First Impressions: Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
November 12, 2009
Let’s recap. We had the furore over the infamous airport scene. We had an ill-advised viral marketing video. We had a glitzy, movie-premier-esque launch night. We had massive sales predictions of 11.1 million units sold in 2009, with a record-breaking 1.23 million sales on its first day of release in the UK alone.
Measured by any yardstick, the release of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a big deal. So I should have found my first few hours of the game to be astonishing, industry-defining; instead I found myself with an increasingly uncomfortable thought with every passing mission: ‘I don’t like it.’ Heresy!
Before I continue, I need to pre-empt the following with the assertion that I am, essentially, new to Call Of Duty games. Admittedly, I played the first missions in Call Of Duty 3 and the original Modern Warfare the first time I had an Xbox, but not enough to form any impressions. So I’m coming to the series as a fresh pair of eyes.
The main thing that irks me about the latest instalment is the pace. MW2 is mind-frazzingly fast; an unending hail of bullets, explosions and enemy targets that don’t give you a moment to relax, let alone take in your surroundings. It’s clearly a beautiful game, as any cursory glance at your environment can tell you, but what’s the point in that if you don’t have time to appreciate it?
Coupled with the punishing freneticism is the blood splatter that fills the screen when you get shot. Although clearly realistic in terms of its aesthetic, it effectively obscures whatever is shooting at you; so, more often than not, it serves less as a warning to eliminate what’s threatening your life and more of a harbinger of your impending death. Did it really need to be so intrusive? The last thing I need when attempting to rescue myself from a tricky firefight is to have the ability to even see my targets removed from the equation.
The game’s major currency is spectacle – each set-piece more bombastic than the last. But the sheer saturation of these events makes them lose their potency – the genius of Uncharted 2 (I know it has been getting a lot of mentions on this blog recently) is that each set-piece is exquisitely framed by moments of calm, giving you time to reflect on each situation. MW2 follows up one epic moment with another, diluting the previous set-piece at a stroke.
I’ll stick with the game through to its completion and I haven’t even touched the Multiplayer or Spec Ops modes yet, so I can’t include them in the scope of this initial impression. But the opening salvo of the single player campaign has left me a little cold; it’s telling that instead of leaving me with a smile, my session left me instead with a pounding headache and a feeling of stress. Perhaps this gung-ho, guns blazing rollercoaster ride is an accurate depiction of all-out war. But therein lies the rub. Not many people dream of being a soldier for one precise reason – war is hell.