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     " Campaign phenomenal, Co-Op great but limited to two people, and adversarial is entirely unforgivable. "

      Title: Modern Warfare 2 by Activision

      Format: PC First Person Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

     I think it's something close to impossible for my simple monkey brain to figure out exactly how many Call of Duty games there's been--though, if I had to guess (and I do, because I'm too lazy to Google it) I'd say there's been somewhere around 11 of 'em. So it's not terribly surprising to see that Activision has dropped the Call of Duty off the title of their latest, calling it simply Modern Warfare 2.

     But while the name may have changed, the fundamental gameplay has remained exactly the same. The controls are still identical to what they were when Call of Duty 2 nailed down the fundamentals, and the rest of the game--from the mission formula, to the pacing of combat, to the interface--has followed suit.

     Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Though I think it's long past time to add some innovation to the franchise, there is a certain, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" vibe going on here. And the nice part about doing what essentially the same thing over and over again is that developer Infinity Ward has their act down pat. The controls are tight and responsive, the pace of the action is exquisitely relentless, and the non-infantry campaign breaks (where you do things like run a mini-gun off the side of a helicopter) are fantastic.

     And, speaking of the campaign, I will say straight away that, action-wise, it may be the best one I've ever played. Infinity Ward has found the perfect balance of action, knuckle-whitening tension, and sense-assaulting overstimulation. It's amazing. In gameplay.

     In story it's a train wreck. The narrative is sloppy and confusing, the constant jumping back and forth between characters goes well past excessive, and the two major hook moments, including the much discussed one in which you assume the guise of a terrorist gunning down civilians in a Russian airport, are just too underdeveloped and poorly scripted to do their jobs.

     But, let's face it, you don't play this kind of game for the story. You play it for the quality of the campaign and the entertainment of the multiplayer. And since we've already established that the campaign gameplay is epic, let's move on to the co-op and adversarial modes.

     Both of which are better than they could be, but not nearly as good as they should be.

     Co-op, now a pretty well established industry staple, is also awesome, but loses points for being limited to just two players. It happens in the form of a few dozen "Special Ops" missions, which are essentially rehashes of Modern Warfare 1 &2 campaign maps that are retooled with specific objectives (ranging from kill all the enemy AI to more complicated take-down and recovery concepts). Infinity Ward was very public about saying that this mode was put in because they felt the campaign was ruined by having more than one person going through it, and I'm glad they went that route. The missions are an absolute blast and diverse enough that you will get hours and hours and hours out of them. Unfortunately, as I said, they only allow for half as many players as we're used to seeing in co-op, but it's forgivable due to the quality of the experience.

     What isn't forgivable is the adversarial play. Though essentially an update of the now-standard Call of Duty 4 and 5 leveling and Perk system, several of the new "enhancements" they put into it (primarily in the form of new weapons and Perks) simply break the game. Mostly these are evidence of a severe lack of playtesting in the combinations available at higher experience levels--but in some cases they simple show poor to non-existent judgment and forethought. They have, for example, added an endless sprinting Perk and an increased melee range Perk. Now, on their own that doesn't sound like much to complain about, but put them together on a small map and, thanks to the rather generous damage system in the game, you end up with a class that can sprint at you and stab you despite the fact that you start riddling them with bullets from twenty yards out. The same holds true with the "guns akimbo" Perk, which lets you use two shotguns or submachine guns simultaneously. Combine that with the afore mentioned endless sprint Perk and you have the definition of a skill-less class that lets guys run around the map endlessly until they get close enough to charge someone and unload four rounds of unaimed buckshot, getting a guaranteed kill without even bothering to aim.

     And those are only two examples. There are literally dozens of them. Broken weapons, broken Perks, broken gear. Enough to make multiplayer an experience that is far more frustrating than fun.

     Still, it wouldn't be a big deal if MW2 came with a really solid server system that let you customize what was allowed in your game and kick griefers and cheaters. Instead, my fellow Monkey, we get kicked square in the sack with the inclusion of IW.Net.

     Infinity Ward's answer to piracy, IW.Net is their must-use peer-to-peer connection system that takes all of the control out of gamers hands. With it, the only options you have is game type (i.e. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Hardcore, etc.), and after that you are at the mercy of the most vengeful of gaming gods. Once you select type, it searches the internet for what it thinks is the best matchup, chooses who it thinks should be the host, and then drops you in. The result? A lag ladened, cheat filled, horribly imbalanced, absolutely inexcusable gaming experience. It is so unreliable, and the games are so frequently infuriating, that one of our testers described it as more like "a lousy day at work than a fun time gaming."

     "Still," I hear you say, "net play isn't your only option, right? The game has LAN support, doesn't it?" Well, the answer is "sort of." Yes, technically, it does have LAN play, but it does not allow for any experience points to be earned while LAN gaming--even LAN only experience (which the Xbox version has)--so unless you enjoy running around with the three default classes you will HAVE to go on-line to level up...and we have already abandoned the idea that it's worth suffering through internet play in order to make LAN gaming possible.

     Needless to say, this is an absolute slap in the face to PC gamers. I can understand on-line verification as a form of copy protection. I can even understand using a sub-system such as Steam. But this idea that they are controlling how, where, and who you play with is entirely unacceptable. As is the experience they half-assedly provided for it.

     It unquestionably says that Infinity Ward focused on the console versions of MW2 and really didn't give a rat's ass about how the PC version worked.

     Okay, so enough of my multiplayer rant. Let's wrap this up.

     In review: Campaign phenomenal, Co-Op great but limited to two people, and adversarial is entirely unforgivable. Use that as your guide when you're deciding whether or not to buy.


      The Verdict:


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