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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Modern Warfare 2 (Playstation 3)

Infinity Ward's latest Call of Duty installment, Modern Warfare 2 picks up where the last one left off and delivers a state-of-the-art combat experience. It builds on many of the successful elements of the last game, including an intense single player storyline, intense multiplayer and numerous additions, such as the new Spec Ops mode that brings co-op play to the series. It's polished gameplay and slick environments back up an immersive storyline, filled with unexpected twists and mission types that make this feel more like an adventure title and less like the usual generic FPS. This definitely expands the definition of traditional shooters, so look inside and discover how Modern Warfare 2 offers epic combat missions without losing its essential appeal.

By far, the biggest and boldest entry in the Call of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare 2 has a lot to live up to. It's definitely been preceded by plenty of advance notice, but the question on many gamers' minds is whether it lives up to the hype. We're happy to report that it largely delivers on its promise of putting players in the center of a massive worldwide conflict. It begins almost immediately following the events of the first game and takes players on a wild ride through almost eclectic terrain. While MW 2's basic gameplay remains the same, there are a few instances where the game offers some big surprises. As in previous CoD titles, you play as a solo combatant and have complete control over your actions. Your basic weapons include a rifle and pistol but you have access to a variety of other ammo through the game including night vision sniper rifles, the infamous CoD grenades plus more exotic weapons such as predator drones, grenade launchers and even some missiles. During each mission, you can follow your fellow soldiers around the various maps, which are simple enough to follow when you use your onscreen HUD. As in previous games, you can take out enemies using standard shots or grenades, which can be flung using the shift button. Most of the time, you'll get through the levels quite easily, since they're linear progression and frequent save points allows you to shoot and take risks easily. The basic parameters of each mission are set out before you and the main thing you have to worry about is implementation. There's quite a variety of mission tasks that the game offers which helps to keep monotony to a minimum. You'll perform a variety of tasks - everything from blowing up helicopters, calling in air strikes with predator drones, rescuing hostages, and even some stealth missions. Infinity Ward has gone even a step further than this with some really cool missions that involve driving and racing while shooting, plus some other things you wouldn't ordinarily expect from a FPS. This expansive scope spans continents and gives the game an epic feel that sets Modern Warfare 2 far apart from other shooters. You'll find yourself battling through an impressively diverse array of environments from jungles, to urban sectors. This is a key reason why this title is so highly rated amongst players, and the action is unrelenting in almost every section of the game.

MW 2's enemy AI is surprisingly smart and they will attack your position relentlessly once they're aware of your location. This means you'll probably take your fair share of hits during each mission. Fortunately, the regenerative health system has returned as well. This means you can duck for cover and regain your health by getting out of the line of fire, which helps to keep the game flowing without losing momentum. Most of the solo game can be completed without much problem, though the storyline keeps you thrilled throughout. It moves at a great speed and switches from place to place frequently. This makes for a somewhat confusing narrative at times, but if you keep things straight and focus on the action, it's not really that much of a big deal. As you probably know, the visuals in MW2 are quite impressive throughout. Each level showcases an impressive amount of detail, from flying papers, flames and other environmental effects, the game shows a level of polish and sophistication that most games can't match. It's HD visuals are all the more impressive when you consider the amount of action onscreen. Flying helicopters, waves of enemy soldiers and intense firefights are all rendered in impressive realism that keeps you immersed in the action. It's all done in a technically accurate manner for the most part that makes the game feel believable and intense throughout. It does an excellent job in recreating the feel and danger of war, whether you find yourself crouching behind flimsy cover while enemy forces fire at you, repel off tall structures, infiltrate a snow-covered base or wage a street-to-street battle through hostile territory in South America, the game never lets up in its incredible detail. The action moves through at a consistent frame rate throughout and its speed and smoothness is impressive in most areas. This thoroughly stunning presentation gives Modern Warfare 2 an incredibly polished look and feel that makes for an epic, cinematic FPS experience that delivers some of the most viscerally exciting set-pieces seen in a current-generation game to date.

MW2's solo campaign, despite some flaws, is incredibly engaging and highly polished, it only comprises a portion of the total game. As you might expect, Modern Warfare 2's online component is surprisingly robust and supports up to 16 simultaneous players, which can be divided into teams for group play. There's an abundance of maps to choose from and each level is expertly designed. Multiple modes of play are included for each mission, and for the PS3 edition at least, there's a decent matching service to use. As usual, players can earn perks through successful combat missions. These perks add abilities such as extra power, faster reloading and increased carriage of items such as grenafes. The multiplayer maps are nicely designed and take players through some of the same environments as the main game, as well as other online specific areas. As you'd expect, Modern Warfare 2's online maps showcase a great deal of visual polish and detail, which matches the high-gloss feel in the single-player and spec ops missions. Multiplayer veterans will feel right at home in this mode, but it makes you work to progress. This can be a frustrating task as you play through endless missions, losing every time until you gradually make it a few notches higher. Of course, much of this is dependent on the players you face online, so your experience will vary. We encountered a lot of cheap kills and annoying frags that made the online play feel cheaper than we expected, though a lot of this is to be expected from a mainstream game with so many players. These problems are problematic, but not epidemic so players with patience and perseverance shouldn't be dissuaded from playing matches in this otherwise superb online game.

While Infinity Ward deserves their accolades for the standard online game, which is as smooth and polished as you'd expect, there's an entirely new mode called Spec Ops included. This mode consists of a series of co-op or single player missions that players can complete. These are taken from the main game and are ranked in terms of difficulty. Generally speaking, they play like a distilled version of the single player missions and focus on a specific task or enemy that you have to defeat. Most of the missions aren't timed, but there are several where you have to defeat waves of foes or cross a certain point, which adds to the difficulty. Each mission has a set parameter that you have to meet in order to earn stars. As you go up the ranks, your player attributes increase at the same time, giving you extras such as additional missions and weapons. It's quite an addictive mode, since the smaller scale and scope means you can complete them faster and earn even more extras. Trying to play these in single player mode is somewhat difficult, since they're designed as co-ops, but the extra challenge means you won't spend as much time trying to defeat the missions and will instead try to make the best rankings. Spec Ops offers almost as much content and gameplay as the single player game and as such, it's an impressive addition to the game that makes for an even deeper and more robust experience.

Between its intense solo-campaign, deep multiplayer mode and innovative co-op Spec Ops levels, Modern Warfare 2 delivers a comprehensive, brilliantly executed game that brings an incredible amount of polish and professionalism to the genre. Its smooth gameplay is accessible and easy to use thanks to its intuitive controls and play system, which should now be mostly familiar to Call of Duty veterans. The solo campaign offers an engaging plot and varied locales that keep you guessing as to what the next twist might be, while never slowing down its pace or innovation. Its addictive multiplayer and co-op modes add plenty of depth to the experience, with extensive online support and maps that mean you'll still be playing online long after you've finished the solo game. While there are a few sections where the storyline gets a little convoluted, it's a fairly minor issue. Modern Warfare 2 is an outstanding game that delivers an innovative, challenging and entertaining experience that deserves its place at or near the top of best FPS games lists this year.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: A

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