I can’t say that I’ve been much of a fan of the war series of games. I’m not sure what it was about them but I guess the glut of Axis vs Allies games we had about 5 years ago left a sour taste in my mouth as they were always your typical “Go over there and kill the Nazis for the greater good” which got extremely tiresome after a long while. I’d always felt that we were just rubbing the German’s collective faces in the fact that they did something wrong and good ultimately triumphed (this could also be in part to my German heritage and hence I felt my pride take a small bruising because of this). So while I may have written off the Call of Duty series off initially they did draw me back in with the first of the Modern Warfare line which boasted an intriguing single player campaign and an extremely dedicated online community. Whilst I haven’t had the time to try my hand online of their latest offering of Modern Warfare 2 as of yet I did get a chance to play through the campaign last week and I must say, Infinity Ward has outdone themselves when it comes to giving you that Hollywood-esque feeling of the man out to save the world whilst still capturing some of the true horrors of war.
The first thing that you’ll notice about MW2 is absolute beauty of the world that they throw you into. This is not just because of the gorgeous scenery that makes up every single level it’s also the stunning level of detail that has been achieved. Everything you’d expect to see is there from recruits playing basketball in the first level to wine cellars in an upper class neighbourhood under siege. Whilst its easy to race past all of this there are times when you’re forced to slow down and take in your surroundings, which is usually because you’re being held down by suppressing fire. There’s also one scene you can’t run through no matter what, and that’s the controversial “No Russian” mission.
Now I’ll have to be honest, the controversy and hype about this mission made the whole experience for me rather disconnected and emotionless. Whilst I can understand the emotion that was meant to be invoked by such a scene (and truthfully part of me was just too shocked to react properly) having heard about it endlessly on gaming websites I knew what I was in for and the impact of the scene was lost. However there were a few things that stuck with me about it. The first was a single line on the video before it spoken by Shepard:
It will cost you a part of yourself, which is nothing in comparison to everything you will save.
Indeed reflecting on that mission more I can feel that kind of loss, trying to justify the slaughter constantly in my head with the thousands upon thousands of lives I will save by bringing Makarov to justice. The final betrayal by Makarov then unravels any justification I could have made in my head to overcome the senseless violence my character had just committed, making him just a pawn in his bloody game. So whilst the initial shock of the scene may have been ruined for me the scene still sticks in my mind long after it has been played out.
There were also a couple ideas or themes that I felt played out constantly through MW2. The first, and probably most obvious, was the very real depiction of what a soldier’s view of front line warfare is. There were countless times when I found myself right in the middle of conflict, gunfire soaring over my head and orders being shouted in my ear that left me in a daze scrambling for direction. Of course the game’s HUD does a good job of keeping you on the right direction (although I do credit Infinity Ward for making the majority of it fade away after a short period in time) but you still get the feeling that sometimes you’re just a small cog in a much larger machine. There are also times when you’re the hero, a single man against a much larger foe. These are carefully balanced and it makes both experiences equally as powerful, something which many games struggle to achieve.
Secondly the entire game is a giant advertising campaign for the United States Army. Now I’m sure this isn’t completely intentional but the times when your character in MW2 becomes the hero many of the horrific aspects of war become glorified. One such mission has you taking out troops using a Predator drone’s Hellfire missiles and you get varying levels of commendation from your team depending on how many you kill in one shot. I can’t really fault them for this because if the game just trashed the American war effort constantly the game would be no fun to play at all and the game would obviously be labelled as such. The careful line drawn between showing the glory and horror of war works extremely well but I wouldn’t hesitate to guess that a few considering a career in the army were tipped over the edge by playing MW2.
Just because you all knew it was coming (and if you didn’t I’d have to point you towards this page) I’ll have to throw my weight in on the space scene. It was a nice addition and definitely something I wasn’t expecting to see in a game like MW2. However there were a couple nits I need to pick out of their depiction of space, the ISS and indeed their understanding of physics at large.
First off their configuration of the ISS is old and completely off. Whilst I can understand that creating a model takes time (although their configuration is from 2005) and as such might not match the most recent configuration of that space craft the bits that have been added (most notably another set of solar panels) could have been copied from the ones shown in the picture. Secondly the camera’s on the astronauts helmets would be woefully inefficient for the purpose of watching an ICBM from long range. They’re not particularly high resolution and the ISS has many other cameras on board that would be far better suited to this purpose. Additionally the astronaut in question is a fair way away from the station which is never done because there’s just no need for it. I would’ve let them off with a warning if they used the shuttle instead, but then I would probably have a whole other swath of objections to make 😉
Overall I was very satisfied with my time spent with MW2. It’s a short game with only about 6~8 hours of solid game play in it but I’d struggle to find a moment when your heart wasn’t racing and you weren’t glued to your seat with your eyes solidly fixed to the screen. In fact many who I’ve spoke to about the single player experience in MW2 have done the entire game in one sitting, a testament to how gripping this game really is. I’ve deliberately refrained from commenting on the multiplayer experience as I prefer my FPS games to be played on the PC, and with them being in a minority for this release I thought it would be unfair. However if my brother’s experience is anything to go by (he’s an avid Xbox360 player of Mw2 on Live) its just as captivating as the single player.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is available for PS3, Xbox360 and PC right now for $AU118, $118 and $98 respectively. Game was played on PC on normal difficulty with about 8 hours of game time total.