First Level: Modern Warfare 2

Welcome to another First Level: this time it’s the turn of the new Call of Duty but as it’s such a big game we thought we’d try something a little bit different – last night, myself (CC), Nofi (N) and Fruit (F) all discussed the pros and cons of Infinity Ward’s latest shooter and here’s the result.  This isn’t a review, it’s a discussion on the various aspects of the game from a personal point of view.

CC: Regulars of TheSixthAxis and friends of mine will know I don’t like first person shooters, Doom, Wolfenstein and all that followed completely passed me by. My dislike of the genre doesn’t stop me occasionally buying them though, but after an hour two’s playing time they either sit there gathering dust or get traded-in. Victims of this in the past have been Black and Killzone on the PS2, and of course Killzone 2 and a few others on the PS3. With this in mind I was determined not to fall for the hype and join the queues of people for MW2, but then the supermarkets got silly and before I knew it I was setting my alarm and toddling off down Sainsbury’s along with hundreds of parents of 13 year olds.

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N: I was the same, I wasn’t really too fussed about this game until the prices became too hard to pass, getting a brand new game for £20 seemed like a bargain for me.

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CC: Having never played a Call Of Duty game or a great deal of FPS I didn’t really know where to start, but I thought oh what the hell – multiplayer it is. The next half an hour wasn’t pretty I died, and died again in fact I died pretty often, when I wasn’t grenading myself to death I was walking blindly in to enemy fire, so with my KDR% at around 10% I thought I better see what the campaign was all about.

N: I’ve not tried multiplayer yet – I went straight into the main single player mode.  I don’t like it.  I liked the first Modern Warfare, but the sequel appears to have no structure, the pacing’s all over the shop like it’s some kind of B-movie and the whole thing feels like it was made to cater for ADD-addled kids.  Really not impressed, although I’m only a few levels in so hopefully the narrative will soon start to pick up.

CC: Yeah, this is where my feelings for the title split, I have never before witnessed such a bad b-movie storyline in a video game, sure we all know gaming is famed for its ‘save the princess/furry animals’ type plot lines, but recently we’ve had plenty of games with storylines which seem to make strides towards rivalling those of blockbuster movies. Not here, in MW2 I was affronted with more cheesy dialog, awful banter from non-playable characters and don’t get me started on the quote by famous people everytime you die, first it was Dick Cheney’s “It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you” next it was Ghandi’s “An eye for eye makes the whole world blind” seriously Infinity Ward, seriously? No amount of cheesiness will hide you from the plot though as it’s quite frankly all over the place – not one which flicks back and forth in time like a clever Tarentino flick but a messy, nonsensical, story-boardless plot.

N: Do you actually like the action, though?  I mean, the actual shooting’s pretty good when there’s a lot going on.

CC: Well, fortunately for Activision/Infinity Ward though I don’t play videogames for their contributions as an art form, nor do I expect game’s script writers to be great word-smiths, I play them either for brief moments of escapism or just to have a bloody good time, and this is where MW2 excels, it’s an absolute blast, yeah. Cheesiness aside there are so many great set pieces in the action, stitched together with water tight controls, solid gameplay and fantastic graphics its almost impossible not to have a great time wading through the early parts of the game. After the training exercises the first couple of missions ease you into the action giving you a few easy pickings, you also get chance to familiarise yourself with the mixture of close quarters corridor action, tossing grenades to clear out rooms, and the wide open spaces that lends itself to sniping from a distance.

N: I don’t like the graphics, at all.  In a post-Killzone 2 world the whole thing looks like it’s missing half the processing effects – the whole display is very ‘flat’, basic textures, canned animation, glitches all over the shop (plenty of people stuck in walls, etc) and the framerate doesn’t hold 60 as soon as there’s smoke.  The mission that everyone’s talking about seemed to suffer more from glitches, and I really, really didn’t like playing through it and wasn’t compelled to pull the trigger at all.  Mindless.

CC: The airport scene titled ‘No Russian’? I knew I wouldn’t be offended by it but I thought I would find it distasteful, in the end I just felt indifference. It made me feel like Infinity Ward had their finger on the trigger with a real moral issue in their sights but then bottled it by throttling the character back to a snails pace doing little more than spectating a scene which has been blown out of all proportion, presumably in part by the fact it carries a warning. I found the blood a little red and the civilians look slightly cartoony in comparison to the rest of the graphics and this may have contributed to my indifference. I believe the warning is there so if the army of parents who have irresponsibly bought the game for ‘little johnny’ find out about it, Activision can stand there and point to the warning as a defence. As to whether the scene needs to be in there at all, I’ll have to complete the game to see if it adds anything to the story, but at the moment it seems just as disjointed in terms of plot as everything else.

N: That’s the problem, there’s no plot to speak of yet, with even the cut-scenes flicking backwards and forwards without really explaining what the hell is going on.  I think I’ll head over to the multiplayer over the weekend, mind, the two player co-op thing sounds great.

F: The multiplayer in the first Modern Warfare had the same impact on the online console gaming scene as Halo 2 did back on the original Xbox. That is to say it totally blew me away with features and became the only first person shooter I would play online for months. Modern Warfare 2 was always going to live up to the high standards its predecessor had laid down before it, but by how much? Well I can say that after an extensive play test and reaching level 28 online, Modern Warfare 2 does bring a lot more to the table. The new perks are great and the custom kill streak bonuses are genius. The new maps are very well laid out and the action still as frantic as ever. I have noticed a much greater amount of destruction going on with the environment in the matches and it still offers that “pumped up” feeling. Let us be honest here, giving us control of an AC 130 Gunship to rain hell on the enemy beneath if one of gamings greatest gifts to us. All the improvements have made the game that much better and really have directed this towards greatest online shooter ever status. It is very similar to the first and that isn’t a bad thing. Infinity Ward seem to have added just enough to keep it fresh but not altered anything and thus avoided breaking the experience we have all come to know and (for most) love.

N: Have you tried the two player co-op, Fruit?

F: Spec Ops? I only just tried this today with a mate on Live… I doubt I’ll ever want the disc to leave the drive!

N: It’s good, then?

F: For me, defending against wave after wave on enemy on top a roof with .50cal anti-material sniper rifles and rocket propelled grenades, with the occasional guidance of a missile towards these foolish attackers thanks to a Predator spy drone, is a co-op dream come true. Sneaking through snowy woods with silenced sniper rifles and performing joint silent takedowns with a friend online. You and a mate running through hostile streets in a race against time to bombs, with duel pistols and plenty of caged chickens to catch the stray bullets. One of you volunteering to run across fields and through farms to an extraction point, whilst your team mate covers you from the clouds in the lovely AC 130 Gunship. You know when your mate is a real mate, when he can resist the urge to fire 105mm shells at your feet yelling “dance bitch dance”, and instead actually blows the crap out of everything clearing you a safe passage to home. Spec Ops is a co-op mode that warrants truck loads of DLC for more! I cannot get enough of it. Sure shooting others online is great and all, especially when given all these new features and perks.

CC: I went back to the main multiplayer mode once I’d braved the early part of the game, and wow, just wow – never has a game seemed to just ‘work’ like this one, the level design is amazing with a perfect blend of tunnels, rooms open spaces and verticality. The controls are the most responsive I’ve ever come into contact with, and the graphics, in my opinion, are to die for – they really are up there with some of the best on the PS3, and despite famously being developed at sub-hd resolution I defy anyone to tell as the level of detail is practically unrivalled. All of these add up to one hell of an experience where every kill feels like its earned, even dying is good, because you get to see ‘Kill Cam’ this shows your death from your killers point of view, which provides an excellent learning opportunity. Most online games become inaccessible to newbs after a very short time, but the death streaks work really well and is an excellent innovation which could have far reaching implications on the whole genre in the future.

N: Sounds great, I can’t wait.  What would you say to sum it up, then?

F: Modern Warfare 2 for me just became all about the co-op.

CC: Well, all in all, a fantastic gaming experience, albeit one with a terrible plot (so far) over the top cheesiness,  but one which I’m enjoying enormously so far; Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 could just be the first FPS I’ve not only liked – but absolutely loved, and for me that is saying something!

The multiplayer in the first Modern Warfare had the same impact on the online console gaming scene as Halo 2 did back on the original Xbox.  That is to say it totally blew me away with features and became the only first person shooter I would play online for months.  Modern Warfare 2 was always going to live up to the high standards its predecessor had laid down before it, but by how much?  Well I can say that after an extensive play test and reaching level 28 online, Modern Warfare 2 does bring a lot more to the table.  The new perks are great and the custom kill streak bonuses are genius.  The new maps are very well laid out and the action still as frantic as ever.  I have noticed a much greater amount of destruction going on with the environment in the matches and it still offers that “pumped up” feeling.  Let us be honest here, giving us control of an AC 130 Gunship to rain hell on the enemy beneath if one of gamings greatest gifts to us.  All the improvements have made the game that much better and really have directed this towards greatest online shooter ever status.  It is very similar to the first and that isn’t a bad thing.  Infinity Ward seem to have added just enough to keep it fresh but not altered anything and thus avoided breaking the experience we have all come to know and (for most) love.
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