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Reviewed: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: February 2nd, 2010
Page: 2

When the Call of Duty line originally launched, it was yet another entry into a longstanding WW2-centric, first-person-shooter field. Gamers were more or less jaded about the concept; numerous WW2-game "name generators" existed, and jokes about the number of franchises redoing the same war abounded. Call of Duty has been a solid performer for Activision even through lean years, such as the "update" from CoD2 to CoD3, which many gamers lamented as nothing more than a visual upgrade to the same maps and gameplay.

Modern Warfare, the fourth in the series, set the goal of revitalizing the game. For the most part it succeeded, but it succeeded with a cost: a largely forgettable and overly short single-player campaign set the game up as worth it only for online devotees, much as the lackluster single-player campaign for Halo 2 had done for that franchise.

The single-player campaign for Modern Warfare 2, alas, isn't much better. Meeting the goals is simple, and some of the maps are well-made, but the underlying concept required for a single-player campaign, a story following a protagonist from start to finish, isn't there. Instead, the single-player campaign is a series of vignettes, a slideshow of missions that can be finished in 4-5 hours. In fact, the "new" single-player option, called "Special Ops", embraces this and takes it to the logical conclusion. Special Ops missions have no relation to a storyline at all, and are solely there as single maps to be played for the sake of playing the map, either in single-player or two-player cooperative modes.

With no protagonist to develop an attachment to, the single-player campaign is most likely going to sit idle, forgotten for the relative joys of jumping online and level-grinding a character. Herein is both the saving grace of the series for their longer-term fans, and the death of it for those who lack the time: getting your various perks and upgrades, it seems, is solely predicated on how much time one can devote to playing the game. Ability in the game, to function with teammates and to aim well, is one thing. In the Modern Warfare world, however, the other part of the equation is missing, and the fact that "serious" players will be laden with higher-level weapons and armor is something that runs serious risk of leaving beginner, or even simply casual, players disheartened in time.

The mechanic for much of the game's multiplayer is class abilities and weapon slots. The addition of the riot shield makes for some interesting tactics, and the setting of certain weapons to "secondary only" alters game balance somewhat. The larger change is the activation of "Killstreak" and "Deathstreak" perks. Killstreaks are slotted pre-game, and allow for some highly powerful attacks, but only if you can kill enough enemies in a row to activate them (the Chopper Gunner, for instance, needs 11 straight kills to activate). Deathstreaks are there supposedly to "minimize" the problem of brand-new players getting beaten up on, offering perks like a little extra health or the ability to briefly "copy" the last enemy who killed you, making you able to steal and use his weapons should one of your teammates take him down nearby. It's an interesting thought, but some of them don't work so well in reality; Copycat is a great example, since it requires having a team of teammates who are just bad enough to let their newbie die repeatedly, while at the same time just good enough to take down the one repeatedly killing their new teammate.

Modern Warfare 2 is what it was expected to be; a giant service update for the players of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Every new mechanic in the game, every update, every balancing alteration and map revision is tuned with the longstanding players in mind. In that one sense it truly succeeds, and in that one sense previous Call of Duty fans, specifically Modern Warfare fans, should give it a try. What it is not, however, is a game designed to bring in new players to the series and let them fall in love with it, and so for the rest of the world that haven't been playing the first Modern Warfare regularly, it's probably not a great purchase.

Added:  Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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