Monday, September 28, 2015

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review

If you want to read about the Social Satire of this game, go here.

    Modern Warfare is a series which is far smarter than it has to be and often gets far less credit than it deserves. The premise is, five years after the events of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the Ultranationalists have won the civil war against the Loyalists. They have lionized Imran Zakhaeve and raised him up as a martyr to the cause despite the fact he was a monstrous psychopath. The Ultranationalist-ruled government isn't pressing its advantages against the West, however, which has offended the hardliners.

War in the suburbs has never been so fun or serious.
    One of Zakhaeve's former followers, Vladimir Makarov, has taken up his cause and seeks to incite the government into a war wth the United States. With your help, he succeeds, and an invasion of the United States results.

    It falls to Task Force-141, now including the SAS group from the first game, to see if they can bring a quick but decisive end to the war. Along the way, there will be betrayals, revelations, and heartbreaking deaths along with much-much shooting.

    The campaign mission of the game is quite entertaining and is an excellent example of "show, don't tell" storytelling. There's almost no cutscenes in the entire game but what few exist are all extremely concise and manage to get the plot across very quickly. The Call of Duty franchise has always been very visual and, were this a movie series, would be an extremely good one for its cinematography.

It's like 1812 all over again!
    The plot, of course, is ridiculous. Whereas the first game had the vaguest veneer realism, roughly two-thirds of the game is taken up with the Ultranationalist invasion of the USA. While slightly more realistic than, say, North Korea defeating the United States, it's still a case of both being logistically impossible. It fulfills an excellent story point, however, of making the Americans in the audience feel uncomfortable.

    Even if you're deeply suspicious of nationalism in general and jingoism in particular, it's hard not to be moved seeing Washington D.C, in flames. I was reminded, strongly, of the scenes of a burnt-out Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3. You sympathize with the soldiers who want to retaliate and burn down Moscow in revenge but nothing is going to be accomplished by that other than continuing the endless cycle of war. It's a surprisingly effective anti-war game despite being a very effective war game.

A more misunderstood level there has never been.
    The level "No Russian" was very controversial at the time of the game's release but I think it's a very good twist on traditional protagonistism. Spec Ops: The Line received critical praise for its white phosphorous scene but No Russian has almost the exact same choice. You can either choose to kill the civilians in the airport to preserve your cover or choose not to. Either way, the results will be the same but it doesn't present the choice as an actual "choice" and is all the stronger for it.

Not the most memorable level but one of the most fun.
    The villains of the game are a bit lacking as I felt the "twist" regarding who was goading the war into existence was a bit out there even for Call of Duty. I do appreciate the attempt to show both sides of the conflict, though, as well as how America can produce its own Makarovs.

    As for Makarov, himself, we don't get to see enough of him outside of the Terminal Massacre to really get to know him this time. That level, though, goes a long way to establishing his villainous identity.

    There's little point about talking about the game proper since everyone who is likely to buy it has but the graphics still stand up well, the Capital levels especially, and I very much enjoyed the sections making use of a Predator drone. The Special Operations missions are rather boring done solo and I would have appreciated a longer campaign (maybe an hour) rather than the extremely compressed one we got. The multiplayer is what made this game a record breaker in video game game history but that's not my bag so I have very little to add on it.

    Either way, if you like shooting, this is a fun shoot-em-up with a good, albeit short (five-to-six-hours) story.


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