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Game Review | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

There's war in Washington DC in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Game summary: A massacre at a Russian airport leads to a war between Russia and the United States. Meanwhile, a Task Force is sent to find the perpetrators and bring the bloodshed to an end. (IMDb)

This isn't going to be a positive review, which is why I'm going to start off by admitting that I didn't finish Modern Warfare 2 in my most recent play-through. Not because I couldn't beat the game (as I have done so twice before), but because I just wasn't enjoying it at all and didn't see any point in wasting my time getting irritated at something I didn't have to do.

Before I go all-in on the criticism, I will acknowledge that the game does look pretty good and, thanks to technology inevitably marching on, a step-up from the first Modern Warfare. It does get a little 'Michael Bay' at times by throwing so much at you that it's hard to see what's going on, but this is more often than not the intention.

The biggest flaw as far as the looks are concerned relate to the gameplay mechanic of covering the screen in blood spatter to indicate how injured your character is. The previous game also did this, but it would take you being on the receiving end of incoming fire for a while for it to get too difficult to see what was going on.

In contrast, Modern Warfare 2 covers the screen regularly, forcing you to blindly race to what you can only hope is cover where you have to remain still - and not play the game - so your character can recover and let you keep playing. More than once, it opens an action scene by causing enough damage to immediately trigger this effect, forcing you to again do nothing until it fades.

Playing through these sections a second time, you can avoid a couple of them, but I feel sorry for anyone picking this game up now and having to experience it for the first time. The whole idea seems just baffling to me - why would you implement a game system that forces the player to effectively stop playing? Why change how it worked so well in Modern Warfare?

As for the audio, the sound quality is no worse and neither is it appreciably better than Modern Warfare. Much the like graphics, the main point to note is the negative issue caused by another gameplay change from the previous game that makes just as much sense as the bloody spatter problem detailed above.

In Modern Warfare, you were constantly made to feel like part of a squad or unit, with competent colleagues around you to back you up. Yes, you'd often be asked to do something special yourself, but you'd usually be backed up with AI companions who would very much help out and it never felt like you against an army by yourself.

In fact, you'd often also see colleagues tasked to carry out a specific objective while you backed them up, usually by providing covering fire. The point I'm trying to make is that Modern Warfare completely immersed you in the role of a single member of a larger force, which is what the multiple characters you play are.

Enjoy a first-person view of being immolated in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2, on the other hand, constantly forces the player to carry out specific objectives - especially while playing as the American soldier, Ramirez. It's so bad, that "Ramirez! Do everything!" became a meme, because that's what it felt like. Although, to be fair, you have to do everything because your comrades are so utterly incompetent that you wouldn't want them do anything anyway.

It's - again - astonishing how much of a backwards step this is from the previous game. Your companions in Modern Warfare 2 are terrible, with not even the story-required 'immortal' characters proving any use whatsoever as anything more than bullet sponges - which they have to be because of how poor they are at fighting the enemies you encounter.

This all leads to the game very much feeling like a one-man mission in every part of the game, because that's pretty much what it is. It becomes even more of an issue when enemies in certain sections start specifically targeting you ahead of your easier-to-hit allies and you start wondering what's the point of even trying.

And just to make things even worse, the story and characters don't match up to Modern Warfare either. There are more bombastic and 'cool' moments that don't seem to serve any real purpose other than to be cool - which does rather undermine the anti-war sentiment running through the previous game. It does admittedly look really cool at times, but only in a very superficial sense.

As for the characters, they've taken a turn for the cruel this time out, which I suppose can be seen as an anti-war message. None of the people we meet - including those returning from the previous game - are likeable at all, losing all semblance of depth they might've had in a better game. I suppose you could twist their previously-mentioned incompetency as an attack on the military, but I don't think that was intended.

The final criticism I have of Modern Warfare 2 is that it just isn't fun to play, especially when coming straight after the previous game. Sprinting through sections to trigger a checkpoint was an option for particularly irritating sections of Modern Warfare, that's probably the most enjoyable way to get through most of this game.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has to represent one of the fastest falls from grace in a gaming series. The same developers somehow managed to take the wrong lessons from the success of the first Modern Warfare and then dialled them up to eleven. It's meaner, crueller and completely lacking the depth and intelligence of it's predecessor, relying on empty spectacle that quickly becomes boring.


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