Activision – Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review

probably the most controversial, best selling game of the year
Photo of Activision – Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Despite the record-breaking sales, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on PC isn’t an easy game to instantly warm to. The installation routine, particularly if you buy the game through the Steam download service, is laborious, and it’s now compulsory to get it activated online whether you like it or not. The Internet is awash with stories of players who struggled to get the game up and running for some time, although to be fair, we were playing it around an hour after we started to install it.

We should also note, given that it’s the single player mode we’re preoccupied with here, that the multiplayer side of things hasn’t been going down wonderfully well. Unwelcome limitations mean that many gamers seem to be heading back in the direction of Call Of Duty 4 for their online fix. That should resolve over time, we’d hope.

At its best, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 shows why the developer Infinity Ward does this kind of thing so much better than anyone else. It doesn’t quite have the instant wow factor of Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and there are moments when you feel that you’re watching a movie and awaiting permission to join in. But then you look and absorb the details, and there are thousands of them. From things blowing in the wind to an exhilarating Bourne-movie-esque shoot-out through the streets of Brazil, the single player action is utterly exhilarating at times, and surprisingly varied.

It can also make you feel uneasy, though. Much has been made of the game’s 18 certificate, and a certain sequence fairly early in the game where you take on the role of a terrorist in an airport shoot-out. The context of this segment is that you have infiltrated said terrorist cell, but that doesn’t make the action any easier. And perhaps that’s right. It’s a horribly edgy part of the game – which you’re allowed to bypass with no gaming consequence – but it deserves a far better debate than the tabloid newspapers have afforded it.

As for the game? We’re keen not to spoil the narrative, but it is at many times extraordinary. There are startlingly brilliant moments in the game, which worked comfortably on our HD 4850 graphics card, and it has moments of tension that match anything we’ve seen in any media all year.

The downside is that the single player experience is so maddeningly short, a complaint we also had with Call Of Duty 4. But what you do get is of such rich quality that there’s every incentive to go back and do battle with it once more. Whether it’s the atmospheric battle chatter, the insane firefights, the challenging narrative or the sheer entertainment factor, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 reaches heights that no gaming release this year has come anywhere close to. It has real problems, but they’re genuinely dwarfed by the strength of everything that works.

Company: Activision

There's been nothing quite like it all year, in more than one sense. It's not perfect, but it's simply extraordinary when it slips - as it often does - into top gear.