Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

  • Three excellent game modes
  • Messes with FPS conventions to great effect
  • Literally years of entertainment guaranteed
  • Signposting can be confusing
  • Your team can be frustatingly stupid
  • No 'look round a corner' move

Five minutes in and I find myself in a scenario unusual for Modern Warfare - no-one is shooting at me.

Having been parachuted into the middle of a warzone in the badlands of Afghanistan, an airstrike has just levelled part of the suburb meters in front of our position. It was close. So close it almost killed our team. As we progress through the deserted streets debris and glowing ash fleck the hot air and it's deadly silent. Too silent. That kind of silence when you know something louder than God is brewing. The tension builds.

Watch the first part of this tense sequence for yourself below

Then it happens, just like I can only imagine it happens for real in the disorienting chaos of urban combat. The crack of sniper fire comes from nowhere. Should we fire? Then an RPG soars out of a building and slams into the ground just in front of our vehicle. The rest is inevitable.

The game sits me (or rather Joseph Allen) at a gun turret on the roof of an armoured vehicle and I fire at anything that moves. This isn't precise marksmanship - I'm just shooting blindly into the space in front of me. Am I hitting things? Probably - there’s blood everywhere. Are they enemies? Not sure. Do I care? No, because I've just got to get out of this Afghan slum alive, whatever the consequences. Strangely, I find myself smiling.

It's worth dropping in a film reference here as it helps to explain that strange, inexplicable enjoyment that can be had from being involved in a near-death situation. It's the opening quote from The Hurt Locker, a recent US film about a bomb disposal team in the Iraq war; "War is a drug".

I'm frequently reminded of this during the course of the game - also because the film revolves around a series of highly suspenseful missions interspersed by staggering set-pieces. Which is kind of Modern Warfare's bag. That's not to say this sequel is as close to reality as The Hurt Locker. Far from it - it's pure fantasy.

Above: A later mission at a boneyard airfield where it goes *insane*

Modern Warfare 2's 'story' is just one of a trilogy of game options alongside Spec Ops and Multiplayer (more later). Compared to the original, it's even more far-fetched to the point of being downright preposterous. Not just in the sense that it deals with an apocalyptic vision of the US mainland under siege but also in the twists and turns that afflict the fate of its cast.

The reasoning for this may be to deal with decreasing attention-spans of today's gamers, but also because it gives Infinity Ward free reign to explore a whole host of locations, environments and combat styles. Whatever, it's never boring - but occasionally confusing.

Above: Fighting in middle-class American suburbs. As you do

If I'm totally honest, I can't remember some of the key plot points due to their contrived nature - and I completed the game just two days prior to writing the review. The central premise is simple enough though: Russia has invaded America and you schizophrenically flit through a series of characters in the elite ‘141’ special forces as Gary ‘Roach’ Sanderson and the US Rangers, in an effort to end the war and get to the bottom of why it happened. And of course, it's personal.

Fundamentally, the game controls identically to the original, which can only be seen as a good thing - except in one area (which I'll come back to) and weapons are as weighty and powerful as ever. The emphasis shifts between all-out dogged infantry warfare (as the US Rangers) and more covert special-ops infiltration and wet work (as 141).

Visually, the improvements are kind of minimal, most noticeably an increased level of destructibility to the environments. In most cases this means objects in your line of fire are blown to bits, but also that you can shoot the caged chickens in South American market place.

Above: In key areas smoke shields can be penetrated with a new thermal-imaging scope

In addition, more things obscure your vision - like a revamped visor blood splatter indicating you've taken a hit and impressive swirling smoke, mist and snow effects requiring you to switch to the new thermal imaging scope or night vision goggles. We might be doing IW a disservice here, but in fairness you’re so focused down the middle of your sights for 85% of the game, only a bystander would spot some of the more understated visual polish.

More over the page 

More Info

Release date: Nov 10 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
Nov 10 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Infinity Ward
Franchise: Call of Duty
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Language
PEGI Rating:

I hate the 267.

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  • kooloff - October 1, 2010 6:28 p.m.

    cod is 4 noobs, get reach
  • Jadernader - July 30, 2010 7:58 p.m.

    gaem does NOT deserve a 10... in no way has it improved on CoD4
  • Z3r0T - July 14, 2010 10:48 p.m.

    To all you die-hard Halo hating CoD fans, who seem to blindly flame the Halo series for the sole reason of "it's not CoD, therefor it sucks," get a life. For one, it's purely your opinion, nothing more, therefor whatever negative things you have to say about Halo, millions of people would say the opposite, or something in between. Just because you think it sucks, doesn't mean it's true, and in fact it isn't. The fact that millions of people around the world greatly enjoyed all the Halo games, means that it's got something, anything, that the people liked. Just because one lousy snob thinks it's got no potential, doesn't mean it's a bad game. Personally, the storyline behind Halo is my all time favorite, ever, seriously, more than anything (the books help a lot to understand it, plus, they're also amazing). However, despite the addicting gameplay (and as many times, more than I can count, that I have played through each of the campaigns), I haven't made up my mind if it's my favorite for the gameplay aspect of it. The gameplay is amazing, although there are so many more games out there (Gears of War, CoD, Borderlands, FEAR, Army of Two, etc.) that bring some solid competition to the board. I have enjoyed every single CoD game to date, and since getting XBL, have been absolutely addicted to MW2's online multiplayer, as many times as noobs online have pissed me off to the point I broke things. The difference between CoD and Halo campaigns (to me, at least) was the difference between pure adrenaline rush scenarios throughout the campaign in CoD, and shock and awe, as well as some adrenaline pumping scenes occasionally, in the Halo campaigns. So I simply cannot choose between them, as far as campaign gameplay goes. And don't forget all the things Halo brought to the gaming world: playing with the same people for more than one game, t-bagging to a perfection, etc. So to all you Halo haters, I'll say again, get a life.
  • Codakk - June 27, 2010 6:12 p.m.

    Its awesome, though I wish that you could do splitscreen online.
  • pakk99 - May 31, 2010 2:11 p.m.

    This game is far from a 10. It shows an enormous amount of potential: great weapons selection; decent firing mechanics, top-notch rendering engine. Unfortunately, it never reaches the level of greatness it should have. For one, it's too easy. Even at the Veteran setting, the single-player game can be finished in a single sitting. Second, it's too linear. In a game that could have easily supported story-branching, Infinity Ward took the path of least resistance, and created a game wherein the player has no effect whatsoever on the progression of the story. The player's actions mean absolutely nothing, which is unfortunate because some scenes (like the one in the airport) practically beg for the player's choices to effect the story. Sadly, they don't. After your first play-through, there is absolutely no reason to play MW2 again. Third, the game never lets the player decide how to approach a given level. Not only does MW2 prevent the player from effecting the story, but the game is constantly telling the player exactly what to do all of the time. And don't try to ignore the irritating voice screaming in your ear, because until you do what it is telling you to do, the game won't progress ... at all. From tactical decisions to choosing the side of the street to walk on, MW2 makes all of the decisions. The player is just along for the ride. Finally, the biggest problem with MW2 is that it offers very little that is different from MW, or for that matter, the original CoD. If you'd like a little comparison, download the original CoD on Live and play it through. The two games are virtually identical. You perform the same tasks, and follow the same orders. The game progresses at the same pace, and demands the same twitch-shooter gameplay. It just plain lacks originality, which for some folks isn't an issue. For me, I don't like the feeling that I've already played a game. I prefer the experience to be fresh. That said, MW2 is a fun game. Its just not the game-changing 10 that some reviewers make it out to be.
  • jaredmaracano - April 12, 2010 5:19 p.m.

    good *****
  • nickbak - March 30, 2010 5:34 p.m., Free microsoft points
  • BishopofHippo93 - March 30, 2010 2:37 a.m.

    At first, I agreed wholeheartedly with GR's review of MW2. But looking at it in a different light, I find myself getting really angry with the game more often than not, which is not an aspect I generally view as good in a game. Now, if you like a good shooter where the playing field is either even or ridiculously unbalanced, where a newcomer will either do well or fail miserably, I say get the game. However, I have been playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 since its release, and I find it to be a much more enjoyable gaming experience. The vehicles make the massive maps more accessible and, frankly, more fun. Granted, if you like leveling up fast, that doesn't happen. The wide range of firearms and gadgets make the game more varied and keep things interesting. While it lacks more traditional game modes like Team Deathmatch, it makes up for it with fun and unique game types, particularly Rush. It is much more centered on squad gameplay which is both a blessing and a curse, as you are incapable of speaking with the other members of your team, but teamwork is rewarded with more experience. Not to mention the moments where you say "Holy crap did you see that?!"
  • marcoallegretti - February 19, 2010 11:55 p.m.

    MAG is way better. Get a ps3...
  • Adamister10 - January 2, 2010 12:14 a.m.

    Great campaign kind of short but really good.
  • moaidhog - December 26, 2009 11:06 p.m.

    wow i bought . i loved that no russians level it was amazing and the snowmobiles , quite a thrill i must admit
  • twingun - December 21, 2009 1:44 a.m.

    Great game but there servers suck its a pain to find games and then half of them lag
  • CD73 - December 2, 2009 2:15 a.m.

    Activision is going to make a lot off of this game. This game is great and it is a sequel to beat any other. Thinks for the review.
  • noobeater - November 27, 2009 11:13 p.m.

    lol anyone who said its not worth theprice tag after playing for a week and i got limited adition, i wouldnt flinch to play 100 pounds it was so great, campaign was epic in the action and twist, multiplayer maps and weapons make it more battle like and not small and empty, eg 2 harriers and a chopper and an ac 130 at the same time, and spec ops amazing even tho it keeps me from my last acheivement
  • cigero - November 18, 2009 1:27 a.m.

    I really think this game is a bit over rated. I mean, really everyone on xbl ar a buncha 10 year old jackass', it lacks creativity and I think the multiplayer sucks (compared to the battlefield series multiplayer in which I so highly indulge) and if u pay close attention, u can tell these games copy a shitload from other games/movies (EX- saving private ryan, black hawk down) I don't care what u ppl think.... mw2 sux ass
  • XBLsponge - November 17, 2009 7:36 p.m.

    Cod modern wafare is the worst game evr, your all noobs.halo kicks it's ass. yeah im just joking im getting the game today at last and can't wait for it, left 4 dead 2 two days later is like a cherry on top off is like a sweet, sweet, heroine injected cup-cake.mmmmm... heroine cup cakes, modern warefare and L4D2 *slowly drowns in own drool
  • farewellandgoodnight - November 15, 2009 11:06 p.m.

    Online multiplayer is fantastic but the ingle player campaign is an insult to paying customers. For those without access to online play £55 for five hours play is shocking!
  • HeavyTank - November 15, 2009 11:24 a.m.

    Well, if IW deserves any credit for this game, it is because FINALLY they stopped being afraid and put some missions involving you playing as a terrorist...and let the conservative Americans whine all they want.
  • Spybreak8 - November 15, 2009 11:05 a.m.

    @theschwartzb "At times, it seems like the guys im fighting know exactly where I am, and know exactly where and when to shoot as I come out of cover, which can be a bit frustrating, but honestly, frustration is a sign of a challenging game, and its not so frustrating that I feel like putting the game away." I feel this too and the problem is every COD game I've played has been like this. I though it was just the damn nazis and their god like ability to know where to shoot at me every freakin' time! I think I'm spoiled from GRAW and taking out enemies behind cover.
  • Spybreak8 - November 15, 2009 11 a.m.

    Wow, glad I finished the story before reading this review. At first I was a little weirded out with the airport level but then I went on a killing spree in the bookstore. Take that overpriced airport products!