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Out of nowhere, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, managed to capture the heart and mind of almost everyone, and quite rightly so.Call of Duty has always been about gun fighting that is as simple as possible. After all that was pretty much how the Quake engine worked. Call of Duty 4 was a wonderful example of how a game should be, entertaining, fun, challenging, and most of all not stupid. A stance Infinity Ward has maintained since its inception.
So COD4’s sequel Modern Warfare 2 should follow pretty much the same formula. Simplicity and something fresh. Right? No.

Modern Warfare 2 seems to have been built from the ground up (i.e. from scratch), and that isn’t a bad thing. But what happens when you lock up a load of American designers in a room for a year and see what they come out with, the result is it will either be wonderfully innovate, or utter shit. This seems to be the rare case where this game can fit into either neither category or both.

Modern Warfare 2’s gameplay is split into three modes: a single player campaign, a co-operative set of missions, and Call of Duty’s aces – multiplayer. But I’ll tackle one at a time.

The single player story follows on from Call of Duty 4. Modern Warfare 2 takes place Five years after the previous game. Despite having won the war by killing Zakhaev at the end of the previous game, the Ultranationalists have gained control of Russia; rendering playing through Call of Duty 4 pointless and worthless, then again, that is the point of videogames. Like each Call of Duty game it starts with some training and an obstacle course. And then after that, jumps straight into the actual campaign, almost like every other game now. But the controls are still intuitive, simple, straightforward and unchanged, despite the – count them – hundreds of additions made to the game. So if you have experience with any of the other Call of Duty games, (now half the world) then you don’t have spend hours wondering how to shoot the damn gun in the first place. The campaign (at least for me) is short and unchallenging, which is money well wasted. It seems that the designers first wrote a storyline, and then decided to build the gameplay around it – and both ended up shoddy. Call of Duty is not really known for its enticing stories, save COD4, but then that was the point it was always about extremely difficult gameplay. Either the COD games are getting easier or I’m getting better, and it can’t be the latter – trust me.

The story isn’t great; it feels like another war/action film. A lot of bloodshed – check, unnecessary weapons – check, gunfire in the middle of public – check, heroes managing to escape at the very last second – check, Russian/Asian/Brazilian people trying to kill you – check, murderous traitors – check. If this doesn’t sound like something you’ve seen before, then watch the Die Hard series, not even this is a worthwhile candidate to sit back for a couple of hours and watch. There is NOTHING new story-wise and just wasn’t as enticing or cool as Call of Duty 4 was. Short, sweet and simple? More like short, flashy and unoriginal.

That said it not like the actual single-player campaign isn’t it enjoyable. It is…to a certain extent. The single-player feels more like an add-on for Modern Warfare (1), playing pretty much the same, except a new HUD, new objectives, new weapons and different maps/levels. It’s a shame; they have actually made it visually stunning, and tried to make it different, but STILL turns out the same, so visually artistic just seems to show style over substance.

The second “mode”, multiplayer is pretty much everyone, with an internet connection, buys the game for. Instead of making this from the ground up, is what every other videogame designers do with their sequels. Add more shit into it. Yes it feels fresh and new, it always has, and it always will be. Infinity Ward has never made a Call of Duty game “OK this is what we can do”. Which was pretty much nothing and never will be, because that is what Call of Duty had at heart – simplicity. Hide, shoot, and kill, and if there was an objective run for your life and victory. It was a game that required skill and reaction speed – beauty at its finest. Then COD4 came around and managed to screw all that up by adding more! No it didn’t! It basically added bits of Counter-Strike and Battlefield 2 so it was not completely original. However it still kept that shining core of simplicity and simply added more uniqueness to the game. This made it FUN! Infinity Ward seems to have gone overboard with this customization, sure they want to distance themselves from Treyarch, but it just shows that constantly adding stuff, whatever it may be, will not make a game better. That’s not to say it’s not cool to add a whole load of new weapons, vehicles, gametypes. mechanics and unlockables, it’s just distracting and annoying. IW have made multiplayer in a way that it can’t NOT be annoying. With the inclusion of a Tactical Nuke. A weapon designed to be stupidly cool, and another shiny golden trinket to get. About 75% of all games now seem to revolve around them. For those of you who don’t know what it does, it works pretty much the same as a Snitch in Quidditch, or for the non-Harry-Potty fans amongst you, a golden goal in football, which ends the game pretty much immediately cause the detonator to win the game. If that wont glorify nuclear war – or known in-game as Global Thermonuclear War (a nod to the film WarGames) – then nothing will. It doesn’t completely ruin the game but ruins the style of play. Where nobody decides to take objectives because they want kills. It’s not really IW’s fault, but I know they’ve considered the behaviour of Modern Warfare players, and they could have at least removed it to make the game better. It’s become really annoying for the “skilled” or “objective” players amongst us. The addition of callsigns, which are little tags added to the player’s name which are collected from doing certain challenges, are quite cool as it shows of what each player has done, but its showy-offy, and kind of distracting. So the addition of it is unnecessary but not negative. If you’re being distracted by a little picture than playing the game then frankly you deserved to be killed. The vehicles or killstreak rewards have been overdone to the aspects that it has completely changed how Call of Duty works. In multiplayer if you rack up a certain amount of kills without dying then you get something called a killstreak reward. These are a number of different vehicles and weapons which can be used in-game to give the player an advantage in some way. This ranges wildly from the simple assistance ones such as unmanned reconnaissance plane which only need a few kills, to the tactical nuke. This isn’t a completely bad thing these can immediately change the course of gameplay if suddenly the losing team manages to call in an attack chopper, to come and annihilate the other team and make them cower. This goes to prove, if the team is at least a little bit coordinated and that one player puts in enough effort, they can still come back in the game. This is still annoying, I’m waiting for a game like Team Fortress 2, where the game favours a coordinated, uncowardly, attacking team, but unfortunately they don’t exist. However there is always some form of counter-measure. The game introduces “destroyable” air support. In which all the air support called in, with the exception of the EMP and the nuke, can be countered. Easily; almost too easily. The game has a number of secondary weapons which instead of just handguns, now include shotguns, launchers, a class change and machine pistols…talk about being spoilt for choice. Even with the masses amount of choice available to a single player, (of course after they’ve managed to unlock everything, which I still don’t agree with, keep RPGs (role-playing games) with RPGs thanks) they have still made a game with a unique set of balances. All maps and weapons have weak-points, so the idea is abusing them. That said all maps aren’t as thought out in terms of territorial advantage but very well thought it out in terms of character customization. For example the map Afghan is an exceedingly large map with a cliff, plane debris, a couple of enclosures and a sandstorm, thus giving the advantage to well equipped snipers and fast runners. The opposite is true of the map Highrise which takes place on the roof of some building which has got 3 stories of attack. While well equipped snipers and runners may do well, the advantage here goes to holders and riot control. So while the maps won’t ‘work’ on other games, at least the developers specially designed them for the game. And have done that well.

So the maps are done well, the weapons are balanced; the vehicles/killstreaks aren’t so much. There is however a slight off-balance which ends up turning into harassment. Shotguns now have silencers and an increased range; the Stopping Power perk has increased damage and has no counter, Commando is a perk which increases melee range (whereas the knife addition to COD4 increased melee accuracy. With these additions there are extraordinary simple ways to get kills and be killed. Of course, it’s all part of the game really.

Overall the multiplayer aspect isn’t great, and relies heavily on the variety of weapons rather than old-school “running and gunning”. The addition of perks and weapons and only makes harassing players easier.

Despite this negative criticism, the games shining star has to be the Spec-Ops missions. These are single or co-operative missions in which the unit must complete a specific task, such as infiltrate a base or hold of enemies. Despite the fairly short 23 missions to pursue they are split into 5 groups (aptly named Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo) each of increasing difficulty from the last. To unlock the next group of missions, the game asks you to acquire a certain amount of stars. Three stars can be acquired for each mission and are rewarded based on the difficulty of the task or how well the player(s) perform the task. The first few missions range from the simple “hold-off enemies”, then later go to the frustratingly battle through Juggernauts. Juggernauts are heavily armoured, goaltender-like, robot-human tanks, which require a great deal of skill and luck to deal with as the only weapons which can kill them are explosives and high-calibre guns. 21 of the missions can be done solo, whereas two of the missions require a friend or teammate to help, of course all the missions can be done with the help of a teammate thus making the mission much easier. If they know what they are doing. The missions, however short, are well-designed, challenging, calculated and slightly un-repetitive. And since the high scores are also score based, there is replay value in the game that makes you want to come back for more. These-spec ops missions alone are definitely worth £20.

Bottom lines: This is a game that almost everyone will enjoy, however some people will enjoy to certain extents than others.

+ Spec-ops is well designed and challenging, on its own it’s a masterpiece.
+ Graphically makes wonderful use of colours and contrast, in all three modes.
+ Huge amount of unlockables and Easter eggs increasing replay value.
+ It’s still Call of Duty…ish.
+ Casual gamer can still have a lot of fun.
– Excruciatingly short
– Campaign is easy, even on Veteran
– Multiplayer has lost its touch somewhat – it just doesn’t feel right.
– There is no way to turn off the music, which can and will be annoying in all modes.
– Well-marketed despite surprisingly low substance.
– Campaign story is poor.
– Unhelpful to new players.

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