/CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2

05/12/2009

 

.What is it good for?

Modern Warfare, for all the hype, just didn't offer what I was expecting.  The original, less modern, Call of Duty series really seemed to get it right.  And if it didn't, most of us that played it wouldn't know the difference.

 

We saw Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers and that is all most of us playing really know about that war.

 

Modern Warfare however is something we see every day on the news and we can be a lot more knowledgeable about what goes on, at least to some degree. 

 

Modern Warfare 2, goes one step further than its daddy and spirals into total Tom Clancy-Andy McNab-Jack Bauer insanity.  It may well be the intention but I for one did not enjoy it.

 

.NEGATIVE NARRATIVE

I don't even know where to start.  This is one of the most unnecessarily convoluted and over-the-top stories ever brought to our consoles.  It's genuinely terrible to be frank. 

 

The characters are either empty or plain annoying, if you have enough time with any of them to really understand them at all before being transported to another place with another empty character.  Add to that a story setup that seems to take you places for the mere sake of taking you to those places, perhaps because they look cool, as opposed to taking you there as part of an ongoing plot.

 

I genuinely gave up trying to even understand what the message was or where I was being led, and by whom, at about level 3.  I really don't know what else to say about the story.  Put simply, it doesn't make sense!  Although ultimately, in my opinion, a game doesn't actually have to have a story to be good, if you are going to force feed me one as viciously as this game does, then make it good (see: Bioshock!)

 

.7 DEADLY GAMING SINS

So, I know I'm bashing MW2, and it will be an unpopular stance, but I was hugely disappointed.  And, with many aspects...

 

I play lots of multiplayer games, however, they are not my number one reason for playing games. I love single player games; there is something about the craft of lovingly built and designed compelling single player experience that draws me in.  So, I got exceptionally annoyed when I brought MW2, only to discover that the entire game has, at its heart, really been designed with MP at the core.  The single player campaign was 4 hours long, which is outrageous for $60, especially when Activ-elystealingyourmoney-ision thinks it's okay to suddenly charge the PC loving public that extra $10 too! 

 

That is all compounded by the fact that, during the short-lived single player experience they manage to break almost every design rule in the book.  Now, I'm all for trying new things, bending the norms and (apologies for this) thinking outside the box now and again, but there are certain rules and ideologies of design that should remain intact.  Let's look at some examples.

 

Put me in a house to guard or defend something with 8 different ways into the building and spawns that only seem to occur out of your line of sight, or spawning enemies pretty much exclusively above me or behind me (while in the already confusing slums) and the result?  I get shot in the back of the head and killed so many times I gave up counting.  Fun!

 

As far as I'm concerned the game broke too many cardinal rules to be considered, GOTY or, 'an instant classic!'  There were some great starts, the first stealth mission started off well, climbing the cliff face, albeit kind of pointless, I liked the intent.  The thick snow and fog  to creep around in, trying to take out the guards before your buddy did, great stuff.  But, with less than 3 minutes of the mission done it turns into an explosion gallery.  Bored now.  The back and forth of burger town added to my anger at the length of the campaign.  The Wolfenstein-esque castle was just surreal and again, felt like a location chosen exclusively because it looked cool.

 

The Rock movie reference(s) were a sweet touch though.

 

.turn it to 1!

So, now I am going to sound like an old man, but that isn't the point of my gripe here.  In general, the sounds were good and very well constructed.  However, the sound design overall; OWWWWW!  It was a permanent cacophony of gunfire and explosions, and that includes ambient sound which is a terrible idea.  It was just never ending.  Not only is it one of the first games in years that has genuinely given me a headache and seen me reaching for the volume control, but it makes the enemy encounters even more frustrating than they already were.

 

A large proportion of good level design should also include good art direction and sound direction, and it should be exactly that, direction.  Sound should be used to help you as a player.  Having the constant sound of gunfire in, seemingly, every direction, makes it impossible to know where your next enemy is coming from by using audio signals.  When it let up for a minute (stealth missions etc) it was very good and I love to listen to well crafted game audio. 
 

Overall, could have done with a few more 'quiet library moments' I think.

 

.THAT MISSION

Okay, I can't do a review of MW2 with talking about it... So, let's do it I suppose; the airport mission. 

 

Although it was an interesting attempt to place some morale choice at the players' fingertips, it simply doesn't work out that way.  A lack of real choice to do anything other than join in made it pointless.  Even if you decide to keep the safety on, as soon as you get outside if you don't start shooting you will die instantly, so the whole thing felt counterintuitive.

 

During the civilian part I was mostly just putting the injured out of their misery, doing my best to administer triage and act humanely and decent, as I like to do in games, it's much easier than it is in real life.  But, it would have been nice to have given the player a way to do something more here if they were really trying to present a morally challenging situation.  Like, helping others escape, or discretely healing or giving aid.  Just something different than walk or shoot.

 

.On the Whole

I guess you can see what my general feelings are and where this is headed.  To be clear, this isn't a bad game, it really isn't, it just doesn't get right, or do well, so many of the things they had done in previous games and that infuriated me.

 

And, ultimately, with such a huge focus on multiplayer, I was extremely disappointed.  I have refused to even play the multiplayer because I believe a game should, and as a fellow Brit (ben “yahtzee” croshaw) once said, stand up on its single player merits alone.  Modern Warfare 2 fails to do that entirely.  So, my overall impression and subsequent diatribe have, I would say, firmly attested to that.

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