Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 // PS3
November 17, 2009
The trouble with first impressions is that they can often be misleading. Gameplay mechanics can sometimes still be a little alien to players new to them. Pacing and action elements can be chaotic and confusing in such a tightly scripted environment. I desperately wanted my initial reactions to hold fast throughout the single player campaign for Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – I wanted to be the lone dissenter amidst the clamour of praise and admiration for Infinity Ward’s blockbuster. To be immune to the hype. But, credit where credit is due; as the final mission came to an astonishing end and the credits rolled, I sat there impressed and open-mouthed. Warning: contains spoilers.
Thankfully, my major bugbear of the first few missions of MW2 – the breakneck pace – settles into a more contrasting pattern as the game unfolds. All-out skirmishes are tempered by stealth missions, highlighted particularly by the sortie onto the oil rig to rescue a handful of hostages. The slow-mo sequences following a breach are also a very welcome addition, injecting some gratuitous head-shot revelry in a game devoid of the time to enjoy such moments elsewhere. Punishing firefights are navigated more successfully by taking a piecemeal approach to retaliation – the order of the day is continued cover, short bursts of gunfire and once again ducking to safety. Rinse and repeat, edging ever closer to the next checkpoint. With these tactics, suddenly the game became not only bearable for me, but enjoyable.
Those first few missions, which had me so close to complete apathy for this title, thankfully unravel into a series of jaw-dropping levels. Spectacles aren’t only judged by explosions, but also at very macro levels – human betrayal, camaraderie and defiance against the odds. Sure, the plot is completely overblown, taking its narrative cues from half a dozen disaster movies rolled into one maniacal package, but it’s impossible not to be bowled over by the sum total. The sight of a nuclear missile silently arcing through space before detonating in an awesome ring of light is actually a chilling experience, even replicated digitally, and the subsequent mission paints a equally disquieting picture of immediate nuclear fallout.
The ‘blood splatter’ graphic became less irksome to me simply because my improved tactics meant that I didn’t see it as often, and when I did, changing tack by finding cover instead of eliminating the threat often resulted in safety rather than death. Some missions are still plagued by a mild sense of chaos, with enemies looking so similar to your allies that friendly fire is a regular occurence, but the sense of missing everything because of the pace slowly dissipates as you progress through the story arc.
So, although I can’t really say it’s the best game I’ve ever played, or even the best FPS I’ve ever played (Bioshock still retains that crown), I must confess that I am glad I stuck with the game beyond my frustrating first few hours with it. It redefines what we consider as ‘epic’ within the realm of videogame level design, and leaves the player feeling genuinely emotionally invested. I can’t remember any game bringing such a sharp intake of breath as MW2 elicited at the brutal, shocking moment of betrayal which jack-knifed the plot into a different direction; a heartening sign that videogames are finally started to deliver on the promise of emotional response.
Now then, time for multiplayer. And new levels of frustration…