Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review
Short single player with good variety and quick missions, multiplayer is quite good but sadly limited on PC.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a first person shooter featuring high amounts of level variety and some intricately crafted single player sequences. It features a strong multiplayer component and a variety of co-operative modes. The game takes place 5 years after Call of Duty 4 and allows you to play a few different characters through the story. The action will take you around the globe for some very quick fire missions only to jump you back somewhere else for more action. It is perhaps both a game strength and a weakness that there is very little time spent in the one area. Old faces will return, voiced well, with much of the story being told in between missions through voice conversations between these key characters. Modern Warfare 2 is all about jumping you from one action hotspot to another without giving you much room to breathe or take stock of what you were just doing. It is perhaps its own pace that lets the game down and the fact that the general gameplay doesn’t quite reach heights of the carefully crafted game segments which you may not have much control over. On the PC the multiplayer while fun and polished comes off lacking some of the features that are generally taken for granted in most multiplayer games.
Icy Beards are rendered with high accuracy
The huge amount of variety to single player missions comes from a few design choices which rarely keep you tied around one location or doing the one thing for long. The missions are quickly over and that location is never really revisited again. Once a mission is complete you’ll be taking over another game character across the other side of the world. You generally play as the two main characters Roach and Ramirez, from Task 141 and the American Rangers respectively. There are a few sequences where you play other characters, sometimes very briefly.
The story and characters keep the cohesion even if the missions at times can feel very random. Some sections also felt created purely for shock factor rather than improve gameplay or push the story forward. One sequence in an airport, as a CIA undercover agent, you can participate in the killing of Russian civilians. Not only was this sequence too long but it wasn’t really necessary and only seemed to exist to present the player with a controversial shock sequence. There were also a few later sequences that proved to follow this trend, unfortunately they were major story twists but left me a little bewildered. Without this mission variety the game would struggle to hold an audience for a long period of time. And indeed even with the variety the game only comes in at about 5 hours long on regular difficulty. When the game isn’t jumping you around the globe it is probably showing you some spectacular sequence.
Some of the missions are very linear, literally on rails
During missions the game sets itself up for carefully designed sequences, such as riding a snowmobile, driving a vehicle on a runway or even running over rooftops. It’s clear a lot of time was spent on these parts unfortunately some of the other gameplay suffers from this favouritism. I’m not ashamed to admit I died a lot on regular, that’s not to say the game was overly hard. The game saves often; if you die you won’t be repeating much of the game. In the open you are extremely vulnerable to bullet fire which can significantly jolt your vision and partially blinds you with red blood on your screen. I started the game on hardened, a recommended difficulty, but realised quickly that during combat I was spending more time behind a wall or objects than I was shooting foes. I definitely prefer more run and gun gameplay, the regenerative health was almost abused as a time wasting device. It’s good to see that the infinite respawns are a thing of the past. Enemies spawn on rooftops or in alley ways and generally run through or along your field of vision. This creates a much more natural introduction of enemies, even though they are spawning just around the corner it completely blends in unlike some sequences in COD 4. The overly scripted nature of the game shows cracks however. Enemies running up stairs will incur comments from your squad mates. This chatter will continue even if you have killed the enemies, breaking some of the illusion that has been so carefully created.
Multiplayer consists of two main components, spec-ops (coop) and standard multiplayer. The multiplayer feels very similar Call of Duty 4, attributed to the modes, speed, unlocks and flow. There are some cosmetic and core gameplay changes. The biggest core change is the change to kill streaks, players can choose out of a long list of killstreaks to use. Included in this are the care packages which can be called in early on a streak. A care package will be dropped in via helicopter and give you access to much better powers but it’s also susceptible to being stolen by opponents or can be a signal for crafty players to get a cheap kill. The sheer number of killstreaks that are available is also telling of the gameplay. Deathmatch modes are complete spam fests of these killstreak rewards, constant care packages, predator missiles and airborne choppers create situations where you will be killed a lot from AI controlled devices. In some maps some killstreaks are hideously overpowered, like the choppers in open maps.
Is it the red or the blue wire?
Deathmatch modes are unlocked to start with and serve to get the players into the action before they hit level 20 when all modes are unlocked. Domination matches turn down number of rewards being called in; here they are more enjoyable rewards where you can mostly focus on player versus player combat. Then there are modes like Search and Destroy in which the gameplay speed drops significantly, you’ll be going through levels slowly, crouched on the lookout for enemies probably with silencer attachments. There is a broad range of modes that cater to different game speeds, my preference was middle of the road where the game was still fast but killstreak rewards weren’t just being constantly called in.
There are cosmetic changes, far more challenges and title / emblem icons that again are unlocked through gameplay. These emblems are basically like an avatar of sorts that is displayed during the game when you die or spectate for example. Having all these weapon unlocks is quite good for progress but it seems to have put an even greater disparity between new players and long term gamers. Those with some of the better unlocks have a much better chance to win during combat. An example would be the bling perk letting you equip the still overpowered grenade launcher with another valuable attachment. The improvements don’t stop there, to keep you playing the weapons and attachments continually get better making some of the earlier player levels trivial.
You broke my nose
Spec-ops are a series of cooperative missions with various objectives that include familiar maps from both MW2 and even COD 4. There is a gunship mission where your partner mounts the AC130 and reigns fire from above to cover you as you move through a short level. This was pretty fun but could have been greatly improved with some more objectives. There are assault missions to eliminate enemies in an area and there is even a modified sniper mission from COD 4 where you put on some ghillie suits and go for a crawl through the grass. Some of the challenges could have been completely thrown away because they didn’t offer any real replayability and are short or fairly ordinary. There are a few good missions, and on harder difficulties it can be quite good to go through them even multiple times. It’s also good to see some randomness to these missions so on replay they don’t become trivial. One mission featured a juggernaut enemy that appeared twice, however the time of his appearance changed on replay, introducing an uncertainty preventing too much rushing.
On the PC side of things the multiplayer is left wanting in comparison to its predecessor. The shift to peer 2 peer hosting provides an inconsistent battlefield where you will have a bad hosts or spots of bad lag during otherwise lag free matches. That’s not to say it’s a horrible experience, more often than not the games go smoothly and pings are reasonable. This is mostly due to the impressive netcode that compensates well for lag.
Pings are now bars, hosts are obvious but connections can be good
However quickly revisiting COD 4 again will demonstrate the power the old game has over the new one. One example would be how you must wait possibly 30 seconds while the server migrates hosts after the host rage quits. Parts of the multiplayer have been removed and it no longer supports server mods. Missing is team auto-balance, and you can’t even switch teams should players leave, unforgiveable in any PC multiplayer game. You can’t vote for a map or mode change, there is also no text chat in the lobbies as opposed to the score card with text chat in COD 4.
There is no way to vote kick players and the game customisation is completely up to the host. There are some tweaks like no perks but you are at the mercy of the matchmaking because there are no filters aside from choosing a mode. The game seems to be designed around playing with groups of friends but many people on PC might rather hop into a random server. As quick as the “Find Game” button might be, it’s not really much of an improvement over a good server list with favourites, just less clicking. The implementation creates a game that Infinity Ward wanted everybody to play, which greatly limits potential tweaks.
No filters, no server lists, just find me a game... soon please
Spec-ops mode doesn’t have text or voice chat so you are left to use Steam or other services. The lower player counts in multiplayer games had no negative impact, the modes, speed and maps are designed around this 6 vs 6 gameplay. I preferred lower player counts in COD 4 anyway as it made the game more focused. More players and it would become a spam fest with the standard sized maps. Even though I rarely use lean in games, a few times I tried to use lean only to be further disappointed. As good as the multiplayer can be on PC, basically identical to the console versions. It simply lacks options and is too inconsistent to be completely enjoyable. Even though the current player counts are quite high it is still a shadow of its predecessors.