Modern Warfare 2: raising the bar for first-person shooters

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Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare 2 is a stunning accomplishment. Infinity Ward’s sophomore entry in the Modern Warfare franchise is a mosaic of intense action, expert pacing and a complex narrative with huge stakes.

Taking place five years after the original, Modern Warfare 2 is a quest that spans the globe in the never-ending fight against international terrorism. For the uninitiated, Call of Duty games tell their story through the eyes of more than one character.

During the course of the adventure, you’ll play as an Army Ranger, a Task Force 141 commando and a deep-cover CIA operative. Not only does this allow for a lot of globe-trotting without the inconvenience of constant air travel, but it also lets events in diverse time zones to occur simultaneously.

This variety of locales provides an exhilarating sense of pacing and no two segments feel the same. While one level may have you battling through the streets of an all-but-abandoned city in Afghanistan, the next may have you running and gunning through the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or repelling an invasion force in the suburbs of Virginia.

Aside from this sense of worldwide scope, the weaponry in Modern Warfare 2 is also a step up from the original. Raining Predator drones down on unsuspecting enemies is one hell of a good time and the thermal scope is a great addition to the sniper’s arsenal. Although somewhat unwieldy, the riot shields and machine pistols are also a blast to control.

The plot is complex and a little hard to follow. Unless you really pay attention or go to Wikipedia afterwards, you might miss it. While it does involve Russian terrorists and an ultra-nationalist conspiracy, the plot mostly serves to get you from one exciting scenario to the next.

From exhilarating high-speed chases to nerve-wracking hostage rescuing, to epic straight-up battles, Modern Warfare 2’s gameplay is as varied as its level design.

My one gripe is that sometimes the story seems to be happening too fast for any kind of emotional attachment to development between either the characters or the plot.  While the now-famous “No Russian” level is certainly affecting, the execution is just a little off, and that goes for the whole game.

If you are, however, just looking for gratuitous explosions and guns that look cool and shoot fast, Modern Warfare 2 is probably right up your alley. With its amazing single-player experience, addictive online action and the all-new and really cool Spec-Ops mode, it’s definitely the one game this year that’ll keep you coming back for more.