Big Bangs, Small Blasts

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MA15+)
BY MATTHEW KELLER / November 24, 2009
(Single Player Only Review)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the gaming industry equivalent of the summer tentpole film. It carries a huge budget, it’s destined to sell millions of copies and it’s full of big explosions and screaming military men. Yet like many summer sequels, Modern Warfare 2 is bogged down by the need to always one up its predecessor, losing sight of plausibility, basic storytelling and gameplay innovation in the quest to shock its audience.

Players are cast as at least four different characters from across the globe caught up in a conflict between America and Russia. A war between the two megapowers is triggered after a scene in the game where the player, an undercover CIA agent, assists Russian terrorists in shooting up an airport before being shot and left for dead to take the blame.

It’s difficult to keep abreast of the events of the game as Infinity Ward has its heart set on trying to impress the audience with heavy handed sequences like the above. Unfortunately, by incorporating shocking scenes like this so many times throughout the story, they have effectively removed the potential for them to have the same level of impact as the “nuke scene” in the first game.

This lays down the groundwork for the game to become little more than a series of barely connected events, rather than a fluid story. Modern Warfare’s story, although farfetched, had some element of plausibility, whereas the events in this game exceed the threshold for believability within the first half hour of the game and only become more ludicrous as the story progresses. Little effort is spent on developing characters and explaining their motivations – I guess they do what they do because they can.

Modern Warfare 2’s gameplay is executed with the same level of intensity as the first game. Players are always at the disadvantage and always under fire. There’s little progression from the first Modern Warfare in spite of a technology upgrade – it looks better, but aside from a few new vehicle sequences, it really plays the same way. Sometimes the scripted nature of the game can be so overbearing that pressing forward on your analogue stick seems no different to pressing play on a video remote. Levels are laid out in the most simplistic way, with loads of narrow passages, conveniently placed sandbags and enemy gauntlets. This time, at least, the supply of enemies actually runs dry after lengthy firefights.

The short campaign offers little incentive in terms of replay value, but that’s largely offset by the Special Ops mode. Spec Ops puts players into situations based on events in the story, challenging them to fight against waves of soldiers or hold an objective for a set amount of time, with stars awarded based on performance and difficulty. It provides ample opportunity for players to enjoy the intensity of the core gameplay without the overbearing imagery of the main campaign.

Modern Warfare 2 is an impressive production, with masterful implementation of technology and highly intense gameplay sequences, but the sheer need of the developer to get one up on the previous game through use of overbearing imagery and shocking moments only serves to undermine the core experience.

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