by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
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The level design of Modern Warfare 2 is far more generous in its variety this time around. While you will still be fighting in forests and mountains, a much stronger portion of the game emphasizes urban warfare. No other set of levels highlights this fact more than the ones set in war-torn Virginia and Washington D.C. Once you find yourself in the boots of a US Army Ranger charging into battle against invading Russian troops you know you are in for one of the best parts of the game. The overall feel of these levels evoke a tremendous sense of awe as you buck and dodge your way through a Virginia suburban neighborhood or the decimated streets of what remains of the nation’s capital.
One of the more surprising and welcome additions to the series is the presence of civilians in the game. Obviously shooting civilians is explicitly discouraged (except for the airport level) but it does give many levels a lived-in feel versus the abandoned buildings of every title in the series up to this point. Civilians will obviously panic and run away as soon as the combat starts, making shooting bad guys a troublesome experience for the first few minutes until they all clear out. It definitely makes you feel like you are fighting for more than the brass back home.
The length of the individual levels varies greatly. Some, like the Cliffhanger level in which Roach and Soap infiltrate a Russian airbase, are incredibly long to the point of being longer than several other missions combined. Others are far shorter and can last just a handful of minutes though the majority of these are usually so action-packed that you really don’t realize it until after the mission ends. Many levels are accentuated with multiple varying paths that ensure different experiences upon multiple playthroughs but it isn’t exactly enough to result in you talking to several of your buddies and learning a new approach every time.
Call of Duty 4 struck a balance of action experiences coinciding with plotline development. This has changed a large amount in comparison to the first game as it is filled to the brim with shootouts throughout all but 90% of the experience. While this is a welcome change, especially given the expanded level design, you usually don’t get a breather until the level is over. The only truly disappointing feature of the singleplayer experience is the lack of a stealth level. It seems that stealth missions have been abandoned in favor of an action oriented experience even if several levels have short stealth sections within them.
Infinity Ward had a conundrum on their hands: how do you keep a solid singleplayer experience without diminishing its cinematic nature when adding in co-op? After all, while World at War’s singleplayer and co-op were interlinked, the end result diminished the overall experience when playing with a friend. At the end of the debate Infinity Ward came down with a decree: keep the singleplayer experience separate from the co-op. For those yearning to kill hundreds of foes with a friend outside of multiplayer, Spec Ops was introduced.
Separate from the singleplayer and multiplayer options, players can team up with a buddy and attempt to accomplish a variety of mission objectives across multiple levels taken from the singleplayer campaign as well as some levels that are unique to Spec Ops. Players earn a number of stars from completing a mission on a certain difficulty level and these can be spent to unlock more levels.
Levels are organized into one of five sets: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. The difficulty of objectives increases as you go from Alpha to Echo. Mission objectives are divided further into four groups: Assault, Stealth, Wave Defense, Elimination. Assault has you attacking waves of infantry while attempting to reach or complete an objective. Stealth fills in the much-needed singleplayer hole and lets players sneak around enemy patrols. Wave defense is just what you expect and Elimination has you killing all enemies on the map.
The end result: heaps of fun! Playing through a session with a good buddy is very exciting and often memorable. If you don’t have a buddy to play with you can always go solo on these missions but it just isn’t the same. The only unfortunate truth of Spec Ops is that it completely replaces the Arcade mode from the first game but you still get the same general feel with Spec Ops.
Best shooter on the market; hands down
Almost TOO good...