I have now finished Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I am decidedly in the “thumbs down” camp about it, for several reasons which I shall attempt to express in a humorous manner.
This will be filled with spoilers. They won’t make much of a difference, though; knowing what is “going to happen” won’t change your enjoyment of the game since most levels are basically the opening sequence to Saving Private Ryan, only in different terrains.
We’ll cut into sections.
What I Liked
This will be short.
The game is gorgeous. It’s well rendered, never stutters, and the levels themselves just look great. The voice acting is really good and casting Kevin McKidd as Soap was brilliant.
Okay. Moving on.
This is the Best Quake Remake I’ve Played in a Year
I already played this game back in 1996. It was called Quake and it was made by iD Software. You may have heard of it.
In 1996, Quake was a paragon of graphical virtue. It was one of the most beautifully rendered games ever seen, even if every color on the screen was a variant of “shit brown”. Your mission: go from point A to point B, killifying everything in between.
Like Quake, Modern Warfare 2 is a paragon of graphical virtue for its time (except most color on the screen is a variation of “concrete grey”). With a few exceptions, your missions consist of killifying everything between point A and point B.
Only, you can’t killify everything because the enemies will respawn constantly until you move forward to a checkpoint and the “story” can progress. I’ve had people say “no, they removed the infinite wave spawns” but I think that’s clearly, demonstrably false. I can think of at least one part where I was pinned down by guys on a roof in some Brazilian slum and I killed over forty of them before I said “fuck it” and just ran.
This is called “Fake Difficulty“. It is only hard because shit continues until you wave a magic wand (get to the checkpoint) or you get killed.
Not so much in this one: there are only four (out of sixteen) misions that have any kind of “stealth” component in CoD:MW2, and those turn into “Gun N’ Run” about a third of the way through.
To be sure, there are some neat elements inserted (like bashing people to death with riot shields) but these snippets of awesome don’t really make up for the non-awesome. Some of the levels are really neat (fighting through a suburb in Washington, D.C. is an experience, despite the goon waves and stupid tank AI), but I already played a game where the Great Mall had been turned into a war zone (it was called Fallout 3).
The Writing and Plot are Laughably Bad
I think this game takes place in the same weird universe as Army of 2, because that’s the only way I can hope to explain the logic of the plot.
Here’s the run down: There is a Russian terrorist named Makarov. For motivation unknown, he decides to start a war between Russia and the USA. He sparks this by taking a team into an airport and killing all the civilians. Your character is an undercover CIA operative inserted into his team; you are part of this mission.
At the end of the mission, Makarov shoots you and leaves you dead. Now, the Russians will find an American in the slaughter and think that, for some reason, the United States decided to commit wholesale murder on a bunch of civilians. Yeah, that sounds like us.
(Well. Actually, yeah, we’ll kill thousands of civilians in an airport, but we’ll do it using bombs and not M-60s.)
Anyways. Based on the overwhelming evidence that this Awful Happening was orchestrated by the President of the USA, the Russians decide to invade America. Fuck diplomacy or any kind of investigation; we’re moving at lightspeed into Red Dawn.
Cue the rest of the story, where we have an inevitable betrayal by someone whose motivations are ripped right out of The Rock. He will immediately become “The Big Bad” and the terrorist who started it all (for reasons unexplored) – Makarov? Who knows. We drop that plot line like a hot potato.
I want to step out of the Game World for a moment and talk about how laughably stupid the idea of this war is. Maynard asked a really, really good question: “So, how come China isn’t declaring war on Russia?”
Seriously? You think China is just going to sit by and watch their number one trade partner get roughed up by a bunch of Cossacks over evidence which amounts to a shell casing?
Let’s ask “why did they start their invasion in DC?” You don’t think our NATO allies would notice the movement of that kind of hardware over Europe? Further, what possible tactical sense does it make to take a target like DC? We’re a (relatively) decentralized military; far better to give into Sarah Palin’s prophecies and come in through Alaska, destroying the pipeline and working to cripple our fuel production.
Whatever. Vladamir Putin’s got his shit together, I guess.
The storyline just doesn’t make any fucking sense whatsoever. It’s an season of 24.
Seriously? The entire game boils down to a quicktime button game? “Press X to pull the knife from your guts and win the game.”
I’m totally serious here. And it’s an irritating “X Press” sequence – you have to hammer the fuck out of it for almost a whole minute.
Further, the ending doesn’t stop the war! The evidence never gets to Russia, nothing. Maybe you’re meant to think it does, but as far as I know people are still fighting when the credits roll.
Not So Much With the Modern Warfare
This game is set “five years later” from the original Modern Warfare, which pegs it around the year 2017. Okay. Where is my augmented reality system? My GPS? My fucking iPhone has two of them; you’d think that the special forces would get that shit working ASAP. They probably already do.
How come I’m doing all my fighting trench-warfare style? There’s two places where you (briefly) get to use a predator drone but no places where we see things like Big Dog or other robotics (which, by all accounts, is the future of warfare).
In fact, the soldier of 2017 bears little resemblance to what the soldier of 2015 is supposed to look like (according to Rumsfeld, at least).
Having a Good Multiplayer Does Not Make You a Good Game
Yeah, yeah, yeah. “The single player sucks, but the multiplayer is awesome.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re making a multiplayer game, make a fucking multiplayer game. I have little interest in getting called a faggot on XBox Live.
You know what the most fun multiplayer game I’ve played in a long time is? XBox Live’s Uno. You laugh, but I’m not kidding.
If I drop 60 bucks on a game that purports to have a great single player game, I want a great single player game. I don’t want apologies.