Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

I’ve been playing a lot of MW2 lately. The sixth release in the popular series has struck a great balance for multiplayer that makes it very compelling. I can jump in and have fun for half an hour even though I’m someone relatively new to the online part of the game. There is a definite advantage to be gained by playing the game and learning the maps but it is not so overwhelming as to make the game unapproachable for newbies.

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Character Customization
The game rewards online play by allowing your character to gain levels. Playing games and fulfilling certain challenges grants you experience, which in turn causes you to level up. With each new level and completed challenge you can gain access to new guns, perks, and attachments. These allow you to customize your character and play style as well as forcing you to specialize. You are restricted to using only three perks at a time and selecting one primary and one secondary weapon. Tuning your load-out to fit your play style is one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of the game. It took me until level 50 to really figure out which gun, attachments, and combination of perks most suited my play. I’ll probably change things up again in another ten levels or so. The ability to fill different roles brings a lot of new life to the conflicts.

Game Modes
The game offers a large number of game modes from a free-for-all style to capture the flag games and king of the hill style objectives. So far I have found that “team deathmatch” has kept my interest sufficiently and that the load-out and customization options provide more than enough flexibility to avoid the need to try new game modes. I’m comfortable with the 5v5 style of the team deathmatch modes (it’s anywhere from 4v4 to 7v7 I think, depending upon available players) and may try the others only once the team version has lost appeal. I have tried the other modes at least once each and so far haven’t found any that I don’t like. The “hardcore” versions are not really my style as they introduce friendly fire penalties. I’m not yet ready to play a mode that allows me to injure my fellow team-mates. That would quickly lead to my being unpopular.

Playing with Friends
Without doubt the most compelling aspect of Modern Warfare 2 is the ability to play online with a group of friends. In the team deathmatch variant the match organization system will keep you and your friends on the same team, allowing for tactics and strategy to be applied. Most team matches just devolve into individuals running around and killing ad hoc while contributing to a team total rather than a coordinated team assault. However, by introducing your friends into the equation you can tip the balance by organizing your squad and taking advantage of group firepower. Chris and I had fun doing this over the valentines day weekend and I had the opportunity to play with a friend from work one night last week. I’m looking forward to more friend matches in the coming months.

Controls
I’ve been  playing the XBox 360 version of the game. As someone who classically played first person shooter games on the PC I still find the thumb-stick controls to be very cumbersome. My aiming is far better with a keyboard and mouse and I don’t think that will truly ever change. However, I am now getting competent enough with the thumb-sticks to provide a competent challenge. I’m generally able to score more kills than deaths (my only real goal!) and have several times finished at the top of the scoreboard for a particular match. Learning the maps garners a much larger advantage than quick and accurate controller movement in my opinion, so some of the fears about input/output disadvantages are mitigated by strategy and position. I’m still much slower at aiming than many people who play online and if we meet on even terms I’m probably dead. Where I do gain an advantage is in tactics and strategy. Many of the teens who play the game simply run around wildly gunning everything that moves, relying more upon their quick reflexes than anything else. With some knowledge of the maps and popular high-traffic areas I can usually lay in wait and pick them off before they even know I’m there. After listening to them trash-talk you in the pre-game lobby there is certainly something very satisfying about creeping up on them and applying wisdom over reflexes to edge out a win. Be warned though, if you are a PC mouse/keyboard fan of the Quake/UT days then the same control problems that haunted your Halo experience will almost certainly exist here.

Conclusion
I’d give Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 a 9.0 out of 10. There are some niggles that detract from a perfect score. The single player game is very short. Even without ninja skills I was able to complete the entire campaign on the “hard” setting (one down from the hardest available; Veteran) in a little over five hours. There is some replay value as the story was done superbly. However, for many people this may be far too short. There is a “special ops” mode that asks you to fulfill certain challenges in limited scenarios. These modes are great for honing your skills in certain areas, however the online play is a far more compelling option once the single player campaign is finished. The bulk of the game’s value comes from its outstanding multiplayer. A few more multiplayer maps would be very welcome as the ten or so that are included can quickly become repetitive. Fortunately there is a map pack expansion that is expected to launch this spring. Overall a superb package and definitely one I would recommend adding to your collection. I’ll see you online!

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