Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) is without a doubt the most hyped game of 2009. Activision made various announcements over the past 3 months that divided its fanbase, yet it has still managed to deliver an excellent military themed FPS.
The lack of dedicated servers, the addition of third-person mode, a measly 5 hour single player campaign and a hefty price tag aside, there is no doubt that as a package MW2 offers a highly worthwhile gaming experience.
The game can be broken down into three compartments; a single player campaign, online multiplayer, and special operations missions.
While many have argued that the sub 6 hour single player campaign is not long enough, when viewed alongside the two additional gameplay components it seems substantial. The multiplayer component is likely to be the draw card for most serious gamers, and does not disappoint, and the spec-ops missions present a whole new dynamic to the Call of Duty world that is likely to surprise many with its variety and depth.
Single player campaign
MW2 picks up 5 years after the events of its predecessor. Call of Duty 4 (CoD4) concluded with players killing a terrorist known as Zakhaev. Unfortunately, when you cut off a serpent’s head, another springs forth and you are left back where you started. Such is the case in MW2, and one of Zakhaev’s lieutenants – Vladimir Makarov – proves to be even more dangerous than his old master.
This is the basic premise, and it leads to a complex set of events that has players stepping into the shoes of 5 different characters (including an astronaut in space for a brief few seconds) through the course of the campaign.
One of the biggest downfalls of the single player campaign is that while it is based on a great story, is well written and posses memorable characters and locations, the manner in which it is all presented can be overwhelming and confusing.
Apart from a few poignant and memorable missions, it can sometimes become difficult to tie mission objectives into the complex story line as it unfolds.
Despite this, MW2’s plot is characterized by numerous excellently crafted twists and turns, and any confusion which results from unclear presentation can easily be clarified by a second playthrough.
The biggest and most publicized draw back to the single player campaign is its length. At under 6 hours, one can’t help but notice that it feels decidedly short.
Despite its lacking in the longevity department, the campaign uses its limited time well. Players are taken to a variety of brilliantly realized locations around the world. From snow covered forests to the dusty favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the suburbs of middle America, there is no shortage of scope when it comes to the scenery. Action sequences range from tense and stealthy to intense run and gun escapades.
On a micro level, Infinity Ward stamps their genius in a variety of ways. From artificially increasing the pace of the game using music, to incorporating interesting gameplay innovations that add unique dynamics, one cannot fault the team for their creativity.
All in all, the single player campaign is a memorable, if slightly bewildering affair. While it is definitely on the short side, it can be forgiven when we consider that the real fun begins with the multiplayer component.
Unlike its single player counterpart, the multiplayer component of MW2 cannot be faulted for its lack of longevity.
Like its predecessor, players earn experience points when playing online. These points allow the player to level up, and in the process, unlock new perks, weapons, weapon attachments, killstreak bonuses and deathstreak bonuses.
The level cap has been increased from 50 to 70, and Infinity Ward has added a host of new perks, weapons, add-ons and streak bonuses that CoD4 veterans will appreciate.
On top of this, players can now also unlock titles and emblems, with a massive scope of options and combinations that players can use to differentiate themselves on the battlefield.
Of course new challenges are present, all of which grant experience bonuses when achieved. On top of this, Infinity Ward has added ‘accolades’, which are achievements that gamers can earn in matches, ranging from ‘trigger happy’ (most shots fired) to ‘grudge match’ (most kills of same player). At the end of each match, a list of player names appears with an accolade that they earned in that match.
Multiplayer fact sheet
Primary weapons – 24 (Assault rifles, sub machine guns, light machine guns, sniper rifles, riot shield)
Secondary weapons – 19 (machine pistols, shotguns, handguns, launchers)
Weapon attachments – 17
Customizable killstreak rewards – 15
Customizable deathstreak rewards – 4
Game types – 16
Maps – 16
Apart from the obvious changes made to MW2, Infinity Ward also opted to make adjustments to its basic look and feel.
Seasoned CoD4 players will immediately notice MW2’s faster pace. It would seem that movement speed has been slightly increased as has weapon damage. Games are also shorter, making MW2 a generally faster paced game than its predecessor. A curious omission is the ability to lean left or right.
While not all CoD 4 fans will appreciate the pacing adjustments, one has to respect Infinity Ward for making a fundamental change to the gameplay.
While many local gamers feared that MW2 online would not be viable in SA, thanks to a large Steam group it is easy to find local matches to join. Although latencies using the new P2P matchmaking system seem slightly higher than they were in CoD4 using the dedicated server model, the game is still very much playable.
Console commands have been removed, as have community developed mods. The maximum match size has been reduced from 24 to 18, and players can no longer vote to kick players or change maps when in-game. It has to be said that not many of these technical changes have been for the better. Having said that, they by no means ruin the experience.
All in all, Modern Warfare is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer FPS experiences developed for PC in recent times. In its current state, it works well, but not nearly as well as it would if it used the dedicated server model. While it offers impressive depth, a wide variety of upgrade/advancement option and arguably better gameplay than CoD4, it sacrifices stability and connection speed, requires game hosts to use inordinate amounts of bandwidth, has annoyingly long waiting periods between relatively short games, a smaller player cap, no ability to use mods or vote ingame and a host of other annoying shortcomings.
To its credit, it is still easy to find a game, jump in and enjoy yourself, which makes it a success in spite of its flaws.
If the single player campaign can be seen as the starter, and the multiplayer component the main course, then spec-ops is the dessert. Spec-ops consists of a series of challenges which players may complete alone, or preferably online cooperatively.
Players earn stars from completing challenges, and stars can be used to unlock further challenges.
The nature of the spec-ops challenges varies, from having to survive waves of enemies, to stealth missions or even objectives which require players to race vehicles. The range of challenges is impressive, and the only thing missing is a leader board.
Because it is a new feature, spec-ops will come as an afterthought to many gamers. However, it will easily take up more time than the single player campaign, and is arguably the best part of Modern Warfare 2.
Modern Warfare 2 is a great game. While many will argue that the 5 hour single player campaign offers little in the way of value, when we consider that it accompanies a rich online multiplayer component and an exciting new feature in the spec-ops mode, it becomes apparent that there is no question that MW2 is well worth its price tag.
Whether or not the P2P multiplayer protocol will keep gamers playing online for as long as the dedicated server model has with previous games remains to be seen, but for now, there is tons of fun to be had with Modern Warfare 2.