"Shepherd doesn't care about danger close."
If you play Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2 on Normal, you will finish it in eight hours. If you play in on one of the more advanced levels, you'll probably have too much time to think about it. I did not want to think about it that long. It's an ugly story.
But there is plenty of good, and some bad in this installment. Is it worth it? Yes. Does it live up to the hype? Yes, but.
First off, the 'yes but'. This happens to be personal. I've been an XBox gamer for about six years. I've seen all the drivers and shooters and I will have to say that Forza 3 and CODMW2 are the best of the best. I think there are about four more games that I will have to play in my life and then the whole thing will be over. These games are delivering all the realism, and a good bit of narrative. After this, there is nothing but more historically accurate games to play, and if I were rich, that's one of the businesses I would invest in. Hannibal at Cannae, Montgomery at El Alamain. Bradley at The Bulge. Nelson at Trafalgar. You get the picture.. So I'm at the point at which the context of the story is more interesting than the online action, and COD is built for online action, except that it generally has a superb campaign. This campaign? Not so superb, but still excellent.
Essentially, you have to believe that if an American gunned down 200 civilians at an airport in Russia, that Russia would launch a shock and awe against Washington DC. And if you can believe that, then all of this makes sense. The impact of this story was somewhat lost on me primarily because I wanted to play this game so badly. I confess that I just rushed through it, but it's all starting to blur, BUT. This game makes for some truly standout action.
What's unique about MW2 is that there is every kind of mission here. You can tell that the developers wanted to give the player every way to shoot in this game. In the story there are firefights that you essentially cannot survive unless you hunker down and draw fire behind a riot shield while your teammate flanks. This is the best new and original tactic in any shooter, of a much greater quality than that of Rainbow Six. There are stealth snow missions with silenced rifles. There is a free for all mission where bullets are flying everywhere. There are great sniper missions, one from a helicopter. There are missions with a Predator, and with a robotic halftrack gun. There are buildings to storm on a large scale and small breaching missions with hostage rescue, there is half-dead hand to hand combat, and there is the soon to be legendary terrorist mission.
I'm trying to think of another battle in a shooter where things got so ugly that I lost my appetite to play. Nothing comes to mind. The situation is this. You are called upon to infiltrate an enemy cell. The commander of that cell, Makarov is one step ahead of you. Makarov attacks an airport terminal in Russia and his crew, including you, casually walk in with machine guns and start mowing down civilians. The control of the system is restricted. You cannot break from the group, you cannot run, all you can do is shoot. I'll be honest, I couldn't shoot the civvies. I killed a couple that were dragging their bodies away at the very end, but for the most part I shot at the ceiling and at the guards that were shooting back. I kept wondering if my reticence would break cover, but as I said, Makarov was onto me the entire time. I, the American, am killed and my body left at the scene of the massacre so that the USA takes the blame, thus begins WW3. Except that it's not WW3 it's just America vs all of its current enemies and foes.
The battle comes to Washington DC and you fight in suburban Virginia and on the Mall. It's chilling for both its realism and similarity to Fallout 3 when it comes to trenches near the Washington Memorial. Thematically, our creatives are hunkering down for some remix of American failure - the film 2012 debuts this week as well.
There are vehicle battles in this version which are very fast paced which makes up for their somewhat clumsy control. I get it, there should be frenzied action, but on the Normal level, some of the running kills are a bit too easy and the physics seem a bit contrived. And so let me speak to that. I think that by including all of these different styles of combat into one game, Infinity Ward has reached their limits. They are very high limits, but it's starting to show on a couple of the edges. When it comes to wide open battles, Ghost Recon still sets the technical standard. I still prefer the Ghost Recon tightness and control even though the missions are a lot less realistic in terms of chaos and fog of battle. And for the close in battles and tactical missions, I still like Rainbow Six although some of that is being challenged by the breach missions of MW2 which are very well done. Call of Duty rules in sniping, period. But ODST has really raised the bar for the combination of mission types and control. I felt myself slipping back into my Halo reflexes many times. That's somewhat annoying.
Here's where Call of Duty rules. The Brazilian favela fighting is brilliant. The combination of weapons, civilians, tight areas, sniping opportunities, dogs, confusion and chaos is unprecedented. I've been waiting to actually hear some voice talent other than Russian and Spanish in all of these shooters and COD delivers with Portuguese and Arabic, finally. The tactical missions, which I have just begun are also very very good. It's an innovation that takes what began in Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell did for training to the next level. Giving a nod to the training missions of the great PsyOps Mindgate Conspiracy, COD rules.
Oddly enough, for the online, I don't expect much. I'm curious to see if the advantages gained by access to tanks, aircraft, dogs and artillery don't make for greatly unbalanced gameplay as they have in previous games. I much prefer the Halo approach where more powerful weapons and battlefield positions are objects of direct competition rather than perks for kills. But if there are zombie levels, I'll be happy for that.
All in all this is a great game, and I suppose that I will enjoy it as much as anyone my age and sophistication will admit, which is, admittedly declining. Then again, some people watch football.