Regardless of the various time frames depicted throughout the series, Call of Duty consolidated its reputation through two prominent elements: breathtaking campaigns and a dynamic, appealing multiplayer mode. Naturally, once the action was moved to the contemporary world via the first Modern Warfare, the tools available for virtual soldiers everywhere became more and more elaborate, but that didn’t change the recipe used by Infinity Ward.
Thus, a relatively often problem with blockbuster franchises can also be found in the present title – „the FIFA syndrome”, the tendency to launch sequels without notable innovations, meant to cash in another round of tickets for what is, basically, a remastered version of the same movie. Sure, there are people who think that things which already work shouldn’t be changed, but when you’re pushed to pay 50-60 dollars for the same product, but repackaged with a „2” on the box, I really don’t know how much you can actually appreciate costly pranks.
The single-player campaign, which lasts for about five hours, continues the saga in the military sitcom Modern Warfare. Placed five years after its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2 appeals to the same alternative multi-view to describe a rough adventure among deserters, terrorists and square-jawed Americans, ready to sacrifice an airport full of civilians as long as it’s in Russia and not the ol’ Kwan.
Aside from the moments when the script royally bites the curb in the most republican way possible, MW2 is filled with hollywood bits, as spectacular as they can get, of the same standard that the predecessor got us used to. Hans Zimmer’s music weighs heavily in this, and the Easter eggs, including, but not limited to, a Russian gulag escape referencing The Rock, will certainly snatch a smile from action movie fans. And even though it’s pretty brief, the campaign does have its share of „Woah!” moments, among which a chase through the streets and rooftops of Rio, a snowmobile chase and the U.S.’ last stand in a Burger King, against a Russian invasion that makes Red Alert 2 seem like a diplomatic exchange of cultural demonstrations.
Once you’ve gone through the „story”, all that’s left is either to access Spec Ops, the co-op mode, or the classic competitive multiplayer modes. If you go through Spec Ops, your objectives will vary from „survival”, in which you have to, err, survive successive waves of enemies and all the way to a snowmobile race, but unfortunately the maximum number of players in Spec Ops is 2, which seriously limits the options for groups of friends who want to migrate from co-op shooters (Left 4 Dead, Borderlands) to a similar experience.
The competitive side, as expected, isn’t all that different from what we’ve been used to by previous titles. CTF, Domination, FFA, Team Deathmatch and pretty much all other traditional modes slide in a neatly arranged list. I found the addition of a Team Deathmatch with random teammates (Mercenaries) a very important and interesting addition, which will be preferred by lone wolves. Basically, this mode restricts friend parties or clans, silencing everyone who’d probably scream out in terror against „stacking” (which basically means that an organized friends team will beat random pick-up groups more often than not).
Just like Modern Warfare, the multiplayer enjoys a leveling system that unlocks new weapons and abilities as you are awarded more and more experience. It was enhanced with a pretty generous achievements system, that also bring tangible rewards: every player’s tag can be decorated with a title and an emblem, unlocked once you fulfill certain objectives or skill demos. So you can be certain that a player who has „Thermonuclear War” above his name managed to get a killstreak big enough to blow up the entire map at least three times, and the quantity and variety of titles increases MW2s longevity way over basic expectancy.
I have to stuff in „grinding sessions” in this lifetime expectancy as well – weapon accessories are only unlocked once you get these done, as you have to hit certain frag milestones in order to be able to attach holographic sights, grenade launchers or silencers to the rifles you take into battle. However, this process is often included in the overarching frenzy and if you’re keen on the game you’ll have access to the entire arsenal before you get bored of each weapon.
Because the point-and-click phenomenon becomes boring at a certain point in time, regardless of how many grunts you blow away, you’ll be able to color your gameplay experience with a bit of variation through the tactical shield, the throwing knife or claymores/plastic explosives. A few matches played with the shield can seem like a breath of fresh air after tens of games in which you popped heads like melons with a top-notch gun, not to mention the John Wayne vibe akimbo antique shotguns on a desert background can offer.
Furthermore, thermonuclear bombardments, fighter jets or turrets, which you get through successions of frags uninterrupted by the inconvenience of some premature death, all have their own flavor, as long as an enemy equipped with a rocket launcher doesn’t blow up your „help” away. All of these elements, put together, ensure a very dynamic and fun experience.