"The designers succeeded in creating a strong sense of chaos throughout the campaign where it seemed that calamity was waiting around every corner. Maybe I was skulking through the back alleys of a South American city to capture someone with information I needed while fighting off that guy's personal militia. Or storming a governmental building in order to retake it from enemy forces. Or defending my position inside a house from wave after wave of soldiers. It seemed like I was nearly always under siege from multiple angles."
Even though the single-player campaign in Modern Warfare 2 is pretty damn short, it was probably a good day or so after completing the game I realized this. It takes time for my adrenaline level to return to normal and for my heart to revert back to a normal pace from the "about to blast through my chest" rate it was beating, you know? And a person might not realize a level is actually really short when it seems they are under constant fire the entire time. This isn't an old-school first-person shooter where enemies come in tiny groups and prefer to hide around corners, while occasionally edging right into your line of fire in an attempt to slightly damage you before your bullets make their head explode.
Things were fast-paced and hard-hitting in Modern Warfare 2 to the point where I often found myself looking for any possible opportunity to find a momentary safe spot where I could regroup for a few seconds. The designers succeeded in creating a strong sense of chaos throughout the campaign where it seemed that calamity was waiting around every corner. Maybe I was skulking through the back alleys of a South American city to capture someone with information I needed while fighting off that guy's personal militia. Or storming a governmental building in order to retake it from enemy forces. Or defending my position inside a house from wave after wave of soldiers. It seemed like I was nearly always under siege from multiple angles.
That's probably the biggest success of this game -- its near-overwhelming sense of intensity. The closest to a dull level is the controversial "No Russian", which serves more as a catalyst for the plot than actual gaming entertainment. After you've gotten your chuckles from being a very, very bad person and feeding the Mr. Hyde part of your personality, you won't get much time to catch your breath the rest of the way.
Not that you'll be complaining. I loved the variety in this game -- as far as both action and locales go. In one mission, I was holing up in various fast food places fighting off the enemy troops attempting to eliminate my squad. One minute, I'd be making a mad dash from one building to another...the next, I'd be on a rooftop aiming a bazooka at a helicopter. A bit later in the game, I was invading a heavily-guarded prison to retrieve a particular prisoner, walking through crumbling corridors in an attempt to extract the dude and get out before overzealous allies decided to blow the entire gulag to hell...regardless of whether my team was still there or not.
While I've complained about the concept of completely recovering health simply by avoiding gunfire for a handful of seconds in the past, I found myself not caring about such trifling concerns in Modern Warfare 2. Heroes in this game tend to have low tolerance for intense physical damage compared to other FPS protagonists I've controlled. Things like being too close to an exploding grenade or taking a rocket to the chest tend to be fatal a good deal of the time. And when you're taking damage, the screen gets very bloody. Take a couple of bullets and it's easy to find cover to recuperate; but if you're on death's door like you will be if you barely survive that grenade or rocket, it's not easy to maintain composure and find a safe spot when your vision is nearly 100 percent obscured by all the screen splatter.
Really, the only thing I found issue with in this game was how it seemed you'd reach checkpoints every time you exhaled. While I'm sure the game is pretty challenging on the higher difficulty levels, while playing on Normal, I was able to bully through everything just because I seemingly reached a new checkpoint whenever I accomplished anything. I was playing through Modern Warfare 2 with a friend. We were a good ways into the game and I was the one taking the control for one particular level. The object was to travel through a forested area to get to a cabin that was supposedly being used as a base of operations for one of the main villains. He's not there, but a computer with some useful files was, so my job was to defend the computer (and my ass) from the hordes of enemy soldiers storming the place until the files were all downloaded before getting to an escape point.
Here's how things went down: as the download process began, I was given radio communication that enemies were coming and to plant some claymores strategically to give them something to think about. Instead, I stood right next to the computer and waited. As troops came in, I'd shoot them. Occasionally, I'd see that I got a checkpoint...solely for killing a few enemies or because a certain percent of the files were downloaded. Regularly, I'd die, but due to the checkpoints, that would only cost me about 10-15 seconds. Eventually, that entire chunk of the mission was accomplished -- not because I actually fought with any strategy that would indicate my brain does work, but because the game bestowed enough checkpoints to make that area so simple even a caveman could do it (eventually). For all I know, my tactics (or lack of) would have gotten me shredded with bullets mercilessly on a tougher difficulty level and I wouldn't be able to survive long enough to reach checkpoints. But, damn! There's just something lame about a game having such frequent checkpoints that I could die a couple dozen times during one extended battle and still prevail, despite not doing a single thing that would exhibit that I was learning from my failures.
Still, that's the sort of trifling concern you'll get from graybeards like myself who remember the good ol' days when you didn't have the ability to save games and no matter how good you are, you'd always die in the end. Even if you get checkpoints too frequently, the game still kicks ass! It looks beautiful, the fighting is crazy-intense, there are a lot of weapons to discharge into bodies and there were some pretty sweet dramatic moments. Depending on how much you get into multiplayer gaming (since this is the first and only time I've mentioned that here, you can guess how little I do), the overall brevity of the campaign might make Modern Warfare 2 more of a rental choice than something to purchase. Whether you buy or rent the game doesn't matter -- just play it.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 23, 2010)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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