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Activision Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £32
inc VAT

It's not revolutionary, but Modern Warfare 2's production values are incredible and all three game modes are well executed.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) is the true sequel to the incredibly successful Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

It’s without doubt the biggest game of the year, and much of the so-called competition has shuffled its releases into next year to avoid this gaming juggernaut. MW2 as like a blockbuster Hollywood sequel: it’s slicker, brasher and louder but closely adheres to its predecessor and to genre conventions.

The game has three distinct sections: a single-player campaign that takes off where the previous game ended, a sizeable number of two-player cooperative Special Forces missions and a competitive multiplayer component with RPG elements.

The single-player campaign is all about a Russian terrorist group, and you play as American and British troops. The plot is secondary, though, as the real fun of the game is that it brings all the frenetic action of modern warfare to the PC with relentless hard-hitting levels. Enemies pour out from every direction, use cover to avoid fire and try to flank you. It feels incredibly real, and it’s easy to imagine the sensation of being in an actual scrappy and muddled fire fight.

The levels can be slightly repetitive, as most of them involve moving from A to B and shooting everything that gets in your way. They tend to be short, too. Just as you’re getting into the action, you reach your goal and it’s time for the next level. It’s great fun, though, and the pure adrenalin rush means that while it’s all over in around six hours, most players will be happy to replay the game on a harder difficulty level.

Before you start again, however, there’s fresh fun to be had in the Special Forces mode. This provides a wealth of different tactical challenges, such as assaulting across a bridge under helicopter fire or disarming bombs against the clock in a Brazilian slum. A high point sees one player advancing on foot while the other provides air support from a circling gunship.

You can play solo, but it’s not nearly as much fun as teaming up with a friend. All versions of the game allow online play, and there’s a splitscreen option for console owners. Cleverly, you can set different difficulty levels for each player, so rookies and veterans can play together and still be challenged. The game rates your performance after the fight, and unlocks further levels based on the number of stars earned.

Having survived the single-player rollercoaster and the demanding co-op missions, you’re ready for the cut and thrust of competitive multiplayer games. The gameplay is essentially unchanged, and veterans of previous games will feel at home. The great selection of maps includes versions of classics such as Brecourt from Call of Duty 2, and there’s the usual range of game types, from Team Deathmatch to more tactical options such as Sabotage.

It may feel familiar, but the formula has benefitted from significant revisions. The Create-a-Class system has been updated and expanded. There are loads of new weapons, abilities (perks) and equipment. Highlights include dual pistol shooting, a heartbeat sensor to pinpoint your foes and the bullet-stopping riot shield for assaulting heavily defended positions.

There are more support options, too. You can direct a predator missile at your foes, call in a care package for extra ammo or even deploy a sentry gun to cover your flank. It’s hard to say whether all this powerful new kit will unbalance games in favour of experts, but we suspect novices will find the learning curve steep.

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Price £32
Rating *****