REVIEWS -- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 -- PC
The Call of Duty we love
by Lazare Gvimradze
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy
Infinity Ward’s famous rollercoaster formula refined and improved, ‘Modern Warfare 2’ does that seldom feat of living up to all the hype.
2007 was a year of First-Person Shooters. And, most of all, it was the host of the greatest clash in the industry for years: confrontations of new technologies at their best. A notable couple of games clearly disliking each other were Crytek’s Crysis, utilizing shiny new sandbox levels, and Infinity Ward’s epic comeback to the Call of Duty series, Modern Warfare, which was still betting on good old linear, script-heavy set pieces. Whilst most techies accepted that Nomad’s adventures succeeded in this particular aspect, CoD4 was so good in both single-player AND multiplayer, that many thought it was the dying sub-genre at its peak.
Time passed, and after receiving bombardments of positive feedback, Infinity Ward humbly moved aside and let Activision take their turn in developing Call of Duty: World at War, which never really lived up to the heights of its predecessor. But the righteous daddies of the series were quietly scheming on performing yet another feat of the same caliber, squeezing even more juices from the rollercoaster formula which proved itself in their previous project.
And after going through a mountain of hype, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 graced gamers all around the world with just enough new stuff screwed over the original’s formula to make things seem fresh and replayable. And no, I didn’t disguise a pretension in the previous sentence -- the game is honestly tuned masterfully, providing two times the fun and addiction Modern Warfare delivered back in 2007. I promised myself avoiding clichés, but... “it’s all in the details” describes things pretty much better than anything else.
Should war be this fun?
So, the story is a direct sequel to the fourth part -- with Zakhaev dead, the ultranationalist party quickly finds a new leader in the form of a murderous Makarov -- featured in the brutal prelude of the campaign. Similar to prior games, you play either as a Special Ops badass enduring stealthy missions or an American soldier taking part in a full-scale war. The two gameplay styles which differ mainly via scale and explosions per second are expertly balanced, and the characters we play as are once again muted out to provide better bonding, but the overall script is soaked in the same amount of paranoia Call of Duty 4 was. The Russians’ exaggerated “evilness” is a particular blow to the seriousness the game was aiming for, but as long as the gameplay remains THIS cool, you’ll definitely pay zero attention to the most dumb interpretation of a possible cause for, well, World War III basically...
And then we see Infinity Ward at their finest. Eager to outshine their prior project at all the little things, they desperately implemented new methods of impression; they even swapped the highly emotional first chapter with a simple, yet truthful, interpretation of terrorism, pushing censorship to their limits (this particular part was even removed from some localized versions of the game). From there, however, it’s all pure Modern Warfare 2x. A covert insertion ending with a chaotic snowmobile escape, a hurried response to an act of war in the U.S., intense chases across Rio’s rooftops... and along with a perfectly placed cameo and some nice soil preparations for the third installment, Infinity manages to wind up the funhouse once again.
The mechanics will make you feel right at home, whether you’ve been playing the first part 24/7 or you’re a newcomer to the genre altogether. The little nuances, like the ability to throw grenades back at your opponents or the unusual easiness with which most enemies die, are simple enough to get used to in the first minutes of gameplay. The controls are designed to be responsive and sharp -- every action takes seconds to commence, whether it’s throwing a grenade swapping to your sidearm. While your team will be there to back you up most of the time, Modern Warfare 2 is not squad-based in any way; realistically speaking, it’s you against a hundred enemies and an environment rigged with countless script triggers. Pretty much the main advantage of single-player.
Because while the success of multiplayer was, and remains obvious (addictive XP gaining and a formidable array of customization options are back, with some sweet nuances tagging along), it was the outstanding direction and cinematography that made the campaigns shine in the previous game. The first Modern Warfare had it all: impressive settings, intense chase sequences, tranquil sniping and ferocious gunplay all mixed in a balanced whole. This time around, Infinity even seems to be overacting with their understanding of “impression”: you’ll witness a sky-high building being bombed to kingdom come; a devastating jump across a wide chasm involving snowmobiles; some tension in the form of mountain climbing near Kazakhstan; an underwater insertion complete with stealth-kills and adrenaline shoot-em-ups, and the series classic… you’ll once again witness a nuclear explosion, which already sounds boring (how many games have already had that, anyway?), that is, if you are unaware of the circumstances of from where, and as who, you get to watch the fireworks.
The flaws are subtle but present
While Infinity unarguably did what they do best once again, one other aspect of the experience has been left aside: duration. APART from an addictive multiplayer and a dramatic campaign, you can choose to play an online co-op match entitled Spec Ops, where you need to complete certain objectives and earn stars, with new levels and difficulties being unlocked as you progress. The downside of all this goodness remains the length. Provided you skipped the aforementioned mode blaming repetition, the campaign can give you no more than six hours of gameplay, give or take another forty minutes based on your skill level. Regardless of this though, when you complete Modern Warfare, you know you’ve had a hell of an experience. You almost think it’d be the perfect thing with another variation on Nazi Zombies.
Before starting to analyze the presentation, you’ll excuse me for drawing yet another parallel with Call of Duty 4, which is, specifically, involved with the game’s only flaw: while it runs at an astounding (for consoles) framerate of 60 frames per second, the pure visual side leave an unpleasant aftertaste after another run-through the campaign. The models are clearly a year short of the release date, gleaming with edges and suffering a severe case of polygon underuse. The animations are at a better state, with some motion capture somewhat justifying the wooden faces lacking any kind of movement. In the second part of the game, both problems are addressed, albeit roughly: proportionally, the geometry is similar to MW1, but harshly improved post-effects disguise the limitation almost completely. The animations shine this time around, with soldiers stumbling and grabbing their wounds at the precise place where you landed your shot. The characters hold up to close-ups much better and the facial mimics have been restored to their era. And it’s still a 60-FPS-smoothness.
While I made it clear that the console versions lack nothing in terms of code optimization, the porting made for PC is as impressively done as Infinity is known to do. It isn’t even a port, technically -- the version for our multimedia companions was made from the ground up, with the developers’ proprietary engine feeling great even on strongly outdated systems. The mouse and keyboard support is implemented completely, and the graphical customization offers dozens of possibilities. The game runs with an impressive showcase of speed/quality on a wide array of machines, both 2 year-old configs and top-of-the-line beasts. As always, Infinity Ward show that they care, for what they make their games for.
The audio side however, is as top-notch as it always was. The devs never trusted sound libraries since 2007 -- every footstep, groan or even gunshot you hear in the game is recorded from the actual thing. And that’s a whole lot of guns, by the way. Most of the actors from Infinity’s prior project make a return, including the fan-favorite Gaz who had an unfortunate fate in Modern Warfare. His voice is transferred to an even more memorable character called Ghost, who plays quite the role in this second part, and will even get a series of comics exclusively about his origins.
Hanz Zimmer himself was invited to compose a score for MW2, and it shows. The music actually matches the epicness (for the lack of a better term) and organically blends with the rest of the game.
All in all, the single incredible thing remains the fact that the amount of advertising which launched an even bigger amount of hype was completely justified by the final product. It is the good old Call of Duty we loved, with countless explosions, lightspeed pacing and a multiplayer carrying an unusual percentage of addictiveness. It is sure to remain one of the most popular games (and an important part of a critically acclaimed franchise) in the industry, leading all kinds of gaming charts for years to come. The game sold an astounding 25 million copies in the first 24 hours of launch, and as of this review’s publish date, has enriched Infinity by no less (even a bit over) than $1 billion. Still miss those Nazi Zombies?
Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: November 10, 2009
Review Date: 23-01-2010
Numbers of Players: 1-18
Players Online: 2-18
The aged engine of the original with all screws tightly in, Modern Warfare will give you one of the smoothest and most impressive visuals this year.
The same crazy fuse of competitive multiplayer and a ridiculously Hollywood-ish campaign will once again leave us wanting more.
A worthy sequel to its predecessor, the sequel still maintains some of the war-paranoia, but the package in which it delivers erases the disadvantage completely.
With colossal effort put in recording primary audio files along with the acting party coming back full-force, we try to think of another negative side, but only Hans Zimmer comes to mind.
It’s the good old Call of Duty we love, completely on-rails and spectacular, along with its trademark multiplayer possessing the ability to hypnotize player for years to come.