November Was Awesome Part 4: Modern Warfare 2

24 Dec

If there was an award for inept blogging, I wouldn’t win because I’d be the expert they brought in to judge. I’ve been putting off this one – this final one in this quasi-series, by the way – because I just couldn’t choose. Modern Warfare 2 is like a fine meal (albeit at a restaurant with Michael Bay as the chef), and choosing which part to devour first meant I’m only starting once everyone else has paid their share and gone home.

Fortunately it’s giganto-success makes it relevant for quite a while longer, so here is a condensed list of the very best bits of 2009’s biggest game.

“Twenty-plus foot mobiles!”

MW2 adds little new to the formula of moving a cursor over a man and clicking to end his non-life, unless you count the fact that every major battle is spectacular. For reasons that are sketchy at best (the actual story is Bond meets 24 meets a season finale of Torchwood without the bad CGI aliens or infantile sex jokes) I found myself in a desperate push to take back The White House. The White House. I would play it with one eye watching whilst the other rolls indefinitely, but the lightning pace and expertly balanced combat, set against almost post-apocalyptic level design and a perfect music score meant I’ve never had so much fun shooting up a world leader’s home. Another highlight was the (unnecessarily loud) infiltration of a Russian gulag. With a few nods to The Rock, it’s a great demonstration of how just the right amount of resistance can be put in to make it frantic without you being overwhelmed.

Perfect score

I love Hans Zimmer. Or at least I do now I know he’s the one behind MW2’s glorious music. One piece that accompanied a heroic but doomed fly-by of an enemy anti-aircraft battery, ordered by my (I assume ruthlessly patriotic) Sergeant, was genuinely uplifting. If I ever take part in a suicide mission that would help save some lives or something (I think that was the intention, not just showing off), I’d want someone playing that on their iPod speakers.

See also: Proof, if needed, that an epic orchestra can be catchier than most pop.

The multiplayer (as in “Oh god it’s back”)

COD4 is probably battling it out with Team Fortress 2 as my most-played multiplayer game of all time. There’s no shortage of modes (CTF, bomb planting/defusal, one vs. one cage matches yadda yadda yadda) but I have a special place in my heart and another, more special place someone around my colon for the most vanilla of game types, Team Deathmatch. The insta-respawning and relentless pace discourages ragequits that plague the likes of TF2 and Left 4 Dead 2, no matter how repeatedly you get smoked (for me, this is a lot – I have about 90 more deaths than kills, even after 40 or so hours of playing), the only cost is that your enemy got a point, and you’re let loose to have revenge in no time.

There’s also greater emphasis on customisation. Besides the usual guns and unlockable attachments – the pursuit of new bits of both is still more addictive than meth (I’d imagine) – you have your own banner which pops up when you kill a dude and it’s even possible to pick and choose killstreak rewards – one-time-use superweapons granted to whoever racks up x amount of kills without dying.

Top of the Ops

Special Ops, the new two-player co-op mode, seems to receive the least love from pundits, despite being the most consistently entertaining things in the whole game. I blasted through them with a L4D cohort, and even though failure is frequent (make no mistake, these missions are short but tough) the sense of gratification when beaten is immense. We had a particularly epic last-stand affair against five huge waves of bad guys, holing up in a diner and alternating between taking pot-shots at the rapidly advancing hordes and reviving each other, usually on the brink of incapacitation ourselves.It felt longer than it actually was but was one of the most tense virtual firefights I’ve experienced this year.

You intolerable fanboy! Surely there must be things you don’t like?

Who are you? Never mind – quite a few, actually. The aforementioned killstreak rewards start off fun (one is an airdrop, which once induced a few minutes of unbearable laughter when a crate fell from the sky and crushed a teammate to death) and eventually become horrifically overpowered. If the enemy acquire an AC-130 attack plane, for example, you’re completely fucked for the next minute. The player-controlled guns will shred you like chinese duck if you aren’t in deep overhead cover, and it’ll pop flares if anyone fires a homing rocket at it (literally the only effective defence against enemy air support). If someone gets 25 kills in a row they could well call in a nuclear bomb that not only kills everyone but needlessly ends the game then and there in the user’s team’s favour. This was once awarded to an aimbot user on the enemy team, which won the game for them – even though our team had the most points.

Also, I guess I’m not a fan of the new health/damage indicator. Well, I think it’s important! Anyway, now when you’re shot, blood – or it might be jam – splashes into your face, fading away if you avoid further injury. Is your character wearing tiny windscreen wipers on his goggles or what?

I love the singleplayer campaign in terms of actually playing it but it’s shorter than your CO’s mohawk – I’m still not sure I’ve replayed it three times solely because it’s good, but also disappointingly brief. Also: where the fuck was Captain MacMillan? He was the best character!

Talk about the airport level!

Sigh. It’s a shame so many people define MW2 by this storytelling blip. Yes, there’d probably be security cameras, blah blah blah, yes, America sends a bloke to help out in a terrorist attack then acts surprised when it’s invaded, blah blah blah, yes, the armed response tactic from the Russian  authorities is somewhat different to what would happen if five dicks really did start shooting up an airport lounge (?!), blah blah blah. I reckon the worst thing about the level is that it ain’t all that entertaining to play. No-one shoots back until five minutes in, you can’t run for some reason, and even if you do try to open up on the civvies, chances are your AI Ultranationalist buddies will beat you to it. I have no problem with interactive cutscenes but don’t try and dress them up like an actual level with objectives.

The horrors of war.

But you still like it?

Still an embarrassing amount.


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