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Call It Doody. No, Seriously.

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.

The previous game in the series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, interspersed the Gun N’ Run levels with several well-crafted stealth missions (which I loved) as well as some neat gimmick missions.

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.

Bitch-Ass Ending

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.

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6 Responses

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  1. mr_chip says

    Pretty much agreed, I think. I had more fun with it than you did, but a lot of why I bought COD4:MW in the first place was because people kept telling me that it was absolutely amazing until I gave in. I still probably wouldn’t have bothered with it if it had been an odd-numbered entry into the series; the “two dev teams, one series” thing always pissed me off.

    So, the thing is that COD:MW was unexpectedly great. The plot was silly but held water, the shooter game mechanics were joyfully & unapologetically mid-90’s in a time when everyone was trying to emulate Halo & Gears, and it took such big risks with that opening sequence of your own execution that I wanted to see where they’d go next.

    And man, did that pay off in spades. A game that puts you through the pitched, last-ditch rescue mission, escaping by the skin of your teeth, and then you die in agony of radiation poisoning along with the person you rescued? Fuckin’ A, man. That was brilliant.

    For every bullshit moment like defending the ferris wheel, there was the Ghillie suit stealth mission.

    So more or less: MW1 got a lot of extra mileage out of being way, way, way better than I expected, having great production values, and taking some chances with the medium. I loved it, even before I got into the multi-. (I only quit the multi- because I took a work trip to CA last November, and when I got back I decided it was best to leave the heroin on the shelf.)

    So what I’ve been trying to decide now is whether I’m being too hard on the sequel for not living up to the original, or if the flaws in the sequel serve only to amplify the flaws in the original. It’s like they found the best parts of the first game, polished them off, and magnified all the things about the original I considered problems. I found the airport level to be pretty intense and I was nauseous afterward, but I get emotionally invested in such things. Everyone’s mileage is going to vary on that. Mostly, though, it’s just like they went all fuckin’ Amp Goes Up To 11 on it. You get an Aliens-ripoff proximity meter, the stealth missions seem cool but are arbitrarily ruined by vision boxes and having a big red flashing light on your head when you’re discovered, there’s nothing awesome like sniping was in the original, the snowmobile chase is laughable, the Flavela’s a ruined opportunity of level design.

    Gah, the more I talk about it the more annoyed I am.

    There’s not even an interesting exercise in stupid-hard memorization gaming for a bonus level this time. (I call this Contra hard.) The challenges are fun and varied, and I wish the bridge sequence had stayed in the main game, but… meh.

    So yeah, I agree. Disappointing sequel, but I wonder what could have possibly lived up?

    Next on the block most likely to fall victim to my overset expectations: Bioshock 2.

    You’re being too dismissive re: the multi-player, btw. The first few passes with the multi- suck because nothing’s unlocked, but eventually you get it going and it’s stupid good fun. The MMO aspect of it makes for a very good time, and you can just mute out the dickheads.

  2. mr_chip says

    Oh also, I think they only focus on the DC part of the invasion b/c that’s where they dropped the PC. The animation of the invasion shows planes coming in on all coasts, and presumably it’s nationwide simultaneous. This is backed up by one of the bonus levels, which puts you on a suspension bridge as it takes a missile hit.

    That of course makes the EMP blast thing even more stupidly unexplainable, if NYC / SF / LA / Chicago / Denver / Detroit / Houston / Dallas / OKC / etc. are all under assault too.

    OH! I LOVED THE EVA SEQUENCE. HOLY SHIT THAT WAS COOL. A bright point in otherwise stupid storytelling.

  3. crotchgoblin says

    I, for one, welcome our Ultra Realistic Modern Warfare 3 Overlords.

    Bonus SF training for extra ultra realism!

  4. project_exalts says

    If you want all the gadgets and equipment from 2017, the GR:AW team are the only ones to have “licensed” it from the military. (If you’ve not played it, GR:AW is glitchy but good, and GR:AW2 is apparently more of the same but with less bugs and a cool little bullet proof ammo cart you can drive around and use a mobile cover!).

  5. evilheff says


    Only employed to good effect in System Shock 2.

    as for everything else : I cant be bothered. ‘Medal of Allied Assault on Hill 19 of Warfare Honour Recon Vegas 6′ Can go suck a dick. I sit through trailers hoping for another Delta Force 2 and instead get the comedy writings where We play World war 2 again, only this time there are ten million germans in france, and no english, canadians, french underground, or anyone else, and its Tommy, Butch, Fingers McGee and Bruno-The-Tank-Driver versus the nazis again.

    Im tired of it. Its infested holywood scary movies a la the Rock / James Bond and I was getting tired of some megalomaniac wants to end the world shit back in the days where I was starting to change my mind about whether all girls had cooties and maybe I should try talking to them.

    anything predicated on real warfare is utter shit these days, usually in a desperate attempt to avoid political confrontation; see also Stupid disclaimers at the start of Assassins creed; “we have a multicutural, multi-ethnic staff and dont hate anyone!”. Makarov and his depressing Ilk are just Games manufacturers way of spawning “Lord Skullfucker” a guy thats safe and expedient to hate.

  6. stygiandarkness says

    Multiplayer vs Single Player

    Single player? There are good examples out there somewhere.

    Multiplayer? TF2. Do it right or don’t do it.

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