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December 1, 2009
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
10/11/2009ActivisionActivisionInfinity Ward1-22-16
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Modern Warfare 2's Kazakhstan mission.
When Infinity Ward released the first Modern Warfare game (which was the fourth in the Call of Duty series) back in 2007, they changed the direction of the franchise from focusing on World War 2, to fictional wars set in the modern era. The change of direction was a huge success - despite being released in early November, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare went on to become the best-selling game of 2007 and the best-selling first-person action game of all time. Pre-order sales of Modern Warfare 2 also set an all-time record, which means that the pressure is well and truly on Infinity Ward to deliver the goods again. Have they managed it?

The short answer for the impatient is a definitive "yes". If you have any interest in shooting games, intense action, stunning graphics, engaging storylines, dramatic mood-setting music, frenetic gameplay or an excellent online experience, Modern Warfare 2 is a must-have. It really is that good. For anyone who needs further convincing, here's the long answer.

The story follows on from the previous Modern Warfare title, although it is now five years later. The Ultranationalist party, villains in the previous game, have managed to seize control of Russia, and former Ultranationalist leader Imran Zakhaev who was killed in Modern Warfare, is now seen as a martyr. Vladamir Makarov, a lieutenant in Zakhaev's regime, continues to raise the ire of the US military by reigning death and destruction on Europe via nefarious acts of terrorism. When an undercover CIA operation to stop Makarov goes horribly awry, Russia gains sympathy from the rest of the world at the expense of the USA, and is able to openly invade the USA without UN intervention.

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Riot Shields are in Modern Warfare 2.
In the game you play as, and interact with, several different soldiers, some of whom make a return from the original game, whilst others are completely new. To begin the game you control US Army Ranger Joseph Allen through some drills where you'll learn the basics of play and in the process impress General Shepherd enough to be drafted into the elite Task Force 141. From here the story expands to include other members of Task Force 141, and their efforts to stop Makarov in his tracks.

The most controversial chapter of Modern Warfare 2 happens early on, when new recruit Joseph Allen is sent deep-undercover to infiltrate Makarov's inner-circle. During this chapter your party mercilessly guns down unarmed civilians in a Russian airport. You have the option to participate in the slaughter, or to stand back and watch the carnage unfold if slaughtering innocents is not your cup of tea (you will also be asked multiple times if you would like to skip the chapter altogether). This chapter has led to perennial video-game critic, South Australian attorney general Michael Atkinson, to call for the game to be banned in Australia. It's confronting, but at the same time most people will be able to recognize this is a video-game, not real life, and will move on quickly once the chapter is complete. This chapter sets up the remainder of the plot, so it's not entirely frivolous, or there simply for shock value as some have suggested.

The controls are identical to last year's title L1 looks down the sights of your weapon or zooms in on targets if you have the sniper rifle equipped, R1 shoots. L2 throws a flash grenade to disorient the enemy, whilst R2 throws a frag grenade to, um, explode them. R3 controls your knife for melee attacks, and holding down L3 makes your character run. The direction buttons are used to select other weapons you have in your arsenal, some of which will be mission specific, like claymores, predator missiles (lots of fun), grenade launchers and laser targeting.

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Battle in the slums of Rio de Janerio.
Like its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2's campaign mode is short experienced hands will be blasting their way through in a little over five hours. What it lacks in length though, it more than makes up for in intensity. There were numerous occasions when I reached the end of a level, only to realize I was sitting on the edge of my seat, tense, with heart racing. Enemies take a lot of the credit for this, as they display plenty of intelligence; they'll find any nook and cranny with a good vantage point to shoot at you, if you reach a tight area they are adept at throwing grenades in your vicinity and if they get exposed in the open they'll charge at you intent on knifing you into oblivion. They'll snipe you from rooftops, fire rockets down the alley you're in, hide behind doors, crouch behind boxes they'll do all in their power to remain hidden and dangerous for as long as possible. The storyline too, is engaging, with plenty of twists and turns along the way - it's no Uncharted 2, but it is entertaining.

Whilst campaign mode is very short, players can also undertake Special Ops missions set in locations seen throughout campaign mode. There are four sets of Special Ops missions (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta), with five missions in each. Each mission awards up to three stars based on your performance, or the difficulty level you've selected. The stars are important because you'll need to gain a certain amount before the next set of missions is unlocked.

There's a pleasing amount of variety in the missions some are straightforward "kill everyone" missions, whilst others have you defusing bombs, racing snowmobiles or sneaking through enemy lines with just the sniper rifle and your own guile to see you through. There are also a few co-op missions in Special Ops mode, during which one player generally rides in a helicopter and lays down support fire for their friend on the ground as they make their way to a target area. The missions are simple in plot but a lot of fun too. The difficulty of Special Ops missions in general can vary significantly even when played on the same setting, but unlocking most, if not all of the missions is certainly achievable.

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Battle at the airbase.
Just like the original Modern Warfare, the biggest disappointment with Modern Warfare 2 is the length of the single-player campaign. Newcomers to the franchise will likely want to replay the campaign multiple times, but veterans of the series may not have the same drive, especially once it's been completed on the toughest difficulty setting. The all-new Special Ops mode adds more hours of single-player fun, but a longer campaign mode would surely be appreciated. The only other criticism that can be fairly leveled at MW2 is that there is nothing revolutionary here it is not looking to evolve the genre in any way. This is a legitimate criticism, but at the same time, what is here is implemented so well and with such precision that it's not a major concern.

Looking back at our review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare it must be stated that we placed far too much emphasis on the single player, and not enough on the multi-player modes and longevity. This remains, to this day, one of the most impressive multi-player games of all time. Part of the reason we have taken so long to get this 'major' review online, is to spend a lot of time playing the multi-player components and indeed we have already clocked well over 30 hours of online gameplay. So what can you expect from Modern Warfare 2? A hell of a lot actually...

We'll start with the game modes, and there are tonne of them in this game. Initially only a couple are unlocked but as you move up in the rankings other modes get unlocked. These modes include the following: Team Deathmatch, Mercenary Team Deathmatch (no clans), Free-For-All, Domination, Ground War, Demolition, Sabotage, Headquarters Pro, Search and Destroy, Capture the Flag, 3rd Person Team Tactical, Hardcore Ricochet: SD, Hardcore Team Deathmatch, 3rd Person Cage Match, Team Deathmatch Express, Mosh Pit (which is a mixed bag of game modes) and Hardcore Ricochet: HQ Pro.

As you can see from the list most have been ported from the previous Call of Duty titles but the biggest new addition is that of the third person modes which see you playing from over the shoulder. There is no option to switch to a first person mode here, but that would certainly provide an uneven playing field. This is an interesting, and rather impressive, new option indeed.

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Battles are pretty intense.
As with Modern Warfare online multiplayer is highlighted by the unlockable content as you achieve new ranks in the game allowing you to Create a Class. As well as being able to select your primary and secondary weapons you can fully customise these with unlocked attachments, but only after you have achieved a high enough rank, and then completed the challenges associated with each weapon. Perks have also returned but rather then just a simple addition each of these Perks now has a challenge to complete which takes the Perk up to the next level with even more power. It's brilliant and even when you get up in to Level 30 after around 30 hours online (as we are) you won't be anywhere near unlocking even a quarter of the weapon upgrades or perks. It's also possible to set your Title, Emblem, and Clan Tag.

New to Modern Warfare 2 is the ability to set your own Killstreaks. There are fifteen killstreak rewards in total with three available to be selected at any one time. Do you select a UAV after 3 kills, or the Care Package at 4 kills. How about the Attack Helicopter at 7 kills, Stealth Bomber at 9 kills, AC-130 at 11 kills or for the mother of all Killstreak rewards the Tactical Nuke at 25 kills! In a similar vein you can also select a Deathstreak reward when you're on a bad run which may include the ability to copy your killer's loadout, or get additional health among others.

Criticising the multiplayer component of Modern Warfare 2 is akin to picking faults with the Great Wall of China or Eiffel Tower. It's such a monumental triumph for the creators that finding faults is really taking things to the extreme. Indeed in terms of gameplay there is little to fault with a wonderful system for upgrading weapons and character abilities. Still if we are to pick a few faults the inability to restrict games to territories often leads to massive frustrations for Australian gamers as they are lumped in with games in Europe or America and thereby struggle with pretty horrific ping times. We also feel that there should have been a few more maps then the 16 provided. Sure there will be map packs in future (for a fee of course), but the XBox 360 will have exclusive rights to them for short periods of time (the exact length of which has not been disclosed as yet). Still, small issues in an online component that we will be playing for months.

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Snowmobiles in Modern Warfare 2.
Modern Warfare 2 runs on its own proprietary graphical engine and looks impressive from start to finish. No matter where the action is taking place, be it a US army camp in the Afghan desert, or the crowded streets of a city in the Middle East, or a snowy mountain top, or a Russian airport, or the slums of Brazil or even suburban USA, all of the environments look incredibly realistic. Aside from looks, it's also in how these areas feel in the US army camp for example, soldiers are doing their own thing when not on duty, like playing a game of one-on-one basketball, eating a chocolate bar, smoking a cigarette, having a drink, chatting with friends, repairing vehicles or doing patrols they're the kind of thing you'd expect from real soldiers, though not necessarily NPC's in video games - it's immersive, and adds another level of depth to the environments you're placed in. Things do start looking a little worse for wear if you get up too close as the texturing isn't up to the same standard as the environments, however things move at such a pace you'll barely have time to notice.

Another part of the reason MW2 looks so impressive is that there's always a lot going on graphically - there's an almost ever-present smoke-haze around the battlefield thanks to the various artillery being thrown about, tanks, helicopters and enemy soldiers all move about firing their weapons, creating more and more on-screen destruction and yet the screen-tearing that is so prevalent in many other PS3 titles is nowhere to be seen here, and no matter how much action there is on-screen there is very little, if any, slowdown. Bullets impact differently based on what they hit; they'll blast holes in concrete but not penetrate it, but will fly through walls comprised of flimsier materials and strike home on those unlucky or foolish enough to be hiding behind them. Characters are well animated and move realistically, fires and explosions look as they should, with a heat-haze emanating from them, heck, even dogs look good in this game.

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Weapon and characters look brilliant in MW2.
The audio is once again fantastic in MW2 every aspect is well-handled. There's a heap of weapons in the game, and they all sound as you'd expect them to. Handguns have far less oomph than uzi's which in turn have nothing on assault rifles. Grenades, rocket launchers and the predator missiles all pack a satisfying punch when they strike home. The voice-acting is first-rate; with the urgency of the battlefield coming through in the way the actors' lines are delivered. There's a lot of mission-specific banter during missions, directing you to your next objective or letting you know what is going on elsewhere, and the quality voice-work makes all of the characters feel authentic. Even enemy soldiers who bark out directions to one another are well-done, adding to the tension when you can hear, but not see them. The music in Modern Warfare 2 has been composed by Hans Zimmer who has worked on countless big-budget Hollywood films such as The Dark Knight and Gladiator. His orchestral score plays throughout missions, adapting to the action as it unfolds and it fits the action wonderfully, adding dramatic effect to the on-screen events.

With Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward has delivered a wonderful game for both newcomers and franchise veterans alike. It's definitely worth noting that the single-player campaign is extremely short (5-6 hours), with Spec Ops adding the same again, so anyone not looking to go online with Modern Warfare 2 needs to consider this fact before buying. If you want to go online though, Modern Warfare 2 is, quite simply, a must-have. This is a fantastic game, one that will no doubt be in the running for multiple end of year awards, including the coveted Game of the Year title.

Review By: Mike Allison & Dave Warner (Online Multi-player)

GRAPHICSOutstanding visual effects and extremely detailed environments throughout, with nary a screen-tear nor slowdown to be seen.
SOUNDTicks every box; sound effects, music and voice-acting. A first-rate effort in every department.
GAMEPLAYIntense, fun, edge-of-the-seat action. A thoroughly enjoyable experience from beginning to (the all too quick) end.
VALUESpec Ops adds much needed longevity to the single-player mode, but multiplayer is where it's at. Could literally keep you busy for months if you go online.
OVERALLInfinity Ward has delivered the goods in emphatic fashion. A must-have for fans of the genre and a definite Game of the Year candidate.

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