Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Call of Duty 6: Return of the Cold War

Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Release: November 2009

The Call of Duty (COD) series is arguably the biggest franchise in FPS history. On the console systems alone, there have been six iterations with a seventh in development. The series is getting so big that they ditched the traditional numbering system. COD: Modern Warfare 2 is technically Call of Duty 6, but the plot is continued from COD 4: Modern Warfare 1. COD: World at War, also known as COD 5, deals with the traditional subject matter of the series (World War II), and thankfully doesn’t attempt some sort of Assassin Creed like time traveling to connect the two eras. So it appears that COD tittles that don’t deal with WWII get their own numbering system and we should all go cover up the “4” on our old copy of Modern Warfare 1. If any of that made any sense, then odds are you’re a gamer who follows the news. For the rest of you, just know that there are a lot of Call of Duty games, and Activision is having a hard time numbering them all.

Despite the numerically challenged publisher the series has out-shined the competition since 2003—with the exception of the bastard middle child COD3. Everything about the game screams quality, and the Metacritc average score is always in the 80s or 90s. Modern Warfare 2 continues this trend with intense action, solid gameplay, and a robust multiplayer. The title has everything from the first Modern Warfare. So re-read my review if you want to get the basic details. I’m moving on to the sexy new features.

One of my biggest complaints regarding Modern Warfare was the lack of coop. This time around Infinity Ward (IW) gives us a coop mode called Special Ops, but it is separate from the main story. The game mode is basically a series of challenges that can be completed with another person. Each mission is unique with a nice blend of objectives ranging from stealth to all out assault. Special Ops is a blast, but it is far from the awesome coop experience seen in other series like Halo. So once again IW, where is my four player coop?

Perhaps the developers thought the fantastic multiplayer experience would make up for the lacking coop. They’re probably right. The leveling system returns in Modern Warfare 2, and it’s better then ever. New kill streak rewards have been added like Predator Missiles, EMP blast, and the game winning Tactical Nuke. Players can even take the gunner seat as their attack helicopter circles around the battlefield. These rewards are unlocked as you level, and only three can be equipped at a time. For those gamers who suck there are also death streak rewards. This is a nice addition for a popular game that will surely have a large handful of unskilled players named Rubber 008 needing a boost. Think we are done with the new multiplayer stuff, well think again. Modern Warfare 2 adds personal customization to more then just weapons. Players can unlock and select a title and emblem. The title has a catch phrase like “Mad Bomber” with a matching background, and the emblem is the equivalent of an avatar picture. This cosmetic addition seems minor, but adds that extra layer of depth that keeps a game interesting.

The final additions worth mentioning are the boat load of new perks, challenges, attachments, weapons, and equipment. I could go on listing them all, but that would be tediously boring. Suffice to say there are enough additions to warrant mentioning them, and IW did more then copy and paste what worked from the first Modern Warfare.

One would assume with the addition of a coop mode, and the enhancement of an already fantastic multiplayer, Modern Warfare 2’s campaign would follow suit and be bigger and better then before. Well not exactly. The first Modern Warfare had many compelling events not seen in the traditional FPS. Modern Warfare 2 does offer plenty of scenarios where you are not shooting, but only the action scenes are fun. The story driven moments are lack luster. During the opening credits of Modern Warfare 1 you take on the POV of the overthrown president as he is being escorted to his execution. This was a fantastic and original scene that created a unique experience. I felt powerless to stop what was happening, and seeing the country in ruins added to the sensation that something horrible was about to happen. The new game offers a controversial level as a CIA spy who infiltrates a terrorist group. You walk amongst the bad guys as they massacre a Russian airport, and at the end you are shot dead by the terrorist leader. Big whoop-de-do. Killing civilians has been around since Grand Theft Auto, and unless they are personalized no one will care outside the ravenous mainstream media. Another great moment from the first game was the nuke scene. I thought it was original and the surprise of the situation made it engaging. In Modern Warfare 2 the nuke scene is recreated from a different perspective. The player takes control of an astronaut who sees a nuke go off and then is destroyed with the space station. The astronaut isn’t even named, and there is nothing to make his/her death meaningful.

The first game also had a story that could easily fit into current events. Modern Warfare 2 attempts to recreate this excellent feature, but sometimes trying is the first step towards failure. I was going along fine with the plot until the war between the USA and Russia kicked off. There is no *beeping* way that Russia would invade the United States without some series back up. I could see a joint invasion with China, Japan, India, and maybe some other countries, but one nation simply doesn’t have enough resources to take the USA down alone.I am also curious as to how Russia got all their equipment over two oceans undetected and how they came up with the military power to fight a two front war. Even if an invasion landed there would be a local resistance from the citizens of the USA. This country has more police, gangs, and guns then any other nation on the planet. Why wasn’t there a scenario where you interact with local resistance to take back Washington D.C.? Then there is the issue of race and gender. How hard would it have been to include women and Asian-Americans? They don’t have to be playable characters, but going around a military base and only seeing male whites, blacks, and Hispanics is pathetic. Finally the rest of the world wouldn’t allow a war between the USA and Russia due to the economic interdependence of the modern world. NATO and other allies were completely ignored in Modern Warfare 2. Infinity Ward should have taken notes from Tom Clancy, and whoever has the hard on for Cold War conflicts should wake up—the 80s are over. If the title of your game has the word “modern,” then it would be nice to have a plot and characters based on events that have taken place within the last five years.

Do not be dismayed from the above rant. Modern Warfare 2 is a fantastic game worth every penny. The fact that I spent most this review nitpicking the plot instead of the game denotes how awesome it really is. This is one of those games that define a genre. As of this article, over six million copies have been sold. Can six million players really be wrong? Snerts Snazzy Score grants Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 an outstanding 4.9 out of 5. The campaign needed to be longer with a better plot, and the Special Ops would have been even more awesome with four players. These complaints, however, are overshadowed by the best FPS multiplayer experience of 2009.

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