The biggest video game release of the year is finally here. Modern Warfare 2. And we’ve finally got around to reviewing this mammoth piece of gaming meat! Joey Davidson and myself, Erik Norris, have broken the game down into its three separate components – single player, multiplayer, Spec Ops – applying scores to each and giving a final overall score for the entire product. This review is massive. That’s a warning. You could grow a full beard while reading it. So to help you out (cause we are always here for you) we’ve included links right here at the beginning of the review to each of the separate sections in the off chance you don’t give a shit about the game’s story. So without further ado, Modern Warfare 2…
Joey: I really found the single player campaign in Modern Warfare 2 to be a bit of a disappointment. And I know you agree with a lot of my points, Erik, but most of my hang-ups are with the length, pacing and level of intensity. Too short, bad direction and way too much intensity. Without downtime, intense moments just don’t seem intense when there’s barely any quiet time to compare them to. Think of Modern Warfare 1, glorious moments of pacing there.
Erik: I agree. Modern Warfare 2′s single player reeked of Call of Duty 2 syndrome. It was just action action action until the ending credits, without any sense of story structure. It was all climax for five hours.
Joey: You need an arc! Downtime! It just wasn’t there…
Erik: Yea, exactly! None of that was present. I was also disappointed that for the first time in the Call of Duty series Infinity Ward had a chance to inject some character into the troops you are controlling and working alongside. But alas, they completely dropped the ball in that area, as well. Outside of Soap, who you played as in the first Modern Warfare, there was no character development whatsoever.
Joey: I might be venturing into spoiler city, so skip this bit if you haven’t played… but you do also spend time with Price towards the end, which I did think was pretty rewarding. Too bad it’s so short and so amped up that you don’t get that former commander feel from him. You’re playing as Soap at this point, so a reunion with Price should have been extremely badass. IW only took the time to have Price say, "Just like old times, eh?"… and that was it. But that’s it for spoilers…
But how about the story itself, the actual plot, what did you think?
Erik: Firstly, the game is only 5-6 hours long and it took the guys at IW roughly two of those hours to find a footing on how they wanted to develop the game’s narrative. While missions are loosely tied together with pre-mission briefings, the whole story seemed rather scatter-shot. The "fight comes home" sections that I thought would have been a huge part of the game were pretty much throw away with no sense up build-up leading into them. But the missions controlling "Roach" of the British Task Force 141 were rather enjoyable and by far the best aspects of the story. But like I mentioned before, I really had no attachment to any of the characters by the time the story wrapped rather abruptly with a number of dangling plot threads that scream "sequel bait." Let me just put it this way: The only emotional attached I had to this game’s story was when I saw the "Tacos To Go" stand destroyed during one of the American missions and thought about how heart broken I would be if Taco Bell closed.
Joey: God damnit…But you’re right! There should have been much, much more attention paid to the levels on American soil. It’s just like Halo 2, you know? When the fight came home to Earth, people immediately said they wanted more. There wasn’t enough Earth time. A few things about the home front in MW2′s campaign…
Joey: But I really don’t want to detract anything from Infinity Ward’s ideas and set pieces. Both were justified and certifiably great, it’s just that the execution felt like a misstep. Give me three more hours of game time with some character connecting moments and transitional downtime, and the single player campaign would have been fantastic.
Of note: Kudos to IW for introducing new game-play elements all the way until the end of the game… though the actual ending was cheesy poop balls. Officially.
Erik: Well said. Infinity Ward knows how to deliver on scripted events, they just now need to get a bit tighter with their story-telling on all future titles (which we’ll obviously be seeing). But as it stands, Modern Warfare 2′s single player campaign is pretty much a bust.
-1 if you ONLY play the SP (which makes you silly)
+1 if you love terrorism
+2 if you think Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a better movie than Shawshank Redemption
Erik: Ok, moving on to the real meat and potatoes of Modern Warfare 2; it’s multiplayer. Trying to sum up this component of the game is rather hard. There is a lot going on here. Even for those that played the original Modern Warfare or Call of Duty: World at War up until the launch of MW2.
Now, for MW2…
My complaint about the unlockables, while we’re on it, why not include a button in the multiplayer menu that allows players to mark all "New" as seen? Between rounds I’m just selecting everything that’s "NEW" so I can get rid of the stupid tag. I know what I earned because of the screaming man in the match (which could be argued is too much of a distraction), I don’t need a menu tag too.
Erik: While I agree on the "New" tags for unlocks being a big excessive, I, on the other hand, don’t mind the barrage of messages for ranking up and completing challenges. They had me anticipating the end of a match to see all the new goodies I could use. And like you said, there are a ton of them. Customization is the name of the game with Modern Warfare 2. You can outfit your soldier however you see fit. If you thought the first Modern Warfare had options, the sequel makes it look like Duck Hunt in comparison.
Joey: Perfect, it doesn’t get any more basic than Duck Hunt. Don’t get me wrong, the unlocks are an addictive joy… like crack or black tar heroin. I’m just that guy who has to get rid of the NEW sign as soon as possible.
One thing that’s completely frustrating and damn near inexcusable is the decision to disable Party Chat in some game-types. IW probably wanted to make it so people had to talk to their teams, and only their teams. Prevents cheating or just lack of cooperation, I guess…But it completely sucks having to listen to kids scream at each other, or pretend to rap. Yeah, that’s my favorite, some kid with the microphone in his mouth rapping to some Eminem song while I try to chill out and shoot dudes. Honestly, the decision to disable Party Chat has downright baffled me and actually sullied the experience a little. Now, when I just want to talk to my friends I rush to mute everyone in the team list. Obnoxious.
Anyways, the game ships with 16 maps, which is exceptional. Each of them have been great so far. There’s one map that rocks a bit too much inside action for my tastes, but the majority of them are nice and balanced with some funnel spots perfect for a shit storm. But, speaking of balance, what do you think of the new Killstreaks and Deathstreaks?
Erik: Well simply put, they aren’t very balanced at all. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. I’ve been having a blast using the Predator missile Killstreak award. That really never gets old. And while I haven’t finessed my skills to measure up to the elite multiplayer community this game has, I’m licking my lips for the chance to use the tactical nuke.
Joey: So you think there’s no balance whatsoever?! I don’t know man, I think the Deathstreaks are almost perfectly implemented. Granted, some Killstreaks are really cheesy (helicopter gunner, for instance), but the Deathstreaks are perfect!
Erik: Sorry, let me rewind, there are Killstreak perks that are well balanced; UAVs, counter-UAVs, and the likes. But as soon as someone gets to fly around as the gunner of a helicopter or AC-130, it becomes a shit show. Granted, if you or your team is good enough you can be rewarded with the power to use those items as well. So I guess it does balance out in the end. Point made.
But for the record, I’ve been loving the multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2. While I might get frustrated at some points due to my lack of skill, I still spend every waking minute of the day anticipating getting home and firing up my Xbox 360 for more. Even after playing Modern Warfare 1 as much as I did, I still find a ton of joy in Modern Warfare 2′s multiplayer. Infinity Ward tweaked and added enough new content to make me one happy camper on the servers.
Joey: Well, when you say "servers" remember that we’re not including the PC crowd. Those guys, as an aside, are pretty pissed about Modern Warfare 2 and Infinity Ward’s decision to forgo dedicated servers in favor of matchmaking. So, real quickly, if you’re a PC Gamer expecting dedicated servers from MW2… they aren’t there. We won’t get into it, but there is a raging mad community in the PC world the formed from this debacle on IW’s part.
But for us on the console side, I don’t think I could really ask more of Modern Warfare 2′s competitive multiplayer angle. Everything Infinity Ward did so well in the first is back again, and bigger. The Killstreaks, Deathstreaks and Perks are going to give you a lot of incentive to play the game. But even without them, this is still a world class shooter that deserves every fan of the genre’s attention. Balance issues aside, as they are quite debatable, I really love the multiplayer bit of Modern Warfare 2.
Multiplayer Score: 9.5 out of 10
-9.5 if you’re really terrible at it
+0.5 if you’re 13 years old
Erik: Last, but not least, is Spec Ops mode to round out Modern Warfare 2. In this game-type you and a friend can cooperatively play through a number of different scenarios ranging from stealthily sneaking past guards to manning an AC-130 gunship while your partner is pin-pointing enemy locations while on foot. There are also three levels of difficulty – regular, hardened, veteran – and depending which you use you will receive a better rank for the mission upon completion. And with 23 missions, there is plenty to do and perfect in Spec Ops mode.
Joey: This is where Infinity Ward really rounded out the package for me. The competitive multiplayer in MW2 is downright amazing. The single player is a bit of a bust, but it has its moments. Spec Ops is the cooperative fix we wanted without the shit story.
Erik: Yes. The single player was just a bunch of action packed scenarios strung together. That’s exactly what Spec Ops mode is, only you can now play it with a friend. What isn’t to love about that? Most of the levels in Spec Ops are even inspired by campaign missions. So basically, if you’re creative enough, you can think up your own story behind all the Spec Ops levels as if it was a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book type of thing, which is awesome.
Joey: Exactly……sort of.
But Spec Ops does a lot drive home this addictive feeling of cooperative victory. They put these stars in front of you with an objective, and then they challenge you and a friend (seriously, bring a friend) to take on a scenario. I know Erik and I struggled with a few, but it wasn’t an obnoxiously frustrating rout. It was more like this feeling that we HAD to do it or else we’d die. That level of addiction for cooperative in Spec Ops blends perfectly with the competitive side of MW2. You get sick of one, you move to the other. There’s always something to do.
What is it, 23 missions with a total of 69 possible stars? Achievements coming at intervals wide enough to keep you rolling if you’re into that sort of thing. Then they slap completion percentages on game types in the main menu to keep those completionists dying to continue playing.
Erik: Yea, that’s right. 69 total stars. Needing to earn more was like a drug addiction. Reminds me of the challenge mode in Mario Kart. I used to obsess over it, and that trend is continuing here with MW2 and the Spec Ops mode.
Joey: I really can’t stress this enough: IW made a great decision by including Spec Ops. No, it isn’t a cooperative story. But in a way, that’s almost better. Spec Ops will likely last you a lot longer than the campaign could ever dare to with two players. So I say we take the money and run. Yes, it would have been nice to blast through the story with a bud, but I’ll consider Spec Ops to be a win.
Spec Ops Score: 9.0 out of 10
-5 if you have no friends
+1 if all you wanted was cooperative play
So there you have it. While the campaign is a big letdown, the multiplayer and Spec Ops modes easily make up for the game’s lack of story. Modern Warfare 2 is a massive game. So luckily, it’s quite good where it counts.
CraveOnline Overall Rating: 9.0 out of 10