Here's the third installment in the "Games I should have reviewed 3 months ago but the day job has been a bitch" series. This time we're looking at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the sequel to the impossibly awesome Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It's and understatement to say that the sequel had some damn big shoes to fill, and the hype around it was commensurate.
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: MW2's single player campaign is short. REALLY short. Yes, shorter than the first Modern Warfare was, and THAT was pretty damn short. We're talking maybe 3 hours here. It feels to me like Infinity Ward was trying to outdo all the characteristics of the first MW by cranking each one up, including the brevity.
For another example, one of the big things about MW1 was the poignant death of one of the protagonist characters, experienced in first person. Well, they tried to outdo themselves here by making that happen THREE times. By the time the third time it happens, you're basically going "Oh gee, I die as part of the plot yet again, huh? Haven't we run out of protagonists yet?"
They also try to outdo the awe-inspiring shock of MW1's hitting you with a nuke in the middle east by having you defend Washington DC from a full-on Russian invasion which culminates in a nuke AND an airstrike AND nuking the International Space Station. By this point, your suspension of disbelief has been stretched so far they're using it to lay cable across the Atlantic ocean. With all this other stuff going on, the NOLF2-esque snowmobile level that has you jump over a hundred foot chasm doesn't even show up on the radar, it just seems naturally in keeping with the other stuff that's going on. Frankly, I'm surprised the game didn't climax with you having to personally disarm a nuclear bomb with wirecutters and then kill the Big Bad Guy by shoving the whole mess in his mouth and hurling him out of an airplane or off a cliff or bridge or something.
So what I'm trying to say is that maybe they got a little overzealous trying to make the plot "teh AWESOEM!"... but, fortunately, the action and gameplay is still solid. They've also added new wrinkles to it, such as in several missions you'll have the option to remote control predator drones to help you take out bad guys, and there's a wide variety of new weapons for you to try out, such as full auto shotguns, surprisingly useful riot shields, grenade launchers and such all in addition to the previous arsenal of combat rifles and heavy ordinance you were used to from before.
I am a bit disappointed they didn't take a cue from Call of Duty: World at War and make the campaign playable in co-op, but all the "that part where you..." parts of the campaign are available in a separate gameplay mode which has co-op play available. So, for instance if you really liked the "stealthing through tall grass" part of the game, you can play it again and again, trying to improve your score, possibly even with a friend. Personally, my favorite scenario was "the part where" you have to defend your position in the snowbound sub pen with sniper rifles, claymore mines and predator drones. It really pleases me that, now having beaten it, I can at any time go back to any part of the game I found entertaining to play without having to sit through exposition or get there in level order or anything.
So, all in all, here's a shorter than normal review for a shorter than normal game. It speaks to the quality of the game that I'm giving it a good grade despite it being so short and over the top. It's not as mindblowingly awesome as the first modern warfare, but it's still a very enjoyable play worth your time. I also wonder if it might not have gotten a better grade if this was the one released first.
Verdict: B+. And that's the word from bandit camp.