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 >>