The cool thing about doing these post-hype game reviews would be playing a game the way most people listen to old music for the first time. There is this new experience you have heard so much about, but there is something off-putting about hearing so much [be it positive or negative] so loudly. Being outside of the bubble of the game journalism hoopla, I get to see the benefit of playing a game for what it is, I'm not trying to cram for a review. No one looks to me to comment on the controversies and set pieces that Infinity Ward has sculpted in their last foray with Activision.
I played Modern Warfare 2 as a regular game and I have to say there were times where it felt anything but. The story upset me, but not as much as the back tracking through levels I'd already struggled to complete initially. Though my experience with the Call Of Duty franchise began with Treyarch's Call Of Duty 3 and ended with 20 minutes of 'Racist Slur Endurance Deathmatch' mode in the original Modern Warfare, I still gave this shooter a try. The level design is amazing and though the online community leaves something to be desired in the way of manners, the multiplayer is the games set piece within a set piece. With the recent news of the current gaming soap opera between the billionaires and the millionaires, I want it to be known that it was just by chance Gamefly sent me this game during the Infinity Ward/Activision fallout. I hope the best for both companies and recognize that, though I may have not had the best experience with one of this generations most successful games; I recognize the impact of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 could stand to change how games of this magnitude are created and pushed upon the gaming public.
It's almost like an acidic bile in the back of one's throat, "Modern Warfare 2 changed everything!" Well not everything per se, but as I played through the incredibly polished, yet tepid single-player story mode, I saw the effort Infinity Ward put in every frame. The fine detail in the sound of the M9 pistol firing off six shots within two seconds. Keith David's commanding tone guides you through most of the single-player as you play the role of several soldiers, but most lacking in the personality department. What happens when these multi-million dollar budget games emphasize meeting a quota more than challenging the player?
I wasn't being challenged on the regular difficulty settings so I chose to further frustrate myself by selecting Hardened mode. If the convoluted story of treachery and espionage does not entertain, the Hardened difficulty mode should force the average player to memorize every corner and corridor. The twist and turns of the intricate and multi-pathed level design could have been a shared concept in the story, but with an incredibly feature-heavy multiplayer-mode [almost thirty different modes of play] its quite clear future Call of Duty games would fair better without a story mode at all. Whoops, seems like you may get your wish.
Had it not been for the well-hyped No Russian level I would say that single-player mode functions only as a multiplayer tutorial. A concept all-to-common to the shooter genre, but I couldn't help to think, "If you're going to make a huge and epic story of this caliber, why have me go through two large levels twice?" In the now infamous level in which you play as an undercover Task Force agent whose managed to buddy-up with a Russian terrorist cell. It is here were all of the good and evil that has so well established the Call Of Duty franchise blends and blurs the edges of an evolution in interactive gaming and sophomoric film influence.
I refuse to spoil any game in a review, because no matter how trite the experience I may think a game to be it is still a new experience to anyone who plays it in the future. I applaud Infinity Ward for showing the National Rangers and Naval Task Force as the professional officers who are often forgotten in tales of huge wars that mysteriously calm to a simmer, but in the case of the No Russian level and the later missions where your character 'should' matter; Infinity Ward drops the ball in giving you key choices beyond that of 'kill this guy or sneak around him'. Most of the time you aren't even granted the option of choice! When you are shot or fail a mission you are greeted with inspiring quotes from Cheney, Rumsfield and Nathan Hale. I'm starting to think that Infinity Ward knows their audience better than I do. Which I'm okay with. Maybe being a fly on the wall is what makes this game great initially, but I fear how Modern Warfare 2 will age given the social commentary. The fight came to our soil, because we weren't crafty enough to stop the terrorists on theirs?
I can see the value in Modern Warfare 2 like I see the value in buying a super-sized burger at McDonald's. Pick off the pickles and stale lettuce and enjoy the rest. And much like a meal at McDonald's, I felt sick afterwards. Not from the smooth frame rate or graphical fidelity, Infinity Ward has proven their mastery of how to make a game operate fast with flash. However, the fruit of any shooter is the community that supports it and boy is there a rotten batch in today's top shooter. Modern Warfare 2 shouldn't be the whipping mule for what all shooters represent, but I do believe the worst inhabit the dark alleys of the game lobbies. Like said McDonald's meals, if you have enough of them they become common place and unfortunately very normal to your daily diet.
The multiplayer is just as fun and cartoony as the many hours I've poured into Team Fortress 2 sessions. Like TF2 and most PC shooters of the early 2000s, your character has minimal weight — even if you don't use the Lightfoot perk. Where Battlefield: Bad Company 2 lends itself more to a slower methodical paced experience; Modern Warfare 2 makes every player feel like a one-man army who has the speed and a twitchy reaction that hearkens back to the Unreal Tournament series. Matchmaking, at this point, is as good as it can be for someone whose decided to expose themselves late to an already hard-to-love online community. I suggest using the mute feature liberally. Play with 5.1 surround sound or gaming headphones with similar features so you can detect where fire and footsteps are coming from.
Why does Modern Warfare 2 change everything? Publishers will see this production budget as the benchmark to what makes a lucrative hit. We will see clones and sequels because that is how the gaming industry has always worked. The change will be the quality of clones and sequels. The players have voted with their dollars and what's hot is diverse, high-fidelity mulitplayer games. What will be interesting to see is if new franchises like Uncharted and BioShock continue to lean harder on multiplayer modes as a means to keep income coming in from a single game. I'm guessing a publisher has no problem with a weak storyline if DLC can be packaged and pushed to an eager fan base. "But Uncharted and BioShock are known for their stories more so than Call Of Duty." You say, well I'd retort with, though Call Of Duty wasn't known for an earth shattering story it was not always a multiplayer game. Sit with that for a minute.
The Special Ops mode serves as specific training to the mulitplayer [and also serves as a nice bullet point on the back of the box]. This game essentially changes how story is viewed in games. Where in the past, purchasing a game meant a large majority of consumers playing the whole game. Now buying a game and playing one-mode could become more common. Downloadible content changes based on what the publisher can get away with charging. Journalism changes based on the weight of reviews and hype surrounding the coverage. Meaning due to the hype around Modern Warfare 2, does the review score matter? Will it be reactionary due to the hype built prior to its release? Maybe the score is already tainted due to how the reviewer played the game. Activision and Infinity Ward have [or had] drawn a line in the sand for first-person shooters and all gaming genres that hope to attain an audience of this magnitude. If you want to make a fun game, turn up the graphical fidelity and turn off the logic portion of your brain. If you want to make it in this business follow this formula.
I Give Modern Warfare 2…
The "Incredibly Fancy Money Clip" Award