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Posted on Nov 25, 2009 in Electronic Games

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – XBox 360 Review

By James Pikover

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Activision. PC/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3. Infinity Ward. $59.99

Passed Inspection: Excellent multiplayer. Great score, select scenes are wonderfully done.

Failed Basic: Humiliating campaign and story, embarrassingly short.

Without spoiling the plot, every twist and turn in the story is as ill-fated as the last.

It’s not often a game I like so much is also one I bitterly despise. What publisher Activision and developer Infinity Ward have done with their latest and historically selling Call of Duty title is inexcusable. Some players may not take offense to the story and the characters, but those elements are apparently only there to gain media attention, and I find that to be low.


The Call of Duty franchise is a first-person-shooter where players take on the persona(s) of soldiers. The original and several supplements were set in World War II, but the Modern Warfare sub-franchise, created by Infinity Ward two years ago, takes place in the current day. While the first Modern Warfare was stunning in its single- and multiplayer aspects, Infinity Ward seems more interested in shock value than good content in this latest addition.

The first mission puts players in Afghanistan when the character, a private in the army, is plucked from his unit to join a special-operations team led by General Shepherd. The player-character, working under cover for Shepherd and pretending to work for a Russian terrorist, enters an airport where players are effectively told to murder hundreds of unarmed civilians with four other terrorists. This alone is disturbing, though an option to skip this level because of its content is given at the beginning of the game, as “objectionable content.” I didn’t skip it, and I don’t expect anyone else to.

After killing all of the civilians, including wounded and bleeding ones on the ground, players must then make their way through police officers and swat teams. Without spoiling the plot, the player is killed more than once within the game and effectively switches to another character; every twist and turn in the story is as ill-fated as the last. Very little makes sense on a practical level, and it’s quite clear most of it is done purely for shock value. Only the subplot of defending Washington, D.C., is wonderfully done. Players must defend or fortify urban areas; one level has a team of U.S. soldiers defending a shopping center, while another has players push the Russians out of a suburban neighborhood.

With only four-five hours for the single player campaign, I had tremendous difficulty with it. On the one hand, several scenes are incredible, most notably the first sight of our capital burning. The score, done by renowned composer Hans Zimmer, is brilliantly done in these scenes, and they are heart wrenching in the most realistic way. Other scenes have incredible events happen, such as snowmobiling across a giant gap and barely making it, all in-game. Yet these amazing scenes are toned down by the imagery in others, where treachery and backstabbing is more commonplace than gunfire. I honestly can’t decide whether the short campaign is a good or bad thing, considering these points.

Like Modern Warfare before it, Modern Warfare 2 has a large number of weapons, including at least five types of the following: assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, sub-machine guns, machine guns and sniper rifles. Additional weaponry includes frag and flash grenades, rocket launchers, a knife, riot shields, control of a missile-wielding Predator drone, and more. Many have interesting secondary functions, one such function being the heartbeat radar, which pinpoints live enemies in the nearby vicinity.

Gameplay in the single-player campaign, besides the incredible scenes previously mentioned, is rudimentary. It results in finding cover during a battle and waiting for enemies to pop their heads out for a clean shot. Tougher situations will force more movement but little else changes. Several levels force players to work alone, and one in particular will require moving quickly to capture a target while dodging and returning fire, though these are rare.

Supplementing the short campaign is Spec-ops, a cooperative game mode for one or two players to achieve simple objectives, such as defending a position, taking out a target, etc. There are 25 in all, and each has three difficulty settings. These cooperative missions are no excuse for the shortened single player campaign, though they are enjoyable with a friend.

Multiplayer is Modern Warfare 2‘s most brilliant aspect. As in Modern Warfare before it, the multiplayer has several game modes for single player or team play that are incredibly fun. Leveling up through experience points earned after every game gives players access to new weapons and abilities called Perks. These abilities can be used strategically on the battlefield and include such things as increased armor, more damage per shot, and plenty of others.

There are lots of maps to play on, each with its own unique layout and employable strategies. Kills award points, and though points are awarded for a multitude of actions, the player or team with the most enemy kills wins. Additional points are awarded for special kills (i.e., headshots, knifing, grenade kills), activating bonuses earned from killing sprees (UAV drone, ammo drop, attack helicopter), and completing the experience-based challenges for specific weapons or kill types.

The multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 is great fun because of this. It lets players try out new weapons and tactics and allows them to play in different ways to achieve the most points and kills. I’ve found that the way it’s built is almost perfect for players to level up, even if they are clearly the lowest-leveled or least-experienced players in the game. Gaining points and levels may take time, but there’s plenty of fun to be had even just starting out with the bare minimum.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has several serious issues, all revolving around the single-player campaign. Much of the imagery is controversial and seems to be included only for the sake of controversy. I don’t doubt that many players have the stomach for such, but for me the integrity of the developer and publisher is completely gone. The multiplayer is excellent, and some of the scenes in the campaign are amazing, but it isn’t the shooter so many of us waited for.

Score: 85%


  1. There are only 23 spec ops missions

  2. How could you not post one of the billions of negatives about the multiplayer aspect of the PC? No dedicated servers, higher lag than previous CoD games, host ping advantage, no lean, no console, no mods, limited to 9v9 and only in certain game modes, no ability to record action, no ability to kick/ban hackers, no bad language filter, etc. etc. There’s actually more than that. But to not even MENTION one of these negatives in your review is absolutely mind boggling. You either never played previous Call of Duty games or you’ve seriously downgraded your expectations of what a PC game should come shipped with. Either way, it doesn’t look good for you.

  3. Kurt, we requested the PC and Xbox 360 version from Activision for this review, but for whatever reason Activision only sent the 360 version. While it’s my opinion that most readers will play this game on the console regardless, I could not in good conscience describe the PC version’s lack of dedicated servers without actually testing it. And for the console version, none of the mentioned points make a difference, unfortunately. When we get the chance to play the PC version and test it, we will look at all of the things you mentioned, because they are obviously important.

  4. James, what on earth is a matter with you man? The title of the piece is “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – PC Game Review” and yet you say they only sent us the 360 version – here’s a thought, only review that!

  5. You really should consider changing the title to accurately reflect the version you played – there are significant differences in both the single player experience and the multiplayer, particularly the other players and voice-comms.

  6. The title has been updated. James reviewed the x360 version, and we should have made that clear in the title. Apologies from the staff.

  7. Thanks for the review. I tried some of the multiplayer on console, and it looked good, but the campaign sounds both anemic and disgusting. Certainly not something I want to play or let my boys play. I’ll save my money something else and we’ll stick with CODWAW.


  8. You forgot to mention you can skip the airport mission if you find it a problem for some reason. Don’t forget you are playing a “shooter GAME” to begin with – it is all make believe and just a game… not to mention – Great for stress relief!