While it could be said that Infinity Ward have 'returned' to the series after the last game, Call of Duty: World At War was developed by Treyarch that isn't quite the case. Activision have put the two development teams on two-year product cycles. In essence, Infinity Ward have been working on Modern Warfare 2 since they released the first game in 2007.
Unfortunately Infinity Ward are keeping things extremely quiet in relation to the games single player storyline however we do know the game takes place a couple of years after the events of the first Modern Warfare. The Russian Ultranationalist organization from the first game has reformed since Imran Zakhaev was killed, and was promoted as an act of martyrdom to help rally support. While much of the game will be based in and around Russia (as was evidenced by the very snowy "Cliffhanger" level in Kazakhstan shown at E3 2009) the recently released "Infamy" trailer showed a destroyed and burning Washington DC, so battles on American soil are quite likely, although yet to be confirmed.
After the single player campaign gamers will be keen to check out the "Special Ops" mode. This is a 2-player online co-op mode (although you can play it in single player too) with a variety of missions built especially for quick short bursts of play. These missions, which are similar to the "Mile High Club" mission at the end of Modern Warfare where you stormed the plane, will be timed with rewards for good performances. To show the variety, and we think this also comes under the "Spec Ops" mode, the developers have confirmed that there will be snowmobile racing in the game (there are missions where you are on a snowmobile shooting at enemies in the main game)! How bizarre!
There are plenty of other changes to the game too. Instead of carrying one primary weapon and a pistol you can now carry two weapons of any kind. The grenade slot has now become a general purpose slot so you can put grenades there, or any of the other items including a flare which acts as a respawn point. If you die, you'll respawn there, but interestingly you'll need to keep it out of the way of enemies, or they could camp there and keep killing you!
So what do we expect from Modern Warfare 2 when it hits online besides the Special Ops? Unfortunately as with the single player campaign much of the multi-player component is a very tightly guarded secret. Infinity Ward have not confirmed the number of maps, the game modes, or any details. At the very least the game will include Free-For-All, Search & Destroy, Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag, and Demolition game modes. We wouldn't be surprised to possibly see a couple of other modes appear in the final game as well. In terms of levels we've seen "Favela" which is based in Rio de Janerio, an Afghan based level, and on in a high rise building. Perhaps the best news - the game now includes host migration so if the host drops out it doesn't end the game, it selects the next best person to host the game - huzzah!
Killstreaks have been altered, and indeed you can now alter the parameters with 15 different options available. For example 4 kills in a row can give you a "care package" drop (although it can drop anywhere in the map meaning enemies could also grab the goods!), 5 kills gives you a predator missile which you can guide to a target while 11 kills gives you an AC-130 plane in which you can mount the guns to take out enemies from above! Perks have also undergone a major overhaul. If you thought that the previous game had a few perks, well this game has a tonne of new ones, as well as returning favourites. One of the most interesting, and potentially best, additions to this game is "Copycat". By selecting this you'll get exactly the same weapons and perks loadout as your friends so you can see who truly is the best gamer.
Visually Modern Warfare 2 is striking, there's no doubt about that. The original game was brilliant and still stands up well today, however Modern Warfare 2 uses an updated version of Infinity Ward's engine (dubbed IW 4.0) which according to the developers is a generation ahead of the engine used in the previous game and indeed now uses streaming textures to ensure everything remains as sharp as possible. Beyond that lighting, in-game physics, character model detail and AI (including the removal of AI "respawn points" in the game) and objects in the world have all seen major boosts in quality. As long as the frame rate holds up, and we have no reason to suspect it won't, then this should be a visual jaw-dropper for all platforms.
The game should also be an aural tour de force. Robert Bowling has confirmed that the following voice actors are in the game; Kevin McKidd (as "Soap" MacTavish), Craig Fairbrass, Barry Pepper, Keith David, and Glenn Morshowe, while Billy Murray has confirmed he is reprising his role as Captain Price and Ken Lally and 50 Cent have confirmed their participation as well. If that isn't enough legendary film composer Hans Zimmer is apparently working on the music for the game. His film credits include some little films such as Gladiator, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, The Thin Red Line, The Simpsons Movie and The Lion King for which he won the Academy Award.
There's little doubt that Modern Warfare 2 will dominate retail shelves when it launches in November. In fact, there is so much hype surrounding the title that the $AU199 Prestige Edition sold out on pre-orders in a matter of days, and other companies are moving their games out of the lucrative November launch window to hit the shelves either before the game, or well after it with several 'key' titles pushed until early 2010. With almost 14 million players playing the previous title Activision (and publishers Square-Enix in Japan) will be expecting monsters sales. I've got my pre-order in, have you?