Unreal Game Review: Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2


Well it’s been a little over 48 hours since I picked up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, in which time I’ve beaten the entire campaign mode, sprinted through 80% of the special ops missions and leveled up in multiplayer to a level 20 Sergeant First Class something or other. Needless to say, this isn’t a game I’ll be doing a series of journal reviews for, and I’m opting for one rather long review instead.

I’m not ready to say that Modern Warfare 2 blew me way to a much greater degree than the original, but it’s without a doubt on par. They took everything that was good and revolutionary about the first game, kept it, and added more features without the game feeling overloaded. I’ll talk briefly about the three major sections of the game, but be forewarned, there will be some spoilers in the campaign section. Starting now.

Without a doubt, Call of Duty is now home to perhaps the best single player campaign modes I’ve ever seen in a video game. The original Modern Warfare set the bar for immersiveness in both combat and story, and this sequel more than lived up to that promise.

Quite simply, it feels real.


Think Fallout times infinity.

It’s not very often that I can literally feel my heart pounding out of my chest when playing a video game. But as I surface from an underground bunker on the White House lawn, staring at the black and red sky lit up by gunfire, swarmed by the bullets of Russian invaders who have take up defensive positions inside our nation’s most treasured of buildings, Modern Warfare 2 becomes something between a movie, a game and reality. I’m not sure quite what to call it, but the only word I can really use to describe the feeling is breathtaking.

Now, that DC setting is a scene I was awestruck by for its graphical beauty and maelstrom environment, but another part of the game had me floored for a different reason entirely.

Before you begin MWF2, there’s a disclaimer that says something along the lines of “One mission in this game many people may find extremely offensive and disturbing, would you like to skip it.” I was a bit taken aback, as I’d never seen something like that in a game before, but of course I said no.

A few hours later, I was told I was going to be infiltrating a terrorist cell lead by a Russian named Makarov, and after a few seconds of blackout, with gear shuffling and ammo clicking, the doors to an elevator opened, and Makarov instructed me to follow his lead.

We walked outside all wearing bulletproof vests and holding automatic machine guns, and I saw before me a very crowded airport security line with a bunch of people gasping as they saw us. Before I even had time to put two and two together about what was going on, Makarov and the men surrounding me opened fire, laying waste to thirty odd innocent civilians right in front me.

My jaw was on the floor.

But wait, there’s more. After the initial massacre, the game makes you walk at a snail’s pace through the airport, as Makarov and his men gun down fleeing civilians left and right. Security officers heroically reach for their guns only to be mowed down by vastly superior firepower. Injured civs try to crawl to safety, only to be shot in the back.


My. God.

My entire first time through this mission, I couldn’t even bring myself to shoot any of the civilians myself, which the game most definitely lets you do. I was just sitting there with my mouth open, thinking out loud, “I’m playing the Mumbai Massacre.” It’s perhaps the most shocked I have ever been while playing a game, and this level, for better or worse, will go down in history as one of the most insane moments in video game history.

But enough shock and awe, the single player mode as a whole is suitably awesome, as mission diversity and environment make it an absolute blast to play through at LEAST once (I’ve shown a half dozen of my friends that airport level, just to see their reactions). However, the plot is incredibly shaky at best, and the campaign in total only lasts a little over five hours. Compare that to a Gears of War sitting at least around 8-10 hours, and you feel like you’re a getting cheated just a little bit. I brought the game home at noon, and was watching the credits roll by six. “That’s it?” I thought.

Thankfully no, that is in fact, not it.

There are two more modes that you’ll spend the vast majority of your time in, making sure you get your money’s worth from the sixty dollar game. The first is a much needed split screen co-op fest called Special Ops. It’s a series of “Challenge” missions you can play with your friends, and they range from “kill all the enemies” to “disarm the bomb” to “cross the bridge” and though they lack any sort of plot reference, they feel like the greatest moments of the single player campaign, with the dial turned up to eleven. It’s great Infinity Ward added these, so I can actually now play this game with my friends in person, rather than sending them home to their own Xbox so we can play online.


If even I can win a game, I have to give credit to the learning curve.

Lastly, online play is the real reason for the price of admission, as nearly everyone bought the game mainly for this reason. I’ve been a Halo 3 man for years now, and I’ve only logged about 50 hours or so into Modern Warfare multiplayer over the past few years, but even I can see that things are much better now. The guns are more diverse (I’m not convinced the starting assault rifle is the greatest gun ever now), the perks are better (martyrdom has thankfully been relegated to a once-a-game type occurrence) and customizable kill streak rewards are a welcome bit of fun to mix and match.

I’m not going to complain too much about what I think the problems with COD multiplayer in general are, but I will say that it always seems like at least 60% of the time when I die, there’s just nothing I can do about it. I’m simply shot in the back by someone I couldn’t see who happened to run in the right direction or spawn in the right place. And with practically one shot kills, you die A LOT. That being said however, I don’t really feel like I’m left in the dust because I’m not used to the game play, It’s easy to jump into (I’ve even won a few free for alls), and the rewards for leveling up make you want to keep playing indefinitely. I don’t quite understand all the different classes (Why would anyone want to use shotguns? Why is there only like one level where sniping is worthwhile?), but I’m having fun nonetheless.

I’m not ready just yet to call Modern Warfare 2 the game of the year, as I still have a few more titles to play, but it certainly is the front runner at the moment. It’s not flawless, as no game is, but between a truly epic campaign and an insanely addictive multiplayer mode, I believe it’s as damn near close to perfect as an FPS can ever get.

5 out of 5 stars


How come the other NPCs get cool names like “Ghost” when I’m always people named “Soap” and “Roach”?

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  1. That terrorism level has been getting a ton of hype, and I guess I can see why. Pretty shocking. It’s just unfortunate because I’m pretty sure at some point, someone is going to blame MW2 for some non-sensical real-life violence.

  2. Just a couple comments:
    — I use shotguns (and silenced machine pistols) when indoors, in tight corridors. Shotgun trumps any assault rifle if you come around the corner and find yourself inches apart for an enemy. Especially the semi-auto shotties. It’s also a nice backup for my sniper class, in case someone gets too close to me.
    — I agree with you about the dying helplessly. I love the killcam feature but am dumbfounded by how often I’m killed by pure chance. Not in face-to-face firefights, not by some clever maneuver, amazing longrange shot, or use of a flash/stun grenade… but simply because a guy was walking along and I wandered into his sights, while looking the exact wrong direction. Especially in free-for-all deathmatches.

  3. I don’t think the airport terrorism level was that unlike things we’ve seen before. In GTA4, I routinely drive down sidewalks to watch people roll over my roof and crunch under my tires. I’ve blown up entire cities of innocent people in Fallout3. Many games let you be “good” or “bad”, and it’s just as fun to go either route. You roleplay, you keep in mind that you’re playing a game. And when that airport mission started and I realized what was happening, I just kind of chuckled and let’er rip. Puttin’ bullets in the head of dozens of innocents, people who were wounded, helping others, trying to hide, or eeking out their last breaths. It’s intense, but that’s awesome. It’s not like we’re a bunch of sick freakin’ weirdos living out some deep-seeded fantasy. I wouldn’t dream of hurting an innocent person in real life. Ever. But in a video game it’s a surreal, far-out experience, and I enjoyed it. When it came to blowing up cops with riot shields, well, that’s a page straight out of GTA or Saints Row. No big deal. And then there’s a great surprise at the very end of the mission that caught me way off guard. After ruthlessly killing all those people for the greater good (maintaining my cover), it was all for nothing. Took my breath away. That mission was a very cool experience.

  4. @ Napalm Clambake

    I do the same in games where you have free reign to do whatever you want – I’m always sluaghtering the innocent. But like you said, it’s just fun and not indicative of a deep-seeded fantasy. Still, critics – most of whom have never played or even seen the game – will find some way to blame the game’s creators for the actions of some moron.

  5. I was hoping you’d give it a 5 out of 5 after reading other game reviews here. I have to agree the first time I came out of that bunker in D.C. was the first time in a game i was just like Keanu Reeves…whoa. Also, SPOILER ALERT

    bringing back Price was awesome and the whole ending and cliff hanger make the next evolution from games to game/movie had me as giddy as a school girl for the next installment.

    BTW, Lance Henrikson I think should focus on voice overs since, in my opinion, he is the go to man for an emotional and epic-gamer voice.

  6. I’m going to have to agree with Napalm on the shotgun issue. For close-quarters combat, there’s really nothing better (besides maybe the throwing knife. I just love killing people with it. It makes me feel like Steven Seagal) It took me a few seconds to realize what was going on in the airport level too, but I’m not going to lie, I killed my fair share of civilians. So far, a GREAT game. My only complaint, and I think this kind of melds with your problem, is level design. They did a really good job, making them nice and big and balanced, but I think the “combat flow” was hurt for it. In the first, they did a really good job at directing combat to different areas of each map, based on where people were spawning and where the firefights were going down. There were always a few lanes that you could take to flank an enemy position and it really felt like there was some order to the chaos. The maps in MW2 don’t seem to have the same effect, instead people just seem to run around willy-nilly, killing the first thing they see. IMO.

  7. I’m still trying to figure out if I like(love?) the game. Loved the first MW, but the glue that holds the story together for the campaign mode is really weak. Yes, mulitplayer is sweet, but the story is no where near on par. Also, I’m having a hard time accepting the updated graphics. Everything’s a bit rounder, or there are too many damn things flying around in the air! I dunno…things are a bit too colorful or the levels are a bit too…arena/game like. Haven’t cracked the spec ops yet, but overall, just not feeling it like the first one.

    And man…the airport sequence was really messed up. Couldn’t believe they brought a level like that into this franchise. Always thought COD tried to keep it a level up from most FPS, but the decision to go into this side put a hamper on many of the levels I played afterwards.

    Alas, I’m not putting the game down just yet….

  8. I think the MW2 multiplayer maps are the shiznamwhoppadoo, man. Infinity Ward is much better at putting together maps than Treyarch. I’m terrible at memorizing maps, but as I run around like the homicidal amnesiac that I am, I always feel like I’m free to go up, down, left or right, no matter where I am. There’s lots of options, no totally dominating campsites, and never a dead-end or useless area. I think people running around willy-nilly is just a result of some people being awesome shooters…they can twitch shoot someone in a split second, so they don’t need to move with much grace or caution.

  9. I was on the fence about using shotguns in multiplayer, and then I unlocked the AA-12. That shotgun plus the scavanger perk which refils your ammo when you run over people regardless of the ammo type they had means that you’ll take anyone in close quarters combat as long as you check behind you often enough.

  10. am I the only person who is not very impressed with this game. All this game does is throw shit at you. the infinite respawn in the first game’s campaign basically meant that you only need to run to the next check point. then it’s “all cleared sir”. Don’t even get me started on the tank level. i sat there shooting at random people for 10 min without any action.

    granted this installment has corrected some of the issues. but still, it’s not the second coming of jesus. i don’t know, i guess i just don’t get excited over a game that only have multiplayer value. even at that, sniper rifle and shotgun are basically useless. i 100% agree on the high death rate in the review. people are so pack orientated in this game, i can just hide somewhere and kill 5 or 6 people in a row.

  11. Zero,

    Word. If you’re the type to value single player more than multiplayer, I’m not sure MW2 is worth your 60 bucks.

    I mostly stick with the “pack mentality” in multiplayer, too, because it’s easier to spot enemies when they’re killing your teammates. My little emblem in MW2 is aptly labeled “The Avenger”.

    That being said, finding a niche and camping it for 30-60 seconds is very effective. Go prone in the shadows or some grass and you’ll undoubtedly have 2-4 enemies run past you, scoring you some easy (albeit arguably dirty) shot-in-the-back kills. I, like you, I presume, do not feel bad about these kills. Ya do what’cha gotta do.

    I’ve gotten too many kills with my backup shotguns to agree that they’re useless, but sniper rifles? I’m kind of with you on that. I’m just as confident with my FAMAS and a holo-sight at long range, and would choose that over a scoped rifle (with the wavy aim, breath holding, and recoil) any day. And while that’s mainly due to my terrible aiming skills, I can also say that only maybe 2% of the killcams I see show me getting hit by a sniper rifle. Long-range kills that get me are almost always a burst or automatic assault rifle with an ACOG scope.

    Man these comments are getting long. I’m all hyped to play but I’m stuck at work and rambling about the game is all I can do. 🙂

  12. I think the story cops a lot of slack from people. It might not be the most stable story, but it’s better than some of the well-praised books along similar lines out there. I could easily see a novelization for it, if not that popular a one. Some of the complaints leveled against the story are shaky too, such as Shepperd’s actions been difficult to understand. I actually understood that quite easily.
    Can’t wait to get it myself, but video games are expensive here in the land down under.

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