After Infinity Ward’s sublime Call of Duty: Modern Warfare astounded all with its representation of up-to-date combat, expectations have continuously soared for the always inevitable sequel. With predictions of multi-millions day one sales (which incidentally proved to be perfectly correct) a raised RRP, and a mass of gamers desperate to get their grubby mitts on the final game, these talented developers have had a lot to ponder.
The single player campaign unsurprisingly fails to deviate too far from the path trodden by its elder sibling. The campaign lasts a mere 6-8 hours; the breakneck speed that the majority of this time flashes past, due to the hectic action on screen, leaves it feeling much less than half that.
Once again you flit between two intertwined stories, one involving US Army privates fighting in their own backyard, with the other starring the group of British favourites you’ll remember from the last Modern Warfare. In terms of an overall story it’s certainly affecting and brutal. But it does force you to take a few liberties with what’s actually possible in the real world.
It plays from the same first person perspective as before, and retains the obsession with cover from the last game. The pace is almost universally set to absolutely frantic, and even on the Normal difficulty settings you’ll regularly find yourself in an area where you suddenly seem completely surrounded, the screen a horrible red blur (with what appears to be strawberry jam smeared on screen in an awful design decision) as you take hits, and achieving an untimely death in order to give it another try. If you tired of the previous game's addiction with urging you to learn enemy routines a few times before passing through with life intact, then you’ll suffer the same fate here.
Though things may not sound as stellar as we’d expected, they’re no better or worse than the original Modern Warfare. With the rose tinted specs removed, even the last game packed a certainly solid single player campaign with some stunning set pieces (which are multiplied tenfold in Modern Warfare 2) but didn’t offer enough to let that offering sell a game all on its own. That was left to the multiplayer component.
Safe to say that Modern Warfare 2 is an absolute joy online, at least on the Xbox 360. The PC version is, by all accounts, obliterated by the lack of dedicated server support, and the PS3 iteration is already approaching its third patch. But for Xbox 360 owners, we’ve had an absolute riot.
Not much has changed but instead multiplied to offer more depth, more customisation, and a whole new level of fun. A large number of your favourite perks from the last game remain, to be added to be a whole new fresh batch looking to spice up the battlefield. Kill Streaks remain with included new flavours, but new Death Streaks, allowing the frequently killed a chance to immediately bite back, really do add a lot to proceedings for both newcomers and rubbish gamers alike.
The 16 new maps are unsurprisingly a mixed bag, with early favourites already obvious with those who’ve already settled in for the long play. All, however, seem to pack much more in than the counterparts. Even for us, who have spent a quite unhealthy amount of time with the multiplayer component already, we still keep finding new nooks and crannies to hide, exploit, and be killed from.
One major new addition is the Spec Ops missions. Played in either single player or two player cooperative, well over 20 short missions are offered up to play through. These are all wildly different, ranging from holding a tower against waves of enemies, through to slowly and methodically sniping your way through great snowy landscapes, and award you stars after completion. This isn’t a last minute gimmick, as it could certainly keep a whole lot of people away from multiplayer for quite a while as they attempt to bag every last star.
As for the mission that’s been so heavily publicised in the mainstream press, we’ve little to add to the debate that hasn’t already been said. Playing through that particular 5 minutes did become a touch difficult, and it’s certainly not something you’ll come back to once you’ve had a go yourself. But the sheer fury levelled towards the game itself and its developers has been on such a ridiculous level, that you’d believe that violent games/films/music/books hadn’t ever existed before. More violent things have appeared in the past, and they will in the future.
While the multiplayer component does deserve a full score (on the Xbox 360 at the moment, anyway) the single player campaign is a step below that level.
It’s a rip-roaring ride while it lasts, but it’s a touch too short, too hectic, and overly reliant on forcing you to learn enemy routines in order to bag the best piece of cover right away. But the multiplayer is by far the best in the business, and it’ll keep you hooked until well into next year.