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Je ne sais quoi: Definition – that certain indefinable something.  For a reviewer, finding yourself thinking of this phrase is like admitting you can’t do your job. Yet when it comes to Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the phrase is very apt.  While everyone knew the game would be of high quality, it definitely has a ‘je ne seis quoi’ that both holds it back and drags you in.

Modern Warfare 2 takes place five years after the original Modern Warfare, and focuses on the consequences of the victory achieved. From the ashes of the previous war comes hatred and bitterness from those once deemed allies. “Soap” MacTavish returns, but this time in the third person. He is your veteran captain that will direct your unthinking ass around skirmishes and battles ranging from the awesome to the downright ridiculous. A couple of privates in the American army also play a part in the story, but they are more for perspective than furthering of the plot.

This single-player campaign feels nothing like the down to earth struggle found in COD4.  In the original game players attached themselves to Soap and the rest of the squad as they pulled off the nigh impossible task of saving the world where the American Army had failed. An epic tale that will stay in the minds of gamers for years to come, and rightfully so. Modern Warfare 2’s plot however feels more akin to a Tom Clancy novel, plot twists wait at every corner.  For the most part, they are more than predictable.

Modern Warfare 2

Some new mechanics spice things up a bit, like the slow motion after breaching a room, but again it detracts from the realism you felt in the first game. Grenades now roll when thrown (great for mixing up the multiplayer grenade spam), so uphill or stair throws are out. Being shot now throws red stains all over your screen obscuring you vision, forcing you to reconsider actions you would have been able to handle in the original game. In terms of actual gameplay, these mechanics do so little to change up the everyday scenario, but are welcome additions to the series.

Speaking of gameplay, some obvious niggles stand out. A couple of missions really push your patience as a gamer. One mission has you and your squad moving up with an armoured escort, where you must mark targets for the escort using a laser attached to your gun. Another has you dodging civilians as you fight through the slums of Rio De Janeiro.  Both these levels have something in common, which was the worst mechanic in the original Modern Warfare:  Infinitely spawning enemy soldiers. Unless you keep moving, the enemy will keep coming, each as well armed as the last. In practice this is frustrating, and on veteran difficulty it is downright infuriating, with significant progress coming less from skill and more from blind luck. Not only is this a dated system, but it sets back the fun level of the game, when strategically taking down specific soldiers to make way for your advance only to find that they are back seconds later when you’re in the open makes turning off the machine a consideration. The first game suffered from it (the TV station is a prime example) and there is no reason why it should return. The son makes the sins the father once made.

The real problem I have is that the single player is not bad!  I can point out the flaws, but past this you find the same game you once fell in love with in the first game. With the change in story style and a couple of dud levels however Modern Warfare 2 is just missing that “Je ne sais quoi” that made COD4’s campaign so memorable.

Let’s face it though, if you go online for the first time you will find your rank at around the 2 million mark and that’s just on Xbox live, so you can tell what people came here to play. Once again you will find more of the same with tweaks. The maps are bigger and more varied, the explosions are louder.  Underage kids singing down their headsets are now unavoidable. A familiar layout awaits you, with rankings, perks and weapon unlocks appearing depending upon your accomplishments in game. A larger selection of weapons now await you with an expanded range of customisation, noticeably shotguns, launchers and machine pistols, which are now secondary weapons that may replace the pistol. While not as fast to draw, they all now serve a purpose depending on how you build your class.

 

Kill Streaks

Yes, there is a Nuke streak.

Now I’m no sniper, but the all the maps apart from the COD2 rehash are full of twists and turns that seems impossible for a sniper to take advantage of effectively.  Perhaps in time, dedicated prone-addicts will find the spots required, but playing soon after release, these long range warriors seemed absent from the battle. At the moment the balance seems to favour the submachine gun wielders.  Whether this is due to surprise on behalf of the inexperienced players with the new maps or due to the new seemingly close range maps has yet to be determined, but for the moment, balance seems to be in question.The kill streaks are now customizable, but unlocking the options to do so again rely upon your rank.  They can be made available in any order, so pick wisely. Obviously the better kill streaks require a higher amount of kills, however the automatically unlocked supply drop comes with a random support power-up.  If you’re not careful, your enemies can claim these supplies from you. Death streaks also now exist but surprisingly they customization of these also is locked to rank, with only the better players getting to martyrdom and final stand which are no longer perks due to their strength.  This begs the question – “Why do better players get them?”

It might again seem like I’m complaining about the game, but Modern Warfare 2 is built off COD4 and comparisons are more than due. The multiplayer is still one of the best experiences out there, but lacks the ‘WOW’ factor of its predecessor. Once upon a time, the game would have been considered an expansion for a PC game, when expansions were full of content (I’m not looking at you Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts – well done). Modern Warfare 2 is a great game but COD4 was something special that the latest instalment hasn’t quite emulated.  Once again I have to mention the ‘Je ne sais quoi’ factor.

MW2MP

While getting a 26 kills streak in my first night online after only achieving 19 in 2 years of playing the previous is extremely satisfying, I have to question a balance issue as a reviewer. I enjoyed the game, but something seemed lacking. By all means I suggest picking up the game.  You will no doubt enjoy it, but the mysticism of watching the E3 presentation of COD4 is no longer present and Infinity Ward can no longer rely on the shock factor of change. It took many a year for Infinity Ward to produce COD4 after COD2, and they created something that shook the gaming world.  After only 2 years it seems like they could not produce that same ’step up’. They set the standard of gaming for 2 years and everyone tried to copy this example.  Some even achieved it. Without making huge leaps again, Modern Warfare 2 scrapes ahead on reputation and a system that is already implemented. Marking it down for the server problems at launch is unfair, as handling such a huge amount of players perfectly at launch is impossible.

Modern Warfare 2 will not compete for single player game of the year, which comes down to: Uncharted 2, Arkham Asylum and Infamous among others; however it is a contender for multiplayer. Left 4 Dead 2 and Borderlands are recent possible contenders for this award, but building on an already existing structure is a sure fire way to success, saying nothing of the special ops mode (literally). If you haven’t bought Modern Warfare 2, you should. It’s a great game, but lacks that special something of the previous entry. Perhaps this reviewer is feeling older by the day, but this latest installment is not what it could have been.  Many will disagree and enjoy it, but I didn’t as much as I thought I would.

8 Ninja Heads Out of 10

Rating - 8 out of 10

Second Opinion: Dylan

Modern Warfare screenshotFor some reason, I never saw Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare as this amazing game.  Was it entertaining as hell?  Sure.  So was the recent Star Trek movie.  But just because it was a fun ride, do we start grouping Star Trek with The Godfather and Citizen Kane as some of the greatest flicks of all time?  Nope.  Same thing applies to CoD 4.  While the story was an action-packed thrill ride, and the multiplayer endless fun, it never really struck me as this engaging, deep experience.  I don’t mean to sell the game short.  Believe me, “All Ghillied Up” remains one of my favorite FPS levels of all time.  I just want to take it for what it is.

For the second go around, I was expecting more of the same (Which I repeat, isn’t a bad thing).  What I got showed flashes of the originals ingenuity, but never really executed to the fullest possible extent.  Are there more weapons in multiplayer?  Hell yes, but that ends up being a bit cumbersome, since it is now tougher to gauge which guns truly are the best.  I also must convey my distaste at the newly added exclamations that highlight every kill.  Back in the day, one could get a headshot and be notified by a little red crosshairs next to their kill on the log in the bottom left.  Now, every kill is littered with “Buzzkill!” and “Heavy Caliber!”.  At first, there were so many of these little blips that I became so distracted, I died.  The additions to multiplayer don’t really make me like it more – they just make the whole experience feel clustered.

As for the single player, I’m severely disappointed.  The campaign will take most decently skilled players about 5-6 hours to complete on anything higher than easy.  That would be ok, if it maintained the brilliant pace and cool characters of the first.  While a couple of characters return (One who will make long-time fans very happy), the story itself has shifted from real world conflict to “24″ plot twist.  As Yousif touched on, that sense of realism and weight that the original carried is jarringly absent here.  This is more surprising considering that the first took place in an imaginary Middle-Eastern setting, and the sequel follows real world locales.

To wrap up what may seem like a rant to some, I also don’t appreciate the Kool-Aid spray that litters my screen when I get shot.  Sure, it was cool to watch in the E3 demo, but the novelty quickly wears off.  I want to clarify that Modern Warfare 2 is by no means a bad game.  Far from it.  But neither was Splinter Cell: Double Agent.  In both these games cases, each title simply cannot live up to the standard created for the series, and therefore fall a bit short overall.  It’s still worth buying, but don’t expect that same level of amazement and curiosity that followed Modern Warfare 1.  You won’t find it here.

8 Ninja Heads Out of 10

Rating - 8 out of 10

Third Opinion: Admir J

Special Ops WetsuitModern Warfare 2 comes at us with a bang.  A whole new single player experience, more epic, intense and action packed than any Call of Duty to date.  The game drops you in action right from the start, while explaining some of the story from the previous game.  This time around the game throws even more locale variety at you than the previous games with Brazil, the United States, Afghanistan and Russia, each packing a different type of fight.  One thing I can say with confidence is that each region gives a different style of approach when it comes to completing the mission.  Brazil’s first few levels can be a bit frustrating, especially on harder difficulties.  There are a few knocks to the singleplayer, unfortunately.  The A.I. is not as sharp as the previous Call of Duty games, and the story shorter by an hour or so from the previous campaign length.  Overall, the story told here is fresh enough to be worth a ride, and towards the end of the game you will be shocked about who you run into.  Let’s just say you’ll be very thrilled.

We all know that Call of Duty is known for it’s multiplayer – that is a game in and of itself.  Apart from Halo 3, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 has one of the most advanced multiplayer modes around the industry.  This time it’s packed with more perks than before.  You can even customize your kill streaks, which can be a bit confusing if you’re new to the game.  In fact, compared to the previous Modern Warfare game, you may find your self a bit overwhelmed from all the options you’re given in multiplayer.  The game does a great job to balance out the perks so that no one feels left behind.  I find that Infinity Ward went a bit over board with some of the perks they added, but it’s nothing that’ll dampen the multiplayer experience.  The addition of the predator mission and the AC 130 Gunship in multiplayer is definitely a welcome one, and can result in some spectacular Domination matches.  Infinity Ward knew it had to get some new modes and bring back some of our favorites, such as Capture the Flag.  You have those gamers that prefer the third person view over the first person perspective, and they are catered to as well.  Infinity Ward has included third person modes such as Third Person Team Death Match, which are great to those who prefer the view, but not much animation work has been done to make it look natural – it rather looks like an after thought.

The addition of Spec Ops is another great feature in Modern Warfare 2, and probably the most satisfying.  There are over all 22 missions and each offer a different playing style and difficulty.  The higher the difficulty, the more stars you will be awarded.  Veteran can definitely give you a run for your money and test your patience, but with good team work it eases the challenge, so playing solo I think is worth a go if you’re into a extreme challenge.  The variety in SpecOps is great, and if you want to play with your favorite buddy across the globe you can, as the game does offer a online co-op for you to try out different SpecOp levels.  In my opinion this is one of the greatest things that the Call of Duty games ever received.

Overall Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is fresh enough and has enough content to give it a go, and test out all the modes and have some fun with friends.  The campaign may be short, but the epic story is good enough to give it a play through.  The multiplayer has more guns, perks and kills streaks awards and the SpecOps gives the franchise new blood.  This is a must buy title this holiday season.

8.5 Ninja Heads Out of 10

Rating - 8 out of 10