Modern Warfare 2 Review: All is Fair in Love and (Modern) War(fare)

During the early days of the World War II shooter (early 2000s), controlling a character from first person and shooting dudes was not really something I wanted to do. After games like Perfect Dark and Goldeneye sucked away hundreds of hours of my life, there wasn’t really anything out there like it that I wanted to play. None of the FPS games of that generation appealed to me and I couldn’t get a handle on playing these styles of games using dual analog sticks. Yes, that means I even missed Halo 1 and 2 in their prime. In the case of Call of Duty, I couldn’t handle a dual stick FPS and I didn’t want anything to do with WWII. Both of those elements combined for a series I had 0 interest in ever playing.

Ever since I invested in an XBOX 360 though, I’ve since played a number of FPS games. Heck, literally half of my game stash are FPS games, even though I still don’t consider myself that big of a fan of the genre. By the time the Modern Warfare games took off, I had overcome my problem of dual sticks. But did I care for a more realistic war setting for a game? Not enough to go out and buy the game on my own.

As the hype train built up to critical mass for the release of Modern Warfare 2, I started to think that maybe I’ve been missing out on something special all along. I would often look around to see if I could get Modern Warfare 1 for cheap and at one point almost caved.

Luckily for me, my mom won a limited edition XBOX 360 with two controllers and a copy of Modern Warfare 2. I’m still not sure exactly what to do with the second 360, but I’m sure my brother and I will find a good use for it as well as all the other stuff it came with. We immediately busted the box open to play Modern Warfare 2 and see what the hype was all about.

First off, I should address my initial problem of being disinterested in the story/setting. Has the game changed my perception on “realistic” war? Not really, no. I still don’t care that this takes place in the somewhat present. I read through the story of the first game and beat the campaign of MW2 and still don’t care. Even playing through the “No Russian” level didn’t really do anything for me. I appreciate the effort they put into this to try and make it as “Blackhawk Down” as they could, but it just doesn’t stroke me the right way. Until I played as Soap, the game never really gives you a good sense of who you are, why you’re hear and why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Ultimately, it feels like a Hollywood action movie that’s big on excitement and short on substance.

Does any of this take away from the game for me? Not really, no. Behind it’s setting and bombastic plot is arguably the best FPS game I’ve ever played. The core mechanics of moving and shooting guys feels just right. All of your shots feel like they have the appropriate impact and everything reacts the way you think it would. There’s no shortage of guns and weaponry that adds layers of depth to the game. Do you arm yourself with a machine gun or a shotgun? Do you choose a rocket launcher and become vulnerable up close? Do you take a riot shield to protect you in exchange for a gun slot?

Movement from walking, running, crouching and crawling is easy enough to do and adds a lot to the game. Where the game takes it above and beyond are the extra weaponry, such as the AC130 and Predator missiles. Dropping a huge bomb or shooting hundreds of bullets from a helicopter at soldiers on the ground never felt so awesome.

In campaign mode, every stage is exciting to the point of ridiculousness. Every scenario seems to have been carefully thought out to provide maximum impact of adrenaline. Due to this planning, the story can take a back seat to riding snowmobiles or defending a burger joint from Russia. Maybe the experience would have more of an impact on me if I cared for the story, but I’m fine as is shooting guys.

The new mode introduced in Modern Warfare 2 is Spec Ops, which is sort of a mix of co-op campaign and Horde mode from Gears of War 2. Instead of a full blown co-op campaign or straight-up Horde mode, Modern Warfare 2 takes the best bits of campaign mode, adds co-op, and provides players with a scoring system to track your progress. While I still would have preferred straight-up co-op as well as this, Spec Ops is extremely fun to play and a great addition to the overall package.

As for multiplayer, not much more I can say about it. With the number of modes, options, perks and RPG elements, it’s easily one of the best multiplayer experiences ever crafted. For me specifically, I think it’s wonderful that 4-player split-screen was added. I know that the feature is antiquated and hardly anyone uses it anymore, but I still love using it when I have people over at the house. We all grew up on Goldeneye, so splitting a screen four ways is no big deal. The only thing that could have made it better is the inclusion of bots when you’re not online.

Now that I know what this whole Modern Warfare thing is all about, I feel almost sad that I’ve been depriving myself of this experience for the past two years. Has it changed my mind enough to try the Treyarch Call of Duty games that come out every other year? I’m not sure if I would go that far, but I look forward to putting in many hours into this one.

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