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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Chances are good that by now gamers have already decided whether or not they are going to buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The game was released in the early part of November and was an instant success for Activision with millions of copies sold worldwide. Itís a tribute to the quality development by Infinity Ward, but itís safe to say that the awesome experience offered by the first Modern Warfare undoubtedly drove the hype for this sequel.

It should go without saying that most everybody and their grandmother knows about the Call of Duty franchise. Players have been hitting the battlefield in the series for quite some time and Modern Warfare offered something of a unique perspective. Rather than taking place during World War II, this branch took place in current times, or maybe just a tad into the future. The advanced weapons and gear gave it an energy all its own, and Iím pleased to say that Infinity Ward built upon the structure that was readily available. This sequel is everything fans of the original will want and then some.

One thing to take away from Modern Warfare 2 is that the experience is very immersive. Youíll literally feel like youíre in the middle of every firefight and there are some extremely tense moments in the single-player campaign. With that being said the solo component doesnít exactly tell a wholly compelling story. There are bits and pieces that will definitely draw you in and are downright awesome, but the plot as a whole just doesnít quite mesh as well as one might hope. Basically all you need to know about the story in Modern Warfare 2 is that the Russians have invaded America. Terrorists are behind the attack in some way, and thereíre certainly a few surprises if you find yourself wrapped up in the story. Keep it in mind that the plot sort of falls apart towards the end. Fortunately this in no way detracts from the incredible experience found in the single-player. On the fly moments are far, far more interesting than scripted plotlines.

It's the intensity of the gameplay that draws you in so much. The controls are more or less standard FPS with shooting, reloading, running, crouching, melee, and grenade button placements everywhere you'd expect them to be. It's safe to say that if players cut their teeth on the first Modern Warfare they'll feel right at home with this sequel. What makes the gameplay so special is everything else besides the intuitive control scheme.

For starters, there is no health meter. Instead as you take damage your screen will fill with blood to indicate that it would probably be a good idea to stop playing like Rambo and find some cover for a while. Once the blood falls off your face you're good to go, but that doesn't mean the game is easy. The AI is pretty ruthless at times and though you are almost always with a squad of soldiers, you'll almost always feel like the underdog. It's a fairly visceral experience as enemies flank, throw back grenades, find cover, and lay down suppression fire for each other. It makes each single player stage feel like an uphill battle where you truly have to give it your all to make it through.

Aside from the modestly sized single-player campaign that will take slightly more than ten hours to go through (depending on your play style), there's also a Special Ops mode to check out. These are more or less challenges that you can complete to hone your skills and earn bragging rights among your friends. There are three levels of stars and the difficulty of each of the several missions certainly varies and forces gamers to play outside of their comfort zone. It's a nice way to shake up the experience and give players something new to do after finishing the solo action. Then again, that's what the multiplayer is for!

Once you take this game online it will not leave your console for a long, long, long time. Hours and days can easily be plunked into the addicting multiplayer component and it will take quite a long time before the entertainment value of this mode runs thin. This is largely due to the fact that there are more game variants than you can shake a stick at, but it's the other pieces of gameplay that fill in the blanks.

I dare say that this series set the standard for the modern first-person shooter. As you get kills, win, and achieve certain objectives you'll gain experience points. When you receive enough you'll level up and unlock upgraded skills, new weapons, and attachments for those armaments. While many other games have attempted to copy this formula, Infinity Ward proves here that they solely own it. Playing the multiplayer is extremely rewarding and players will constantly find themselves playing "just one more" in order to get closer to that next unlock.

The weapons are plentiful in multiplayer mode with assault rifles, sniper rifles, sub and light machine guns, handguns, shotguns, and even a riot shield being up for grabs. The quality of each weapon and sub-category should suit just about everyone's playing style and there's bound to be one favorite for each player in the bunch. Adding to this variety is a stunning amount of attachments for each such as a silencer, variety of scopes, grenade launcher, etc. With that being said I'll never understand why a shotgun needs a silencer...that just seems counterproductive, but I digress.

Aside from the weapons Perks are definitely the next big ticket. There are three "styles" of Perks and each style as specific ones. For instance players can select Marathon (which grants unlimited sprint), Stopping Power (which increases bullet damage), and Ninja (which makes it so you don't appear on Heat Sensors). The possible combinations are virtually endless and adding to the insanity is the fact that each Perk has a second "Pro" upgrade that unlocks after you meet specific Challenge requirements.

And of course there are also Killstreaks and Deathstreaks. Killstreaks are granted to players who are performing solidly and win several kills in a row. The ability to customize and unlock new Killstreaks is a treat within itself, and players who find themselves with 25 kills and no deaths may be able to drop a nuke and win the game instantly. Deathstreaks are the opposite really. Gamers who are having a run of bad luck and dying frequently will be rewarded with a variety of four abilities such as Martyrdom (where dead players drop grenades) and Copycat (which lets players copy the class of the person who killed them). It's when you roll everything together that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's whole package comes into focus and is absolutely daunting to take in.

Quality of the gameplay and various modes aside, one of the other stunning factors about Modern Warfare 2 is the graphics. To put it simply, this game looks abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous in 1080p. Every bit of design that went into this game was done so with painstaking detail and it shows oh so much. From characters to weapon models and even environments, everything is finely textured and adds to that incredible sense of immersion I talked about earlier.

Explosions launch debris at your face, gunfire whizzes by your head, and on top of all the mayhem there are an impressive amount of characters displayed at all times. The beautiful part of all this is the fact that there's absolutely no slowdown whatsoever. This game simply has to be seen to be believed and stands out as one of the best looking games on any console that I've seen in quite a long time. Infinity Ward truly sets the standard with this release.

Equally impressive as the graphics and gameplay is the sound direction. Modern Warfare 2 grabs hold of you and draws you in with spot on surround sound. Player footsteps can be heard on the rear channels when they are behind your character and bullets sound like they fly by your head and hit the wall behind you. Explosions, gunfire, and screams indicate where things are in relation to your position on the map. Oh, and turn up that bass for some added oomph. This one's a killer all around and everything from the voice acting to the music is top notch.

In case you couldn't tell by now I absolutely loved Modern Warfare 2. Everything about this game is a testament to the quality development team over at Infinity Ward. The gameplay, graphics, sound, and addictive multiplayer stand out in ways that few other games can even hope to achieve. This truly is the most definitive multiplayer experience out there and it's nice to note that the rest of the package is nearly equally good. Don't even hesitate about picking this one up. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an instant classic.