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Denny Markovic
14 Nov, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Review

PC Review | Opening fire on the PC version.
We’re going to make a guess that you’ve heard of the Call of Duty franchise, particularly Modern Warfare. Selling inhuman amounts of copies and winning multiple awards from critics all round, developer Infinity Ward has grown a strong reputation in the industry for creating some of the most intense and frenetic shooting experiences available. Now after a long wait, Modern Warfare 2 has been unleashed upon the masses, and has already sold quite a few copies. But with all the hype and sales, does the game live up to the lofty standards that the original Modern Warfare set? In short, no. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

The long explanation behind this comes down to a lot of reasons, particularly because this review is focused on the PC version rather than the console counterparts. The first is the games narrative and campaign, which although extremely competent in execution, lacks the substance that the original had.

To elaborate, the story begins 5 years after the events of Modern Warfare 1, where war and terror are still running amok in the world. Ultranationalists still roam free across the globe, and have essentially seized control of Russia and its people after the death of the previous games antagonist, Zakhaev. Zakhaev’s former lieutenant, Vladimir Makarov has essentially taken the lead on the terrorist organisations, and plans out several of the events that occur within Modern Warfare 2. The story sets itself up nicely, and is once more told in typical Call of Duty fashion, with you being put into the shoes of several different characters as the story progresses.

Lock and load fellas, we're getting our dedicated servers back.

Lock and load fellas, we're getting our dedicated servers back.
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Without spoiling anything, Modern Warfare 2’s story quickly makes everything escalate into a gigantic war zone, with rarely a moment to rest and almost as many enemies as you have bullets to spare. The problem however is that the story, although consistent is ultimately, quite predictable. The original Modern Warfare narrative was a well paced and clever piece, with several areas in the game that you absolutely do not see coming and continually shock you, while Modern Warfare 2 tends to ditch many of the tense and dire situations for a much more ballistic and frenetic experience. Don’t get us wrong, there are some moments in this game that make you wonder and will also shock you, but it never quite impacts you the way some areas in Modern Warfare did, which is a little disappointing.

That being said, the ballistic nature of the game is excellent throughout and should blow many minds that look for more guns and explosions. However, they also might be disappointed to find that this is as far as the game goes in its single player campaign, with much more flash and less breaks in pacing where usually, subtlety and precision are everything. Though there are some moments where the game does slow down a little and you do have to stay out of sight, it’s usually only temporary, and we feel nothing ever came close to the sheer intensity of the Pripyat level in Modern Warfare. For what is there though, most fans will be happy with, it’s just a pity that it’s also quite short (we clocked the entire campaign in just under 4 hours).

Once you’re done with the Single Player campaign, there’s Spec Ops mode and Multiplayer, which both add quite a bit of replay value to the game. Spec Ops mode basically acts much like that of the final secret area of Modern Warfare where you have to blast through areas in an extremely quick fashion or have to fend off enemies, etc. The structure is mission based and has several different areas to play through, and as a challenge, you can set several difficulty modes and each mission is assessed at the end of the level for how well you played. It also supports two player online co-op, which diversifies the mode with some levels giving co-op partners special roles such as controlling an AC-130 to give your friend covering fire. It’s an interesting and fun mode where many hours can quickly be lost, particularly because you can become so determined to beat an older score.

Take me down to the paradise city where the guns are yellow and the bullets are pretty..

Take me down to the paradise city where the guns are yellow and the bullets are pretty..
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Then you have the Multiplayer, which has met with a lot of controversy on the PC version. The perks and kill streak are back again, but with a far deeper setup with much more customisation and versatility than before. Killstreaks can now be modified to support several different kinds of rewards, such as a predator missile instead of an air-strike, a controllable attack helicopter, controllable AC-130’s and the list goes on as long as you keep your kill streak consistent. You don’t get all of them however, as you select one or two from your class customising and then use those accordingly, so this somewhat reduces the spammy nature of the original game.

That being said though, a large portion of the spammy nature has been removed due to the reduction in amount of players being able to play at once, which is now at 18 as opposed to the massive 32 and 64 players that Modern Warfare supported. This is immensely disappointing, as though many of the smaller maps work well and offer a focused and polished experience, the larger maps feel desolate and overall boring. Modern Warfare 2 is simply not fast enough to cover enough ground on the bigger maps to create an intense experience, so the lack of players hinders the mostly well developed multiplayer maps, and turn most of the larger maps into a far more campy kind of match.

Apart from the reduction of players though, the main controversy on the PC version lies within its lack of dedicated servers, which was ditched for a Matchmaking system, similar to consoles. Though this isn’t much of a problem for consoles considering the control scheme and somewhat slower pace, Matchmaking proves incredibly inconsistent on the PC version. To elaborate, the PC version is naturally a faster game due to more power pumping into the game and total mouse control, the extra lag that match making gives severely hinders the control and precision that PC players have always enjoyed for well over a decade. Console gamers have this eased up on them due to aim assist, which makes matchmaking much easier to handle as you don’t require near pitch perfect aim. On the PC however, the extra pacing and precise requirements of mouse control makes a game with lag become a noticeable and annoying hindrance.

A sandstorm, dusty goggles, tiny iron sights..and you can STILL see?.

A sandstorm, dusty goggles, tiny iron sights..and you can STILL see?.
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And it happens often at that. Unless the hosting player has a very powerful internet connection (a somewhat uncommon thing in Australia), most players will suffer, though the host will have a clear cut advantage due to 0 ping on his end. If the host leaves, the game scrambles to find another competent enough host which breaks the pacing of the game and kicks you out of the zone often enough. The matchmaking setup is not entirely broken and tends to work sometimes, many a time you’ll be pitted in a server where you’ll get latency issues that will noticeably impact your performance. Leaving will also result in a penalty to your win/loss ratio, so you’re essentially being punished for leaving a game that isn’t working well for you in performance. We could go on about the inconsistencies of match making, but to put it bluntly, Infinity Ward made a huge mistake with the removal of dedicated servers. Sure, they’ve taken a step forward with ease of accessibility in multiplayer, but they’ve taken several steps back by trying to fix something that was never really broken.

On the technical side of things, Modern Warfare 2 looks solid, primarily due to its excellent design rather than the engine powering it all. Textures and effects are of a fairly average level of detail on the PC, with many games trouncing it in terms of overall clarity. However, the design behind it all has to be commended, as everything simply looks beautiful. Infinity Wards design team deserve a medal for essentially having shown that ‘less is more’ by implementing excellent aesthetic and atmospheric feel with an engine that wouldn’t really hold up against other PC titles otherwise. The sound is also no slouch either, with bullets flying around everywhere and a musical score composed by master composer Hans Zimmer to further enhance the atmosphere and intensity of the fire fights.

Modern Warfare 2 is a difficult game to rate, because it has such good qualities that are hurt by several other things. The Single Player game is solid, more fluent in progression and overall a stronger effort than Modern Warfare from a design perspective, however it lacks the high shock value and truly jaw dropping moments of the original to make it unforgettable. The narrative is also solid but ultimately predictable, that’s not only short lived but also has a rather abrupt ending. Spec Ops mode is excellent and serves its purpose well, while Multiplayer is an improvement from a gameplay perspective, but is massively hurt by its lack of dedicated servers and inconsistent online experience on the PC. It’s a game where it has so many highs mixed in with that many lows, that it’s difficult to recommend. If you’re playing on the console, you’re looking at an excellent package with some of the best multiplayer offering available. However for the PC users, unless you are a fan of the series or have the patience and dedication to deal with the shortcomings of the multiplayer, then Modern Warfare 2 is a try before you buy experience, as it comes with a lot of flash, but never goes off with a big bang.
The Score
For the PC, Modern Warfare 2 is a solid shooter with an excellent but very short campaign, and an improved online multiplayer system hurt by the new matchmaking setups.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Content

Modern Warfare 2 DLC confirmed for Q2 2010
29 Nov, 2009 Just what it will contain remains a mystery. For now.
Bans for Modern Warfare 2 PC
28 Nov, 2009 Activision targets cheats.
23 Comments
4 years ago
I still dont have it and I dont know when I'll eventually pick it up. I figured I'd go with NSMB Wii as I feel I'm not getting dicked by the developer/publisher.
4 years ago
Glad I bought New Super Mario Bros instead, this would have been an epic letdown.
4 years ago
Bravo PALGN. The fact that you deny the 4 point scale and do genuine reviews is the reason I keep coming here. Excellent review.
4 years ago
Excellent review, and well done for having the balls to say the game was good but fell far short of its potential.
4 years ago
PALGN +1

Straight reviews are awesome
4 years ago
A good honest review, thank you Denny and PALGN!
4 years ago
Bought the PC version and had a quick go at multiplayer late last night. Found the experience to be relatively painless although a bit glitchy.

Would love to see a future patch where IW addresses the issue of dedicated servers. Considering the fierce backlash, it has to be something they are considering. Surely!
4 years ago
PALGN wrote
which was ditched for a Matchmaking system, simialr to consoles.
Typo.

Good review, unless multiplayer gets fixed up i think i might just borrow it for the single player.

Also, more MW2 SP has been played than CS:Source today. The WoW hours have taken a significant hit, but still on top, COD4 second, and then MW2 MP. (from xfire)
4 years ago
Nice review.

One thing though - I think it's important to differentiate between matchmaking and P2P. In the review you basically used 'matchmaking' as a catch all term which includes P2P.

You can still have 'matchmaking' (in a sense) and dedicated servers.
4 years ago
^ Such as Left 4 Dead which has matchmaking, servers AND P2P. Although I that can also be a pain in the arse at times. But you knew what he meant, which is the main point, if he said P2P some people wouldn't know what he meant.
4 years ago
Lovely, I came onto the forums to voice my opinions on MW2 since I just finished it, but you've done it already for me.

The two biggest omissions from the singleplayer for me was the lack of a true sequel to All Ghillied Up and Shock and Awe. Modern Warfare 2 has its big moments, far more frequently than CoD4, but as you said, none of them are as surprising and shocking as they are in the original MW.

The plot was also another severe disappointment for me. After a decent setting of the scene, I felt as though Infinity Ward took the plot out back and put it out of its misery. I like to think that I play games for the story - I want to know why I'm being forced to do X Y and Z. The story serves as a motivation for me to keep playing. While the gameplay is generally enjoyable, it alone is not enough of a compelling reason for me to play. Hence, I pay close attention to what is happening.. but I was fairly lost an hour or so into MW2.

The 'twist' towards the end of the game is also poorly told. The shift of antagonist is partially expected and.. dull. Likewise, the final chapter felt remarkably anti-climatic and overly drawn out, not helped by the fact that the events leading to that final chapter were just so poorly explained.

The most powerful moment of the game to me was actually comparatively subdued. Walking through the bunker at the beginning of the level in a war torn Washington DC was silently horrifying. I felt this scene really did a fantastic job of depicting the state of the Marines considering the circumstances. Following behind is possibly the view of the astronaut on the ISS shortly before its destruction.

Overrated? Overhyped? Look, Infinity Ward are the absolute kings of scripted action. I had a lot of fun with MW2. I found myself fist-pumping after various events in the game. It really was a blast from start to finish, albeit inferior to CoD4. It's the game equivalent of a big budget Hollywood action blockbuster. The universal 'praise' from game critics is disconcerting and I think evident of how much game journalism still needs to learn - but I feel Denny's review is fairly spot on. The sharper criticism of the PC version is absolutely necessary. Despite some gaming websites deeming it an identical experience to the console versions and hence subject to equivalent criticism, the PC 'port' doesn't take advantages of the platform it is on and should be called out for doing so.

And there's my typical new game rant which I'm sure you were all hanging out for.
4 years ago
I am getting this for PC because I don't care at all about the multiplayer; I'll never play it anyway lol. It's sad that its a short game but I played through Call of Duty 4 twice so if I enjoy this as much maybe I could do it again this time, and then that makes up for the shortness. icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
PALGN wrote
If you’re playing on the console, you’re looking at an excellent package with some of the best multiplayer offering available. However for the PC users, unless you are a fan of the series or have the patience and dedication to deal with the shortcomings of the multiplayer, then Modern Warfare 2 is a try before you buy experience, as it comes with a lot of flash, but never goes off with a big bang."
- But don't consoles use similiar matchmaking processes so how is it a great package for console and not PC, surely since the game is pretty much the console version on the PC how can you say the console would be better if its the same server technology and story line but with a keyboard + mouse ?
4 years ago
^ Matchmaking works on consoles (when it's done right). On PC, it's stupid as you can go and navigate to dedicated servers quite easily, which isn't so easily done on a console. I can't imagine how you would implement a dedicated servers system to console multiplayer, and if you did I can only imagine it would be messy.

Put simply, the consoles get a crippled system, but it's better there as it's the only realistic/easy way of getting into a good multiplayer game. On PC, there's no reason for that crippling.
4 years ago
yvanm wrote
PALGN wrote
If you’re playing on the console, you’re looking at an excellent package with some of the best multiplayer offering available. However for the PC users, unless you are a fan of the series or have the patience and dedication to deal with the shortcomings of the multiplayer, then Modern Warfare 2 is a try before you buy experience, as it comes with a lot of flash, but never goes off with a big bang."
- But don't consoles use similiar matchmaking processes so how is it a great package for console and not PC, surely since the game is pretty much the console version on the PC how can you say the console would be better if its the same server technology and story line but with a keyboard + mouse ?
Console users are used to matchmaking, so it being in MW2 isn't anything different, whereas all/most PC games have dedicated servers.
4 years ago
Ill agree, i prefer dedicated servers but since its the same server technology for console as PC, then that's just being biased, i could then judge all console games that they should implement dedicated servers and of course they could, run multiple ones around the country from servers such as GA and the match making program which check dedicated and p2p for the best connection or even complaining about all console systems since they can't implement server browsing but its not about that.

The connection system is the same, game play and multi-player technology, so i don't see how it is fair to say the console version is a great purchase where the actually multi-player experience will be the same expect with proper fps equipment MOUSE AND KEYBOARD.
4 years ago
I think what Denny was getting at is that it's "better" on consoles as they got what's standard for the platform, whereas PC users didn't get what they're used to as standard, they got something that is comparatively crippled.
4 years ago
^Precisely. The game has removed a feature that was better than the one that was implemented, and thus is criticised for it accordingly. That and if you read what I've described, the extra lag output does not work consistently with the more precise aiming that mouse requires you to have. None of this is a problem on the console.
4 years ago
That is true, you notice the lag especially at end or round kills, i see what your getting at.
4 years ago
Matchmaking has always sucked on console especially for Aussies. I can name a handful of games that don't have good matchmaking on console but on PC their fine because of server select. CoD4 was one of them. A shame that MW2 has to use a gimped system
4 years ago
The console has auto aim that helps with the matchmaking lag. The pc version does not so if you spend some time watching the kill cams when you die you will see that the bloke in front of you, was in fact not and you was shooting a wall on the kill cam.The problem is having to rely on the matchmaking for no lag when on any other pc game i can just find a better server.
4 years ago
Wow, I don't understand. Yes, they took out the dedicated servers and modifiability, but look at the game itself! If you can't realize the sheer awesomeness of this game, then I don't know what to tell you. You say the graphics are rather average for the PC? Are you blind? The graphics are some of the most amazing I have seen on the PC! Yes, I have played Crysis, Uncharted 2, World in Conflict, Killzone 2, etc. I know what good graphics are, and this game surpasses most of those games excluding Crysis and possibly Uncharted 2, which it is relatively evenly matched with. Please to anyone who is debating getting this games, please don't listen the the PC community whining and complaining about the lack of features. Yes, some great features have been taken out but the game is too good to not play. There is no reason the PC version should be rated lower than the 360/PS3 versions.
4 years ago
J3vr0N wrote
Wow, I don't understand. Yes, they took out the dedicated servers and modifiability, but look at the game itself! If you can't realize the sheer awesomeness of this game, then I don't know what to tell you.
As far as I can tell Denny is saying that's it's not quite as awe-inspiring as Modern Warfare. So unless you're saying it is as good as the former, you're missing the whole picture.

J3vr0N wrote
You say the graphics are rather average for the PC? Are you blind? The graphics are some of the most amazing I have seen on the PC! Yes, I have played Crysis, Uncharted 2, World in Conflict, Killzone 2, etc. I know what good graphics are, and this game surpasses most of those games excluding Crysis and possibly Uncharted 2, which it is relatively evenly matched with.
Maybe you missed the next couple of sentences...

"However, the design behind it all has to be commended, as everything simply looks beautiful. Infinity Wards design team deserve a medal for essentially having shown that ‘less is more’ by implementing excellent aesthetic and atmospheric feel with an engine that wouldn’t really hold up against other PC titles otherwise."

J3vr0N wrote
Please to anyone who is debating getting this games, please don't listen the the PC community whining and complaining about the lack of features. Yes, some great features have been taken out but the game is too good to not play. There is no reason the PC version should be rated lower than the 360/PS3 versions.
Well, I watched A13x finish it last night and sat there with him, and I couldn't help thinking it looked absolutely stunning (as Denny implied above). 7.5 is a pretty solid score especially for the second installment of a game, usually the first will be pretty hard to live up to.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  10/11/09 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  FPS
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  18

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