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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 Co-Op Special Ops Missions; 2 - 18 Online Multiplayer
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Infinity Ward once again steps up the graphical goodness with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the PC. Continuing where the previous game left off, MW2 delivers the war aspect that makes this game so good by not only displaying outstanding environments, but showing off beautiful effects as well. The feeling of war is unleashed with explosions of dirt, smoke cover, and bullet trails that not only visually look great, but immerse the player in battle to the fullest.

The only real critique that I have with Modern Warfare 2's visuals is that a lot of the same assets are being reused from MW1. While there is nothing wrong with those assets, it would have been nice to see more fresh visuals. With that said, the textures have been certainly updated to make the graphics feel fresh, and they look outstanding. It's not to say that there is nothing new, because all of the overall environments are fresh and, for the most part, have been planned out very well.

The auditory aspect of MW2 is another hit, making you feel surrounded by danger. Not only do the bullets flying your way pierce your ears as they wiz by your head, but the explosions that often happen around you will give you a feeling of jitteriness. In the single-player experience, the voiceovers are very well done (including the voices of Lance Henriksen [Alien series] and Keith David [The Last Sentinel]) and help drive the storyline perfectly. Overall, Modern Warfare 2 sounds much better than the first game in the series when it comes to 3D sound as well, so detecting an enemy's presence is a bit better while wearing headphones.


Hands down, the Modern Warfare series thrives on multiplayer action, but the game absolutely deserves some credit on the single player front. No series has ever given a sense of frantic realism more so than the recent Call of Duty titles, and MW2 doesn't disappoint. The amount of action that surrounds the player, even though the game is pretty linear, is incredibly intense. Depending on the mission, you may have to lay low for a while and pick off enemy soldiers from the shadows, or you may be running for your life with bullets leaving a trail behind you. The story itself once again follows multiple soldiers, so it is a bit hard to follow initially, but in the end the gameplay makes up for it. There is one scene in particular where the game will ask you if you want to play it because of the offensive content that lies within, and let me assure you that playing through the scene gives you a pretty sunken stomach. The only real drawbacks to the Story Mode are that it really isn't all that long and that having a co-op option would have been great... but other than that it was incredibly fun and realistic.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 does offer up some co-op action in the Special Ops component of the game, and it is certainly fun as well. The Special Ops portion of the game is basically quick little missions that have a specific objective for you to complete in a given amount of time. There are both co-op and single player missions, so you'll be able to also play some of them on your own. The missions are basically set up to be unlockable as you progress.

Finally, let's chat a bit about Modern Warfare 2's online multiplayer component. If you haven't yet picked up a copy of the game, there is no better reason to do so than to play online. The first thing you'll realize is that the game now goes through Steam, an online matching system. The upside is that going through Steam does help with keeping your friends list organized and matchmaking in parties (although there sometimes do seem to be issues). The downside is that to play the game, you are required to have an Internet connection, even for the offline game modes. Fortunately, you'll always be aware when friends get online and you can chat and invite them to a game at any time. You'll also have to be playing in public matches in order to gain Experience Points (XP), which is a bit annoying for legit players that like to also play on a LAN, but at the same time does help eliminate some of the cheaters out there.

Jumping into a multiplayer game is quick and easy, and there are a ton of different weapons, perks, and attachments to unlock. For those not familiar with last year's game, Modern Warfare 2 offers very similar components to the multiplayer experience. By completing challenges (getting 25 head shots with a weapon is one example), you'll unlock more of these bonuses, which in turn give you a better advantage in combat because you can customize your weapons combinations to suit your style. An addition to this year's game is that you can choose your Killstreak Rewards. As you rack up multiple kills without dying, you'll be able to use special abilities, including the showing of enemies on radar and calling in helicopter support. There is a fairly expansive list of items to choose from this time around, ranging from 3 kills to 25 kills, at which time you'll be able to Nuke the entire game. Some cool additions are that you can now control the gunner of the chopper or send in harriers, or you can launch an attack with missiles at ant-like enemy soldiers.

The game modes included are mostly the same as in MW1, but I have to say that I was sorely disappointed that there isn't an option to create your own custom matches. As such, you won't be able to play a public Hardcore Sabotage match, for example. Modern Warfare 2 got rid of the dedicated server option, which is why custom game types are limited. The positive side of this is that matching is handled pretty well automatically, based on your selected game type, but I certainly hope Infinity Ward releases a patch for customizing gameplay.

I have to say that the way Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 handles gaining XP is pretty well from the outside looking in, but it also drives me absolutely crazy the way the game locks out certain game modes until you reach level 19... namely the Hardcore match types. Why? Because players who have a lot better weapon and perk selection are allowed to play any game type, and it's a hugely unfair advantage to those just starting. By being forced to play non-Hardcore modes, you'll have to start with crappy weapons that won't kill opponents very quickly, even with multiple shots or grenade explosions, while others with higher levels will likely have weapons that require less hits to kill. Once you finally unlock Hardcore, the playing field is at least more level and more realistic, which makes the overall experience more enjoyable. It doesn't take a super long time to unlock Hardcore modes, but in my opinion, this is handled ass-backwards. Still, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is one of the most fun multiplayer experiences out there in terms of first person shooters.


The single player experience of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is set up perfectly in terms of difficulty. Not only do you have the option to choose from multiple difficulty levels, but you'll be required to go through a quick training course at the beginning of the game and the computer will suggest a setting based on your performance in the training. In my case, the offered difficulty setting was perfect and my experience going through the missions ended up being not only enjoyable, but also somewhat difficult. While I had my fair share of deaths, and in fact there were a couple of spots where I struggled, the game certainly never felt like it was cheating me or frustrating because I knew I could get past the obstacles. If you feel like you're your training performance doesn't represent your skill level (you can try it multiple times), you can always set the setting higher or lower, and you can also go through the game multiple times.

The multiplayer experience is vastly different simply because you'll be matched up with players of all skill levels. One aspect of the game that is missing in the matchmaking service is the option to play against players of similar rank, so it can often be a frustrating experience to consistently be killed off by a player who has already gotten to level 50 or higher (I believe it tops out at 70 this time around) when you first start out. The ability to not be allowed into Hardcore session from the start is a huge downfall because of the unfair advantage of high-ranking players swarming on the noobs.

The different environments also offer up different styles of play needed. Some levels are very closed in the sense that there are a lot of buildings and openings for players to dodge through and hide in, while others are more wide open and are more prone to snipers. Depending on your style of play, the environment can affect your performance and you'll have to adapt accordingly. The one true complaint that I have is that there is one very open environment where spawn points are not concealed. As such, when players unleash overhead support (helicopter fire, missiles, harriers), you stand no chance and will simply be killed off the second you spawn.

Game Mechanics:

Once again, you'll be able to configure the game to any control scheme that you want. There are quite a few buttons used in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, so there is certainly a learning curve involved. Fortunately, you'll also be able to configure mouse buttons to coincide with actions other than firing, so if you happen to own a mouse that has more than the standard five buttons (left/middle/right buttons, and also wheel up/down), you'll be able to map them as well. One aspect of the previous game (and most first person shooters) that is strangely missing is that of leaning, usually using the (Q) and (E) buttons. I'm not sure if it created an unfair advantage that the developers were trying to avoid, but there is no way to reconfigure to allow this. Regardless, the control scheme is perfect.

There are so many aspects of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 that make this absolutely a Game of the Year that they are hard to describe in words. When compared with the first game in the series, there are definitely some positives and negatives. On the plus side, matching with friends has greatly improved thanks to Steam. The added rewards available for Killstreaks and the added weapons and attachments are outstanding this time around as well. The environments are a mixed bag in terms of both being fun to play and also having great layouts. I can neither say that the levels are better or worse than MW1 because I have my favorites from both. Another impressive aspect of the game is that it runs better than the first game, as I've played both on my current system. Finally, when there are framerate issues and lag while playing online multiplayer, the game will automatically migrate to a new host computer, and it does a pretty good job of this overall.

On the minus side of the equation, Modern Warfare 2 didn't improve on some of the gameplay elements that bothered me from the first game and the lack of dedicated servers is a big downfall. There needs to be a way to truly customize gameplay types, and that may not happen without dedicated servers. Still, despite some annoyances, I can't recommend Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 enough.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:

Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Vista (Windows 95/98/ME/2000 are unsupported); Intel Pentium 4 3.2 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor or better supported; 1 GB RAM; 256 MB NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT or better or ATI Radeon 1600XT or better; Microsoft DirectX(R) 9.0c; 12GB of free hard drive space; 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card; Broadband connection and service required for Multiplayer Connectivity. Internet Connection required for activation; To host Co-op or MP matches, a 2 GHz dual-core or better processor is recommended

Test System:

Test System A
The following computer was used for graphical and gameplay tests and ran extremely fast with the highest possible settings:

Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8300 @ 2.50GHz 2.50 GHz; 8.00 GB RAM; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 Video Card

Test System B
The following computer was used for the majority of gameplay testing, and while I played using lower quality settings (only shadows turned on, yet with highest resolution possible of 1440x900), the gameplay was quite smooth and MW2 ran as good or better than the first installment on the same system (note that it is technically below the minimum system requirements yet still ran nicely):

Dell Vostro 1700 Laptop: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7100; Dual 1.8 GHz Processors; 2 GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT; Wireless G Internet Connection (54.0 Mbps)

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