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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Prestige Edition

Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4, 1 - 18 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

In November, 2007, a new juggernaut entered the gaming world of FPS shooters. The newest installment of the Call of Duty series, introduced by Infinity Ward, moved from the too-familiar confines of World War II and into a fictitious near-future conflict based on real-world potentials, making use of modern-day weaponry. Appropriately named Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the effects were immediate. Players were immersed into an intriguing (although somewhat short) storyline full of the "OMG!!! Did you see THAT?!?" moments that live on well beyond the initial moment of witness. Yet as in-depth and awe-inspiring as the Single Player Campaign was, it paled in comparison to the multiplayer frenzy that followed. This aspect of the game was so good that, two years after the release, I still played COD4 more often than any other game in my collection. It should be no surprise to learn that, when Infinity Ward announced the pending release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (commonly referred to as simply Modern Warfare 2) in February, 2009, anticipation reached near-palpable levels.

So the big question became "How do you improve on a product that was already almost perfect?". The answer is simple; don't fix what isn't broken, just tweak the details. Infinity Ward did a fantastic job, starting at the ground level. You cannot have a game meant to invoke the emotional connection and the feeling of combat frenzy that Modern Warfare 2 aims for without first having a top-notch graphical and audio interface. The already outstanding visuals from COD4 have been improved upon, not in large ways, but in important details, such as improved smoke and fire effects. The environments are incredibly detailed and I admit to being stunned when I entered several of the levels to find litter blowing in the wind or sparks flying from a roaring fire. It was enough to almost make my eyes water from pure immersive sensation.

With such great graphical representation, it would be easy to allow the sound effects and other auditory aspects of the game slip just a little. Here again, Infinity Ward stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. The already impressive voice acting from the COD4 is one-up'd in Modern Warfare 2, bringing back favorites Kevin McKidd and Billy Murray to reprise their roles and adding veteran actors Lance Henriksen, Barry Pepper, Glenn Morshower and Keith David to the cast. Rap star 50 Cent makes a guest appearance doing some background squad vocals in both the Spec-Ops and Multiplayer modes of the game. Voice acting alone cannot carry a military FPS game however. To accompany such great talent, Infinity Ward included incredibly realistic sound effects, from small arms fire and the screams of civilians caught in harm's way to the overhead passing of stealth bombers and audible "click" of a claymore being tripped, with just enough time for you to think "Oh NO!"...boom! To really add the icing to the cake, award winning composer Hans Zimmer was brought in to compose the soundtrack of the game. From a graphical and audio aspect, there are few games on the market today that compare to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.


When discussing gameplay in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, all three manifestations of the game should be discussed as separate entities. The first mode of play is the Single Player Campaign. Set 5 years after the end of COD4, the story follows a special multi-national task force that is tracking Vladimir Makarov, the man who came to power following the fall of Imran Zakhaev at the end of the first game. As with COD4, players will adopt the aspect of several different player-characters during the campaign, and again, expect many more "Holy $h*t!" moments (note: I normally do not include questionable language in my reviews, but I do so this time to make a point. If the previous wording offended you, DO NOT purchase or allow your children to play this game. It is absolutely meant for players over 17, a point which I will drive home later in this review). Besides the moments of awe, Modern Warfare 2 again ups the ante by bringing the fight to American soil. It is easy to forget how horrible the ravages of war can be when it is thousands of miles removed and located in some area that we've only seen in pictures. However, when the battles are being fought in and around our Nation's Capitol, the devastation and horrors become a much more realistic reminder. The campaign is again very short and can likely be finished in 6-10 hours easily. Without risk of spoiling things, suffice it to say that it appears likely that a Modern Warfare 3 is already in the works.

The second mode of play is the new Spec-Ops missions. These missions are, from interviews I have read, ideas that the development team had which really could not be worked into the single-player campaign effectively. Instead of just tossing them out, they made them into one-off missions. Additionally, to alleviate another common complaint with COD4, they made these missions cooperative. Several of them can be completed solo, but they are designed to be done with the help of a friend (many require 2 players to attempt). These missions greatly extend the re-playability of Modern Warfare 2 and show just how creative the team at Infinity Ward can be outside of the constraints of campaign linearity.

The final mode is Multiplayer, the proverbial jewel in the crown. After a few hours of Campaign Mode and the exploration of the Spec-Ops missions, the heart and soul of Modern Warfare 2 is going online and killing some other players with great abandon. COD4 had multiplayer very nearly perfected and, thankfully, Infinity Ward did not try and re-invent the wheel. For those already familiar with Multiplayer in the first game, you will instantly feel right at home. The control scheme remains the same, but there are some noticeable differences with the overall system. New equipment and weapons have been added, as well as some new perks. Some older weapons and perks have been shifted, some becoming available earlier, some later, in what I suppose was an attempt at game balancing. The maps are again quite interesting, and now that I have overcome my anxiety at having to learn new maps, I've found that most of them are very well balanced and create some very interesting tactical situations. As before, there are a myriad of modes to choose from in multiplayer, including a couple that allow 3rd person control. Players can now choose what killstreak rewards they will use during a game. Some of these are very interesting, such as the ability to jump to the gunner seat in an AC-130 for a short period, drop an EMP to disable all electronics or, should you so choose, end the match by deploying a tactical nuclear missile (don't worry, this is a fairly rare occurrence, needing a 25 killstreak in order to obtain one). One massive improvement is actually not a gameplay improvement at all. In COD4, one of the most aggravating moments happened when, in the middle of a match, for some unknown reason, the host left the game. This would cause the match to end abruptly. Thankfully, Modern Warfare 2 has been updated so that now, should the host leave, the game pauses temporarily while a new host is found and the game can be migrated across. After the migration, gameplay continues as normal. I still noticed some latency issues online, so players without a very good connection will suffer a fairly severe disadvantage. There is a noticeable difference between having 3 and 4 bars, so much so that, in the frantic pace of the game, the advantage that players have with 4 bars is nearly insurmountable. However, this is not something the game can be faulted for and does nothing to stem my overall appreciation of the great multiplayer experience.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is not a walk in the park, and it is not meant to be. Even on the easiest settings, the game can prove quite challenging at times for inexperienced players. Early in the game (as in the first), players will run through a target shooting course. Based upon performance, time and accuracy, a suggested difficulty will be offered. Players are free to choose whatever difficulty they feel comfortable with, and this can be changed on the fly during the game. I found the game challenging but manageable on the Hardened setting, sometimes running frantically for my life, sometimes wondering how enemy soldiers could be that stupid and still manage to walk and not fall on their own rifle. The A.I. has improved over the first installment, but enemies are still predictable if you watch them long enough. It seems stupidity is not limited to the enemy either. Several times during the Single Player Campaign, I had an enemy in my sights or was actively engaged in a fire-fight, only to have a member of my own rifle team walk into my line of fire. Difficulty of some missions is increased by adding civilian bystanders to the mix. Shoot a civilian and it is normally game over. There are a couple of missions that find the player controlling a vehicle, usually in a high-speed chase or escape sequence. While not very challenging, these offer a nice break from the normal pace of the gameplay. Dogs are easier to deal with this time around, although I still found myself targeting these crazed beasties first whenever possible. A final note on the difficulty of the game is in relation to multiplayer and the killcam. COD4 introduced the killcam, which showed the visual of your last kill from the killer's vantage point. This gives players that know the maps a good indication where the player that killed them was located. Unfortunately, this idea was carried over into Modern Warfare 2. While I love running and gunning, there are several maps where I enjoy sniping the opponent. I've long felt that giving my position away via a killcam waters down the value of a good sniper spot and cheapens the experience and overall immersiveness. Alas, I may be a lone voice in this regard, but I shall still cry out to the wilderness around me none-the-less.

Game Mechanics:

If you have experienced Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, then the mechanics of Modern Warfare 2 will feel like a cozy warm blanket. Control schemes are basically unchanged, allowing veteran players to jump right in to the experience with little, if any learning curve. New players will have a little more difficult of a time, because for some unknown reason, Modern Warfare 2 has the absolute most abysmal manual I have ever seen. Thankfully most of the controls can be found in the options in the game, but this certainly does not make up for the toilet-paper thin manual that accompanies the game. For a product as well packaged and promoted as Modern Warfare 2, this is really a surprising oversight or guffaw. That being said, Modern Warfare 2 does a nice job of walking new players through the control schemes, so no harm, no foul I suppose. The Single Player Campaign is a very linear and guided affair. Checkpoints are shown and voice commands are constantly prompting a player with instructions or warnings of imminent danger. Contextual or on-screen prompts are also fairly common. Considering the target age of this game, very few players will have difficulty picking up the control scheme.

While controls carry over to multiplayer, some new dynamics have been introduced which merit mention here. First, level caps have been increased to 70. Once a player has reached 70, the option for choosing Prestige Mode is still offered, basically resetting the player back to level 1. However, titles, emblems and accolades a player has earned will not be reset when/if Prestige is chosen. Titles, emblems and accolades you ask? Players now earn various titles and emblems throughout the course of the game by achieving various scores or completing certain tasks. These emblems and titles can be used to customize the in-game gamer-tag. Just another minor touch that really opens up the game to personal customization. Additionally, leveling of equipment has been overhauled. Previously players could level up weapons to unlock various attachments and color patterns. That still exists in Modern Warfare 2, but the guys at Infinity Ward have taken it a step further. Now, in addition to weapons, perks and equipment can also be leveled up, offering a vast cornucopia of class customization goodies for players to enjoy.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released in three editions. The first edition features just the game and retails for $59.99. The second edition of the game is called the Hardened edition. This edition comes in a metal case and includes a download code for the first Call of Duty game. It also includes a very handsome hardback book featuring artwork and behind-the-scenes interviews from the making of the game. The Hardened edition retails for $79.99. The third edition is truly for the hardcore COD fan. It includes all of the previously mentioned bonuses plus a pair of functioning night-vision goggles. Now, I would have loved to have been in the conference room when someone suggested this as a marketing gimmick, but hey, I will admit that I have a pair, I've used them, and they do work. For the sake of novelty alone, they are almost worth the $200 asking price. Modern Warfare 2 did not release without facing some criticism, mainly over one particular mission found early in the game. The mission was of such questionable content that the option to skip the mission without penalty is presented both at the beginning of the game and during gameplay. However, after playing said mission, I believe the criticism was unjustified and felt that the mission was not pure sensationalism but a key component to driving the story. Again, keep in mind, this game is rated M for mature and should not be sold to anyone under the age of 17. If you are a parent buying games for your children, read the warnings and heed the ratings, they are there for a reason.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has lived up to all of the pre-release hype, and then some. In the first day, in just the United States and the UK, the game brought in more than $310 million dollars. To put that number in perspective, 2008's The Dark Knight held the record as the highest grossing opening weekend of any movie in history. During that weekend, it grossed $155 million. Modern Warfare 2 doubled that amount, making it the single biggest opening day success of any entertainment media and proving that the gaming industry is a force to be reckoned with. If you are a fan of FPS games (and are over the age of 18) and were not one of the 4.7 million people who bought this on release day, I have but one question... what are you waiting for? Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is one of the few examples where a game transcends gaming and becomes a true entertainment experience.

-The Mung Bard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Buddy Ethridge

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