Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has already stirred up equal levels of hype and controversy. But don't let that distract you from the real discussion: is the game any good? Read our CoD: Modern Warfare 2 review to find out.

The first rule of expert reviews is "Remain objective" but that's almost impossible when dealing with a franchise that's as critically and financially successful as Call of Duty.

I've been a fan of the series since its inception (though I hated Call of Duty 3 as much as you did) so I couldn't help but have high expectations for Modern Warfare 2, the sequel to the obscenely successful Modern Warfare. The game impresses with its intensity and polish.

From the appetite whetting single-player to the main course multiplayer, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 more than lives up to the high bar set by the original, even if it makes some concessions to its own popularity that may make the diehard fans grumble.

And that's a little surprising when you consider how many copies the original Modern Warfare sold; it seems a bit odd that Infinity Ward would implement concepts so obviously geared towards new players who might buy the game instead of focusing on catering to the core fans who most definitely will.

The first thing I immediately noticed was the addition of an aim-assist mechanic which let's you auto-lock onto to the nearest enemy by pressing the left trigger; you can easily cycle through multiple tangos with a few trigger pulls. I turned it off after about five minutes because it took the skill out of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

The new Death Perks will also have some players screaming conspiracy: die enough times in a row without getting a kill in multiplayer and you get a perk such as a temporary health boost; the unfortunate downside is that skilled players who rarely die with never benefit from them. Oh, and if you break a cold streak by getting a kill, you get a bonus XP boost, which is just more gasoline on the "rewarding new players for being rubbish" campfire.

Add it all up and the equation is simple: new player hand-holding plus angry 'l33t' players equals a lot of moaning. It's a delicate line between leveling the playing field and ruining the game, and only time will tell which side Infinity Ward landed on; one thing's for sure, though - we can already smell the fumes from the forum flamewars these decisions will ignite on the internet.

But working in Infinity Ward's favour is the fact that, despite these notable changes, the rest of the experience is still vintage Modern Warfare. The single-player still plays out like an episode of Fox's '24' with a heavy dose of CNN and 'Future Weapons' thrown in as garnish and there are a lot of high points, including a certain level that outdoes the original's introductory execution scene in terms of shock value; the cat's already been let out of the bag thanks to some internet footage leaked by someone who also probably drove by Harry Potter fans waiting in line for 'The Half-Blood Prince' and shouted "Dumbledore dies!" but I had the prestigious advantage of experiencing it without any preexisting biases. (See also: Time to boycott the PC Version of Modern Warfare 2?)

My first thought after playing through that particular level was "wow, I can't believe they tried that," and after some introspective mulling, I followed it up with, "And I can't believe they pulled it off." It's definitely an interesting experiment, and one that I'll discuss in-depth in a follow-up feature, but it was a bold and calculated maneuver that will be talked about at length.

Unfortunately, the single-player also contains some low points where the action bogs down with generic FPS run-and-gun segments complete with invisible trigger points and infinitely respawning enemies; still, it's an enjoyable eight hour experience that offers enough memorable moments to make it worth your while. I'm still shocked to hear about people who jump straight into multiplayer as soon as they open up the case; that's like buying a pizza and immediately throwing away the crust.

Next: multiplayer is where the action is >>

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has already stirred up equal levels of hype and controversy. But don't let that distract you from the real discussion: is the game any good? Read our CoD: Modern Warfare 2 review to find out.

But as much as I liked the single-player, even I have to admit that the multiplayer is where the real action is, and its new additions should (hopefully) help counterbalance some (but probably not all) of the dissension that will arise from the new-player friendly changes I noted above. Spec Ops offers up a series of objective based missions which can be played solo or with a partner and they run the gamut from timed "kill every enemy" affairs to fantastic "overwatch" scenarios where one player provides air support - either from an AC-130 or an attack helo - while his partner tries to survive on the ground.

I had the benefit of playing Spec Ops with a seasoned partner who actively kept up the chatter to ensure we were on the same page, which proved one thing: with the right partner (read: someone willing to play the game right and actually communicate, which may be a rarer breed of gamer than you'd think or hope), Spec Ops provides some interesting moments.

I especially liked the stealth missions: on one memorable level, my partner and I pulled on our Ghillie suits and slowly navigated from one end of a sprawling level to the other while cooperatively dealing with enemy patrols and hidden snipers; it took us over 30 minutes to get to the end and I wasn't bored once.

The standard multiplayer also gets a nice boost with more of everything: more modes, more unlocks and more maps. Again, I played with members of the dev team who didn't pollute the experience with the usual online griefer shenanigans so take my impressions with a grain of salt but I played several different modes over a five hour stretch and honestly, I could have played for five more.

It's a lot of fun and the devs tied a lot of carrots onto a lot of sticks to keep you playing: the rewards come fast and furiously in the form of XP and unlockables like custom emblems to trick out your callsign, and the objective based modes like the Counter-Strike-esque Demolition switches things up nicely from the standard "I kill you, you kill me" cycle.

But I also couldn't stop myself from wondering again how the diehards will react to this slot machine method of rewards: you hit so many jackpots over the course of your play time that it could dilute the sense of accomplishment inherent in reaching the higher ranks.

This is great for casual players but the dedicated MW player may feel a little neutered; without careful balancing, the delta between the upper-tier players and the rest of the field might end up being too slim, leaving hardcore fans with less incentive to level grind their way up the ladder. After all, what's the point of climbing Everest if they're handing out jetpacks to everyone at basecamp?

Still, the potential for addiction remains intact and MW2 should replace the original as the de facto online war shooter, even as the online cognoscenti rant and rave about the changes. But even taking into account the potentially controversial tweaks I noted above, it's hard to turn a blind eye to the sense of polish that the devs brought to the table.

I'm definitely biased here because I was given a pure dose of what the online experience could and should be, and obviously the real world version, the "street" stuff, can be incredibly impure at times, poisonous even, but it's hard to imagine Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 failing to grab the attention of the established fanbase.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: Specs

  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Nintendo DS
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Windows PC
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Nintendo DS
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Windows PC


We liked the game a lot, but it's the diehards who will ultimately decide its true worth. That won't become clear until the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 fanatics have had a chance to tear into the full experience. Based on what we've seen, we're singing the game's praises, but if you really want to know whether or not the game is up to snuff, wait and listen closely to the community to see if they sing sweet hosannas or scream bloody murder.

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