Modern Warfare 2 is the shit, to put it briefly. Yes, I know, I only played a beta version for a few hours, and this is just a preview. And sure, I was probably influenced by the massive theater screen, surround sound, and free Mountain Dew (don't worry, I'm not reviewing it), but even so, I’m confident in saying that Modern Warfare 2 is the absolute fu**ing shit.
Above: the absolute fu**ing shit
Infinity Ward could have hitched a ride on the success of Call of Duty 4 and released a moderately updated game with new maps and some new weapons, but they didn’t – they updated everything without losing any of the violent charm of the original.
Everything is more intense. The sounds of ricochets and bullets zipping by your face, the bloody deaths, the room-shaking explosions, the ringing in your ears – all of it feels twice as powerful. Visually, the game is very similar to CoD4, but the textures are crisper and effects like the bloody drips over your vision look more amazinger.
The controls haven’t changed, and it plays roughly the same as CoD4, but the new weapons, perks, and other additions have significantly increased the number of available strategies and techniques. Both offensive and defensive players should enjoy every match (especially capture-the-flag, which is a blast), and if you’re not the type to score a lot of kills, you’ll still have your chance to shine in objective matches (more on that later).
The maps we played were pretty similar to what you saw in CoD4 (with the possible exception of Highrise, which takes place at the top of an unfinished skyscraper), but none of them were ever dull. They’re crammed with choke points, sniping roosts, environmental weapons, and hidden paths, and they all maintain Infinity Ward's usual level of ambiance and factual accuracy.
Rather than recounting my innermost feelings with more walls of text, I’m going to deliver the rest of the hard information in bite-sized chunks. Many of the impressions I've just described will be expanded on as I detail the game’s individual features. Here is everything that is new:
You knew there would be new perks, but you didn’t know how varied and powerful they’d be. And you probably didn’t know that they’d be upgradable. Each perk now has its own challenge which, when completed, unlocks the “pro” version. You won’t know what the pro version will do until you unlock it, but we can pretty safely assume it'll be worth it. Here are some of the new perks we saw:
Bling – Use two attachments on a weapon. No more choosing between the red dot sight and grenade launcher!
Scavenger – Auto-grab ammo from enemy corpses. This is great for maintaining a steady supply of grenades.
Commando – Increase melee range for those extra-lungey knife attacks.
Here’s a general rule regarding Modern Warfare 2: if it wasn’t customizable in CoD4, it is now. You can still only have three kill streak rewards at a time, but after level 10, you’ll start unlocking new rewards which you can use in place of the defaults. The new default rewards are:
UAV (3 kills) – Exposes enemy locations on your radar. This is the very same unmanned aerial vehicle from CoD 4. So what makes the perk different in Modern Warfare 2? They can be shot down. Actually, everything can be shot down.
Care Package (4 kills) – Throw down a special smoke grenade to call in an airdrop of goodies on your location. Your reward might be something simple, like an ammo refill, or something awesome, like an instant advanced kill streak. The catch is that everyone, including enemies, can see the packages location on their radar. This isn’t necessarily a drawback, however, as they can be used as bait for ambushes.
Predator Missile (5 kills) - Try not to hit yourself as you guide a fly-by-wire missile from the heavens to the ground. It’s very effective, and scores you an excellent view of your enemies’ positions for some bonus intel.
Those are all great, but they’re nothing in comparison to the unlockable AC130, which gives you command of an aerial cannon that’ll shred your foes like cheese. See it in action in the video below:
A couple of the other new rewards are the Sentry Gun, an automated machine gun which is great for defending flags in CTF and bomb sites in Sabotage, and Counter-UAV, which does exactly what it's called, and cancels out enemy UAVs.
Perks like Martyrdom in CoD4 (which left a live grenade behind after every death) were meant to lend a hand to new players, but wound up being overused by skilled players. So to give inexperienced players a little help without making things easier for advanced players, Infinity Ward has introduced death streak rewards.
After three consecutive deaths with no kills, players are awarded a little bonus of their choice (assuming they’ve unlocked all of them). The default bonus is Copycat, which allows a player to steal his killer’s class for one round, and get a taste of the weapons and perks of a more advanced player. The next one unlocked, and the last one we saw, is Painkiller, which affords players 10 seconds of extra health after they respawn – great for when you’re being spawn camped.
Secondary weapons are no longer just pistols – they include machine pistols, shotguns (standard and automatic), and various rocket and missile launchers. This is great news for snipers, who will no longer be helpless in close-quarters (an automatic shotgun is a sniper’s best friend). And with a well-fired missile, you can take down helicopters, AC130s, UAVs and other nuisances.
CoD4’s red dot sight, grenade launcher, and suppressor are still here, but there’s so much more. Attachments no longer refer to just physical objects and properties, they can refer to skills too. Akimbo (dual wielding) and Rapid Fire are a whole lot cooler than “Digital Camo.” Other new attachments include a heartbeat sensor, thermal scope, and tactical knife.
Above: The heartbeat sensor displays the rough location of nearby enemies
In other news, sniper rifles can now be fitted with suppressors. “Run and gun” players may not like the change, but sneaky bastards like myself are all over it. Shotguns are now suppressible too.
SPECIAL GRENADES AND EQUIPMENT
Your special grenade slot isn’t just for grenades any more. In order to add a little more variety to the gameplay, and give advanced players an option other than grenade spamming, Infinity Ward has introduced some pretty exciting new weapons. Among them are Symtex sticky grenades, throwing knives, a blast shield (a face mask which offers extra protection), and my personal favorite, “Tactical Insertion.” Tactical Insertion equips you with a special marker which you can throw anywhere. As long as it isn’t destroyed by an enemy, you’ll respawn wherever you left the marker. There’s nothing like appearing behind the guy who just knifed you in the back...REVENGE!
If you need a change from the usual strategy, try replacing your primary weapon with a riot shield. It’s bullet proof up to a point, and makes you a pretty damn menacing opponent. You can’t shoot and hold the shield at the same time, but you can bash people’s heads in, and when you’re using your secondary weapon, the shield is stowed on your back, giving your ass a little extra protection. Combine this with a blast shield, and your enemies will have a hell of a time knocking you down.
Above: A teammate with a riot shield defends his flag carrier
It should also be noted here that, in team and objective based matches, you won’t be penalized for focusing on tasks other than scoring kills. Distracting enemies with your riot shield will be rewarded, as will shooting down a helicopter, killing an enemy flag carrier, and anything else you do to help your team.
We've covered that Modern Warfare 2 rewards players for every action they take, but who cares how many points you get if no one else sees all your hard work?
Aha! That's why we have callsigns, which are essentially big customizable plaques which pop up when you score a kill or perform a commendable action. Callsigns include a title, which is a string of letters (in this case "My name is"), an insignia (that ghostly fellow), a background, and, of course, your gamertag and rank. The titles, insignia, and backgrounds are all unlockable, and there are hundreds of them unlock. You can unlock them by leveling up, or by completing certain prerequisites. For example, we unlocked the “Accident Prone” insignia, presumably from falling off too many ledges.
We're able to talk about three of the multiplayer maps: Afghan, a desert map, Highrise, a skyscraper, and Favela, a shanty town in Rio de Janeiro. I largely played objective-based matches like capture-the-flag, which all three maps were great for. Each map has a lot of great features, and we'll definitely be giving them a more in-depth look later. Until then, I'll leave you with some basic descriptions of what you can expect.
Afghan is a rocky desert map, the centerpiece of which is the ruins of a downed jumbo jet. The open central area, which contains the aeronautic set piece, is great for snipers as it’s overlooked by several high cliffs and bunkers. At the northern and southern ends, the passages become more confined in caves and on ledges, and the fighting gets more intense.
At one point, my team and I were backed into our base, where we were defending the last of two bomb sites. Enemy flanks were approaching from three directions – a cave in front, and two narrow passages to the left and right. They dropped a sentry gun into the mouth of the cave, and that wreaked havoc on us for a few seconds until someone managed to hit it with a grenade.
We separated into two groups to cover the two side passages, and everyone contributed to the defense of cave. I decided to switch to a riot shield, which turned out to be pretty effective. I was able to stand in narrow passages and block the enemy advances while bashing them with my shield. Meanwhile, my teammates were able to pick them off with ease as they piled up in front of me. After a minute of non-stop fighting, time finally ran out, and we won the match.
The term “favela” means shanty town, which, you guessed it, is what this is. The best way to conceptually divide this map is into two sections – the high ground and the low. The high ground is on the rooftops, which provide little cover but offer faster travel and a broad view of the larger streets and objective sites. The low ground is great for making escapes, as you can disappear around corners faster than your pursuer can rattle off bullets, though you must always be weary of the marksmen who lurk above.
This map’s uncharacteristic modern urban setting is very welcome. The map is comprised of the roof of an unfinished skyscraper (complete with helipad), two interior office spaces at the northern and southern ends, and a passageway which connects the two sides.
The offices are great for crouching around in - I was able to shotgun blast quite a few guys through cubicle dividers (papers and blood went everywhere, it was great). The rooftop exterior, however, is a dangerous place, and you can easily be forced into narrow passageways. It does offer a series of suspended metal beams which can be used to climb up to an excellent sniping roost. Finally, the passage below is exposed in the middle of the map, but is otherwise covered. If you’re lucky, you can use it to sprint all the way from one side of the map to the other without being noticed, and launch a surprise attack from behind your enemy.