom” or “Wolfenstein” you rose tinted spectacled fools). Well of course it is rather predictably amazing, how was it ever going to be anything else? In the same way you just know every computer game timed to coincide with a film release will be an appalling shameless quick buck making diseased anus of a game, you just know anything affiliated with the words “Modern” and “Warfare” and done by Infinity Ward will be awesome. However, it does do some odd/different things that some may not be expecting and may not like, and I will of course explain why. It’s pretty similar to the first Modern Warfare, bordering on identical, and picks up pretty much where the first one left off, bar a few years. You will not just fight a load of ultra nationalist Russian terrorists in this game, but also defend a Russian invasion of the United States (yes, you heard that right). In the few years since the events of the first game the terrorist nutters have taken control of Russia and the bastard from the first game, that you killed, Imran Zakhaev, is made a national hero. The “baddie”, initially, is now one of Zakhaev’s generals, Vladimir Makarov, who goes on a terrorism binge across Europe, the last act of which is the massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians at a Moscow airport (a massacre you will take part in) and frames the Americans for it. With the new ultra nationalist rage bending the ideals of its people, and believing it was an American supported terrorist attack, Russia seeks revenge and invades the US. You spend the whole game switching between seeking evidence that Makarov was the killer and terrorist leader and defending the US against Russian attack, playing various characters in “task force 141” (a special anti-terrorist unit consisting of SAS and US army elite soldiers, including “soap” from the first game) and the US Rangers in these conflicts. The story is ludicrously over the top, but properly action packed and totally unrelenting and intense until it’s done, with several plot twists that not only will baffle you further but also set it up for the third game. Story mode is only a third of the game however as you now have “Spec Ops” mode and the usual online stuff. Spec Ops is a load of missions where you have various challenges such as defending a base, taking out a target and generally lots of proper elite soldier black ops style stuff .

What’s good?

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The absolute best thing about Modern Warfare 2 is that it takes action packed intensity to new levels. The gameplay is practically identical to the first game, but it takes the shooter style action and just goes ballistic in its epic-ness, intensity and action. You will have to literally kill everything that moves, and there is a hell of a lot that moves and needs killing, so you are never at any point allowed to take a breather or slow things down as it will absolutely not let up even for a second the entire time you’re playing. You may have a couple of seconds on a few missions to prepare, but it will be followed shortly by around half an hour of action packed anarchy. There are some stealth missions, of course, sniping etc, but they inevitably descend into total Armageddon as well. Although the incredibly annoying eternally respawning enemies has been got rid of now, they have compensated for it by having a stupidly vast amount of enemy troops. It is ridiculous in places. For example, there is a mission in Brazil and in particular one in Washington that have such an obscene amount of enemies, soldiers, tanks, helicopters etc, and bullets flying absolutely everywhere you really are quite overwhelmed. There have been several additions to the gameplay that make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable, such as when you have to “breach” a room. You place an explosive on a door, stand back, and as it explodes you launch in and in super slow motion you take out every bad guy before they shoot you or before they kill any hostages. It’s proper swing in through windows, gun ho, commando style aspect of the game and really good fun. There is also the infamous mission where you have to take out an airport full of unarmed civilians which is actually quite shocking, dark and unnerving. You don’t have to actually shoot anyone but you do have to watch and it really does add a creepy evil tone to the game. You will also snipe from helicopters, infiltrate oil rigs from submarines, fight through suburban areas of America picking out targets for a “Striker” (a massive 8 wheeled tank thing), gun down hoards of terrorists with mini guns onboard Humvee’s, blast helicopters from the sky with missile launchers, sneak through enemy bases in snowy mountains, launch and detonate a nuclear missile, take back the White House from enemy control before it is carpet bombed, set off an EMP so that fighter jets and attack helicopters rain from the sky (a particularly crazy mission), and generally pull off every military assault and action set piece you can think of. You even get to, briefly, control a NASA astronaut in space. It is unbelievably exhilarating and exciting that if this doesn’t get your heart racing there’s something wrong with you.

The weaponry and technology is very plentiful and good fun to use. Although practically every weapon from the first game has been copied over here, and there is a shit load of them, there are some notable really good additions. The favourites from the first game remain of course, such as the “javelin” missile launcher and you still get to man the mighty C-130 gunship, although it’s a spec ops mission now and not in the main story. The one that stands out the most are the predator drones. These are remote controlled missiles that hover round a target area and upon your command, through a lap top, descend upon the enemy and blow it pieces. You have to control the missile though upon launch, and when it makes an impact you instantly switch back to your character and you can see the explosion, debris, smoke and dust kicked up by it. There’s also a mission in a snow storm where you have to use a heart beat monitor (the one showed in all the previews and demos), as you can’t see a bloody thing, which detects the enemy’s heart beats (obviously) for you too avoid or take down. You also get riot shields, which are bullet proof plastic shields that you can hide behind, but will replace a weapon. It’s really good fun getting your pal to use these shields as you follow them and use them as cover, but the enemy also use them which makes them difficult foes to take down. Using grenades is the key and they generally add an extra tactical element to the abundant fire fights in this game. There is also guns with heat detecting sights, excellent when a level is shrouded in smoke or fog, and you can shoot two smaller guns at the same time now, such as uzi’s or desert eagles, although using double guns makes you hideously inaccurate despite the fun factor. You will use lots of vehicles this time as well, including a mental mission through Afghanistan in the first level where you have a mini gun in a Hummer and have to take out hundreds of extremists whilst being chased through the streets and being shot at, a lot. You also blow up and escape a terrorist mountain base on a couple of snow mobiles, a crazy vehicle chase in an aeroplane scrap yard (reminiscent of the final chase at the end of the first game) and the final boat chase at the end is real fast paced stuff and every scenario has an insane amount of troops permanently trying to blow the crap out of your vehicle, increasing the intensity beyond it’s already very high levels. There is also an obscene amount of guns in general, far more than the previous game, and all enemies’ guns can be picked up and swapped with your own at any time. Considering the amount of enemies you slaughter there will be a biblical amount of guns to choose from. If you love fire power and shooting then this will be your nirvana.

Spec ops mode adds more to the experience. Infinity Ward were clearly aware the main story was a bit on the short side, and a lot of missions that were the most popular in the previous game, such as the sniping mission through Chernobyl and the mission were you use the C-130 gun ship, were not included in the story this time round, not at least in any similar form (which is a shame really). Fear not Modern Warfare fans as they have simply pasted in the new Spec Ops mode, which is a full set of small missions that don’t have any story or relevance tied into them, just simple honest action sequences and soldiery. They generally revolve around defending a stronghold or position while a set amount of enemies attack, evade and sneak through some enemy territory without being seen by enemy patrols and getting through a level as quickly as possible as enemies attack you. They are not particularly complicated, just quick easy scenarios where you can challenge yourself to beet your best time, or, more importantly, take them on with a friend (discussed in a bit). They are not quite as engaging as anything story related, but they are clearly supposed to be “a bit of fun” and add some more challenges and trophies to your game time.

There’s lots and lots of multiplayer gaming. Infinity Ward have put most of their effort into the multiplayer action of this game as clearly lots of market research shows that this is what people wanted the most from the game, which is to be expected in the current market. Firstly, all the spec ops missions can be done as a split screen two player. It’s actually better this way to be honest, as several missions, ie the most fun ones, can only be done in two player form. You can do this either by using two controllers or over the internet with a pal. Two player spec ops missions are a bit easier, so you can try them on harder difficulties, and its really good fun having your friend circling the battlefield in a C-130 over head and your on the ground as a regular soldier, both fighting off the enemy to get through the level. Or one of you has to use predator drones to eliminate enemy vehicles, whilst you cover them with sniper fire, or one is in a minigun armed helicopter circling above as you try to evade militia through a slum town. It certainly demands team work and harmony if nothing else. The online stuff is immense as well, for those who like it. You have the usual team battles, last man standing etc but there is additions such as one team member can man a C-130, but opposing team members can shoot it down with RPG’s. The levels are huge as well and there is kill streak rewards that, if you kill lots of people without dying yourself, allow you to upgrade your soldier to have extra skills, such as being able to take a “last stand” after you have been downed. It adds a little more tactics to the battles and some variation. It’s not really my thing, to be honest (I don’t really like online gaming in general: too elitist, too repetitive, too competitive) but if online or multiplayer is yours, and there is a lot of you out there, there is a lot here to please you.

The graphics and sound are of an incredibly high quality. The graphics in the previous game where pretty spectacular, with the exception of the characters faces and movement being a little wooden. But they have managed to revamp it to even further extremes this time round. It’s not awe inspiring in its epic battle fields or enemies, such as “Resistance 2”, it’s the level of detail that really astounds, especially in the level design. Firstly the characters in the game are now pretty flawless, with very realistic facial movements, winks, head nods, mouth movement etc, and movements in general. In the mountain mission, for example, you can see “Soap’s” beard slightly dusted with frost, not important I know but it just shows the level of detail Infinity Ward has put into it. For another example, whenever you’re in a vehicle or car just have a little glance around and spot the attention to detail. It is outstanding. You will see the keys in the ignition, the air vents, the stitching on the steering wheel, some used drink cans on the floor and all sorts of minute details, that individually make bugger all difference but when put together make one seriously immersive experience. Every town you enter is bustling with people, who scatter at the sound of gun fire, and the missions where you go through various housing developments in the USA defending the Russians attack, are particularly impressive and have all the trade marks of a town that was deserted quickly such as bicycles left on the lawn, broken locks on front doors, burning trees with ash coming off in the wind, little things that make all the difference when trying to add atmosphere, which it has in heaps. Speaking of atmosphere, the sound goes a long way to helping this aspect as well. It’s pretty much loud full on orchestral stuff that intensifies as action comes and goes and it goes bananas whenever a scene of epic proportions is encountered. It’s very much like a John Woo film. The battle scenes in Washington, with the wrecked White House in the back ground, will emphasise this. All character voices are excellent as are all noises of gun fire, explosions, vehicles, everything. It does not miss a beat.

The control scheme is 100% perfect. I have mentioned this in previous Call of Duty games, so I won’t go on, but the control scheme is absolutely perfect. It has not changed at all from the first Modern Warfare, or “World at War” for that matter, and I’m glad to see they haven’t felt the need to change it here either. If it ain’t broke etc. Everything is just so easy and instinctual to use, and even if you have never played a FPS before you will not need any instructions. They are that good. You would be surprised how easy it can be to not get control schemes quite right, Killzone 2 for example, an awesome game, but it tried to fiddle with the controls and it doesn’t work as well as Call of Duty.

What’s bad?

The main story is a bit of a let down, as it’s far too short and ludicrously over the top and confusing. My favourite part of the first Modern Warfare was the brilliant story, that gave you a lot of gaming time and generally really satisfied action fans (that mission where the nuclear bomb is detonated is one of the greatest I have played in any game ever). Unfortunately if you’re expecting a similar experience with no. 2 then you are going to be let down, as it is literally over in a few hours and will leave you with many unanswered questions. I completed it for the first time in around 4 to 5 hours, but as it’s so fast paced the time goes quickly and it feels even shorter. The harder difficulties will take a bit longer, “veteran” mode, for example, is unbelievably hard where even the simplest easiest levels will take many attempts, but generally it wont take too much of your time to complete. Don’t get me wrong it’s engaging, and the action is so intense if it were longer it might be too much, but I really felt like I needed a lot more and I was pretty disappointed upon completion. It is also ridiculously over the top and ludicrous as you’re just expected to take for granted that the Russians invade the United States? Do me a favour, how would that ever work? I was slightly confused as to what was happening the first time I played it, as the concept of a Russian invasion seemed way too far fetched. Plus it’s quite hard to ascertain exactly what’s going on as you are not really told much, you just have to rely on random radio transmissions and brief conversations that set up a mission. How did thousands of Russian air craft packed with para-troopers manage to fly un-noticed into American air space, take over the White House and various stupid things like that? It’s apparently down to the Russians using a code from a downed American satellite to make all their other satellites useless, but you cannot ascertain this from the game. It’s like a Michael Bay film with its stupidity: action packed, yes, but mind numbing with it’s brainlessness and style over substance. It really is daft. Saying “you will be disappointed” is probably too harsh, as, despite its briefness, its really good fun, and there is something wrong with you if you don’t fancy having more than one go at it on different difficulty levels. But the game as a whole is clearly much more focussed on multiplayer modes, which I’m sure is what most players will want, but if you, like myself, have the main story down as this games, not only but, biggest appeal then you have very much got the wrong end of the stick.

The spec ops missions are not that great. Don’t get me wrong they are by no means bad, but, firstly, taking on these Spec Ops missions individually is a bit rubbish and, secondly, although your better off taking them on with two players, they are still a bit short lived and unimpressive when compared to the main story. Don’t think for a second either that its like doing a whole new story or set of missions as nearly all the spec ops missions are clones of the missions in the main story, with ever so slightly different objectives. You will have to do things such as kill 40 enemy soldiers in a specific place, get through a level as quickly as you can without being killed or, defuse some bombs scattered around a town and, weirdly, doing the snowmobile mission whilst being timed. Why in the hell would you want to do that? This isn’t a racing game. Trust me, it is not even remotely as exciting if you don’t have enemy helicopters and soldiers blasting away with guns and missiles at you, or without any dramatic background music, which that spec ops mission doesn’t have, so its pretty crap. They are generally light hearted good fun, but most are very short, unrewarding and I didn’t have more than one or two goes on each before I got bored. You might as well play the story as it’s pretty much the same just better, more engaging and dramatic. What annoyed me further still is that the only missions that do stand out, such as a revamp of the Chernobyl sniping mission from the first game, a mission where you man the C-130 gun-ship (the C-130 is included in every aspect of this game except the story, which is really annoying!) or a quick fast battle across a collapsing suspension bridge, could have easily been incorporated into the story bulking that out a lot more which it really needs. Spec Ops is basically just a check list of achievements and trophies, and the only point to them is to try and beat your best times or play with a mate. Taking them on with your friend is the point of them really and in that respect they are pretty good fun, if a bit short lived, but I personally tired of doing them individually very quickly and would have much preferred a longer story and less spec ops stuff, if any at all.

It is way to overwhelming and confusing in places. The intensity of the action is just too much at times and it becomes impossible to figure out where you are supposed to go and what you are supposed to do, especially on your first play through. The fourth mission in the story, in Brazil, suffers from this badly as you have to chase a guy who is a lead to the terrorists through a slum town, and it is just total chaos. There is militia on every roof top, in every building, behind every wall, all shooting the crap out of you (and I know the respawning enemies have gone but it certainly doesn’t feel like it in this mission), whilst this informant legs it and you are expected to chase him through the town which is a ludicrous impossible maze of small houses and dead ends, the whole time your commander is screaming at you to hurry up or the informant will escape (although there is no time limit your certainly not led to believe this). Trying to figure out where the hell to actually go is hard enough, even if the ten thousand militia where not trying to turn you into a colander. Another example is when you have to defend a house later on in the game, and even worse escaping it, which starts off easily enough, but then the enemy swarm the house from every conceivable angle, and there is loads of openings and doors they can infiltrate from, and such a ridiculous amount of flash bang grenades are tossed in every window that they are unavoidable and you will be blind for a good few minutes, whilst the enemy pile in and gun you down. You then have to escape the house and run down a hill, but there is an obscene amount of enemy troops shooting at you, from all angles, nothing to hide behind, whilst the area is being mortared, so you can’t sit still or you are blown to pieces. Avoiding taking shots in these circumstances is unbelievably tough as it is, bordering on impossible on “veteran” mode, let alone not being able to stray too far from the computer you are protecting, as if you do the enemy destroy it very quickly, and the mission is over. A lot of the spec ops missions suffer from this as well, again, particularly when it comes to defending a strong hold, as wave after wave of enemy just gets too much and it is seriously tough to keep cool and stay on top of things, especially when going solo. There is also little stupid things like exploding cars and red barrels, which are often unavoidable and when they explode vaguely in your vicinity you are killed instantly. This game has enough going on already to have to concern your self with the colour of specific barrels, for god’s sake. This is possibly more of an indication of my crapness, or unawareness, but I really fail too see how even the most skilled “switched on” gamer wont be overwhelmed at some point during their time with Modern Warfare 2, and I reckon they should have toned it down a little, not everywhere, just some of the few occasions when it goes a bit overboard.

Shooting from the hip is ludicrously inaccurate. I have never shot a real gun so I’m not sure how hard it is to aim and fire when not looking down the sights (which is called “shooting from the hip”), but I really struggle to see how it can be as ridiculously bad and inaccurate as it is Modern Warfare 2. In the tutorial you are of course told that you should never shoot from the hip and always aim down your sights, especially in order to use the excellent target snapping system, however, there will be various points in the game where you will turn a corner or open a door and there will be a gun wielding bastard ready to unload bullets into your face. There is no way you have time to aim down the sights in such circumstances so you are forced to shoot from the hip, however, I guarantee you, even standing inches from your enemy and aiming at point blank range in his face, you will empty the entire magazine and hit nothing but air and scenery. If you’re on a harder difficulty you will inevitably get your head cored like an apple by a shot gun. It’s even worse on the larger machine guns and I refuse to believe a gun will be that inaccurate at such a close range, and even if it is, I think it’s far too harsh for the game to punish you for it. Realistic or not, it sucks, basically.

The friendly AI is a bit crap and simplistic. This only effects the story mode, as there isn’t any friendly AI in spec ops or online, but I’m surprised this is not something Infinity Ward would have concentrated on a little more, as your AI pals are a bit thick. They are not as intrusive and irritating as they are in “World at War” (although they still can be), where they will stand on your face or leap in to your firing line, they are just not really any help and pretty much act like you are not there. It by no means ruins anything in the game but despite the intended realism you don’t at any point feel like part of the unit. You pretty much have to do everything on your own and they simply don’t really ever help you, have to be led everywhere, otherwise they don’t budge, will promise to “cover you” and stand there doing nothing whilst an enemy shoots you in the back, and generally don’t add a lot to the experience. They are only really good for following to the next action scene. They also occasionally jump in front of you when your aiming down a scope as well, which is particularly annoying, and you inadvertently kill them. This frustrates because, as always, “friendly fire will not be tolerated” and you have to start again. It is very frustrating to get punished for something that is not your fault. It’s by no means awful, but by no means particularly good either.


Rather expectantly it is of course, as a whole, very very good. The story is far too short and stupid for my liking, but it’s just so engaging, particularly exciting to play, and you will definitely want to have a good few goes at it, let alone on each difficulty. If you want a challenge, “veteran” mode will seriously test the most hardened and sharp gamers. I wouldn’t say you will definitely be disappointed if you buy this game only for the story campaign, as that is a bit harsh, but you probably won’t feel as though you have had your fill or got the most out of this title if you do. However, if you love multiplayer stuff as well then you will get a lot of satisfaction from it. It is a proper bullet ridden balls out hairy chested intensely unrelenting action packed manly experience, that is a bit short on subtlety and intellect, but who cares when you can mow down multiple terrorist scum with a massive machine gun! The spec ops missions are not that great to be honest, but they are something else to do when you get bored of the story, and, most importantly, they are by no means bring the game down. Plus, you can even tackle them with a pal if you so choose, which is good fun and really the point of them. I don’t find the spec ops stuff as engaging as the story, therefore not as good, but the enjoyment and same ludicrous intense action remains. Further still, you have the vast multiplayer online stuff. All this playability is coupled with outstanding graphics and sound, particularly the level design and details, and it makes for one of the best experiences available on a PS3. I wouldn’t say it is better than the original Modern Warfare, it’s just about the same, as it improves on it in several areas but loses out to it in others. But, to be fair, being about as good as possibly one of the best game of the decade is not really a bad thing. It does not really blow the competition away either, as there are lots of high quality titles in the market, past and present, but I cant deny it is definitely a bit taller, fitter, and more muscular, if a bit less intelligent, than the other kids in the playground. CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 9.5

Menus are all very simple and very obvious and it’s easy to get straight into whatever or who ever you fancy killing today. Control scheme is perfect and very easy to use and get used to.

Is the story any good? – 8.0

It is a good story, definitely entertaining, dramatic and a little dark, but very ridiculous, very over the top and just a bit stupid. Those of you that have a more cynical and logical outlook on life probably wont be won over very easily.

How does it look? – 9.5

It is a particularly stunning game and the level detail and design is awesome, and everything just generally looks outstanding.

How does it sound? – 9.5

Really dramatic orchestral background music that rises and falls with the intensity and suits the action and gameplay perfectly. All voice acting and sound effects are also superb.

Is it good to play? – 9.0

It can be too overwhelming in places, and too intense, but it is certainly incredibly exhilarating, huge fun and very variable so it takes a long time to get dull, be it playing the story, spec ops or online.

When will I get bored? – 8.0

If you are only interested in the single player campaign, you may not get as much game for your money as you might be expecting. Despite how much fun it is, it is just very short. If you want to do everything though, you have lots and lots of Spec Ops missions that can be done on your own or with a mate, and masses of online multiplayer stuff. So you should potentially not be bored any time soon, depending on your preferences.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

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