Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The Call of Duty creators at Infinity Ward are extremely talented artisans. They’re in no danger of being confused with boundary-pushing studios like Double Fine or Quantic Dream. Like Blizzard, though, they hone their craft to perfection and execute a beloved formula at a level no other team has approached. Modern Warfare 2 is a perfect expression of the studio’s identity.
Infinity Ward recently removed the wrappings from MW2’s pined-for multiplayer. Rather than ginning up an involved PowerPoint presentation, the studio invited a few dozen journalists to jump in and shoot at each other for a few hours. The game speaks for itself. Modern Warfare 2 is a tightly tuned, beautifully rendered, darn near spotless first-person shooter that will disappoint very few of the franchise’s legions of fans.
Barring anything being held back for the game’s launch, there are few surprises to be found in MW2’s online play. The action is fast and brutal. The presentation is unmatched. The three maps available for play showcased brilliant design, with carefully crafted sightlines, multiple routes to any destination, and a few hidden paths that lead to great sniping points. I’ve played variations on every gametype in MW2 before, but never in a setting that comes close to matching this overall experience.
The lauded create-a-class feature, which allows players to unlock and equip passive bonuses along with weapon loadouts, is hugely expanded. Completing challenges can unlock higher levels of certain perks now, rewarding excellence with increased power. None of these higher-order perks turn you into the Juggernaut by any means, and everything still has a counter, but giving experienced players straight-up better abilities is a worrisome path for Modern Warfare to explore.
Kill streak rewards are customizable now as well. After unlocking them, you can change the default UAV/Predator Missile/etc. bonuses to others that suit your (or your clan’s) style better. In addition, death streak perks complement kill streaks. These are aimed at leveling the playing field by preventing spawn camping and giving players a little boost after a bad run. The two I saw in action – dramatically increased health for a short period after spawning and copying your killer’s class loadout – are less explosive than kill streak rewards, but can alter the outcome in more subtle ways.
Insignia and callsign rewards join your displayed rank as vanity rewards. Some of these are rewarded for tough challenges, while others are slowly unlocked as you accumulate experience points. Infinity Ward declined comment when asked whether prestige functionality (resetting your progress for a special icon) is returning in MW2.
MW2 is very much a sequel, but it’s an exquisitely crafted game that builds on a deep, solid foundation. The final release isn’t far off now, and anything other than a resounding success on every level will be a shock.