This is the year of the sequel – Killzone 2, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Uncharted 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Assassin’s Creed 2 - forgive me if I have left anyone out.
Some have been let downs, some of been fantastic follow-ups and two are still to come in the next few weeks. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a truly phenomenal sequel as it does what any great sequel should; it expands and improves on everything the last game did right. It also just so happens to be the follow up the one of the greatest first-person shooter titles of this generation. Straight from the start screen Modern Warfare 2 is introduced as three separate pieces – spec-ops, multiplayer and campaign.
After playing through Modern Warfare 2's single-player campaign I could not help but wonder just how many Michael Bay movies developers Infinity Ward have watched. This is because, much like Bay's films, Modern Warfare 2 is an assault to the senses. Gunfire, explosion, helicopters falling from the sky – it is all there. Even better, the developers know how to handle the more dramatic moments and make some truly hard hitting scenes that most gamers will remember for some time to come. While it is hard to argue that Modern Warfare 2 isn't simply "more of the same" it is equally hard to argue how that could possibly be a bad thing?
Quality over quantity is the order of the day here. Much like the last game, the single-player campaign will take you roughly four to six hours to complete. But it is going to be one hell of a ride. I would imagine many reviews for this game will compare its single-player campaign to a roller coaster ride. However, they should mention that the roller coaster is on fire while Ninjas and Pirates join forces to fight the zombie horde that has boarded it. That is the excitement and intensity level you will find through most of the game. The only downside to this is the chaos it can create, which skews the difficulty. There were a few parts where I was constantly dying and re-doing them with only the faintest idea of what to do, where to go and who the hell was killing me. It did get to the point of frustration but luckily the checkpoints are very well placed through the game and it did nothing to ruin the end experience.
Fortunately, there are some quiet and well-paced missions that break things up too. These are similar to the sniper missions from that last game, and they do just as good a job of slowing the pace and allow you to form more of a bond with the characters. This is one of the biggest improvements for the series - it has heroes. While in the first Modern Warfare you learned to care for your squad mates, this game establishes two characters as the definite heroes for the series and I can't wait to see what will happen with them in the inevitable sequel.
But who the hell cares about the single-player right? While excellent, it is the multiplayer that made the first game so outstanding and one of the most successful games of this generation. Obviously it is just as good here and rewards seem to be the major upgrade for the sequel; lots and lots of rewards for everything that you do. In the first Modern Warfare I remember feeling a great sense of satisfaction when I would see that +20xp number go above someone’s head when I would kill them. Imagine how good it feels in Modern Warfare 2 to see +150xp with an additional +50xp because I just got a revenge bonus for killing the guy who previously killed me before. These sort of extra bonuses are everywhere in the multiplayer. And of course what would Modern Warfare 2 be without some new perks to get? Most of these can be upgraded to "pro" variants, and one in particular (One Man Army) allows you to change your class while you're alive, which is sure to be controversial.
In addition to perks there are new weapons, kill-streaks and other things such as the death-streaks (bonuses for when you die three times in a row without getting a kill). This all seems to be about as balanced as the last game and gives you a high amount of customization for how you want to play. The need to get "just one more level up" it as high here as it was in for the last game. There are even new types of grenades and other equipment weapons - the throwing knife is a personal favourite of mine.
Speaking of favourites, the newest mode to Modern Warfare 2 is called spec-ops, and this is the game's 2-player co-op mode (split-screen or online). While not the actual story mission, this is as close as you will get to playing the campaign with a friend and let me tell you, it is brutal. Like everything else in Modern Warfare 2, it is a lot of fun, very polished and full of features. There are about 23 challenges all up and it would not surprise me if there will be more coming via. downloadable content releases in the future. Most can be played solo - but I would not recommend it and requires the players to achieve certain objectives within certain parameters. This is done in order to collect star ratings, which will help you unlock new spec-op challenges to play later. It is very challenging when you go for those extra stars and the maps fill with enemies or that time limit gets a lot shorter. A neat bonus about some of these missions is that they are in completely new environments that you will not experience anywhere else in the game.
So there you have it, the three pieces that make up Modern Warfare 2. As I said earlier, most of this is more of the same but with extra polish. Considering the high bar set by the first game, Modern Warfare 2 does not disappoint. It has one of the best crafted and exciting single-player campaigns you could hope for from a FPS. Its multiplayer is just as fun and time consuming as the last game but with a lot more rewards to make you feel good about yourself and goals to strive for. On top of this we also get the spec-ops missions which brings co-op play to the table and is every bit as fun as you would hope for.
The sequel does exactly what it should; improves the formula that the original game used to give a similar, yet better experience. Being a sequel it does lose some of the "wow factor" the last game had when it blew everyone's doors down two years ago. However, this is still one of the finest games ever produced and gives a great FPS experience no matter what you are after. While not the same revolution the last game was, it is without a doubt the evolution the series – and we – deserve.
Check out our PC review for Modern Warfare tomorrow.