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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PlayStation 3) artwork

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PlayStation 3) review

"War doesn't change a damn thing no matter how noble the cause, especially during these times in the so-called, "War on Terror." Take out one evil and another more evil one takes its place. The ones who die become martyrs. Their bloodshed gives breed to new followers. War is a convoluted power struggle where yesterday's enemies will become tommorow's allies or something like that.. "

War doesn't change a damn thing no matter how noble the cause, especially during these times in the so-called, "War on Terror." Take out one evil and another more evil one takes its place. The ones who die become martyrs. Their bloodshed gives breed to new followers. War is a convoluted power struggle where yesterday's enemies will become tommorow's allies or something like that..

This also describes the opening monologue to Modern Warfare 2, the follow-up to 2007's modernized reimagining of the Call of Duty franchise. Imran Zakhaev, the main villain of the last game, is worshiped as a hero. His death inspires the new Russian Ultranationalist to continue the work he started. Meanwhile, the game duly begins in Afghanistan, a place no soldier wants to be in right now. You arrive at Fire Base Phoenix as a lowly private from the U.S. Army Rangers. At this point you don't know much about the story or can you morally question your reason for being here. You are only to follow orders. It is in this encampment where you learn the ins and outs of combat. Then you are quickly whisked away by chopper to your first skirmish in a nearby Afghan town.

The battle begins in the city's underpass near the bridge. RPG's hum through the sky while explosions and gunfire are darting in whichever direction. Then you're off to the bridge to commandeer the turret of an armored jeep. This is vintage Call of Duty. As you roll through the narrow streets, it is nerve-wrackingly silent. There's a few men wearing turbans up in the balcony who could pass off as terrorists but they just watch you. All of a sudden the jeep drives hastily and erratically as gunshots rang out from some unknown position. Eventually, a hit from a rocket turns your vehicle over. In a daze, you scramble for cover inside the nearest building to avoid flankers from the roofs. The intensity of combat picks up right where the first Modern Warfare left off. It's only the first stage and the action feels like it should belong in stage three or four. The battle continues in the school playgrounds and into the classroom itself. Finally, the chopper arrives and you have survived your first mission.

If you thought the war in Afghanistan was the only relevant subject that Modern Warfare 2 tackled. Think again. Once you gain the trust of your colonel, he places you into an elite squad called Task Force 141. You're mission now is to hunt down a new terrorist named Makarov. To do this you have to go undercover as one of them. Unfortunately, something diabolical is about to happen at the Russian International Airport. The stage, "No Russian" recalls Columbine and every other shooting massacre in recent memory. The terrorists shoot up an airport with a crowd of several hundred innocent civilians. They get mowed down like cows. The police valiantly try to protect the people but they too become victims. As much as you want to intervene, all you can do is helplessly witness this mayhem and if you feel like it, partake in it too so you don't blow your cover, but you end up dying anyway because Makarov already figured you out. Before you go off spouting "video games are murder simulators" and that more copycat crimes will be commited by youths because of this controversial stage, Modern Warfare makes no apologies for its existence and you have the option to skip it.

But Infinity Ward's vision of war and mass shootings doesn't end there. Modern Warfare 2 hits closer to home than any war-based video game that has come before it. Sure, Resistance 2 takes place in 50's middle America and FallOut 3 has shown what a post-nuclear White House looks like in the desolate wastelands of future America. Here modern warfare begins in Virginia leading up to a war-torn Washington DC. To see the White House in this context being decimated within hours of your arrival while airplanes in the sky fall towards you from electro-magnetic gridlock, its not pretty to look at especially in this post 9/11 world.

Although much has been written about the societal aspect of Modern Warfare 2, the single player campaign is just as good. You'll blaze through a variety of settings much more varied and different than any Call of Duty game you've played thus far. You will fight wars in the unlikeliest of places like the Virginia suburbs and its burger joints to more familiar environs like the Afghan slums and its desert poppy fields. In between, your mission will bring you to city airports and oil tankers. The action set-pieces within these dynamic locations are heart-stopping. The most memorable stage in the game involves scaling up the frozen cliffs of the Siberian Mountains with ice picks then silently infiltrate a base covered in frozen tundra through a blinding snowstorm. The sequence climaxes with a snowmobile shoot-out down the hill while dodging pine trees. Your partner in this mission is a captain whom most fans of the first game will recognise.

Modern Warfare 2 does what a sequel should do--offer more of everything and come out guns blazing, but shockingly there are several shortcomings. First, the entire campaign is over too soon. Clocking in a little under five hours, it feels a couple hours too short compared to Call of Duty 4. It doesn't help that some of the set-pieces like the snowmobile chase move at a brisk pace and end in a matter of minutes. Putting in a few more levels could have rectified this.

The second problem I had with the game is the plot. An extraordinary experience is ruined with an unsatisfying cliffhanger. I felt more of the story could be explained, more sequences could be played out, but instead the game abruptly ends and you'll be left wondering what happened to the rest of the bad guys you were supposed to go after. The narrative can be confusing to follow sometimes while events unfold during live missions because the sequences move by at such a dizzying pace that your attention span has little time to recollect but also has enough going on as it is. It doesn't help that the intermission briefings are occasionally vague. In the scheme of things, the plot hardly matters when you're fighting a war. Regardless of the situation, you're just a solider after all, doing your duty, helping the cause and winning one for the team. No questions asked.

Last but not least is the online multiplayer. Infinity Ward have managed to expand on its predecessor in every way by offering a deeper and rewarding multiplayer experience. They've introduced new weapons of warfare, new perks, new stages and new ways of causing mayhem that alter the strategies significantly. There are plenty of stuff to unlock as you gain levels. There are more customizations to be found. Now in Modern Warfare 2, you can customize your killstreak reward. Kill 4 and you can place sentry turrets to fortify your bases. Kill 5 and you can unleash a Predator drone, a guiding missile that lets you see and home in on the enemy through a HUD. Kill 25 and you can drop a nuclear bomb killing all opponents and abruptly ending the match. But you can only obtain these by unlocking them. Those who are new and inexperienced will obviously be at a disadvantage here. Online multiplayer is still addicting and masochistically fun.

While everyone will be spending time this Thanksgiving day watching football and eating turkey. I'll be spending online in Modern Warfare 2 carving my foes into turkeys. I have plenty of stuffing to go around.

jiggs's avatar
Community review by jiggs (November 26, 2009)

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