Picking up the epic arc of events in Infinity Ward's blockbuster Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the much-hyped continuation of the near-future storyline. Modern Warfare 2 crafts a darker, grittier plot than Call of Duty 4, but it's also less grounded. Set roughly ten years in the future, you'll play as a host of American and British troops, with some familiar faces re-emerging along the way.
Modern Warfare 2's single-player campaign takes roughly five hours to complete, with co-op and multiplayer modes included to lengthen the experience. We'll talk about the multiplayer options in a future article.
Modern Warfare 2 doesn't quite get off to the same breakneck start as Call of Duty 4. It's a more laboured build-up. The first two-thirds of the game aren't particularly memorable, with the only real standout moment being the source of much controversy. It's in the last third of the game though that Infinity Ward really hit the gas. The game's never afraid to throw different challenges at you. Whether it's storming an oil rig and saving the civillians, or sniping the security of a Russian prison via helicopter — it's exciting. The pacing can get a little too relentless in places, but it's the subtle tweaks in approach — night vision goggles, heartbeat monitors, stealth — that make the memorable missions so much more exhilarating.
Infinity Ward has been really smart in keeping Modern Warfare 2's shooting mechanics exactly the same as Call Of Duty 4's. The game still feels as tight and slick as ever, with shooting infinitely rewarding. It's the weaponry on offer that really makes the difference from the first Modern Warfare. New upgrades such as a heartbeat monitor — allowing you to essentially 'see' in the dark — and thermal scopes allow for new gameplay strategies.
Shooting the enemies in Modern Warfare 2 is not just rewarding because of the slick controls and great response animations, but also because your opponents are genuinely intelligent. They'll work together, find cover and try to flank you. It's not just the enemy AI that is great however; those in your squad will also respond well to many situations, providing covering fire while you move, and working as a unit. It all helps to give you the sense of being involved in a real battle.
At 60 frames-per-second, Modern Warfare 2 is one of the slickest shooters available on PlayStation 3. The engine appears to have been upgraded from Call of Duty 4, giving environments more detail and allowing more action on-screen. There's also been an injection of colour, meaning Modern Warfare 2 has a much more varied palette. It gives the game a warmer, more inviting look — hopefully putting an end to the drab shooters this generation has become famous for.
With Hans Zimmer on hand to underscore many of Modern Warfare 2's blockbuster moments, the game becomes a real audio tour-de-force, with huge sweeping orchestral sections underlining the more poignant moments of the game.
Modern Warfare 2 tries hard to shock you. We remember when we first played Call of Duty 4 and having to literally walk away from the console when we encountered the nuclear bomb set piece. It was such a huge deal, a breathtaking moment in video game narrative. Modern Warfare 2 tries to recreate that and fails. Instead of having one epic set piece in the campaign, Modern Warfare 2 has about five. Except none of them are epic because the game's narrative lacks surprise and impact. Part of that is due to the humongous hype for Modern Warfare 2, granted, but it can also be attributed to Infinity Ward trying too hard.
In trying to outdo those epic set pieces from Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2's narrative also takes a hit. The plot is confused, undeveloped and frankly hard to follow. It's almost like Infinity Ward tried to squeeze too many plot twists into one short campaign. Personalities and motives are never really justified, and the plot just feels like a bit of a mess as a result.
It's no bad thing that Modern Warfare 2 is essentially an improved reskin of Call Of Duty 4. If though, for whatever reason, you weren't a fan of that game, Modern Warfare 2 will do absolutely nothing to change your mind. If you were a fan of course, you'll find much enjoyment in Modern Warfare 2.
In trying to outdo Call Of Duty 4's monstrous set pieces, Modern Warfare 2's narrative becomes cluttered. Despite that though, Modern Warfare 2 is a prime showcase of Infinity Ward's ability to create tight shooting and interesting mission design. It does nothing to drive the genre forward, and it'll fail to surprise you like Call of Duty 4, but it's still absolutely worth playing.