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GamesRadar Editor's Choice

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review

Modern Warfare makes a heroic return. Read our definitive review

In many reviews the multiplayer section is simply tacked on the end as mere afterthought. There’s a few reasons for this, rarely explained: first, often if you’re reviewing a game early the online servers aren’t switched on so you can’t play it, so it affords little comment. Secondly, when a game’s online mode simply isn’t very good, there isn’t much you can say about it.

Modern Warfare 2 bucks the trend. This is a ‘mode’ which could be sold as a standalone package (don’t get any ideas Activision, I’m talking theoretically here) when you consider the time you’ll end up playing it. If we had to sell it to you we’d just say it’s like the last one, but 10 times bigger (Prestige arrives at 70 now) and with a multitude of new tactics, new equipment, new maps and killstreaks to master.

We’re not leaving it until the end of the review for any other reason apart from the fact we’ve already covered it in depth in our multiplayer preview feature. There’s not much more to add in terms of content aside from the fact we played a series of maps and modes that were unavailable in the earlier demos.

And yes, we’ve played it for nearly a day against a bunch of real people and guys that work for Infinity Ward. Surprisingly, the latter made a habit of spanking us. That’s MW2 Kittysprkls I’m talking about.

In the spirit of GR lists here are five amazing new things about MW2 multiplayer...

Care Drops

Above: That's a care drop package in the top half of the split-screen

These might only be a low level killstreak but in the course of play they can be game changing. After a 4 kill streak you can throw a flare anywhere on the map and a supply plane will drop a crate nearby. Once it’s on the map anyone can retrieve it, and the box will contain either an ammo refill, a UAV, a Mounted Turret gun, an Airstrike, Predator missile or the AC-130. The great thing is, early on, loads of people playing multiplayer won’t know what to do with them, so strike while the enemy is ignorant.

Destruction (on Estate)

Above: Defending your Estate (Not in Destruction mode here though)

This is the ideal map for Destruction - the one where you have to either defend or destroy two objectives from the other team. The Estate map is a hunting lodge on top of a hill surrounded by forest, and in Destruction one of the objectives is placed just inside the door.

The team effort is based around thinking up cunning plans to divert your opponents inside the house, who just lie in wait for someone to stick their snout round the corner. Riot Shields might come in handy here.

The Airport map

If you’re a fan of clean, open plan maps with the potential for high levels of kills and not many places to hide, you’ll love Airport. It’s just the right size to ensure you constantly find people to aim at and has a great choke point in the cabin of a parked-up 747.

The AC-130 killstreak

Above: Taking out the enemy from above

Although far from the ultimate Killstreak (that’s reserved for the mystery Tactical Nuke for a 25 killstreak) this is the one that you’ll get pulverised by the most. Take to the skies in a gunship with three weights of heavy weapon and just hammer away at the fire button as your kill counter ticks over. Properly annoying if someone gets one of these from a flukey Care Drop steal - amazing if you were the one that stole it.

It still rocks

Importantly, the framework of MW’s multiplayer is intact. The lobbies, menus and functionality are all the same and the new host migration means angry babies can’t quit out of games half-way through and ruin it for everyone else. It would be foolish to try and predict what the Modern Warfare community will think of multiplayer this early on - we’ve not tested it ‘in the field’ so to speak and even in our eight hours with it we didn’t see all the new maps and only encountered a limited selection of game types.

What we can be sure of is Infinity Ward has done their absolute utmost to ensure multiplayer is as good as an experience as before - only with a totally revitalised and refreshed tool set. It’s a safe bet it will be even bigger than the last one.

Overall verdict

Much controversy surrounded the pricing of MW2 in the lead up to its release - it’s currently $59.99/£43.99 on Amazon for the standard edition. While I’m not in favour of higher game prices MW2 justifies a slightly inflated price tag. This is a game that has been honed to near-perfection in all areas and designed with the assistance of the most demanding critics - the fans.

Anyone who already has issues with the single-player ‘style’ of IW’s games will still find fault with the scripted, linear experience, but in terms of sheer drama and show-stopping set-pieces accompanied by laser sharp FPS controls, Modern Warfare 2 is your daddy. And that’s without Spec Ops and Multiplayer. Modern Warfare 3 will need revolution to better it, but for now this is this year’s essential shooter purchase. You just can’t go wrong.

Is it better than...

Yes. In almost every way - which is exactly how Infinity Ward wanted it. We don’t expect the Modern Warfare online servers to suddenly turn into a ghost town this week, and many hardcore faithful may still be there in months to come, but as a package MW2 offers so much more. To try and argue differently would make you look like a massive clown.

Yes. Halo 3: ODST is a solidly constructed FPS and builds on a ludicrously successful franchise with a huge community following. Where CoD kicks its ass is the difference in execution of these ‘sequels’. With the exact same development cycle Bungie put out single-player campaign which is little more than an expansion and a solitary new multiplayer mode. Compare and contrast.

Yes. As with Halo 3 ODST, Killzone 2 was technically adept and offered PS3 owners a first-class FPS they could call their own. However, you could argue it was a) boring and b) about space marines and c) it could never challenge MW in terms of multiplayer - even among core PS3 users.

Just for you, Metacritic

Let’s keep it good and simple: Modern Warfare 2 is this year’s must-buy first-person shooter.

More info

DescriptionLet’s keep it good and simple: Modern Warfare 2 is this year’s must-buy first-person shooter.
Franchise nameCall of Duty
UK franchise nameCall Of Duty
Platform"Xbox 360","PS3","PC"
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"18+","18+","18+"
Alternative names"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
I hate the 267.