james debate
james debate

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Developed by Infinity Ward
Published by Activision
Genre First Person Shooter
Platform PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release date(s) Out Now

I seriously doubt there's anyone reading this who is not at least aware of this game. In the build up to release, it had been attracting attention for the wrong reasons. Controversial civilian killing levels have got the media and shrill housewives in an uproar, while unnecessary restrictions on multiplayer modes have been met by strong resistance from PC gamers. But frankly, I really couldn't give a crap about any of this. Read on to find out what really matters when it comes to this game.

modern warfare 2

First of all, I know it's taken me a long time to write this review, a fact which is completely unrelated to the amount of time I have spent playing this game in the past week, though clearly that didn't help. But before I talk about how awesome much of this game is, I'm going to tell you about the bad stuff. Note their will be spoilers.

Now anyone who has read my reviews in the past know how completely fed up I am with buggy games that get rushed out to meet deadlines with little or no testing, and sadly for those of you who are thinking of purchasing the PC version I tested, this is pretty much what you'll get.

In truth, I ended up spending the better part of a day just trying to get this to work, given the temperamental relationship between this game's PC port and ATI videocards. So if you have one, then beware. Even after this, my play-throughs (plural for reasons that will soon become clear) were frequented with random crashes, error messages, and occasional freezing. At one point the game crashed and, even though all my save data was intact, the ridiculous checkpoint save system the game employs is entirely dependent on a single settings file, which corrupted, therefore rendering all my save data useless and forcing me to start over from the beginning. Absolutely horrific, back up your user data folder. The multiplayer side of things was equally buggy, taking a significant amount of time and effort to connect to a friend for a simple game.

Once you get past the kinks and technical bugs however, this game is about as awesome as they come. It's incredibly well honed to the point of being as perfect a shooter as you'll find, with tried and tested mechanics that have made the Call of Duty series one of the most enduring in the industry. There are no major changes in that respect, but it is further refined to the point of excellence. Meanwhile the level design in this game is amongst the best I've ever seen in a shooter. Each one is memorable and absurdly good fun, whether you're fleeing across the rooftops of Rio de Janeiro, cliffhanging in the alps, or SPOILER fighting commies in central DC. It's all incredibly fun.

What's more, it is all absolutely beautiful to look at, with fantastically detailed environments and lifelike characters. If you have a powerful enough computer to run it, then you won't be disappointed. The overall experience is really something quite special, with a series of explosive, fun, and truly mesmerising levels to play through.

But there are still things that bug the hell out of me about this game. The first Modern Warfare was a really fantastic game, fun, pretty to look at, and featuring a truly gripping story to play through, that was fascinating precisely for its (relative) realism and believability. For this sequel, they've ramped up the fun factor, but completely thrown the believability out the window.

The plot of MW1 saw you hunting terrorists in Iraq and combatting Russian extremist groups in the Siberian wilderness. MW2 sees MORE MASSIVE SPOILERS a Russian mercenary perpetrating a terrorist attack on a Russian airport and framing the Americans, so as to provoke a full scale Russian invasion of America. The framing is completely unconvincing, the notion that poverty stricken Russia would respond to the discovery of an American terrorist with a full invasion of the most powerful nation on Earth is crazy, and then that they would somehow land a surprise invasion on both coasts of the United States without anyone noticing, not the Americans, not their allies in Europe or Asia, not the Intelligence agencies, is completely preposterous. But that's not the best part. It turns out one of the American generals, bitter about the cover up of the incident in MW1 that led to the death of 30,000 of his troops, is pulling the strings, because he wants to start world war 3 and then become a hero by stopping it. What one thing has to do with the other, or how this in any way avenges his fallen men, is simply never stated.

And yes, you can just say 'oh its just a videogame, a bit of mindless fun, stop analysing the plot', but no. This is not even mindless fun. Independence day is mindless fun, Halo and Mass Effect are mindless fun, but they at least achieve a semi reasonable level of coherency and immersion, such that the average viewer can suspend disbelief and enjoy. The same was true of MW1. But this, in MW2, is simply laughable, it's too ridiculous even for mindless fun, and it frequently ruins the sense of immersion and pulls you out of the experience. It feels like the developers of this game cared more about creating controversial and shocking images, like a war torn DC or a terrorist attack, than actually making any sense. Neither of these scenes land anywhere near as hard as the far more believable nuclear explosion in MW1 anyway.

There is, however, one thing that I do like about the plot of this game, and that is that for the first time in the series, they are actually trying to create and develop characters, with Soap and Price returning from the first game, and ending this game on a cliffhanger that will leave you wondering about their fate until MW3.

Ultimately it's a shame, because you have this beautiful and incredibly fun and well designed game, which then aspires to be an engaging and cinematic experience but fails miserably on account of seriously half assed and manipulative writing, and game breaking bugs and technical glitches. Admittedly the latter won't be a problem if you have this on a game console, so add on half a star to my final score in that case.

FPS perfection
Proper characters

Absurd and incoherent plot
Technical bugs

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