With a single-player campaign mode that continues on from the adrenaline rush that was Call of Duty 4, this game carries over the style and format that made the 2007 game a great experience. The narrative is told from the first-person viewpoints of various characters and, while there is a grand tale being spun on a global stage, the only things you need to remember are to keep heading for the current checkpoint and stay alive. On the subject of the campaign, at the start of a new game you are given the option to turn off some content that may be objectionable. The section in question is short and over pretty quickly. As an integral part of telling the story, the jury is still out. But as a moral choice it has made many gamers stop and think. The momentum is maintained with some well-constructed set pieces, vehicle sections, cut scenes and inevitable plot twists.
Overall, the campaign has some terrific moments, although to be honest there is also a fair share of the average. Presentation is faultless, but amid the noise and chaos of battle scenes I find on-rails vehicle sections hard to swallow. Standing out in the single player game were the ‘breach and clear’ sections, assaulting a room in slow motion to rescue hostages. One large applaud goes to Infinity Ward on the way the company handles the end of levels, overwhelming odds or a bad guy that still goes down with a couple of shots – so much better than grinding away at some behemoth bullet sponge.
An additional and brand new mode is the Special Ops game, set up as short challenges and offering a variety of gameplay across different scenarios from the campaign: time and score challenges, stealth challenges and even the now obligatory ‘Horde’ style mode that Gears of War 2 introduced. Special Ops can be played online or offline with a friend and can be a refreshing change from the mayhem of the single player or the dangerously addictive multiplayer.
Call of Duty 4 was a revelation in terms of online gaming and still stands head and shoulders above many other games of its type. For many this aspect of Modern Warfare 2 is the meat in the sandwich. In 2007 the engine was great to look at, the gameplay was fast and smooth, the unlockable perks a stroke of genius. And right now it all just got better.
Perks have been tweaked, and once you unlock them you can play the game the way you want to. They still have that great ‘rock, paper, scissors’ feeling, and the tweaks have generally been for the better, although at least one of my favourite perks is now absent. In addition to the perk system you can now pick and choose your preference in Killstreak rewards, from the usual UAV (which gives away enemy locations) all the way up to a game-ending strike from a tactical nuke. On top of the Killstreaks there is also the Deathstreak, a choice of bonus effect for consecutive deaths. For a new player the ability to copy the set-up of their killer is a godsend.
The maps are, on the whole, pretty good; a nice mix of size and environment and it would be nice to think there may be some reimagining of the original maps on the way. The net code has been improved and even without the much-discussed local-search option, getting a decent game isn’t hard. The playlists are well populated with some new game modes making an appearance, such as ‘capture the flag’. Dual wielding of weapons has also been added, but sometimes less is more, as it feels quite out of place in the COD universe.
Overall a short, but entertaining single-player campaign peppered with some jaw-dropping moments, coupled with what is probably the best online multiplayer game available today.