Review | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
That level, set in the airport, feels clumsy and redundant. Without wishing to give away the specifics, it feels pointedly controversial without enhancing the game in any way. I suffered a jarring disconnect at the sheer absurdity of what I was doing, and – while it was a potentially interesting inversion of established rules – it is poorly implemented here, and so arguably could have delivered as much, if not more, satisfaction by trading it for a cut-scene. The level itself isn’t even fun, instead being an unchallenging stroll at a forced pace. If I’d started to enjoy what I was doing, or in any begun to identify or connect with the horrifying on-screen actions, that would’ve triggered a far more profound and unsettling reaction.
In fact, as the game progressed, I was confronted suddenly and unexpectedly by other, more subtle, sickening moments of inhumanity. Perhaps they worked better because these fleeting glimpses into the true savagery of murder are framed by the largesse of the game as a whole, freak occurrences lost within the bombast of the overall mission. Whatever the case, grabbing someone from behind and knifing them in the back, only to stare directly into their eyes as they died, affected me far more than the more contrived shocks found elsewhere; so did an unexpected allusion to the mass graves of the genocidal civil wars of the eastern bloc.
Aurally, it’s a mixed bag. The machismo rhetoric is occasionally irritating, and for every well-balanced moment – such as the soft trickle of water amongst the gulag lockers – there is a dizzying din of combat that, even in Dolby 5.1, simply feels shouty rather than dynamically rounded. Combined with the eye-popping busy-ness of the screen, occasionally I felt like I was being assaulted by a clown with a flash-bang. That aside, the score is impressive, lending a gloomy and epic orchestral sadness to the missions set in America.
//Credit where it’s due
Once you’ve reached the satisfying conclusion, Infinity Ward plays what is perhaps its trump card: you are left wanting more. Left wanting another sequel, in fact. This may be seen by some as a cynical move, but I never felt cheated, just enthusiastic about what else the series could achieve. And as the credits roll, an exceptionally clever decision forces you to reflect on all of what has gone before. With all games – especially where it may be played over a few days or even weeks – you might forget the journey; at least some of the satisfaction in completing a game is in besting the outrageous odds that once lay before you. Infinity Ward is canny enough to realise this, and has crafted a fitting tribute to your efforts – Herculean ones, if you have persevered on veteran.
The credits roll over a background scene in a museum. Within the museum setting, each mission has been recreated as a diorama, with its immortalised participants coming to life as the oblivious civilians blithely wander past. Not only does this give an immediate and impactful reminder of your in-game accomplishments, but it also serves as a challenging allegory. Whether intended or not, these scenes encapsulate the notion that the world embraces wilful ignorance, complicit in an unwillingness to acknowledge the background activity of violence which is used to resolve conflicts around the globe.
However, this emotive ending is not indicative of the whole game. Modern Warfare 2 uses grandstanding in the finest way – it furiously screams for your attention, and cannons through the campaign like an immovable juggernaut of entertainment. While derivative (there is a nod to more than one film or TV series), and lacking a certain refinement of its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2 can be forgiven all of this, because it never forgets to be fun. It’s largely mindless, despite the central themes of terrorism and war, and it was indulgent enough for me grin like a happy idiot at the sheer thrill of what I was doing. This is a hymn to the arcade shooter, and the moral opponents of gaming will be disappointed to note that there are few genuinely appalling moments along the exhilarating journey. The few minor gripes aside, this is a worthy sequel, and Infinity Ward should feel relieved. Few fans will be disappointed by this: Modern Warfare 2 blasts the series to a near-hysterical crescendo of polished gung-ho shooting.
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