Modern Warfare 2 is fantastic, just so we’re clear. We’re tackling the game in two parts, with Harry handling the multiplayer review towards the end of this article and myself dealing with the singleplayer up front – but one thing we’ve already agreed on is that the game is pretty damned fantastic.
The singleplayer campaign is especially so, in fact and while the multiplayer side of the game is undoubtedly what’s going to see the most use, anybody who dismisses the singleplayer portion as only a training exercise for the real, online battle is missing out.
Picking up five years after the end of the previous game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 doesn’t waste any time in getting you stuck into some hardcore and relentlessly paced combat. The opening missions have you, as a US Ranger, battling militia groups while on patrol in Afghanistan and the story only gets bigger and bolder from there-on in. Before long you’re climbing up glaciers, swimming under oceans and even floating through space – Modern Warfare 2 is fast, fierce and it doesn’t mess around.
I'll go first then, 'fraidy-cat!
In fact, it's so direct and brutal at points that when you start the game it even gives you the option to opt-out of some of the more disturbing scenes and massacres in the game - something the tabloids will quickly forget if they ever get wind of those levels. Don't be worried either, skipping over these sequences doesn't damage the flow of the game all that much, though we'd recommend them to all gamers who think they can handle the experience. You'll never go anywhere if you stay in your comfort zone forever.
The story itself is mainly centred on the repercussions of your actions in the first game, with ultra-nationalist Russian Imran Zakhaev now remembered as a martyr for opposing a corrupt regime in the eyes of all enemies of the West and his followers rapidly gaining traction and attention among the people. It isn’t long before a full-on world war breaks out and a recently captured satellite that contains the defence codes for all the United States (what that is is never precisely explained) may be all that’s needed to tip the balance in the terrorist’s favour.
So far then; same old, same old and Modern Warfare 2 sounds like every other game where the fate of all that’s good and capitalist rests in your hands. What sets Modern Warfare 2 apart though is the fact that a world war actually does break out – and that it’s realised so brilliantly and cinematically.
Tag! You're It!
There are hundreds of games out there which claim to be cinematic, true, but this is one of the first that manages to actually play out with the same choreographed and fast-paced feel of a Ridley Scott or Michael Bay film – and we mean that in a good way. The game isn’t even afraid to deal with the darker sides of war, with players given the option to engage in all sorts of questionable tactics when playing as some characters.
This time the viewpoint doesn’t just jump you around into the roles of various indenti-kit soldiers on the front line either; you get a chance to play as undercover operatives for the CIA and members of a special taskforce that operates apart from global jurisdiction, among others. This shifting between perspectives is a technique that’s been difficult to use in the past, but Infinity Ward have finally nailed the pacing of it and, by equally varying the objectives and gameplay, Modern Warfare 2 feels like a brilliantly pitched masterpiece.