Available on PC, PS3, XBOX 360.
The Call of Duty franchise has now clocked over $3 billion dollars worth of sales. The latest instalment, Modern Warfare 2, provides a high tempo, high octane but morally brutal adventure that gives you access to the most modern combat techniques and weapons as you fight all over the world.
If you’re feeling in a bloodthirsty mood, then MW2 is high definition glory. The game’s main storyline runs a briskish 8 hours which may not quite be enough time for those wanting to slaughter ad infinitum in character. However, after you’ve completed the main single-player game, the art of death becomes more about getting stars, levels and increasing your skills than forwarding the story, as you unlock split level, multiplayer and a host of levels that can be played at your preferred degree of difficulty in the extras package entitled 'Special Ops'.
If you’re a hardened cyber soldier, MW2 should come into it’s own with this final flourish, especially as you murder newbs online. That said, console online play has advantages over the PC version.
The main story takes off five years after Modern Warfare, but you don’t need to have played it to get the gist. Russian bad guy Makaroff has evil plans, must be put down. There’s a bit more to it than that, but not much. To get the bad guy, you must complete a number of missions that take place all over the globe, with varying amounts of open brutality and stealth required.
The game takes a bit of sidestep in this regard, as you can actually go through levels without having to kill every single enemy that is on the ‘map’. You’ll also have little mini-moments of adventure that break up the bullet-fest, bridging the story in some way whilst you cling to cliffs, swim underwater or give ground troops a lead salad from your helicopter-mounted minigun.
What’s interesting (and familiar) is that you play the game as different characters throughout, bouncing from mission to mission and character to character. As the story opens up (betrayal, international terrorism and global conflict ensue) your characters aren’t guaranteed to make it all the way through – which comes as quite a shock the first time it happens.
Other firsts – joining in on a brutal terrorist raid on a crowded airport as you go undercover, machine gunning innocent civilians as you go. This is one of the more morally ambiguous moments in gaming history, even in a post GTA world.
Killing dogs (sometimes with your bare hands) also gives you the same disquiet, strangely more affecting than plugging a human between the eyes.
There’s a blend of fatalistic cynicism to the game that may please some, but for others, it’s not quite the ‘hoo-ah!’ adventure ride one would expect. In this aspect, the game's story and acting (and scripting) comes under scrutiny. With a great voice cast (lead by Lance Henriksen, Kevin McKidd and Keith David) there are times that the scripting falls a little under the IQ barrier, with some hard-to-understand moments, speeches and behaviours in what is twisty plot filled with betrayal and skulduggery. The ending may please some, but others may walk away unsatisfied. However, for the most part, you can forgive the games weaknesses, because the level of graphics and the blood pumping action are state of the art.
The real art and success of the game is it’s constant movement and evolution of fighting arena and methods. Whilst you do spend a day’s worth killing people, you do it in many different ways, using automated drones, electrically operated miniguns, missiles, practically every possible military-grade hand gun, rifle and machine gun in existence, down to a humble (but effective) knife.
The game looks beautiful, but it really is about warfare, and there are moments which (if you have a soul) will give you pause. That said, if you’ve had a hard day, and want to defend the charred ruins of Washington DC from the attacking Russian forces, well hey, this is the greatest game, ever.