Modern Warfare 2 was unleashed a week ago.  How does it fare against Modern Warfare 1 (i.e. CoD 4)?  Click through to find out.

Please note that this review is for the single player campaign only.

Russians are attacking American military targets, and have landed on American soil.  MW2 is played from the perspective of a variety of soldiers, each in a different part of the world and each in their own portion of the storyline.  As far as set pieces go, there are some fantastic levels in MW2.  Even though video of it was seen far and wide, the quick sprint down a mountain in a snowmobile is super exciting.  Prior to that segment, sneaking around a blowing blizzard while silently taking out people at an airbase is quite a rush.  However, the storyline of fighting in Northern VA/Washington DC was the highlight for me, as this setting provided the biggest scale and most intense firefights.  Racing through front and back yards trying to take out enemies with RPGs aimed at your armored escort is quite a unique experience, as is launching Stinger rounds at helicopters with the burned out husk of the Washington Monument in the background.  The cramped streets of Rio de Janeiro provide a challenging and difficult mission as well, doing what the series does best: showing you how unlikely it is you would survive in urban combat.  The other combat situations are the standard fare you would expect from a game of this type.

modern warfare 2 cod cliff

Regardless of your 1337 skills, you WILL die in MW2.  Most of the time, enemies appear in large waves of 10-20 at a time, and from all different directions.  In some levels, this number can get as high as 40-50 at a time. The sheer number of enemies and all of the little hidey-holes that they pop out of make the antiquated control scheme quite apparent.  You still cannot “stick” to cover, you can’t blindfire, and movement/shooting still feels very arcadey.  Considering you are going up against large numbers of enemy NPCs who have fairly decent accuracy, having the control equivalent of a corridor shooter like Quake 4 makes MW2 difficult for the wrong reasons.  I feel that if IW incorporated a cover mechanic and tightened up the shooting system, this would be a much better experience…MW2 still sticks to the old methods for first person shooters, and the experience suffers a bit because of it.

mw2 explosion snow

Visually, the game is great.  Smoke and particle effects look excellent, and the detail on weapons is fantastic.  Regardless of location, textures on weapons are full resolution; the gun in your hand looks exactly the same whether you are holding it, it’s sitting on the ground, or an enemy is holding it.  Most of the weapons have a solid “weight” to them when fired, and there is a distinct difference in power and accuracy for each one.  Although the sound effects are very accurate and hectic as ever (surround sound will have you ducking for cover), I personally feel that the sound from each weapon could have been made a bit “fatter”.  When I fire off a 12 gauge shotgun, it should be a rumbling concussion of sound…not a dull thump.  Also, the report from fired shots sounds very processed and unnatural.   Admittedly, this is nit-picking a bit, but considering the attention to detail elsewhere, I was a bit surprised to come across this.

Something else about MW2 confuses me greatly as well.  The first Modern Warfare was an experience for me.  Playing that game left me emotionally and physically drained…a sort of gaming shell shock.  MW2 doesn’t quite have that “experience” feel, though.  Instead, it just sorta feels like a game.  A great game, absolutely…but only a game nonetheless.  After a mission is completed, I don’t feel like I have escaped with my life, but rather finished a level.  This is an interesting thing, considering that MW2 is every bit as intense and polished as the first one yet doesn’t convey the same “oh crap” feeling as seen throughout CoD4.  It could perhaps be because of the different circumstances of when I have played them (I played through MW1 straight through during one stormy and rainy day, whereas I have played through MW2 over a couple of 2-4 hour evening sessions), but still…MW2 gives me the sensation of playing a game, rather than experiencing the terrifying prospect of being in large-scale armed combat.

cod modern warfare 2 multiplayer

The real value of this game is to be found in multiplayer (which is beyond the scope of this review), however the single-player campaign is still great.  If you aren’t planning on putting time into multiplayer, don’t bother purchasing it; a simple renting will do.  MW2 is over even sooner than the first one.  It is a must play if you are an FPS fan, and a highly recommended play even if you aren’t.  Overall great sound design (minus the nit-pick mentioned above), excellent graphics, an engaging (if not propaganda-ish) storyline, insane battlefield locations, and a decent challenge, Modern Warfare 2 should be on any gamer’s radar.