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I call them ‘Infinity Ward Moments’. You remember them from the first Modern Warfare don’t you? The execution scene during the opening credits. The atomic bomb detonation. The Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch. The suicide of an important suspect you’re about to apprehend. Modern Warfare 2  would like to rip your head off and shove these moments down your gaping neck hole, thank you very much, seemingly with the sole goal of one-upping its predecessor’s shock gimmicks and scripted moments. 

If MW1 made you experience the death of your first person avatar once, well golly, MW2 can do it more than three times. Where MW1 thrilled you with scripted events at every other turn, MW2 shoves them in your face so frequently they become stale. In MW1 you rescued a hostage in slow motion bullet time with  a well placed round into the head of the hostage taker, while not harming the hostage himself. MW2 has you doing it half a dozen times. If you thought MW1 had an unmemorable story and bad dialog…I’ve made my point. 

The basic premise of the incohesive story, from what I can grasp through two playthroughs, is America gets framed for a horrific terror attack in a Russian airport which acts as a catalyst for Russia to invade American soil. Then there’s a scramble to not only defend American soil, but to also find out how to go about getting proof that America wasn’t to blame for this terror attack so that she, America, can get her friends and allies back. Ridiculous. Absurd. Far fetched. But nobody in their right mind plays an Infinity Ward game for the plot now do they? 

It’s not a bad game it’s just….more of the same. All of it. There are some nice twists and turns and it’s an exciting, action-packed, competent and graphically gorgeous experience, but I’ve been to the Infinity Ward theme park many times before and I’m starting to grow bored with the same old rides. It feels as if Infinity Ward made a list of incredible scenarios and set pieces first (and there are some amazing set pieces here), then crafted a story around it all. 

Stale as the formula may be, I have to admit that Infinity Ward are still the best in the business when it comes to scripting sequences and thrusting the player in the middle of all the chaos. Dangling out of a low flying helicopter on its approach to an oceanside gulag, while an escort of fighter jets blows stuff up all around you is quite a sight to behold. Slinging lead in war-torn rural America as Russian paratroopers descend from the skies is both profound and frightening. And it’s nice to return the stare of a soldier’s eyes whos throat you just slit, rather than staring through the eyes of somebody about to get their face blown off. Again. 

Multiplayer is obviously the bread and butter of Modern Warfare 2 and if competitive deathmatch is the bread, co-op is the butter. Or is it the other way around?  A lot of fun can be had with a close friend in co-op mode and it’s fun and rewarding to beat the scenarios on different difficulties and earn stars, which in turn let you unlock more tiers of challenges. Communication is key here so it’s best to play with somebody you know if you’re shy around random strangers you group up with online. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of co-op DLC Infinity Ward offers. 

No doubt everybody reading this has already played competitive deathmatch so I won’t go into detail about that. Instead, I’d like to talk about my experience with it. I’m still on the fence and I’m finding it to be 80% frustrating and 20% fun. It’s obviously a masterpiece – I’m not denying it of that – I just feel like Infinity Ward got a little overzealous trying to outdo the first game’s multiplayer, just as they did outdoing the single player campaign of Modern Warfare 1.

Try to survive more than a few seconds when your opponents have two or more overpowered attack aircraft circling the sky bombing the shit out of every square inch of the map, as predator missiles bombard you left and right. As if these killstreak perks weren’t overpowered enough, the players operating them don’t have to look for opponents because everybody is highlighted by a bright red square, making it a no-talent turkey shoot. The level design is also too camper friendly in my opinion. Every corridor and alleyway is seemingly presighted by at least one annoying camper. 

IWNET’s matchmaking is simply atrocious. As people quit mid-game, an all too frequent occurrence, IWNET doesn’t know how to balance the teams by switching players to the other side, resulting in grossly unbalanced teams. You may get lucky and have some players join mid-match but otherwise be ready to accept getting gunned down every 10 seconds from every which angle…or quit. Making this even more unfair is the fact that I can’t seem to get in matches with players remotely in my level bracket (26 as of this writing). More often than not I’m grouped up with people 20, 30, even 40 skill levels higher than me. It’s hard to improve my game (and actually get points to level up) when I get mercilessly slaughtered within moments of spawning, by people with superior weapons, perks and skill. I realize the game has features that try to give lower ranked players a boost-up, such as the copy cat perk, but they really aren’t that helpful. Modern Warfare 1 did a much better job of bridging the skill gap between low level casual players and high level seasoned players. 

Latency has been a constant thorn in my side, whether on PC or PS3 (I bought both). Note that I have a fast internet connection and don’t have any issues playing any other games online, be they PS3 or PC games. IWNET’s 1-4 bar latency meter is a joke. Even having 4 bars doesn’t mean you will have a lag free experience. Often what I see compared to what I see through the killcam of the person that just killed me is half a second behind.  Wait a minute, didn’t I get off a burst into that guy before he killed me?  That’s what I saw, but that’s not what actually happened. This kind of latency is just plain awful and it makes the experience wholly frustrating. 

The fact that I prefer to play shooters online on a PC, and am relatively inexperienced fragging with a console controller (MW2 and Battlefield 1943 being my only console competitive deathmatch experiences thus far) probably isn’t helping matters. Then again, if Infinity Ward hadn’t utterly backstabbed and pissed in the faces of the PC Community I would be happily fragging away on a MW2 dedicated server with my beloved mouse and keyboard combo, and you wouldn’t even be reading this. 

It’s not all negative though! I can say that I have rather enjoyed the mute feature and I’m getting a lot of usage out of it, as the majority of online gamers insist upon acting like buffoons, not muting their mic when they hack up a lung, crunching chips loudly or swearing incessantly. Don’t even get me started on mouth breathers.