The Defense: Hating Modern Warfare 2

My name is Drew Regensburger, and I hated Modern Warfare 2.

Yes, I know.  It was the biggest title launch of 2009.  The game moved around 7 million units on its first day, with sources reporting 4.4 million in the States alone.

1Up’s David Ellis called it “the most ‘hardcore’ mainstream shooter ever.”  Destructoid’s Jim Sterling – usually a reliable bastion of critical extremism – called the game’s campaign “something that has to be played” (emphasis in original). 

Reviewers everywhere, from IGN to Eurogamer, from GiantBomb to Gamestop, all hailed the game as the king of the modern shooter.  Fans agreed.

This guy likes fish tacos. And Modern Warfare 2.

It seems that everyone, everywhere, agreed.  And yet, when I picked up Modern Warfare 2 months after the fact, I found myself slowly progressing through a game that I started to dislike, and ended up really just hating.

I don’t want to make myself out to be a person who has the greatest tastes in the world.  I’ll admit that I own albums by Nickelback (the greatest band in the world, as everyone knows).  I enjoy latter-day Smashing Pumpkins (their output now is so much better than anything on Siamese Dream), and I’m catching up on 24, though some of the acting makes me want to run away, and fast.

The greatest band ever? Damn straight.

These are not things a person of discerning taste enjoys.

So if I’ll take the mediocre in my other entertainment, why doesn’t Modern Warfare 2 work for me?

Part of it has to do with the plot of the single-player campaign.  When I’m watching a movie or reading a book, no matter how outlandish the story is, I try to just go with it.  I analyze plot and technique and blah blah blah afterwards.  When I’m in the moment, I try to enjoy what I’m experiencing for the moment.

Yet here comes Modern Warfare 2 and just completely obliterates that way of thinking.

I spent half of my playthrough laughing at the ineptitude of the story they were writing; the other half of the game was spent scoffing at the ridiculous nature of the story that I was being fed.

I don’t expect Hemingway from the talented group at IW.  I don’t expect Steinbeck, or even King.  But I do expect plausible storytelling, and let’s face it: even Michael Bay can do that.

Those aren't ideas… they're special effects.

The game is immensely satisfying on a moment-by-moment basis.  Infinity Ward knows how to create moments.  They can’t very well create tension.  Yet for memorable moments, Modern Warfare 2 can’t be faulted.

Everything else, however, falls into generic shooter territory.  When the barest strand of plot links your story together, there’s a problem.  When it feels like your game is a really pretty version of Doom in a modern setting (sans demons), there’s a big problem.

Okay.  Maybe not.

Yes, yes, yes, in this game you lose your gun and have to run through the streets before sliding on your invisible ass and leaping for a waiting helicopter and its ladder which safely pulls you to safety.  Yes.  That happens and Doom didn’t do it and it’s nothing new, even though it’s a moment in a game full of moments.

And that’s not a bad thing, for a certain crowd.  Modern Warfare 2 offers solid action, even if we’ve seen it time and time again.  And the multiplayer is, as expected, excellent.  But it isn’t for me.

My time with the game has only proven what I’ve long suspected: for me, the first-person shooter is dead.

So yes. I hate Modern Warfare 2.  I find nothing compelling in it as I look back.  Somehow, though, I found it compelling albeit laughable as I fought my way through.

I suppose that’s worth something, after all.

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