Wot I Think: Modern Warfare 2

By Alec Meer on November 17th, 2009 at 11:12 pm.

A videogame has been released. Also, the Beatles have split up and Kennedy’s been shot. Hadn’t you heard?

I haven’t hurried, as such, to get my thoughts on this omnipresent game up on RPS, as it’s not like it’s going to affect anyone’s buying decision after all that hype and backlash, is it? But here they are now, after having had some time to digest and absorb now the shouting’s died down – for the singleplayer campaign, at least. Thoughts on the multiplayer will be along next week. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, then. Probably one or two things to say about it, I’d have thought…

Modern Warfare 2 is a first-person shooter. I know! It’s a game about shooting people! Sounds pretty fun, right? It shouldn’t be so hard to write about something so simple. It’s a game about shooting people – that dance we’ve all been happily doing for 20-odd years. Why should I sit here, stuck for an intro that’s both insightful and entertaining, because the weight of controversy and expectancy around this latest step in that eternal dance is so stifling? Between mercenary publishers, arrogant developers and outraged consumers, so many pounds of flesh have been brutally torn out of what was only supposed to be a fun time. ‘Modern Warfare’. Yeah, it really is. There’s no war more modern than the one that’s raged across the web over the last few weeks.

Modern Warfare 2 is a first-person shooter. It is a game in which you play a soldier, killing other soldiers. It has rather pretty graphics, and it has a frightening amount of money very obviously poured into it – the animations, the incidental details, the acting… These things are only surface, of course, but they make a very real difference. They make the game lavish – at times, excessively so. It very clearly wants to be a blockbuster experience, and it very clearly is.

It is not a game of corridors – it is a game of big crazy action. It pings between war movie and James Bond, as Call of Duty has always done, but bigger, bigger, always bigger. Now unbound by even a pretence of contemporary comment, it’s way off into Tom Clancy territory. EMP bombs, military coups, exploding space stations, rogue agents… events that are theoretically plausible, but so over-the-top that they are, essentially, science-fiction. There’s a reason you can’t find a review that doesn’t mention 24.

It’s hard not to be impressed by its sheer ballsiness and opulence – even during the sick feeling raised by That Level, the amount of detail, the sheer bombast and perfectionism of the presentation, is nothing short of incredible. The highlight, for me, of the entire game is the opening segment – the bloody tutorial. As you wander from basic weapons training to an obstacle course, you get a few seconds to gaze around a busy US military base in Afghanistan. Soldiers you’ll never see again are playing basketball, doing press-ups, fixing jeeps, smoking, talking, loafing, staring, mingling with native friendly soldiers.

It coolly conveys both the hyper-macho atmosphere and the sense of hostility and discomfort we suspect is present in its real-world equivlents. There’s just so much there, so much incidental visual detail packed in, and with clear pride. It’s not the only time the game goes to such visual lengths, but it is the best of them.It’s an amazing sight. And you’ll probably only run straight through it without taking any of it in, because you want to get to the next bit with shooting in as soon as possible. That’s Modern Warfare 2 all over, really. It knows why you’re really there, how much of it you’ll probably just ignore – but it does it anyway, because it can. I’m really glad of that, of this solid statement of look what games can do now.

Modern Warfare 2 is a first-person-shooter. You shoot other persons from a first-person perspective. So very many persons. So, so many persons. It’s not as though it creeps close to a Serious Sam-level bodycount, but somehow it seems even more unrelenting. Often, the killing comes so quickly and so clustered that no individual kill means anything. I don’t mean morally, or in terms of mourning for lives lost, but in terms of self-celebration and of acknowledging what you’ve just done. This is a game that entirely relies on your skill with a mouse (or gamepad, if you must), but it doesn’t give you the space to feel proud about that skill.

There are some quieter, stealthier levels, where whichever returning MW1 character you’re following around offers brief, stoic platitudes for a neatly-executed kill, for your quick, quiet pffft-ack-dead amidst the affectingly eerie silence of a Russian wood or a Siberian snowstorm, and you feel pretty proud of yourself then. Again, MW2 knows how to look and sound great, how to create a sense of world that’s much bigger than the linear spaces you play in, and it’s in these quieter moments that you can really appreciate this. These levels are also the highlights of its action, tense and strange, deftly making the first-person shooting feel robust and heroic.

But its other levels, those that are closest to classic Call of Duty, threaten to become gruelling in their intensity. They just don’t stop, don’t let you breathe, don’t let you admire yourself or the crazy detail of the game. There are always more guys to kill, and more guys killing you. That’s war, sure. But it’s not always as fun as it seems to think it is. It’s a short game, but at times it can feel endless. It’s whack-a-mole, as Call of Duty’s always been, but its pacing is a little off this time. The number and accuracy of your foes feels like something from a tactical shooter, one in which you’d use cover and creeping to win the day. But those tools aren’t in here – no leaning, no clinging to cover. Just doing the Doom thing. It’s the inevitable clarion call of many of a dyed-in-the-wool PC gamer in response to a multi-platform or ultra-glossy shooter – why can’t I leeeeeeean? – but the difference here is that the game really feels built as though those abilities are in there. It’s genuinely irritating that they’re not.

It’s hard to pin down why it feels lesser than, specifically, its predecessor, most especially because most of it the time it’s so much more. It’s Hollywood in a way that very little else has managed, without a doubt. This is not a series that has ever been interested in taking first-person shooters away from the first-person shooting, and hence it would be a lapse in judgement to criticise if for not doing so – but MW1 managed to feel novel and forward-thinking nevertheless. It moved confidently and naturally away from trenches and corridors, and it turned you into an active participant in its cutscenes. MW2 does that too, but it doesn’t take it any further. It feels much, much more familiar, despite its ice-climbing and snow-speeding and motorboating sequences.

It doesn’t need to, of course – it only need be judged within the context of linear action games, and it’s a perfectly good one of those. It is a reliably fun first person shooter with an unprecedented level of visual polish heaped on top it, so it’s entirely understandable that people have been looking forward to playing it. The only criticism of it sticking to such aggressively traditional mechanics is that there isn’t anything in here to really justify the Most Anticipated Game Of The Decade status it’s been accorded. Modern Warfare 2 is a first-person shooter. It shouldn’t have been treated as something somehow more than that.

But it has, and I fear that thinking, that lionising may have overcome its creators somewhat. Its plot very quickly abandons grit and military cool in favour of going way over the top while still taking itself seriously, and its lead characters – especially those returning from MW1, who it is horribly guilty of auto-mythologising – become cod-philosophers as well as soldiers, smearing awkwardly purple prose all over the place. It seems to think it’s more important and more grown-up than it is, becoming far too invested in characters who don’t naturally have depth, who were only supposed to be there to guide us to the next ten minutes of fun. It’s the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, it’s the last few seasons of Heroes, it’s the end of Superman Returns…

No. That’s not why we’re here. We’re here for a first-person shooter. The next ten minutes of fun does always come, and it is usually fun – but sometimes the journey to it is irritating and overcooked. Halo 2 is an easy but logical comparison to make – another FPS that forgot what it was, and got lost to self-obsession. MW2’s campaign is massively more entertaining than Halo 2’s – it’s a masterful at keeping things varied, most especially in terms of environment – but the mistakes are the same. People aren’t paying £50 for a story that doesn’t end (and there are far smarter ways to make them buy the sequel). They’re paying for a first-person shooter.

That Level, ‘No Russian’, is guilty of the same thing – misplaced gravitas, forcibly inserting something that doesn’t belong in such an otherwise silly, implausible tale. It’s another instance of the game trying to find more ways to create sound and fury, but really messing up pace and context. No Russian doesn’t achieve anything, doesn’t add anything. It’s just an uncomfortable, gratuitous scene inserted at the wrong point – it’s crazy to place that kind of downer immediately after a thrilling snowspeeder escape – to achieve a key plot beat. The moral dilemma of being a US agent killing innocents in order to convince Russian terrorists he’s part of their team doesn’t exist. Shoot or don’t shoot any civilians, and the outcome is the same: you get killed, the US is accused of killing Russian civilians, and the world goes to war. It’s only there to be a plot twist, to lead to the increasingly absurd events of the rest of the game.

The case for its defence doesn’t exist, just as the case for its banning doesn’t. The game has nothing to say about it or its moral repercussions. It just picks an unpleasantly gratuitous excuse to depict the US and Russia going to war. It didn’t need to get anyone’s knickers in a twist to achieve that. It does so because it’s arrogant, because it knows it can get away with it. There’s no need to be as outraged as many have (the price-gouging, on the other hand, deserved far more of a protest than it got), but anyone claiming it’s meaningful and thoughtful, that it raises important questions about gaming and war, is talking about a game that doesn’t actually exist.

Which is, of course, Modern Warfare 2 all over. The incredible/outrageous/horrible game we’ve been talking about and worrying about and shouting about these last few months doesn’t, in fact, exist.

Modern Warfare 2 is a first-person shooter. Makes a fair few pacing mistakes, but it’s not a bad one, as they go. At the heart of it, underneath the razzle-dazzle and the argy-bargy, it just about retains an understanding of why Call of Duty was such a breath of fresh air half a decade ago – making you a willing soldier in a noisy, excited war movie, not a meathead plodding slowly through monster-filled corridors. I’m glad Infinity Ward haven’t entirely lost sight of that, because I miss the developer they were then.

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188 Comments »

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  1. TotalBiscuit says:

    Well that’s basically what I thought you’d say. Still not interested. Something about those regenerating shields puts me off whereas healthpacks were perfectly fine in CoD1. I didn’t particularly enjoy CoD4, the pseudo-realism and banal linearity of the whole experience put me right off, I doubt I’ll be picking this one up. Admittedly, the multiplayer is apparently ‘where it’s at’, but with it’s unhealthy mix of Counterstrike and World of Warcraft, I don’t know if it’s really my thing either.

    • MadMatty says:

      Nah me neither. MW 1 was too linear and the mechanics were pretty basic. It (the 1st) was playable for about 2-3 hours then i got tired of it.
      Got Arma 2 instead, and it delivers even though its miserably bugged. Hoping for a Patch for that one, and a new graphics card to pull it at a higher framerate.
      As for the civilian massacre, id definetly spray the lot for my own sadist amusement :D
      Big deal, its a computer game innit?

    • Gap Gen says:

      Is ArmA 2 worth it after being patched? I gave up on the campaign a while back after my reinforcements didn’t show up and my teammates kept wandering into bullets.

    • nichevo says:

      @ Gap Gen

      There are several reasons to buy ArmA 2, but the campign isn’t one of them. Patches aren’t going to change this fact.

    • MadMatty says:

      Gap Gen: the campaign in Arma 2 seems moderately entertaining, if only it would work properly. The last update 1.04 was in July, and i got no word on upcoming updates.
      I basically bought it for the multiplayer, including campaign co-op, which should atleast be completable now with the 1.04 patch.
      As for the severity of the bugs right now, it seems to ruin about every 3rd mission right now coz of some physics bug or AI breakdowns :/

      Anyways the misson editor and pure multiplayer is where the fun is to be had, and the engine is pretty spectacular when i functions correctly.

    • sanejenny says:

      Thank you for the advices. It is kind of smart step to listen to others who have gone through it before. Steam showers

    • herme bags says:

      if i were u i wouldnt play online to start off. i would get to know the maps first by playing with some buddies.

  2. Wulf says:

    “[...] not a meathead plodding slowly through monster-filled corridors.”

    Such as, say, a human marine fending off xenomorphs in the upcoming Aliens vs Predator game? Or perhaps it’s a statement that’s representative of the inter-racial squabbles present in Natural Selection 2? >.>

    That’s… [i]interesting.[/i]

    • Wulf says:

      Curse my forum taggery!

      /flails

    • Über Nerd says:

      I played a level set in Brazil, and just felt like the Doomguy that traded his ability of “No Reloading” for “Health Generation”. I was almost dissapointed though, it feels like an almost semi-professional Halflife mappack rather then what I was expecting.

  3. Hermit says:

    Would be nice to get some impressions of the multiplayer side of things too. The campaign was always going to be the equivalent of a summer blockbuster which takes itself too seriously.

    • ascagnel says:

      In good time. The CoD multiplayer has always needed some time to simmer, and a week isn’t enough time to judge it.

  4. Nobody Important says:

    That was an absurdly good review.

    As a gamer who hasn’t played either of the COD4’s, which should I pick up? I’m not interested in multiplayer.

    • Frosty says:

      Well from the sound of the review and other’s comments Modern Warfare one (i.e COD4) would be your best bet.

      Besides if the games are so very similar perhaps it’d make more sense for you to go for the cheapest one?

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Get CoD4, not this one. Call of Duty 4 managed to provide a great thrill-ride of a shooter while remaining just a hair within the bounds of believability. It also contained several—not so much thought-provoking as just unsettling—moments that made me question whether my side were really the good guys or actually not much different to the enemies.

    • Vinraith says:

      Be aware that the campaign for both this and the first Modern Warfare are about 5 hours long. If all you’re interested in is the single player, purchase at a price that makes sense considering that amount of content.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I know what you mean, VFIG. I think MW2’s opinion of war in general is completely different to MW1’s.

  5. kwyjibo says:

    Brooker was right, it’s just a mechanical beast. It’s a blast, yes, but it makes none of the steps forward that the original Modern Warfare did. In ways, it’s worse than the original.

    I was disappointed that it dropped all pretense of a realistic setting and instead went all World War 3. With the original, there were a few strands to the story. That is, Russian nationalists fucking things up in the Middle East in order to succeed at home – so we visited the Middle East and Russia.

    In MW2, it’s like the developers came up with a bunch of locations that they’d love to visit. Realised it couldn’t feasibly be done with any semblance of plot, and went with it anyway. If you look closer, it falls apart even more, why would a guy launch an EMP at Washington, when he has no real idea what’s going on in the outside world? Why does Team Rainbow operate out of a submarine? Who are they accountable to?

    And the pacing is off. It’s relentless, and that’s not a good thing. Entire levels are just constant grind, followed by another chapter of the same! You’ve just gruelled through 100 kills in Washington, to be faced with the same trawl in Rio. The original did a lot better in mixing up the action with some on-rail sections or stealth.

    Sure, it’s a good game, the snowmobile chapter was positively thrilling. Mixing up stealth at the beginning, to all out action finale. It’s a shame that there weren’t enough of those missions, instead being content enough to just throw everything in your face, all the time. It so needs an AI director, no one does pacing better than Valve.

    I’m surprised Edge were so hot for the game too, they gave World at War a 5 for being a by the numbers COD game. I didn’t see anything different from MW2.

    • Ian says:

      Given that it’s being described as very cinematic it seems appropriate that it’d follow the same guideline as some of the weaker action movies.

      “Okay, we want these set-pieces to happen in these places. Shoe-horn a story in to make it happen k thx.”

  6. Sucram says:

    Infinity Ward have certainly found their formula. More than any other recent game it meant my girlfriend had to suffer me shouting ‘have a look at this!’. It certainly has it’s moments, the 141 missions especially, but in the more traditional shooter levels its flaws are exposed more.

    Having not heard much about the ‘No Russian’ level, I found it uncomfortable. But I think in the way intended.

    • Jeremy says:

      True, but why was it intended? Alec brought up a great point, in that… what was the point? They knew they could disturb us and did so, but with no real reason other than to prove it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Jeremy: Exactly. I plan to actually write something just on that ASAP.

      KG

    • kwyjibo says:

      Why not show it? You’d have required a cutscene and/or news reel footage to show it anyway. And it allows the player to link being sold out with General Shepherd. And disturbing the player is a good thing, they’re too fucking complacent, making them sit up for once and actually engage parts of their brain other than whack-a-mole is a positive.

      What was more pointless was the EMP strike viewed from space. It was a cutscene, why not just make it as such? Did they even need to spell it out?

    • Jeremy says:

      What did it really engage? What sort of “thought provoking” discussions has it introduced?

    • Wulf says:

      I’m not trying to stir things up here (honestly), but I’m getting a picture in my head about this and I’m wondering if I’m right or not, because it’s been a problem in so many mainstream games, some mask it better than others, but it sounds like MW2 didn’t care to at all.

      It’s just …

      Location: Go here, shoot stuff, no reason.
      Stuff: It happens, we wanted to show you it, no reason.
      Bit ‘o content: Bit ‘o fun, has no relation to what you were just doing, no reason.

      Rinse and repeat until done.

      Okay, now here’s the more passionate part: If this asusmption is right, then I’m rather glad I don’t have children, because this would completely fark up their perception of the flow of time, and of what a plot is supposed to be.

      It sounds like there’s absolutely no sense of cohesion, reason, or rhyme. And this is exactly the problem I’ve had with a lot of games… and this is precisely what I was ranting about with the looks of Diablo III, not that I really think anyone comprehends what I’m getting at. I’m just some insane soothsaying savant. >.>

      It’s like many mainstream games are being developed in chunks, like little, half hour chunks, with shared resources, then they just slap it all together and throw it in a box. Is that a fair assessment?

      That’s why I’m avoiding the majority of the mainstream lately, and why I’m so hard on it.

      I feel old when I say this, but a sense of story and actual ongong progression used to be important, being able to spin a tale in a game that wasn’t completely horrible was a point of pride, these days it seems like some developers aren’t even trying.

      I think Modern Warfare 3 is just going to be something along the lines of “You’ve been stuffed into a holo-simulator, you’ll be put through a number of scenarios in a number of locations, just deal with it, soldier!” And who knows? From what I understand thus far, that plot might have improved MW2.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Well we discussed this for 45 minutes on the latest podcast so I can’t really condense my full thoughts on this into one comment, but what I will say is that No Russian was trying to achieve something and failed to do so. It was trying to make you feel something other than an adrenaline rush. Games in general have only been capable of 3 emotional states up until now, adrenaline rush, fear and laughter. Very few games have invoked any other emotion deliberately and that is holding games back as a story-telling medium. If a game is incapable of making the player experience a full range of emotions then it is an ineffective story-telling device. In order for games to mature and grow into a fully fledged and accepted form of media, they must deal with issues like violence and sexuality in a proper manner.

      The problem right now is that a sizable demographic of gamers cannot deal with those subjects. They are densensitised to violence to the point where they can laugh at No Russian, which is an absurd suggestion and would never occur in another form of media. They also drool over awkward virtual sex scenes and prefer gratuity to tasteful editing and story-telling. Until those two sizable hurdles are crossed, gaming’s always going to be the petulant teenager of the media world. At least Infinity Ward tried to bring some Generation Kill style grit into their otherwise absurd Ton Clancy huffing Mr Muscle storyline and they should be praised for that.

    • Funky Badger says:

      Even if No Russian failed, I’m glad they tried something.

    • Sucram says:

      Several thoughts I had during ‘no Russian':

      1) ‘Good grief this is a bit much!’ I shot one civilian crawling across the flaw and immediately felt apologetic. I then failed the mission because it turns out the game doesn’t like you to play hero. I went through, the mission wishing my ‘allies’ would get shot or that I could at least run so I didn’t have to bear witness. So yes it made me feel uncomfortable and I’m glad that they were trying to do something other than just giving us a blastathon.

      2) ‘My cousin probably thinks this is AWESOME’ which worries me.

      3) ‘This, must be that mission’ Even trying to avoid spoilers before I played the game, I was still aware there was one level which was trying to be controversial. I imagine this coloured many peoples view of the level.

      4) ‘Exactly why am I meant to be doing this?’ The setup to this mission is vague to put it mildly. Some generic, you have to go do something for the greater good. Not nearly enough to make me think I was supposed to be able to justify my actions. Actually the story throughout the game is a bit of a mess. I think many of the perceived problems are less this mission than what surrounds it.

      5) ‘This death wasn’t as good as the one in MW 1′ There’s a real feeling that this mission is IW trying to better the much talked about levels in the original. I’m guessing there was a meeting where they decided shooting disabled babies in their cots would be saved for the next game. Though presumably they’ll be russian babies because killing innocents is only allowed if they aren’t American.

      So, yeah, overall I’m glad they made the mission but it could have been handled much better.

    • TeeJay says:

      Games in general have only been capable of 3 emotional states up until now, adrenaline rush, fear and laughter.

      What about the satisfaction from a building/management/strategy game? What about watching wonderful sunsets? The feeling of community and comradeship in cooperative/multiplayer games? Looking after cute pets? Creating weird Spore creatures? What kind of emotional states are sims aiming at? And how about the whole range of games that have made people feel guilty (typically RPGs but not only). Sorry, not convinced by this statement.

    • TeeJay says:

      Based on what gamers are saying online I disagree that many people are ‘laughing’ at No Russian. Also the most tasteless games (postal / manhunt / lola / etc) are not the most popular. If you look at any “greatest games ever” type survey the top ranks are packed with high quality games. Even some supposedly ‘tasteless’ games have in reality, if you read them carefully, got a solid humanitarian and moral heart to them (eg GTA series).

      The stereotyping of teenagers is in fact as stupid as what you are decrying – a lot of teenagers read books, discuss philosophy and think about the world. A lot of older people behave like cynical fat morally degenerate cunts and then pretend its the ‘dangerous hoodies’ who are morally bankrupt or ‘out of control’. Older fatter richer more fucked up people also have a louder voice. Go figure.

  7. Miker says:

    I played through the (six-hour) campaign, and I found that the infinite enemies mechanic that Infinity Ward said they had fixed didn’t seem fixed at all, leading to plenty of cheap deaths. And the absurdly low fov of 65 really cut down on awareness, leading to more cheap deaths. But hey, the campaign was definitely cool.

  8. shiggz says:

    First review that really captured my cheers and boos.

  9. Kid A says:

    Bought at Sainsbury’s on 360 for £26. Played for 2 days. Traded in at GAME for £30, where the guy gave me a look of incredulity, asked if I was sure, and basically got this review. It’s a game, of shooting men in the face, until they die. Yes, on one level, those people don’t deserve it. Great. Whatever. Just give me the money so I can go get the good CoDs that you have on your cheap PC games shelf.

    • kwyjibo says:

      You made a profit? Fuck, I’ll have to try that next time.

  10. Radiant says:

    The pacing is off.
    I think it’s because some of the levels have been re-arranged.
    The games difficulty rockets up during the first Brazilian level and that’s what? the second or 3rd mission in?
    And there is a section at the end of the first act [an act? really?] that is bloody relentless; two or three endurance runs in a row [ending with the mad dash at the end of the brazil section].

    But the comparison with Halo 2 is a good one.

    All the Activision price gouging and dedicated server wah wahs aside.
    I’m glad Infinity Ward are around.
    I’m glad that they are as good at what they do as they are.

    They’re not admirably over reaching fails like most developers [Bungie...most of Eastern Europe]; they know to take a very small scope on play dynamics [a whack a mole shooter] and to execute it very well.
    And to do it this well is something a lot of developers: Id, Splash Damage, Free Radical, Guerilla, IO etc. just don’t have the ability to achieve anymore.

    Who the fuck are they?

  11. teo says:

    The intensity in the new CoD games…
    I don’t like it. It feels forced and it’s not fun

    There’s not much game left in the game

  12. Matt W says:

    Pretty much agree with Alec, and I think kwyjibo (there are better Scrabble names available, surely?) is on the money about the locales. It feels like IW came up with a list of awesome things (we’ll have ice climbing, and snowmobiles, and some predators, and a laser designator/tank combo, and a scuba assault, and a heli assault, and a crazy rope evac, and a bit in space, and an EMP, and…) and then just strung them all together and tried to build a plot around it. MW1 was pretty coherent – you knew where you were and what you were doing. MW2 feels like a series of James Bond/Michael Bay set pieces that you move between.

    Which wouldn’t be so bad, if the core gameplay didn’t feel slightly off. Having played most of the way through for the second time today with a couple of friends watching, I think I’ve figured out what’s annoying me, and it’s that – for what it is – the corridors often get too wide. As Alec says, it doesn’t have the tools to let you play more tactically, and yet there are way too many places where the enemy flanks you or comes up behind or from above and kills you before you see them. The Favela levels (dudes on rooftops) and that horrible smoke scene on the oil rig (how am I supposed to watch for people flanking me if I have to use a limited-FOV thermal scope to see anything?) stand out as particularly bad offenders, but it happens the whole way through. Yes, it’s “realistic”, but by pushing the player through the level in the way it does it doesn’t give you time to play “realistically” to counter it.

    All in all, it feels like a Mondeo to MW1’s Audi – it’s a great, class-beating product, but the plastics feel a little scratchy and the door doesn’t go thunk in the same way. MW1 was an Audi for Mondeo money, while MW2 is a Mondeo for Audio money. I don’t feel cheated, but I won’t pay $60 for IW’s next game.

    • Radiant says:

      This is true.
      Where Valve excel is guiding the player silently through seemingly massive levels.

      A lot of times in MW2 I was screamed at by the game to head to a point on the map only it knew, only to get insta killed, cause I had no bloody clue what exactly it wanted me to do [Soap in The Boneyard level is a prime example].

    • Matt W says:

      Yeah, the Boneyard was pretty bad about “go to this map point through this maze of shit, oh and people will shoot you in the back, have fun”.

      The frustrating thing is that IW shows in MW2 that they can achieve Valve-like levels of player direction: the final section of the second favela level when you’re running to the chopper, for example, is a masterpiece of lighting. Apart from the one spot where you have to hang a left at the edge of the roof and I always run straight off, I never had to think about where I was going, and even double-right-angle turns were obvious, because you basically just follow the light the whole way through.

      (Also, in a largely-unrelated observation, the “you are the hero” thing can occasionally be a huge immersion breaker. “Ramirez, run across the street (killing all the Russians on the way) and grab a stinger from the gas station so you can kill the chopper.” “Sure thing boss, I’m on it, you know you can count on me.” “Great work killing that chopper, Ramirez, but oh no – here comes another one! Run back across the street (killing all the replacement Russians) and grab the stinger on the Diner roof.” “Uh… why can’t Private Chucklefuck who’s already up there do it?” “Because, Ramirez, he’s not plot-critical and therefore has the life expectancy of a stunned badger on the M25, whereas YOU are invincible and can quickload.” “Yeah, I guess that makes sense…”)

    • Radiant says:

      lol yes.
      Although I only had to run through the level once cause, if there is one thing years of Quake has taught me is to always pick up a the rocket launcher when I see one.

      The favela level is a great case in point, it’s weird ’cause that part you mentioned is brilliant at direction but just prior to that when you are all running across the roofs there is a jump that mactavish makes that when you try you insta die. It made me stop and go to the pub it was so infuriating.

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      call of duty has always done this, it’s a hallmark of why it’s always been just shy of a great game.

    • TeeJay says:

      So what is the second-hand Honda Civic?

  13. Anthony says:

    I will pick this up at some point, but my roster is full of Dragon Age, Assassin’s Creed 2, Forza 3 and L4D2.

    And what really bugs me is how short the single player apparently is, and since I’d buy it mostly for a well-paced campaign mode I don’t think I can justify the launch price. I’m probably one of the few that never played COD4’s multiplayer, but I didn’t begrudge the cost because the campaign was so awesome (Death from Above still being of the greatest levels in an FPS, ever, by virtue of the detached and scientific method in which you launch howitzer shells from an AC-130).

    It was hyped to the stratosphere and from what I can gather it’s a bloody good game, but not exactly the second coming. And with stuff out now that’s far more inventive or offering many more hours of excellent gaming for the same price, I’m just not feeling it.

    As an aside, having just finished GRAW2 for the umpteenth time, I find it difficult going back to “realistic” shooters that don’t employ cover or lean, but in comparison MW2 is more like realism-lite I guess.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      As has been pointed out in previous topics where the lack of lean in modern “realistic” FPSes has come up: Apparently, lack of leaning is more realistic, not less, because real soldiers don’t do that. Or so I hear, anyway.

      It makes sense, too. In WW2 and the like, I imagine average accuracy was such that you had something to gain by not exposing parts of yourself that didn’t need exposing. But in a highly-accurate modern scenario, all that really matters is your head and upper torso, since that’s where everyone’s going to be shooting. So lean out from cover? Congratulations, you’re exposing all the parts the enemy is shooting at anyway, while reducing your own accuracy due to the awkwardness. And don’t forget how unbalanced you’ll be with a ton of armour on your upper body, too.

  14. PleasingFungus says:

    What I want to know is (not having played the game, mind): why on earth would an airburst nuke destroy the ISS? The ISS is in space! There’s no atmosphere! A shockwave makes no sense!

    Someone who has played the game, explain this to me.

    • Radiant says:

      There’s a lot to explain in the game.
      At one point I stormed a Russian nuclear submarine base, head on, with just 5 chaps one of whom I’m pretty certain is the guy from the Lawyers 4 U adverts off the telly.

      We won obv.

    • Spacewalk says:

      Hollywood magical realism?

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      the iss isn’t in space it’s in orbit around the earth and the fact that there’s little atmosphere makes the shockwave coming from inside the atmosphere even more powerful, given that though it’s still absolutly ridiculous.

    • shiggz says:

      A high altitude air-burst Nuke is not about the shock wave it acts as an EMP. It insta-fry’s everything with a circuit board for a thousand miles.

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121824192073426161.html

    • BinhoF says:

      um, the atmosphere at the height of the ISS is too thin for a shockwave to propagate through (And at that distance, it wouldn’t have been powerful enough to destroy the ISS prob. Let alone reach it so fast!), so that is major BS. Also, you would probably not be able to see the rocket/nuke from that distance (Probably wouldn’t leave a trail either), and from that shot the ISS looks like it is far enough away for nothing to happen to it.

      Total Hollywood Magical realism!

    • Gorgeras says:

      Urgh! Physics. Physics. Physics.

      More dense: shock wave travels faster. Less dense: shock wave travels slower *but further*. This is why the moon’s gravity plays with the oceans and air currents but you don’t feel the ground wriggling so much: solid stuff is holding itself rigidly in place and not passing kinetic energy around. When a lump of rock gets excess, it passes it on immediately to the solid stuff around it whilst a carton of milk given a push has a delay between the first time it is moved by a prodding finger and the second time it is moved by it’s contents.

      The ISS is denser than the atmosphere around it: this is bad news for the ISS. As energy travelling through the atmosphere is itself less bunched up and dense until it touches something dense. Then a shock wave which was spread out along the axis of what it is colliding with is suddenly squashed into a much smaller space; the atmosphere impacting on on the solid surface is passing it’s energy on and whilst it might have been going about 400mph before, it’s now going more like 3000mph along the dense object.

      This is understood in ballistics, where a soft bullet that squashes on impact is much more dangerous than a completely solid one that can simply pass straight through a less-dense body without passing any destructive energy on.

    • TeeJay says:

      Spacecraft powered by nuclear pulse propulsion have been designed (Project Orion) but they included a “reaction mass” and the detonation would have been c. 60m away. The impulse from the plasma wave would be caught on a ‘pusher plate’ and regulated by massive shock absorbers.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_%28nuclear_propulsion%29
      and
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion

    • TeeJay says:

      @Gorgeras “More dense: shock wave travels faster”

      re. it’s actually more complex than that:

      eg. sound travels *faster* in hydrogen than nitrogen, sound travel more *slowly* in denser materials (all other things being equal).

      However liquids, solids & gases have a higher stiffness/compressibility (elastic modulus), with stiffer = faster.

      eg Water is roughly 800 denser than air, but the speed of sound in water is only c. x4

      For gases pressure and density have equal but opposite effects on the speed of sound, and the two contributions cancel out exactly, which means In the Earth’s atmosphere, the most important factor affecting the speed of sound is the temperature. This means the speed of sounds decreases with altitude until the stratosphere where it increases again due to heating within the ozone layer, it then drops again in the mesosphere and increases again the the theremosphere.

      The final complication is that if the average distance between collisions for a gas molecule (the mean free path) gets too long the standard equations for the speed of sound break down (the wavelength of the soundwave must be considerably longer than the mean free path). The ISS maintains an orbit of between 278 and 460 km and while it *is* subject to slight atmospheric drag from the thermosphere I don’t think (not 100%) there is enough atmosphere around the ISS for the kind of ‘shock wave’ you are talking about – and/or different dissipative processes are at work (eg molecular heating & others) eg “The Upper Atmosphere: Problems in Developing Realistic Models” http://www.image.ucar.edu/Workshops/TOY2007_I/Abstract-Richmond.pdf

    • JB says:

      ^ This sort of thing is why I love RPS so much =)

    • BinhoF says:

      @Gorgeras

      What Teejay said!

      Besides, the ISS is orbiting the earth at 7.7km/s (27,000+km/h) (http://www.esa.int/esaHS/ESA0I6KE43D_iss_0.html) so I highly doubt any shockwave could even catch up to it in the first place!

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      @BinhoF the iss direction vector is perpendicular to the shockwaves direction vector and so it’s irrelevant what speed it’s traveling at.

      @everyone else lets be clear a shockwave would & could affect the iss, it’s unlikely it’d have a noticeable effect, the emp effect of a nuke is only effective within the blast radius and so is largely irrelevant even if it were relevant it’s likely the iss would fail elegantly.

    • TeeJay says:

      @everyone else lets be clear a shockwave would & could affect the iss

      Have you got any sources or references for that? Meteors ony start start burning up at 120 km, which is also the NASA “reentry altitude”. This is also the highest altitude acoustic shock waves from meteors have been detected. Having said that the science is complicated so I am interested in seeing what you link to.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Gorgeras, TeeJay: Thank you! That is exactly the kind of response I was looking for. I am now content.

  15. Spacewalk says:

    We get it, it’s a first person-shooter.

    • Bret says:

      It isn’t an X-Com themed 3D chess set?

      Well. They lost one sale.

    • Spacewalk says:

      I thought that Incubation was an X-Com themed 3D chess set despite being a Battle Isle offshoot.

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      oh drats, here goes my hopes for a 3D military sudoku :(

  16. Gabriel C says:

    “I’m glad Infinity Ward haven’t entirely lost sight of that, because I miss the developer they were then.” Thank you

  17. lethu says:

    It was indeed a good review, a very good complement to the game, I felt like running through the game again happily but behind the eyes of a meticulous journalist this time. It was interesting to read certain remarks and observations I had not made or realized myself. I too felt that fall of the level of the game greatness towards the end of the campaign, it felt like the makers where running out of vigor or inspiration, something I have quite often noticed in games lately (and not especially in FPS’s), an example of this is imo Crysis, but that was a special case, the fall was more vertical and almost at every level even the technical one, see the last mission performances and bug issues at game release.

    @Nobody Important
    I say go for COD4 the first, you can’t go wrong with it, especially when you haven’t played through it yet.

  18. Radiant says:

    “SOAP! GET YOURSELF A LAWYER! AND NOT ONE NAMED ZAKHAEV HE’S A WANKAAAAAR!”

  19. Lagmint says:

    Does this game suffer from MW1’s ‘sniper’ level? You all know the part I mean.

    • megaman says:

      I, for one, loved that sniper level, and it was definitely one of the most re-played levels for me.

  20. shiggz says:

    I found the Russian level to be exactly how Hollywood treats anything complex or divisive. An emotionally manipulative gimmick that feels shoehorned in.

    I also found the first one to be much more engaging. This did have too much “doom”, imao not a good thing. Ive played and replaced some of the good better paced levels. It doesn’t have to be hardcore military-sim. But a slightly more realistic and balanced cover, bullet, and damage model would really improve the experience for almost everyone me-thinks.

  21. Alexander Norris says:

    So… 7/10, then?

  22. SirKicksalot says:

    I think Destructoid’s piece explains pretty good why No Russian was needed: http://www.destructoid.com/why-i-will-support-modern-warfare-2-153852.phtml&mainnav=

    And I don’t think it’s useless since it’s the pivotal point of the game. How can the event that triggers everything that follows be useless? That’s like saying Franz Ferdinand’s assassination didn’t trigger the war.

    • Radiant says:

      Telephone polls triggered the war.

    • Bhazor says:

      There were thousands of alternatives but this was cynically aimed at capitalising on 9/11 fear without having anything to say about it. They give no justification of what has driven them to this, there’s no get out, there’s no empathy and theres no point. Remember the furore caused by Postal’s film trailer?

    • SirKicksalot says:

      It reminds me of Munich. You’re like the athletes that help the terrorists.
      What’s cheap is automatically linking it to 9/11.

    • Diosjenin says:

      FTA: “I believe that this is a scene that needs to happen, and was bound to happen sooner or later.”

      On that much, I think I can agree with him. It was absolutely bound to happen at some point in time, and I guess I’m glad that IW did it instead of that one guy who made the Lee Harvey Oswald simulator. And yes, I think a scene like this did need to happen at some point. Games (or at least video games) are still a relatively immature medium; boundaries must be pushed if we are to know where the boundaries lie.

      But the more important point in my mind is that it didn’t need to happen *here*.

      So you want to make a game that feels like it was written by Tom Clancy and directed by Michael Bay. You bounce from point to point across the globe, running from Siberia to Rio to DC to freaking SPACE and back. Every setpiece is more ridiculously over-the-top than the last, and intentionally so. This is a Hollywood-style blockbuster, after all. But what in that line of reasoning necessitates that you insert a scene where you make a temporary transition from saving the world to deliberately facilitating the death of dozens upon dozens of innocent people?

      It doesn’t bother me that IW pushed the boundaries. It does bother me, however, that they *thoughtlessly* pushed the boundaries. Maybe in some other game there could have been a reason to a scene like that, but there isn’t in MW2. There’s no cause, no reason here. There’s no why. There’s only “look what we can do.” They may have pulled off the singular feat with polish and precision, but it simply feels like it doesn’t belong – and that leaves the acceptable boundaries pretty open to manipulation by other developers with even less experience handling serious and brutal violence.

    • Jeremy says:

      Yeah man, that’s why it sort of sits wrong with me too. It isn’t that the scene is disturbing, or that I don’t think games are a medium where important dialogue can start, but what did this really show? What dialogue did it start? We all know terrorists are bad, and that shooting innocents is bad, there’s nothing new or exciting to discuss, no moral conundrum to percolate in our minds. I either didn’t get the message they were trying to convey or there simply wasn’t one. “Wasn’t this shocking? Aren’t you disturbed?”, these questions are pointless when they stand alone. An emotion is generally tapped for a purpose, not for the sake of the emotion, where was this scene driving us?

      It just didn’t.. fit.

    • Okami says:

      I clicked on the link, saw Jim Sterling’s face and immediately closed the tab. Nothing this man has ever written has any merit at all.

  23. TheSombreroKid says:

    The main problem i find with the no russian level is it can’t not remind you it’s a game and so not take it seriously, there’s no option to fight against what the game demands happen, you might aswell just watch a cut scene of it happening and that unravels the immersion, it’s a perfect example of just what infinity ward don’t get about the medium, which means the levels where they so spectacularly offer that immersion in what is effectivly a rolercoaster ride must be flucks.

    The respawning infinite bad guys from all angles and random grenades are still here and still as creaky and archaic as ever, man they just flaunt thier lack of understanding of the medium, it seems to me impossible that they actually play tested it, if they did they’d surely have considered random death->restart the mission a bad thing, maybe they just ain’t smart enough to know how to fix it.

  24. Mihai says:

    It’s a pretty mediocre single player FPS (I won’t go into multiplayer here). I get this feeling that IW fired all their designers and used an army of talented scripters for MW2. The result is a very eye catchy, yet shallow experience. It’s probably the first of what will become the gaming equivalent of movie blockbusters. You know, Michael Bay style.

    It does shine in a few moments: the stealth missions and the atmosphere in DC is top notch. But whenever the shooting starts, it all goes down the drain. The AI is laughable, the player input is minimal and you end up sprinting to the next trigger in order to advance the game. IW should start doing movies instead, it would be better for all of us. (That being said, if MW3 is just a collection of cutscenes, I wouldn’t be too surprised)

    Well, this is not all that bad… BUT the whole industry will watch this huge commercial success and follow in their footsteps. I really hope the indie scene gets wings in the next few years, otherwise there will be nothing to balance against these bubblegum blockbusters.

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      agreed

    • TeeJay says:

      That said, would you say we are getting swamped by clones of The Sims, WoW and Spore?

      In economics/business there are also other factors that lead to companies producing large and varied product ranges and there always seem to be some people out there making niche games (eg farming sims anyone?).

      Personally I’m hoping the next “me-too” trend is companies making xp/vista/7-friendly re-skins of their classic games (eg Dungeon Keeper 2) like they have with Serious Sam HD and (kind of) Tropico 3.

  25. TheSombreroKid says:

    the first thing everyone does on the no russians level is try to shoot makarov because the game doesn’t tell you what would be wrong with that, except it would break the plot.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I think he’s invincible. I managed to kill all the other terrorists by shooting over their shoulders and letting the spray carry the bullets into them. Wasn’t easy, as they kill you almost instantly. Once they were down, I filled the leader guy with lead, but he just wouldn’t go down.

      Makes sense, would ruin the whole game a bit.

    • Lilliput King says:

      PS: They killed me several times for bouncing flashbangs off the back of their heads.

      I’m not good with consoles.

  26. the wiseass says:

    I don’t want to be an ass (or a wiseass to that extend *wink*) but this review felt very stale. Maybe it’s because I’ve been force feeded with MW2 stuff these past weeks. Maybe because all that can be said about this game has already been said in one form or another. Maybe because I’m used to the excellent articles I usually read on this site. I’m not sure, but I don’t feel like I’ve read anything new in this article. Now don’t get me wrong, the article was fine, it just happens to be a little bit too late and a little bit repetitive. I’d say the multiplayer review will suffer the same fate.
    As for the quality of this game, just compare the trailer for COD1 with MW2:
    COD1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijolI14sXEM
    MW2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=429l13dS6kQ
    There, nuff’ said.

  27. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    One word review: Frantic ?

  28. derfalconer says:

    I think that scene could have gone better if they dropped the whole shockwave kills the ISS thing, and instead went for frantic chatter between astronaut and ground control before the nuke detonates and then just silence, maybe some frightened mutterings from the astronaut-cut to ground scene.

  29. abhishek says:

    I thought the No Russian level made sense in the context of the story they were trying to tell. The problem is, the story itself is beyond ridiculous. It almost makes a plot of 24 look like Shakespeare in comparison. Not just the story, but the story telling itself. It’s almost entirely told through loading scene voice overs with ridiculous images flashing past. And of course, as mentioned, pseudo intellectual psychobabble from Shepherd or Price during those loading screens.

    I think a recurring theme with the Modern Warfare 2 experience (both singleplayer and multiplayer) is that it has to be compartmentalized into good and bad sections. Because while there are drawbacks, the good parts are fantastic.

    The single player campaign took me 6.5 hours on Hardened difficulty. It was challenging, and I died quite a few times. But I found it very enjoyable. Finished it over the course of a day and a half, and it was truly intense. A sensory overload of sorts, a game that gets your breathless even though you are doing nothing but sitting in your chair and using your mouse/keyboard. The story, which I usually accord very high value to while judging a game, was a complete failure. Incomprehensibly told, and what I did understand of it while playing was stupid as all hell. However, like I said earlier, it’s all told through the loading screens. Once you get past those, and into the game itself, it ceases to matter. Because the game itself is extremely fun to play. I thought the mission quality was uneven, with some of them being just ok, which compared unfavorably with the ones that were fantastic. I loved the stealth/infiltration missions the most. No shortage of memorable moments/levels/sequences in this game. And, as subtle as it may be, the gameplay has evolved since it’s predecessor. Infinite enemies are mostly gone… not always, but mostly. Scripting in the form of invisible checkpoint triggers still exist, but they are not blatantly obvious unless you are looking. The level design, while still fairly linear, gives you a wide corridor in which to walk through, with the illusion of multiple paths even though there are none. And, one of my pet peeves with earlier games, the super accurate grenade spam from enemies is gone.

    While not a flawless game by any stretch, what it does deliver is an incredibly fun experience (both singleplayer and multiplayer). Perhaps not worth the premium price, but definitely not one to be missed.

  30. Mike says:

    I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people saying the level disturbed them are lying.

    However, that aside – excellent WIT. I really enjoyed it, and it said many of the things I haven’t seen said elsewhere, that really needed to be. Said.

  31. EBass says:

    Very good review pretty much bang on my thoughts. Its a very slick, very polished shooter that hasn’t evolved the genre in any way. It retains some of what made CoD such a breath of fresh air because they gameplay hasn’t evolved in any real sense since CoD2 and each time the series fails to evolve it gets a little less fresh and a little more predictable. Hate to sound elitest here, but this is another thing that differentiates us from console gamers, only PC reviewers seem to be noticing this and picking up on it. Every console format review seems to grant it messianic status.

  32. EBass says:

    In addition………

    I liked the story for CoD4:MW, it had a nice Tom Clancy feel about it.

    The story for MW2 is totally implausable, and even worse its told badly. Like the whole terrorist thing. We’re not told WHY we have to get close to Makarov or what hes planning, or even how we gained his “trust” just told “It will be worth it for the lives you save.”

    Its not like in the terrorist mission we’re working with some of Makarovs underlings and we have to maintain cover in order to get close to the real kingpin. Makarov IS the big bad, we could end it there by shooting him, but OHHH NOooooo try it and you get the “MISSION FAILED DON’T SHOOT TEAMATES IDIOT.”

    Its also somewhat disquieting to recognise that the best moments in this game come when you actually stop playing the core game and play one of the sort of “side missions”. Climbing the Ice Mountain, the Snowmobile chase, The “stealth” bits which are basically just scripted NPC interactions of what to do and when to shoot.

    Even recognising that fact, these bits pale in comparison to CoD4s Chernobyl level.

  33. Nero says:

    I’m not getting MW2 but I have seen most of the compaign being played so that’s enough. Almost feels like a game Michael Bay would make (and I hate his movies). Anyway, it seems like a quality game to play anyway but not for me this time.

    On another note, I just bought CoD 1 again on Steam and played it through and it’s still a fantastic game (even did some fun multiplayer). Also surprised to hear Jason Statham in that game which I didn’t remember.

    • JB says:

      “Light up those bloody Stukas!” was him, right?

    • Premium User Badge

      Nero says:

      I don’t recall exactly which line, but that could be true. The moment your hear him you know it’s him anyway.

  34. 12kill4 says:

    I agree entirely Mr Meer…
    I also feel like there is something kinesthetically different about this sequal… whether it’s the weighting of the character’s movement, the recoil on the guns- I’m not quite sure… but it just FEELS restrictive. Whereas MW1 at its best made me feel like I could go anywhere , but I’m already in the best possible place, MW2 makes me want to run ahead, only to be shot by invisible snipers.

  35. Hoernchen says:

    The first one was awesome, this one is just meh, it is absolutely not the GOTY it wants to be, it’s just a shooter, and most of the time it feels very arcade-ish because you’re spraying bullets all over the place instead of aiming at an endless amount of enemies. Don’t even get me startet on the Mul..lll ..lll…llllag….tipllll..llll..laaag….ayer part.

  36. Max says:

    CoD lost me after the second game. Three was downright unenjoyable and though I’ve been a little tempted to pick up CoD4 (at least for the single player), I really have no interest in buying MW2.

    I really don’t understand why everyone is so batshit crazy about this game. Then again, I didn’t play it precursor.

  37. El Stevo says:

    Was anyone else annoyed by the red crap that gets chucked all over your screen when you get shot? I’m in a position where I urgently need to get behind cover, but I can’t because I can’t actually see anything. Also, if there aren’t respawning enemies at the Favela then I’ll eat my left nut.

    (Overall I had a great time with CoD6’s singleplayer.)

    • abhishek says:

      That red tomato ketchup effect bugged me so much. It really needs to be toned down, although it’s kind of pointless now since I’ve already suffered through it.

      Favela, while very difficult, was fun to play. It was also one of the few that fell into the traps of infinite respawns and invisible checkpoint scripting. The thing about the level was that you got shot from all directions, which meant a lot of hiding in cover, which slowed down the pace of the game and you could see how passing a certain point would trigger an event (usually seeing the guy we were chasing running across a rooftop). If you stood still in one position, I have no doubt you’d get mobbed by infinite enemies… but I guess the question is, why would you do that?

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      @abihishek

      Have you considered that because the game wants to be treated like Doom, we play it like Doom?

      Therefore, not killing every enemy isn’t an option. Unless it’s Nightmare mode, but that doesn’t count.

    • abhishek says:

      Well it’s your opinion that the game wants to be treated like Doom. I’m not even sure what that means exactly. However, if you’ve played that particular level, you would know that you’re chasing someone, first on the ground, then across rooftops. The whole point of the level is that it’s meant to be a frantic chase while you are getting shot at by the militia from windows, rooftops… everywhere. Now, if you choose to stop and just stand in a particular spot, you are choosing to break immersion. As for killing all enemies, you will do that while running through the level as well. It seems fairly pointless to me to stand still in a chase sequence…

    • Lagmint says:

      “Now, if you choose to stop and just stand in a particular spot, you are choosing to break immersion.”

      So… you’re saying he’s ‘doing it wrong’?

      It’s a fucking video game where you shoot people. He’s shooting people.

    • vagabond says:

      I didn’t get the impression that the Favela has infinite enemies, just a _whole_ lot of of them. Although, it doesn’t seem unrealistic that if you were to camp out in the middle of a firefight in the Favela that you would eventually be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless swarm of locals that grabbed their AK and came to see what all the shooting was about.

      My experience with that level was that it wasn’t possible to just run through the level. There are too many enemies and you end up cut to pieces from all sides. Conversely, if you took it too slowly, you would find people coming up behind you (I assumed they were using the rooftops and jumping down behind me, but I guess they could have slowly been infinitely respawning behind me). Eventually I figured out a slow pace of constantly pushing forward that worked for me.

      The level is quite visually interesting, but I certainly found it to be the most frustrating level in the game.

    • El Stevo says:

      I actually tested it before I posted earlier. Rather than dropping down into the favella I stayed on the ledge where you start off. I stayed there for a good while until I ran out of ammo, killing everyone I saw. There was a steady trickle of men arriving on the rooftops in the distance, and the men on the ground hiding in the buildings were constantly replaced. If the enemies don’t respawn then there are a LOT of them.

    • abhishek says:

      So… you’re saying he’s ‘doing it wrong’?

      It’s a fucking video game where you shoot people. He’s shooting people.

      I didn’t realize this would be such a contentious issue. Apart from shooting people, he was also chasing someone. Did you miss that part? What sense does it make to stand still when you are ostensibly chasing someone?

      Would you have preferred if the mission was time limited or progress oriented? In the sense that if you stay at one place too long, you get a message saying that the person has escaped and you have to redo the level? Does the game actually have to penalize you before you decide to do the logical thing that the level asks of you?

      I’m not a fan of infinite respawning. Not by a long shot. In this case though, it’s only a problem if you let it be one.

    • El Stevo says:

      I personally found that parts like the favela where I faced strong resistance ahead of me and moving forward often resulted in getting shot in the back by unseen enemies, my instincts were to go to ground, despite Infinity Ward’s claims that the AI would push you forward.

      I think it’s a case of bad design. The level design doesn’t really mesh with the premise. My reaction to the level could just be untypical of course.

  38. Eli Just says:

    Great review, really exactly what I thought. It’s not that CoD4 was a better game, it’s just that this game isn’t really much of an improvement, and loses sight of what made CoD4 one of my favorite games. I was emotionally impacted when I died in MW1 (both times, but especially with the nuke). That’s because I knew that character, I had gone through hell and back with him, and had just feeling good about my Black Hawk Down style heroics. Then, moments later I’m crawling through a wasteland with everybody I just tried to save dead. If you could have seen me then I bet my jaw was scraping the floor. In this game, with No Russian or later again, I felt nothing. I didn’t know who these characters were, I felt no attachment and both times I felt like it was unfair and sprung on me for no reason. I wasn’t struck with the shock of it, I took my hand off the keyboard and though “wow, that’s total BS”. I think the best level of the whole game is after the EMP goes off. First of all, I loved replaying the downed helicopter bit, because that’s something I’ve never seen before in a game; replaying a section of game not because I died, but to reinforce the narrative. Then, taking you to out outer space, while I thought it was a bit silly, really showed what happened. I thought for sure I was dead after the first time, but then seeing that explained it. The other great thing about that level, besides the rain effects, which I really liked (reminded me of STALKER, which is sad seeing as that game is 2 years old) was the AI dialogue. That level above all others had FANTASTIC squad dialogue. Whether it was complaining about the rain, seeing the effects of the EMP or calling out to figure out friend or foe, I felt like I was right there. Really, it was top notch. If only the whole game could have held up to that level of play.

  39. Y3k-Bug says:

    Loved MW2. Thrilling, exciting, bombastic.

    The image of running through Virginia suburbs fighting Russians was great.

    The small bit with you floating in space was absolutely lovely.

    Love, love, love this game. Can’t wait for MW3.

  40. Rohit says:

    “It’s hard not to be impressed by its sheer ballsiness and opulence – even during the sick feeling raised by That Level, the amount of detail, the sheer bombast and perfectionism of the presentation, is nothing short of incredible.”

    Including the repeated civilian models?

  41. Cecil Philpot says:

    You’ve absolutely nailed it, Alec. That’s exactly how I felt about the singleplayer.

    Sure, it’s an impressive spectacle. The character movement animation is easily the best I’ve ever seen. But the combat wasn’t as much fun as past CoD games, because you can’t really take a careful, tactical approach. You’re always rushing frantically from one setpiece to the next.

    The devs seem to have been caught up in their own hype, utterly convinced that the world loves and cares about Soap and Price. And, of course, the plot was just relentlessly silly.

    Can anyone possibly imagine a scenario where a Russian invasion of the US doesn’t immediately and inevitably lead to nuclear war? I mean, isn’t that the point of a nuclear arsenal, to serve as a deterrent?!

    All told, a definite case of sequelitis, like the second Matrix or third Spiderman.

    • El Stevo says:

      I don’t think a ground invasion would necessarily lead to nuclear war, and certainly not immediately. Why guarantee the destruction of your nation when there is still the possibility you could drive off the attackers through conventional warfare?

    • Dood says:

      The thing is: What could Russia ever hope to gain by invading the USA.?
      Scenario 1: The US gains the upper hand and eventually drives the Russians from their country. Russia loses.
      Scenario 2: They manage to beat the US armed forces. As a result the US would be using their nukes (first tactical, then strategic I guess). Everybody loses.
      But I really cannot imagine a scenario where Russia could really achieve a real victory.

    • MadMatty says:

      Hahahaha – ground invasion by the russians- its as laughable now as it was in the 80´s movie “Red Dawn” for countless reasons i cant be bothered to list here.

    • deljohn says:

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  42. Rojo says:

    That was the most spot on analysis of the game (and No Russian) I’ve ever read.

    Now I don’t have to explain my opinion…I can just link to this.

    Thank you Alec.

  43. fatal.end says:

    Gotta agree with the article.

    Whether you kill people in “No Russian” or not, the end result is still the same.

    The scene doesn’t offend me in anyway, but it is kind of disappointing when you realize than Infinity Ward is just about shock value and the dollar from console gamers these days.

    Sigh… but whatever, I’m enjoying my time with L4D2. Money well spent.

  44. Levictus says:

    Sounds like a typical Hollywood blockbuster video-game thingy…

    Why can’t someone write a plot about a corporate backed American occupational force that markets itself as “bringing freedom et al” but really they are just trying to get more $$$. You could do so much fun stuff with such a plot…

  45. Glove says:

    Mr Alec Meer, your writing here is much excellent! Sexcellent, even!

    Oh, the game?
    Yeah, I agree completely with the review; it reminded me once again why I frequent this site more than any other.

  46. Rhade says:

    I intend to pay for this game for one reason; it’s going to be the online shooter my friends and I will play when we have nothing else to do for the next two years. And that’s what it’s good at, that’s where it’s worth the price for me.

    Luckily for me, the price never rose here in Norway.

    About the single player though, you’re right. It’s a good shooter, it has its flaws, and isn’t nearly as monumental as it was made up to be. I never expected anything else, as that’s the story of practically every single game that’s had the level of hype that MW2 had.

  47. [21CW] 2000AD says:

    While No Russian is the hyped level, the defining moment I’ll take away from MW2 is the one used at the top of the page.
    Sneakily rappeling down a cliff and then lowering yourself down upside down, Batman style and knifing a guy in tandem with your partner. Then just as you’re thinking “I’m fecking Batman, I’m cool” it gives you a long lingering look at the man’s eyes as he dies in your arms. Not an entire level of drama, but a small moment that makes you switch from “That’s so cool” to ” …oh ….” in a heartbeat.
    That and the ending. CoD4’s ending made me go “Yes!” and pump my fist Tiger Wood’s style. MW2’s ending made me through my arms in the air and go “YEEEESSS! IN YOUR FACE!!”

  48. Adrian says:

    No Russian doesn’t achieve anything, doesn’t add anything. It’s just an uncomfortable, gratuitous scene inserted at the wrong point. The moral dilemma of being a US agent killing innocents in order to convince Russian terrorists he’s part of their team doesn’t exist.

    SPOILERS IN THIS COMMENT

    I found there was a lot more in this scene than just the moral dilemma, so much so that I don’t think the moral dilemma was the point of that scene at all.

    Shooting innocents hooks you in so you pay attention & does it wonders for publicity, but that’s the complete scope of it. I found the point of No Russian was to show just how dangerous and cunning these Russian terrorists were, so we could feel an emotion, and then make a decision based on it. They were willing to kill their own kind to further their goals – something we are not used to seeing. It shows their dedication, their cold bloodedness, and the complicated layers of affairs as you get shot in the end. You hate the Russian terrorists for being cold, but then you understand and appreciate this manipulation that causes Russia to invade America. We make the decision, that they are the bad guys, and that you are going to kick their ass as you hunt down their supplier in Brazil.

    What’s interesting is that if you consider that the whole point of this game is the idea that ‘history is made by the victor’, then this game is really about Sheppard and his ambition. In which case, it’s hinted that the general planned the events of No Russian right from the start. Makarov was only a puppet he could become a war hero and America a superpower. So then, our idea of Russian being the bad guys becomes misplaced. Sheppard, the guy we were rooting and served for, lied to us and was the bad guy after.

    Or was he?

    If you are like me and are thinking about this stuff as you try to get to sleep, then Modern Warfare 2 does its job of being a compelling storyteller. And this is just one of the many things in this game I think about. Not bad for a first person shooter.

  49. Schmung says:

    Agree with a lot of whats been said here – there are lots of bits that suffer from them throwing too many men at you and relying on you knowing the exact spawning sequence rather than being able to conquer it first time by being good at the game. It suffers because it’s been turned up to 11 the whole time. Still, it was jolly good fun while it lasted in a slightly absurd way.

    Then again, I bought it a console mainly for the multiplayer. It feels a bit irrelevant for what I want in PC a shooter from both a single and multi player perspective and though I can understand the backlash from people it’s not something that’s particularly relevant to me,

  50. bananaphone says:

    I found it to be an empty, soul-less experience. Just endless bad guy whack-a-mole with irritating difficulty spikes (until you figured out precisely how the developers wanted you to follow their strict corridor). At least it only took 5 hours.