GC 09: Modern Warfare II

IW played through an entire mission in the game's Special Ops mode, a new mode that throws you into small, bite-sized missions where all hell breaks loose for a few minutes - enough time to make you sweat out without the hassle of story getting in the way.

Our IW guide compared it to the Mile High Club mission at the end of Modern Warfare, which was a short mission unlocked at the end of the game that challenged you to storm through a terrorist-filled plane and rescue a hostage. It was go-mental-and-headbutt-the-TV tough, but short and simple in theory. That's what Special Ops mode is based on.

The final number of missions is yet to be confirmed, but IW says that the Special Ops mode is equal to the single-player and competitive multiplayer modes in size and depth. "It's had the same amount of blood, sweat and tears poured into it," they said. We promise not to mention sweat anymore.

As you'd hope and expect these mini-missions can be played in either single-player, two-player split screen or two-player online co-op. Every mission has been designed with co-op gameplay in mind.

The mission we were shown next was called 'Breach & Clear'. You start in a small corridor with a yellow glowing marker on the wall to your right, where you're to place a bomb. The timer doesn't start until the explosive is detonated, so you have time to gather some weapons for the bat-shit-crazy shoot out that's about to take place.

Plant the explosive and the blast rips through the brick wall, dust and debris flying everywhere. No doubt to show off the carnage a little more, IW immediately activates a temporary bullet-time mode, slowing down flying debris and, more importantly, the gunfire as the player bursts through the new entrance, all guns blazing. You're met with resistance from several enemy soldiers in the derelict, run-down building - some on the same level as you, others on balconies to the upper left and right.

At this point our eyes are wide open. We're smiling. The IW rep leans over to turn up the giant volume wheel on the seriously powerful sound system Activision has set up in the tiny box room. He's turning that bastard right UP and we're loving it. 10/10 for 'sound', we'll tell you that now.

The action is absolutely chaotic, bullets ripping into the scenery, shouting and gunfire everywhere, and the red laser sights of the enemy weapons flash around, which isn't just a pretty effect, it gives you clues to their position.

It's all kicking off but there's not even a hint of a dip in the game's absolutely silky-smooth frame rate. It's totally lush - like you'd expect from this year's biggest (and most expensive) game.

The objective marker is 60 metres and two enemy-filled rooms from the insurgence point. We watch as IW gets its ass handed back in 20 seconds. When you're shot in MW2 you really feel it - the violent shaking of your view is accompanied by thick red splatters of blood on the screen, making it harder to see. You squint just watching it.

Second time lucky, the rep blasted through the mission, using walls on either side of the rooms as cover from the onslaught. The mission ends when you drop through a hole in the floor at the far end of the stage. Short and sweet.

IW explained to us that finishing the missions on different difficulty levels earns you a different number of stars; one for easy, two for medium etc. These stars are accumulated in your profile, not just for showing off but also for unlocking other features in the game. We're seriously liking the no-messing premise of Spec-Ops mode. No need for a story - you just kill. And in two-player. And online. And it's awesome.