If you're in a committed relationship with MW2, go ahead and splurge on sumptin' nice for the lady, but if your affair has cooled off, put that $15 toward a new mistress. Three new maps and two recycled CoD 4 maps aren't going to make the game better if you aren't already in love with it, and it's not a precedent we like.
What are the maps like?
They're not bad, but they're not great, and the harsh price tag invites harsh criticism.
The best of the three new maps is Bailout, a war-torn apartment complex. It's well-designed, and different enough from the others to inspire a smile when it appears in the rotation.
Above: Bailout's intimate interiors are balanced with a wide-open sniper gauntlet outside
Salvage is a small, dull junkyard map. It's more modern decay, and more tight corridors and silly concrete tubes to hide in. It's a lot of running around and hoping you see the other guy first, an experience you already get in the more-visually-interesting Rust.
Above: Salvage's blocks of junk texture are distractingly ugly
The final new map is Storm, a rainy, industrial map that's a lot like Underpass. Again, it's well designed, but more crates and more empty warehouses don't fill us with glee. Underpass is a better map.
Above: Storm is full of visual elements we've already had enough of
The final two included maps are arguably the best maps from CoD 4, and the best maps in the Stimulus Package. Overgrown and Crash were excellent then and still are, but they're nearly identical to the originals. The memories are nice, but remember that you're paying $3 a piece for maps you've probably already played to death.
Above: Playing CTF on Overgrown did make us a little giddy
Why we're being so cynical
Our eyes sparkled when we first experienced Modern Warfare 2's new weapons, perks, and kill streaks. We saw more of what we loved in CoD 4, and drooled all over our riot shields and tactical nukes. But our high-caliber boners for the game have since gone flaccid.
Above: Doesn't do it for us anymore
We still think that Modern Warfare 2 is an excellent game - the campaign and Special Ops missions alone are flabbergasting. But the multiplayer suffered heavily from Infinity Ward's exuberance. The abundance of additions was divine at first, but after a few months we realized that the balance had shifted too much for the game to dominate like its predecessor, which we were still playing up to the release of MW2.
But it's not just that we've cooled off on MW2. The priorities of Activision and Infinity Ward are unclear. What are their ideals? Certainly not to make buggy games that piss off the PC community, or to gouge their fans, right? Right?
It doesn't make us feel better that Activision kicked out Infinity Ward's founders, and the overpriced Stimulus Package has us even more worked up because we feel like we're being treated like drug addicts who will pay anything to get our fix. Well, we just might kick the habit.
Our anticipation level for the next CoD entry has already gone from :D to a firm :|, and there are plenty of other games to distract us. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is superb, and DICE is also building Medal of Honor's multiplayer. DICE, by the way, doesn't charge for DLC maps for players who bought the game new. How about that?
Activision best figure out how to recapture the CoD mojo. We have a few suggestions: never exclude dedicated servers, create reasonably priced (or how about free?) DLC, release mod tools immediately, and, look, we'll just say it... act like Valve. They've got this "being a company and making games that people like" shit figured out... and they've been massively successful at it. Giving a bunch of copies of your game to the Navy doesn't cut it.
What you could buy instead
Here are a few arguably-better purchases you could make on XBLA for the price of the Stimulus Package. And by "arguably," we mean, "These are better, and you're wrong if you disagree."
Or you could buy five maps. Your call.
Mar 31, 2010