Modern Warfare is a definitively world-battering piece of intellectual property, and it appeared to emerge from absolutely nowhere. Despite the Call Of Duty franchise’s triumphant arrival to the current generation of consoles in 2005 (with the Xbox 360’s pitch-perfect port of Call Of Duty 2) its rather misguided follow-up perfectly embodied the law of diminishing returns. In the early winter of 2007, with expectations lowered and hardcore FPS fans busying themselves with getting into a hot, soapy lather at the prospect of Master Chief’s imminent return in Halo 3, the stage was set for the under-the-radar arrival of what will surely become a title totally synonymous with this generation’s most evergreen gaming genre.
Because just a videogame this most certainly is not – it is a consummate cultural leviathan. If it is unusual to see anything other than a Hollywood blockbuster launch with a full-tilt, red-carpeted Leicester Square premiere, and uncommon to a see videogame so rabidly featured in the world’s print press, then it is downright insurmountable to survey the amount of money that Modern Warfare 2 made merely during kick-off: $550 million. In five days.
That is a lot of beans. With its vast, vocal and feverish fanbase, developer Infinity Ward could very easily have foreseen that kind of behemothic figure, and known without question that it would’ve been similarly attainable with a lazy, sub-standard product. But exploiting the fans to execute a veritable smash-and-grab is the preserve of a much lesser breed of development team, as Infinity Ward chose instead to painstakingly craft a piece of software that is nothing less than a game-changing masterpiece.
Because even if the original Modern Warfare left you cold – and with the dank pessimism of its storyline, and cutting-edge hyper-realism of its gunplay, this is a reaction that wasn’t totally anomalous – it is difficult to fathom the kind of gamer that won’t immediately warm to the delightful, grandiose cartoon on display here. The plot is so yardstick preposterous that it makes Rambo III look like The Battle Of Algiers, but it is a tale spun with such verve and at such speed, that it isn’t until the high subsides afterwards that you realise just how daft it all really was. And that realisation will only serve to charm you all over again.
The astonishing production values are obviously a testament to the success of its predecessor, and not a single expense has been spared here. The (brilliant) decision to hire Hollywood tunesmith par-excellence Hans Zimmer (whose histrionic, pumped-up soundtrack is a classic in its own right) may have been a masterstroke, but it is one of many. Infinity Ward’s attitude towards the use of actors is positively dissident, and some seriously astute choices were made during the casting process, culminating in a troupe of outstanding, proper thesps. And 50 Cent. The campaign mode is also the shortest in Call Of Duty history by quite some distance, but this is down to ruthless culling; every ounce of flab has been excised, leaving literally nothing but the great parts. It can be completed in four hours flat, but it boasts unparalleled replay value.
All of this, and much more besides, serves to create the most endearing, lunk-headed action spectacular you’ve ever experienced. The multiplayer has undergone a handful of very minor refinements, but it remains the final word on the subject. And the lack of a campaign co-op mode, which appeared at first glance to be a crippling oversight, is remedied in trailblazing style by the inclusion of a Special Ops mode: twenty three unrelated mini-missions optimised for co-op play, that are as tense and refined as anything in the main game.
So feel free to question the dubious morality of Modern Warfare 2’s infamous “No Russian” setpiece, argue that the alterations to the multiplayer dynamic are too accommodating to newcomers, or quibble about Activision’s questionable decision to hike up the price, but surrender to the fact that there is only one word that comes to mind, that adequately summarises Modern Warfare 2’s package as a whole. It’s perfect.
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