Review | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Online)
Format: Xbox360/PS3/PC | Genre: FPS | Publisher: Activision | Developer: Infinity Ward | Release date: 10/11/09 | RRP: £39.99-£54.99
By Sam Giddings
This review and its accompanying score refer solely to the Xbox 360 online component of Modern Warfare 2. For the single-player review, head on over here.
UPDATE: The score was originally submitted incorrectly, and has as such been updated to a 9/10. This is the score submitted with the writer’s copy, and I can only apologise for inputting the wrong number to begin with. -Ed
With Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward has yet again set the bar for competitive and now co-operative shooters everywhere. That’s it. That’s really all you need to know.
It’s not perfect. Modern Warfare 2 delivers a refined and understated online package, a considered and deliberate evolution of what came before. But it’s several steps short of a revolution. Neither as original as the first Modern Warfare, nor as imitative as World at War, it occupies a conservative middle ground that, while perhaps not pleasing everyone, should nevertheless steal the waking hours of many online gamers.
The requisite game modes all make an appearance: free-for-all, team deathmatch, hardcore, the objectives modes (sabotage, search and destroy, capture the flag), and even a strange new third-person mode. The central mechanics still work in the same way: killing, completing challenges and meeting objectives all earn experience to drive you up the ranks, and unlock better weapons and perks. So far, so obvious. The big changes, though, start to appear when you gaze deeper into the customisation.
//My flexible friend
Infinity Ward understands its behemoth well. It’s an extremely fine balance to reward persistent players while trying not to exclude the casual online adventurer, especially when there are unlocks and perks thrown into the mix. The problems with this approach might never be eliminated altogether, but Infinity Ward has learnt from its mistakes on Modern Warfare, and the customisation offers many ways to circumvent the inequality. The team has worked hard to open other avenues to less regular or less able players, building on the fundamentals of the original. Modern Warfare 2 allows players to more fully adapt their custom-built classes to their own playing style and preferences.
The exclusion of some previous perks and the inclusion of ingenious new ones are where this particularly shines. The much-maligned Juggernaut perk has been removed, for example. Previously, players who equipped Stopping Power to deliver extra bullet damage had it negated by Juggernaut, which gave a health boost to those who selected it. Now, Stopping Power exists in isolation: your bullets will either have an added effect, or they won’t – no half measures. While on the surface this seems like a minor tweak, in reality it’s one of many such changes that help deliver subtle but far-reaching reformations to the online side. Those who are less skilled at aiming, or who prefer the instant twitch-kills of the run-and-gunner, can now select Stopping Power to give them an edge over anyone else without it.
Perhaps the most interesting new perk is the obviously-monikered Bling. Once unlocked at level 21, you’re able to select two attachments for any one weapon in your custom class. If you want to be a clandestine master of the swift precision kill, then you can equip a red dot scope and silencer. If you want to give support fire from the back of the map, then you can add a thermal or ACOG scope for additional range, to be combined for an under-mounted shotgun for anyone sneaking up on you. Such inclusions are far more extensive than those in any other iteration of the Call of Duty franchise, and combining these perks allows you to mould your class to your playing style more effectively than ever before.
All perks now have “pro” versions, too, offering extended benefits. Sleight of Hand, for example, improves reload times. Once you’ve killed a certain amount of people with it equipped, you’ll unlock not only a huge experience bonus for completing a challenge, but also the pro version, which offers a quicker look down the scope when holding the left trigger button. Small touches like this make a wealth of difference to how the combat handles out on the frenetic and unforgiving battlegrounds of contemporary war.
But the customisation doesn’t end there – killstreaks are another huge area of improvement. Previously, all players were tied into rewards offered when managing to chain streaks of three, five and seven kills without dying. In Modern Warfare 2, players can tip the balance away from that arbitrary standard, dependent on their own skill. Those who’ve struggled to make seven continuous kills and call in an attack helicopter are offered alternatives: counter-UAV, care packages, sentry guns, and a host more. When combined with the Hardline perk, to reduce the benchmark for each killstreak by one kill, weaker players or those with less time to devote to the game are still given a chance to influence the outcome of the match in a significant manner. Similarly, for the well-practiced and skilful players, more difficult – but ultimately more devastating – killstreaks can be selected when building a class. The lure of piloting an AC-130 gunship to rain down fiery death is sure to be a huge draw for many players, but there’s even the chance to obliterate the whole map with a game-ending tactical nuke if the truly nimble-fingered can ascend to an untouched 25 kill streak.
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