Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Full Review

The Call Of Duty video game franchise has surpassed EA's Medal Of Honor as the worlds foremost war simulator. In November, Activision announced that the series has exceeded $3 billion in retail sales worldwide, making it one of the biggest gaming franchises ever. "If you consider the number of hours our audiences are engaged in playing Call of Duty games, it is likely to be one of the most viewed of all entertainment experiences in modern history," said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, Inc.

The latest, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (COD:MW2 or MW2), went on to generate over 500 million in sales in its first week which is certainly phenomenal but with most of those funds being collected from advance pre-orders the game was not sold on the basis of whether it was good or not, but only on what had been done before, so while some people ended up happy, others felt burned and cheated.

It’s interesting to note that the game's popularity also reflected in the amount of unauthorized downloads it had from BitTorrent sites. There were 4.1 million recorded downloads for the PC version, in addition to 970,000 for the Xbox 360, making it 2009's most pirated game on both platforms.

Like the majority of First Person Shooters (FPS) these days, MW2 employs both a single player mode and a multiplayer mode, there’s also a co-operative mode that allows you and a friend to team up for some specially designed difficult missions. Some users purchase the game for one element or the other but many enjoy both modes. On Multiplayer overall I will say reception in console-land on either the PS3 or the Xbox 360 platform was very well received. A different story exists however for the PC. Developers Infinity Ward (IW) decided to remove the dedicated server ability from the game entirely which severely limited the PC’s ability to create specific types of online matches, disabled the ability to ban a user that was unruly or a cheating bastard and basically crippled the most popular multiplayer functionality. This drastic action by IW led to the unprecedented fall of the game from #1 to 39th place in the PC Gaming charts – a result not shared by its console cousins. Personally, I buy and play these games only for single-player as I have to shoot enough assholes in real-life without having to kill them online as well. Therefore this review will focus mainly on the single-player aspect but comments may of course be added and discussed concerning multiplayer below if you so desire.

The game once again uses a proprietary engine (no existing engine platform would ever suit IW), the IW 4.0 based loosely on licensed ID tech. It presents a unique graphical experience that can be tweaked to match every capability of your GPU. Needless to say it’s noticeably superior to the original Modern Warfare with particular attention to dust particles which may actually cause you to as a reflex put your hand in line with your eyebrows in a futile attempt to see through it.

FPS storylines are generally an assorted mess of some incredible ideas that are loosely woven together to attempt to give you some sort of reason why you find yourself in so many different environments throughout the game. The plot here is just as woeful as one might expect, full of holes, inconsistencies and pointless elements, basically like an 80’s action movie. I admit I was expecting a bit more from the writer and executive producer of NCIS, Jesse Stern who wrote the game. Most of the plot hinges on it’s “secrecy” so I’ll not delve into it here too much only to assure you that it’s simply more of the same only they’ve turned the insanity-meter up to the max, you’ll be as surprised and as shocked as much as you will laugh where you’re really not supposed to.

The gameplay features most of what you experience in Modern Warfare; slick FPS action with a stunning array of the most modern weapons and small arms known to man. And thankfully they've abolished that madness of perpetually spawning enemies to wear you down, opting for some incredibly cunning AI foes instead. The “cinematic expedience” that the entire COD series is renowned for is taken up a notch here. There are some truly magnificent scripted action set-pieces, IW have proven that they are the masters of this for many years and MW2 is no exception with easily the most stunning of them emerging at various points in this game, you may even find yourself getting shot because you’ve spent so much time looking at such incredible action and scenery around you like an idiot.

As great as these cinematic sequences, many of which you have some level of control over, are; I think that there may be just a little too many of them and not enough actual “game”. Either that or the sections of game in between these cinematic sequences can seem so rushed because of the way the level is designed and you’re really being forcibly “pushed” through them so much that it can seem like the game is there to advance the cinematic as opposed to the other way around. In some cases it can feel like you're doing nothing more than directing a fantastic Machinima which is not what you pay “above average price” for a game for. The rushing – either against the clock or chasing down a bad-guy before he escapes etc. through the levels verges on ridiculous. While you are rewarded with some of the aforementioned extraordinary cinematic sequences and literally find yourself out of breath a heaving and sweating husk in front of the PC or console, you’ll discover to your horror that you’ve finished the entire game between 5 to 7 hours depending on your chosen difficulty level and that is a crime; an unforgivable crime that will ensure a through investigation before I pay full-price, recession or none, for the inevitable Modern Warfare 3.

To add to the whole cinematic flavour that IW have mastered for their games, the developers and publisher enlisted some top names to help them craft what is essentially “interactive cinema.” The aforementioned Jesse Stern was head of the writing team and his story was brought to life through the wonderful array of characters you met throughout your adventures voiced by some top talent including Kevin Dog Soldiers McKidd, Craig Cliffhanger Fairbrass, Barry We Were Soldiers Pepper, Keith Platoon David and Glen 24 Morshower among others. One of Hollywood’s most prolific and sought-after Oscar-winning composers Hans Zimmer was enlisted to compose the main themes for Lorne Balfe’s most amazing score. The unmistakeable sounds they produced only cementing the illusion that you are inside a movie directed by both Michael Bay and Tony Scott simultaneously. Its a shame that there’s no legal requirement for Activision to display an adrenalin poisoning warning on the game box like they do for epilepsy, because I’m sure that almost happened me.

The game has come under some harsh criticism and has caused a stir amongst many politicians who together with the press have highlighted some of the controversies. Some folk have taken it upon themselves to create an entire Wikipedia page based solely on Modern Warfare 2’s issues and you may read it at your leisure here. On the main issues I’ll only say – The multiplayer problems hold little concern but it’s a pity that IW seem to have forgotten that without the PC or multiplayer as it was on the PC there’d have been no Call Of Duty (1) back in 2003. Additionally this is not the place to discuss my opinion of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy of the US Military so we’ll leave that go. Of the Russian Airport level, I’ll admit that while I played it [I did pay for it], I did not enjoy it, I found it in bad taste and completely unnecessary to the plot – a plot that certainly wouldn’t have suffered any more detrimental effects from simply mentioning the “result” of the level rather than having you play it.

Still, credit where it is due, I must applaud Infinity Ward for what is certainly [from my point of view] one of the most polished, bug free, graphically and aurally rich FPS combat experiences I’ve ever had in a video game. It’s always a shame when a developer overlooks something, no matter how infinitesimal that breaks the illusion of reality and reminds you that you’re playing a game, but that doesn't happen here. It’s very noticeable – but obviously only after playing, that nothing happened during the game that broke this “bubble of fantasy” that surrounds you [with the exception of reloading after you die, but that’ll always be reasonable]. It’s a shame that such terrible controversy has marred it’s reception [if not it’s sales figures] and that that the main experience [for me] is only a few very short hours. If you’re not an avid multiplayer I suggest you wait a good while for this to come down in price, it’s certainly worth playing, just not right now.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Some information sourced from: Infinity Ward / Gamestop / Wikipedia /IGN


Former Grunt said...

"above average price" should certainly be noted as you said. No wonder it reached the revenue it did when guys were paying £5 or $10 more depending on country or store.

Did you get a retail pack or download from Steam?

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy this game, but certainly thought that the story line and single player mode could have been better. The live or online gameplay is the best FPS I have ever played though. Nice review and thanks for sharing!
modern warfare 2