Imagine somebody put a gun in your hand, and ordered you to kill innocent civilians. Could you do it? The latest game in the Call of Duty series asks the player this, and other tough ethical and moral questions, as it propels you through a narrative of conflict in the context of today’s society. It’s a continuation of the plot originally kicked off in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which paints the US as the saviour of the barbaric ways of Russia and the Middle East.
American hyper-patriotism and ethnic clichés aside, Modern Warfare 2 isn’t merely a game, it’s another example of the new breed of games that offers an interactive experience. The main difference between the two is that while previous video games simply used story as a device to explain a game mechanic or to give the protagonist a raison d’être, these new, more mature offerings are beginning to layer in complex emotions and philosophical considerations, integrating them directly into the gameplay in a more fundamental way, than the odd rhetorical poser in the cutscenes between levels.
The example touched upon in the beginning of this review is a stage, early on in the game, in which the player takes on the role of an undercover agent posing as a Russian terrorist, and on order to progress, must participate in the slaughter of innocent civilians. Even the player refrains from firing and simply watches, he or she will still see their collaborators shooting stragglers, execution style. It’s a heavy moment, and highly controversial.
Having only recently arrived in the world of First Person Shooters through Transformers: War For Cybertron, the pedigree of the Call of Duty series is evident. MW2 takes the spit and polish up a big notch – the interface is well thought out and snappily responsive; the graphics are impressive and the sets amazingly detailed (e.g. in one scene set in an airport, you can shoot pieces of luggage that are strew around, and random pieces of clothing and underwear come flying out); and the game mechanics much more refined.
In multiplayer, there are a wealth of game modes (Free-For-All, Search & Destroy, Demolition, Sabotage, Domination, Team Deathmatch, and Capture The Flag) and several players can play together on a single TV in split-screen mode. Along with the downloadable map packs, MW2 offers exceptional replay value.
I’ve never been a big fan of FPS – especially anything war themed – but I found Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 so imaginative and stimulating that I barely noticed. Definitely one for the collection.