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Critical Reception: Activision/Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Modern Warfare 2, the much-anticipated Call of Duty 4 sequel that reviews describe as "an even more satisfying, more intense experience."

Danny Cowan, Blogger

November 11, 2009

6 Min Read

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Modern Warfare 2, a Call of Duty 4 sequel that reviews describe as delivering "an even more satisfying, more intense experience." Modern Warfare 2 currently earns a score of 96 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann gives Modern Warfare 2 5 out of 5 stars. "The big draw in Modern Warfare 2 is its competitive multiplayer," he explains. "Online, up to 18 players can meet up in several different types of matches, which cover the standard bases, like deathmatch and team deathmatch, as well as capture the flag and several other objective-style matches. The action takes place across 16 different maps that offer a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles." Though Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer remains much the same as its predecessor title's at a basic level, Gerstmann praises its multitude of enhancements. "The core activity in the multiplayer hasn't changed a bit," he assures. "But everything that surrounds these basic concepts has been expanded and modified in a lot of interesting ways." "The concept of selectable killstreak bonuses is probably the most interesting change," Gerstmann continues. "Like before, you can call in UAV drones to give yourself a better sense of where the enemies are currently located if you can get three kills in a row. You can also still call in airstrikes and helicopters. But you can also call in supply drops, send up counter-UAVs that block enemy radar, send in a harrier jet that hovers above the battle and guns down the opposition, or even call in a Predator missile strike, which lets you quickly control a missile as it drops from the sky, hopefully onto a cluster of enemies." Less successful elements from the original Modern Warfare have been overhauled. "Perks that got a lot of complaints in COD4, like Martyrdom and Juggernaut, have been heavily reworked," Gerstmann writes. "For starters, Martyrdom is now a "deathstreak" bonus. If you die four times in a row without killing anyone, your next spawn will give you one instance of Martyrdom. This makes it a lot more rare, as opposed to COD4, where almost every player dropped a grenade every time they died. Juggernaut is gone completely." "Since it's building on such a strong framework, it might be hard to go completely nuts over the release of Modern Warfare 2," Gerstmann admits. "But if you've played a significant amount of Infinity Ward's last game, the improvements are numerous and they are supremely satisfying. If you've ever been interested in a first-person shooter, buy this game." Brady Fiechter at Play Magazine scores Modern Warfare 2 at 9.5 out of 10, noting that the first scene in its single-player campaign is an impressive achievement. "The true power of the interactive medium revealed itself," he writes. "Games can be much more than innocent fun, and this is only the beginning. I want more. I want to be challenged and tested and moved by games, like I was here." Fiechter also praises Modern Warfare 2's ability to draw players in to its setting. "Modern Warfare 2 peerlessly builds wonder and chaos and spectacle into its battlefield, yet the building blocks that organically shape the engaging combat rise from this incredible visual space," he says. "Getting pinned down underneath latticed rooftops in Rio De Jeneiro, darting around shattered columns in an underground prison in Russia, trapped in a casing of fog as thermal sites reveal deadly targets on an oil rig in the Arctic -- the game plays out in sequences with weight and narrative force. "This series turns some people off with the the idea that the fighting is too linear and scripted," Fiechter notes. "I say the point is lost -- that you have this little space, more convincing than any game before it, that would leak its apoplectic charge if designed with an unnecessary, forced freedom." Fietcher continues: "Some of these levels are rigid, yes, but it's the balance Infinity Ward tips from quiet moments, to skull-shattering mass battles, to expansive, more chess-like spaces that make you feel like you are in an actual place with real choice and real consequence." "As a big fan of the first game, I expected something great, but I honestly thought the startling newness of Modern Warfare would leave expectations too high to match," Fiechter says. "It speaks volumes that Modern Warfare 2 was an even more satisfying, more intense experience." Edge Magazine rates Modern Warfare 2 at 9 out of 10. "How do you follow such a commercial and critical home run?" the writer asks. "Modern Warfare 2's answer is simple – more of the same, plenty of new stuff – but its execution is more complex." "This is a dazzling package," the review continues. "A singleplayer campaign crammed with set-pieces that pull the player through at breakneck speed sits alongside Spec Ops, 23 co-op missions and a MW greatest hits package, before that superlative multiplayer, which really needs no introduction. With such attractions on offer, this is a shooter that demands playing, and playing again. It is still Call Of Duty, but its execution is skilful, mostly thoughtful, and it boasts the highest of production values." Edge's review warns that the single-player mode seems predictable at times, though. "The singleplayer campaign is right up there with MW's, suffering only from the fact that, in the intervening years, FPS games have moved a little beyond Infinity Ward's template," Edge notes. "So you still get sections that feel like a shooting gallery rather than a shootout, making you wonder if it's coincidence that the tutorial involves targeting cardboard cutouts. You'll be wondering what happens next, then move an inch or two and trigger it." "Yet for all that the basic firefighting and narrative twistings have their problems, everything is redeemed by the spectacle on offer," Edge's staff continues. "Modern Warfare 2's set-pieces are not only inventive, full of twists and shots in the back as much as the frequent shots in the arm for the firstperson perspective, but cleverly play with expectations. They create beauty from chaos, foreshadowing thrills and living up to them." Edge emphasizes that PC gamers get a limited experience compared to previous releases in the Call of Duty series, however. "Infinity Ward has opted out of dedicated multiplayer servers, a decision that throttles the game's potential on the platform, as well as belying the developer's PC roots," Edge criticizes. "No mod tools, no custom maps and no clan-hosted servers mean there has to be serious doubt about MW2's long-term future in a marketplace containing the moddable original as well as the likes of Team Fortress 2." "Despite that sizeable blemish, Infinity Ward has delivered -- and then some," Edge concludes. "Modern Warfare 2 not only stands comparison with a predecessor that some believe to be the best game of this generation, but in several areas it surpasses it. Its sheer assuredness in mechanics, spectacle and often situation are unlikely to be surpassed for some time."

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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