Few would argue Modern Warfare 2’s status as the single biggest console release of 2009, and it’s a title that’s already had an obscene amount of praise lavished upon it. This is for good reason, of course, as Modern Warfare 2 is simply stunning. While not a revolutionary departure from COD4, MW2 boasts enough in the way of tweaks and fine tuning to emerge as one of the best FPS titles of all time.
The single player campaign is every bit as impressive as the story of COD4, with twists, turns, shocks and the heavily attacked and controversial airport scene, but, like COD4, it’s also pretty damn short. Luckily, COD doesn’t simply focus on a single player experience, and while Infinity Ward always heaps plenty of attention on the single player experience (keep it up, boys), it’s multiplayer where COD‘s real strength lies, and MW2 is certainly no different. In fact, with the addition of the new Spec Ops mode, this instalment ups the online fragging ante to the next level, unfortunately for every other FPS developer out there. So, now that the game has been out for a few weeks, let’s see just how good the multiplayer mode really is.
Fans of the series will be pleased to know that all of the features of COD4‘s multiplayer are present and correct. The simply flawless control system, precise and smooth aiming and general feel of the game is unparalleled. No other online FPS is so sleek in its approach.
Up the ziggurat
Alongside the all-important controls are COD‘s stellar multiplayer features. Starting off at level 1, you earn experience for almost everything you do in the game. Kills and wins earn points, as does completing challenges, such as saving team mates, getting a set amount of kills with specific weapons and so on. As you progress in levels (up to 70 this time, rather than a cap of 55) you unlock various new weapons, equipment, weapon attachments and perks.
Weapon attachments include red dot sights, ACOG scopes, silencers and even heartbeat sensors and infrared scopes, whilst perks include many of those seen in COD4, such as stopping power, steady aim, radar stealth and quick reloads, as well as a few new additions. These new perks include upgrades for existing perks (even more stopping power, for example), and new entries like Hardline, which requires one less kill per kill streak, and Bling, which lets you equip two weapon attachments to your hardware.
Perk of the job
A new perk system has also been introduced for players who find themselves struggling. These include ‘death streak’ perks, such as stealing the loadout of the player who killed you, a boost of health and the martyrdom perk, which lets you drop a live grenade on your death for some payback.
Kill streaks have been radically altered this time, both to reward expert players and to aid newcomers. While COD4 was limited to UAVs, air strikes and helicopter support, MW2 has thrown open the doors of variety and has a plethora of new support options. These include various helicopter support units, a harrier strike, guided missiles, counter UAVs to block the enemy UAV, radar jamming and mounted auto-turrets. There are even high-level streaks (up to 25 kills) that let you call in a heavily armed Pave Low gunship, fire off an EMP to kill everyone’s status display and targeting, and then there’s the coup de grace, a tactical nuke. Get 25 kills in a row and you can quickly end the game in a victory, regardless of the score, by nuking everyone, including yourself.
Perhaps the biggest change in the kill streak system, though, is the care package. This air dropped crate contains a random support item, such as UAV, stealth bomber strike or even the chance to man the guns of an AC-130 and decimate the battlefield. This is a great feature than can change the tide of a game, and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t only pander to less experienced players. Instead it helps to liven up any game, making each and every battle a real warzone.
As well as the major updates, there’s also a few other little tweaks, such as the addition of unlockable call signs that are displayed onscreen to your unfortunate foes as you kill them, and the ability to customise your kill streaks, choosing which strikes you can call in.
No multiplayer game is complete without maps, and MW2 is excellently served in this department. If you thought COD4‘s maps were well designed and thought out, just wait until you play MW2‘s selection of battlefields. These are refined creations that all feature a great balance of hot zones, choke points and ample scope for tactical play. Each map is well tailored to the many and varied game modes, and none feel like filler material. I’d have liked a few more, though, but that will, no doubt, be taken care of by the inevitable (and shamelessly money grabbing) DLC.
Game modes are extensive. The basics like free for all, team deathmatch, domination and search and destroy are as solid as ever, and variations like hardcore add to the mix, as do third person matches and the various bomb defusing and HQ game types.
A few problems do still remain hidden within this gamut of goodness, though. Lag is still a real issue occasionally, and games can be ruined by unplayable delays. The new host migration feature, designed to migrate the game host should the original host leave, works occasionally but often fails, dumping you back to the lobby, and whilst the nuke is entertaining for the first couple of times, it soon becomes nothing more than an annoyance as someone prematurely ends the game, leaving others helpless. It’s a cheap and, well… silly streak reward, and I’ve no doubt community etiquette may soon frown upon players using it.
Speaking of community, after a relativity short time, it didn’t take long for the usual foul mouthed fraternity to fill up game lobbies around the world, and whilst this isn’t the game’s fault, its own success is, unfortunately, going to attract such players like a magnet. There also reports of players using ‘lag switches’ to cheat. I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually encountered this, but by all reports, others have, so Infinity Ward may need to address such issues to stop any cheaters.
Despite these issues, the slew of features, weapons and general upgrades flows together to form what is certainly the single best online FPS around. To put it simply, no other online multiplayer, even Halo, can hope to even think of competing against the sheer quality on offer here. This is the benchmark for ALL online FPS titles from now on.
Why can’t we just get along?
But wait, that’s not all. Yes, there is, indeed, more. Alongside the traditional online mode is the co-op Spec Ops campaign. This is a series of increasingly more difficult short missions that can be played solo or, as intended, with a friend. These missions include defending a position against waves of foes, sneaking through enemy territory without raising the alarm and even providing cover fire from a chopper as your partner proceeds on foot.
Designed to be intentionally difficult, these modes require real teamwork, and this co-op gameplay really suits COD down to the ground. When you complete a mission you’re given a rating, earning stars as you go. To unlock later Spec Ops missions you need to amass a set number of stars, and so this means you’ll keep coming back to improve on your previous performance.
Spec Ops is a great addition, and makes a change from the usually overly confrontational nature of the standard multiplayer. Working as a team is enjoyable, and reminds me of playing classics like Ghost Recon, which is always a good thing.
So, with an epic and unmissable multiplayer component that improves upon COD4 in every single way, and the new addition of tactical co-op play in Spec Ops, there’s simply no reason whatsoever to miss out of COD Modern Warfare 2. This is pure, gaming bliss, and I’ve no doubt that people will be playing MW2 multiplayer for a very, very long time, indeed. Well, maybe not PC players…