Modern Warfare 2 may have received all the hype (and a good-sized dollop of controversy), but no less than three Call of Duty games were released on November 10. While PS3 and 360 owners got their hands on the latest game, and DS owners got a rejigged handheld version, Wii owners were ‘treated’ to a port of its two-year-old predecessor instead. On the one hand this feels like a cynical attempt to wring more money out of the series, but on the other hand… well, Reflex (AKA CoD4) is still a bloody good game.
The Wii experience is roughly equivalent to playing a PC game in low resolution, with a lower framerate that occasionally dips to almost unacceptable levels. Nothing has been added – aside from the obligatory motion controls, which don’t ruin the experience but don’t enhance it that much either – but then, crucially, nothing has been taken away. It’s the same Modern Warfare underneath.
As the first Call of Duty to take place in the near future rather than the by now rather cliched World War II, CoD4’s setting still feels fresh. No longer constrained by factual events, the story skips across the globe with higher stakes and more urgency – we all know how WWII ended, but it feels like anything could happen in Modern Warfare. And it occasionally does – there are a couple of surprising twists along the way.
There’s great variety to the campaign – the story flips between Russia and the Middle East, and every mission seems to offer something new. There are a couple of gripping set pieces - our favourite being the tense sniper mission based in Pripyat, the Ukrainian city devastated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, which now lies abandoned.
Taking us around just five or six hours to complete, the campaign is definitely on the short side, but at least it never outstays its welcome.
The substantial online multiplayer from World at War, the previous Wii Call of Duty game, makes a welcome return, and apart from the setting very little has changed. It’s still solid, it’s still a rarity on Wii (although The Conduit is another option, if you fancy shooting aliens rather than terrorists) and, disappointingly, there’s still no voice chat support. Compared to similar games on other consoles, Reflex’s multiplayer is still lacking, but in the Wii’s barren online world it’s probably your best option for virtually killing each other.
In its early days the Wii struggled with first-person aiming, but the controls here, for the most part, are fine. The Wii remote helps slightly with precision aiming, but it’s not quite as spot-on as using a mouse, nor as comfortable as aiming with an analogue stick. The button placement is a bit clumsy, too – to use secondary equipment like night-vision goggles or the grenade attachment you need to hold left on the D-pad and press a direction with the Nunchuk’s analogue stick. It works, but in the heat of battle (which, being Call of Duty, is kind of all the time) it can be needlessly fiddly switching between equipment.
All of Modern Warfare is here, but with no improvements or additions this is nothing more than an often-clumsy port. Visually it’s fine, if never spectacular, but on some stages we found it hard to distinguish the enemy from the murky background. The framerate is low to begin with but occasionally dips even lower – in particular on the final part of the last level, which stuttered so frequently it was hard to finish.
In spite of this, the core of Modern Warfare is superb, and if your only option is playing it on the Wii it’s still worth it for the thrilling campaign and solid multiplayer mode. The technical issues don’t render it unplayable; they do, however, make it a much less appealing proposition than the other versions of the game. Anyone with a choice of platform would be mad to pick this up. Though if you’ve got another platform you probably bought this two years ago.
Nov 17, 2009