Modern Warfare 2 Review - Single Player Campaign

   07/11/2009 at 17:04       Richard Horne       32 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward, First Person Shooter, Shock and Awe, Call of Duty

It’s difficult to review a game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare2 some two days before it’s officially released. Everyone wants to know whether it’s any good or not. Whether it suffers from Infinity’s Ward’s notorious infinite re-spawns, and whether it could possibly live up to the high levels of expectations heaped upon it after the success of the last few Call of Duty games. But then at the same time, no-one wants to have any of the game spoiled for them either. Which makes it extremely difficult to actually say anything worthwhile and of substance without giving too much away. Though to be honest, having just experienced the whole of the single player campaign myself having managed to avoid most of the preview coverage, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything anyway, as it’s absolutely an experience that’s best had with no prior knowledge or foresight.

AllAboutTheGames screenshotsThis review will focus solely on the single-player portion of the game. Though I do write it with a certain sense of trepidation as I don’t want to fall foul of the behemoth that is Activision by breaking some embargo stipulation that I’m not actually privy to because they weren’t decent enough to send me a review copy of the game. I was however, fortunate enough to receive my pre-order copy three days early. And after having spent all of last night and most of today working my way through the single-player campaign - on Hardened in case you’re wondering - some 9 hours 41 minutes later, here I am. Breathless, on a huge adrenaline-high and trying to put into words the mind-blowing experience I’ve just had with what I can only describe as the single best first-person-shooter experience I’ve ever had.

Let’s not beat about the bush, and I’ll save you the hassle of having to scroll to the bottom of this review - Modern Warfare 2 is, without any shadow of a doubt, an astonishing 5 star experience. To the point where that score would not change even if it was a single-player only game, without the as-yet-untouched multiplayer or special ops modes - it really is that good. From its tight-pacing, to its exhilarating and varied set-pieces, it’s a, (and I hate to use this metaphor but I can’t think of a more apt description) bona-fide rollercoaster ride. There’s not a dull level or moment in the game and even when Infinity Ward does deliberately slow the pace, it’s done to devastating and dramatic effect and serves often to only heighten the tension instead of providing any sort of lull. And so with that grand opening out of the way, let’s now look at the myriad reasons why.

Trying not to give too much away

The first person shooter is perhaps the most popular and biggest selling genre of game out there at the moment, and you'd think by now that developers would have exhausted all the possibilities. Not so Infinity Ward. You see, even though a lot of FPSs leave me cold and bored with their monotonous shallow gameplay and copied and pasted level design, and even though Modern Warfare 2 still follows that same Call of Duty blueprint, every single level stands out for one reason or another. Whether you're slowly sneaking through an arctic chill, running all guns blazing through a busy American street or holed up in a burger house (of all places), holding off enemy forces, Modern Warfare 2's scenarios and levels are all delivered with a level of panache that shows why it's the genre's premier developer. The level design and mission objectives constantly change. The tactics required to succeed are varied and interested. And it's just all so cinematic.

AllAboutTheGames screenshotsThere’s a certain level in Modern Warfare 2 where an unfortunate event happens - and you’ll know the one I’m referring to when you play it for yourself - that is no doubt going to get the game a lot of negative press. But to do so is to completely miss the point. Now don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for, but I will mention that on this one particular level you’re asked to do something unlike anything you’ve ever had to do in a videogame before. And while you’ll do it unflinchingly, much to your own surprise no doubt, you will, like I did, have to pause proceedings for a second and reflect on what you’ve just had to do.

You see I’ve killed thousands of animated AI characters across hundreds of games during my time as a gamer, but Modern Warfare 2 was the first time I’ve ever had to stop and sit, stony-faced and in shock while I let the gravity of what I’ve just seen sink in. The words "dramatic", "sickening", "unhinging" and "affecting" don’t come anywhere near close to describing said unfortunate even. But then for as hard-hitting an event as it undoubtedly is, it’s delivered in such a way that it’s never offensive, un-necessary or gratuitous. There’s an almost tangible sense of respect and dignity in how it’s presented too. And while there will undoubtedly be numerous scathing headlines criticising the game’s supposed insensitivity in this current global political climate, Infinity Ward should actually be commended because it’s the single-most thought provoking moment in a videogame yet. Even more so than the tragic and helpless death of Sergeant Paul Jackson in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare after a nuclear warhead brings down his helicopter.

But moving away from potential spoiler territory again, Modern Warfare 2 as it turns out, isn’t a radical departure from the tried and tested formula that stood the previous games in such good stead. In fact, anyone looking for anything new and revolutionary is going to be ultimately disappointed. But one minor new addition though, and one that never gets old, is the new breach mechanic. Certain levels require you to breach and clear rooms, similarly to Rainbow Six: Vegas, only Modern Warfare 2’s interpretation is much more cinematic as it employs a bullet-time-esque slowdown as you enter each room, giving you a few precious seconds to carefully pinpoint and take down the enemy hostiles in glorious slow motion.

AllAboutTheGames screenshotsThere’s also a whole new raft of weapons and attachments including most notably, a heartbeat sensor which indicates the presence of nearby enemies. The thermal weapons which show heat sources as a bright white silhouette are also hugely effective and I look forward to their use in multiplayer.

Visually arresting

In terms of graphics, Modern Warfare 2 proves itself to be extremely deceptive. At first glance it’s easy to think it’s just a vanilla re-hash of the Call of Duty 4 engine with no improvements or additions and you may actually initially be slightly underwhelmed by its visuals. But then as things progress and you experience the snow and desert levels and start to notice the fantastic weather and atmospheric particle effects – stuff I don’t normally ever see or pay attention to - you’ll slowly begin to have your mind changed. And then towards the end of the game, when you can’t fail but notice the vast amounts of carnage, wreckage and debris scattered around the devastated locales, your jaw will drop as you stop and take stock of just how much detail, the sheer number of objects and how much thought and dedication has so obviously gone into the design of each level. The White House siege being a particular highlight.

The character animation is also gloriously well realised with enemies and your squad-mates having a real presence and sense of weight in the world. Everything just looks so believable and the motion capture team at Neversoft deserves a lot of credit.

AllAboutTheGames screenshotsThe levels where you and a colleague work as a pair are particularly memorable. And usually in a game like this, you tend to lead and your AI compadre follows, but in Modern Warfare 2 your partner acts and behaves in such a believable manner that it’s easy to forget they’re computer controlled. In fact you’ll quickly end up following them and letting them dictate the pace of play as though you were playing with a real-life partner and not an AI character. Watching them carefully peer around trees then pick off select enemy hostiles or charge into a room before dropping an opponent with a skilfull Judo throw then knifing them in the stomach just looks so believable and polished that you really do become immersed into the experience and captivated by it all.

The enemy AI is also worth mentioning too as no longer will hostiles simply hide behind objects waiting for you to pick them off. Instead they’ll mix their tactics up by trying to out-flank or out-manoeuvre you; they’ll even try to suppress you, and rather than sitting there like an idiot when you throw a grenade at them, they’ll often switch positions to get a cleaner shot at you.

You might also be glad to know that the infinite respawns that plagued the previous Call of Duty games have been seemingly all but eradicated. Or at least, if they are still there, they’re brilliantly well disguised because not once during my time through the game did I ever feel like I had to push on past that annoying invisible line in order to move things forward. Enemies will attack in groups and waves but once you’ve skilfully mopped them all up, as you would expect to be able to, you can push on unhindered.

AllAboutTheGames screenshotsThe difficulty level also seems to have been tweaked slightly too. On Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the Treyarch developed Call of Duty: World at War, there were numerous levels that featured sections that I must have replayed 50 or 60 times before eventually beating them. But yet I completed Modern Warfare 2 on Hardened, without ever getting frustrated or annoyed. There were admittedly some sections that required a few replays, but then I’d expect that on such a testing difficulty level. And thankfully there seemed to be a much higher number of closely positioned checkpoints which I was extremely grateful for. Whether this change in difficulty is simply down to the removal of infinite respawns remains to be seen, but I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt to Infinity Ward and put it down to them being at the peak of their game and having the time and ability to continually evolve and adapt.


From beginning to end the action in Modern Warfare 2 never lets up. And Infinity Ward has yet again shown itself to be a master story-teller, has raised the metaphorical bar and once again delivered a masterful single-player experience with supremely skilful pacing that guarantees a high level of tension and excitement throughout.

With a whole variety of different locations, set-pieces, and gameplay styles, the game constantly reinvents itself and even though the core mechanics and gameplay experience are identical to its predecessors, it never once feels old, stale or formulaic. With a dramatic 24-inspired storyline with plenty of twists of turns, at over 9 hours total time on hardened it never outstays its welcome and with the punishing Veteran difficulty levels there’s always plenty of reason to revisit it.

An epic and bewildering experience, it's already my definite candidate for game of the year, if not the decade. Infinity Ward, I salute you.

Associated screenshots.

User Comments:

You must sign up for an AATG account and login in order to post comments

Sillothian - on 07/11/2009 at 21:08 wrote:
No enemy respawning is a massive plus point.

If the Spec Ops mode is decent substitute for having no co-op campaign then I might actually end up buying this.

HairyArse - on 07/11/2009 at 21:47 wrote:
I realise in reading this back that it's very non-specific and tells you absolutely nothing about the game so if anyone has any questions on specifics that aren't spoilerific then fire away and I'll answer whichever I can.

Sillothian - on 07/11/2009 at 22:18 wrote:
This, bob, is why they should have included co-op for the campaign.

World at War was just generic COD gameplay ion single player, but came alive with three friends.

In fact reading the reviews makes me wonder why there is no co-op as it seems to indicate you always have ai squad mates with you. IW made out that co-op would not fit the narrative of the game, but if you are always in a squad then co-op makes perfect sense!

HairyArse - on 07/11/2009 at 22:40 wrote:
Bob - yes the training mission is similar if not identical to the previous games but how else are you supposed to train the basics to the noobs? It's not a 'real' level anyway.

HairyArse - on 07/11/2009 at 22:46 wrote:
Oh and for those wanting some Co-Op action, the special forces mode is brilliant. It's split down into 25 mini levels or missions. Some of them are very similar to Rainbow 6's Terrorist hunts which is no bad thing.

Then there's the Gears of War like horde mission where you have to survive waves of enemies - but handily get to use the predator missiles which are fucking brilliant.

Thumbs up so far from me.

NewYork - on 07/11/2009 at 23:53 wrote:
I don't doubt the game is 5 stars material (if you are into this sort of game, I mean) so don't listen to all the cynical people.

I mean, it is a shame you couldn't go into more details for fear of spoilers, as that may have helped justify some of your praise.

And while people may have legitmate complaints about a sequel, I don't think "more of the same" counts, especially following a game as popular as the last.

Trip SkyWay - on 08/11/2009 at 07:59 wrote:
Your enthusiasm is pretty infectious. I had no intention of buying this mainly due to disliking the invisible line/infinite spawn design of COD4, great to hear that's gone, but very tempted now.

frod - on 08/11/2009 at 10:45 wrote:
really now. lol.

DDevil - on 08/11/2009 at 12:09 wrote:
I'll be taking my wife to work on Tuesday so I can go to Game and pick up my copy. Trading in COD4 for half-price goodness!

HairyArse - on 08/11/2009 at 12:27 wrote:
OK so it seems I'm taking some stick for describing how "the unfortunate event" is delivered with dignity and respect, so let me explain what I mean some more.


The unfortunate event, for those of you that have no clue what I'm taking about, sees you and three other guys wading into a Russian airport, machine guns blazing as you murder every single innocent person in there. And there are hundreds of them. You're literally wading through the bodies.

Of course this is a hugely shocking, controversial and defining moment, but what I mean about respect and dignity is that unfortunately, terrible atrocities like this are a fact of life. We don't live in an airy fairy world where we all get along. The dignity and respect comes from the fact that IW present this scene in such a way that the protaganists don't take any delight in what they're doing - rightly or wrongly it's done for a reason and in no way is it condoned or celebrated.

The game doesn't particularly linger on this level either, and while you could argue that it's not entirely necessary, the fact that this debate will rage on actually demonstrates quite brilliantly, that IW was right to keep it in meaning it absolutely was necessary.

It would be easy to omit this level and not spark this intense debate but it's both thought-provoking and hard-hitting.

Of course you could just take it with a pinch of salt and go round head-shotting the citizens with joyful gleeful and you're fully entitely titled to. And one interesting thing I considered is that why is it OK for us to kill thousands of Iraqi/Middle Eastern soldiers with no remorse in games? How is this any different?


NewYork - on 08/11/2009 at 12:29 wrote:

Play GTA, much?!

Syrok - on 08/11/2009 at 12:38 wrote:

Fun fact: In the German version you have to restart the mission if you shoot at a civilian. Security guards are fine though. :)

HairyArse - on 08/11/2009 at 12:40 wrote:
Oh and the N4G comments are hilarious. It never ceases to amaze me how much vitriol can be spewed from raging fanboys.

I couldn't care less about IW as a company and it would have had no effect on me if the single player game had been shit. But it wasn't and I'm just describing things as I saw them.

Though I do realise that in responding to their comments I'm only further fanning the flames.

HairyArse - on 08/11/2009 at 18:33 wrote:
Yeah! Now that's what I'm talking about.

What he said.


NewYork - on 08/11/2009 at 18:36 wrote:
Nice company you keep, Hairy :)

kentmonkey - on 08/11/2009 at 21:50 wrote:
I'm confused, is this shit or not?

peej - on 09/11/2009 at 09:57 wrote:
Funny innit, Activision have the Bond licence and used the CODMW1 engine for that - yet this is more of a Bond game than Quantum of Shoelace was.

Conclusion: Put Infinity Ward on the next Bond game and not Treyarch :)

HairyArse - on 09/11/2009 at 10:07 wrote:
Do you know what, that's quite a coincidence. A lot of the time the game reminded me of Agent Under Fire on the GameCube but it wasn't a comparison I wanted to make because that game was universally slated. It's obviously far far superior but the mixing up of the levels and play styles was quite similar and kept things interesting.

peej - on 09/11/2009 at 10:41 wrote:
It seems crazy that given the engine tech around, and developers like Infinity Ward producing set-piece laden stuff like this, that the best Bond game is still Rare's Goldeneye.

Back on topic, I think Gameplay did the same thing HMV did - sent out an early "your game has shipped" to stop customers who'd preordered from cancelling their orders - but the game probably won't arrive till tomorrow or later.

Sneaky, but I bet they're all doing it.

Spin Dr Wolf - on 09/11/2009 at 13:09 wrote:
Hmm, i'm very tempted to get this again now. Only thing is i know that i will play the single player through once, and then it will sit on the shelf gathering dust forever more.

Murbal - on 10/11/2009 at 11:54 wrote:
Hope to see some of you guys online for MP - I'll be an easy kill ;-)

NewYork - on 10/11/2009 at 11:59 wrote:
I just saw EG gave this game a 9, and if you look at the comments, nearly everybody is calling BS.

Is hating in fashion for this game?

HairyArse - on 10/11/2009 at 12:11 wrote:
I don't think anyone can win with this game. You give it full marks you get accused of being a fanboy. You give it anything less and you're accused of being a hate.

All it confirms is that the internet is full of fucking idiots.

peej - on 10/11/2009 at 14:09 wrote:
So, how many people are still boycotting this because of no dedicated server support?

/tumbleweed & striking church clock

NewYork - on 10/11/2009 at 20:50 wrote:
Technically I'm boycotting it.

HairyArse - on 11/11/2009 at 14:28 wrote:
Oh man - I don't recommend putting in a 4 hour multiplater stint before going to bed. I was tormented all through the night by flashback of me chasing bloody care packages and picking off tangos.

peej - on 13/11/2009 at 12:12 wrote:

NewYork - on 13/11/2009 at 15:37 wrote:
The fact that anyone who sings this game's praises is retarded doesn't do much to convince me.

HairyArse - on 13/11/2009 at 17:33 wrote:
/sings praises from high - from real fucking high


HairyArse - on 24/11/2009 at 16:12 wrote:
Why does every single review of Modern Warfare have to contain the word 'bombastic'? I'm so glad mine didn't.

peej - on 24/11/2009 at 17:23 wrote:
I'd have used the word Boombastic swiftly followed by the word telefantastic.

HairyArse - on 22/09/2011 at 13:18 wrote:
Fricking spambots.

32 comment(s) in total.
Dirt Rally 2.0 Review (0) (19/02)
Dirty Rally Says Do Ya Feel Mucky, Punk?
Wargroove Review (0) (30/01)
What is it Good For?
Unruly Heroes Review (0) (28/01)
Monkey Magic
Battle Princess Madelyn Review (0) (28/01)
Madelyn with Care
NAIRI: Tower of Shirin Review (0) (09/01)
Point and Squee
Dirt Rally 2.0 Review (0) (19/02)
Dirty Rally Says Do Ya Feel Mucky, Punk?
Wargroove Review (0) (30/01)
What is it Good For?
Unruly Heroes Review (0) (28/01)
Monkey Magic
Battle Princess Madelyn Review (0) (28/01)
Madelyn with Care
NAIRI: Tower of Shirin Review (0) (09/01)
Point and Squee
Hearthstone Beta Review - Gather Round (1) (24/02)
Gather Round Blizzard's Latest Cash-Cow
Dream: The Hypersloth Interview - Part 3 (0) (18/11)
Fears before bedtime
Dream: The Hypersloth Interview - Part 2 (2) (17/11)
I can't get no sleep...
Angband Retrospective (4) (25/10)
Learn to fear the letter D.
Why TitanFall is no Call of Duty Killer (5) (18/02)
But it's still bloody marvellous
Gioteck's PS3 Controller Range - Preview (0) (01/08)
Striving for excellence
Havin' a Go: Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer (4) (27/10)
Don't cry wolf just yet...
Shank 2 Set to Kick Your Ass in Early 2012 (0) (26/10)
Not actually a protein. Go on, google it.

Better late than never, eh Ror?
Khanivor - In response to: Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review - 280day(s) ago.
Enjoyed this, cheers!
evilashchris - In response to: Reflecting on the Life of a Tomb Raider - 365day(s) ago.
Looks who's back. Shady's back.
GOD - In response to: Sniper Elite 4 Review - Xbox One - 696day(s) ago.
Micro Machines was my favourite!
ClaytonNotClive - In response to: Mantis Burn Racing Review - 737day(s) ago.
i agree chris, the Aliens table makes the others look bad.. because its so goood!! but they arent that bad.. haha! ...
neosalad - In response to: Aliens Vs. Pinball Review - 999day(s) ago.