You may have heard some fuss about a new game that came out recently. I think it had something to do with warfare that takes place during modern times, but I’m not quite sure. There are apparently snowmobiles in it?
Indeed, Activision’s Modern Warfare 2 has touched all of our hearts and souls since its release earlier this month. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you wouldn’t know it from their pushing it as “MOST ANTICIPATED GAME EVAR (until the next one)”. And I suppose they’re right – MW2 gives you a lot to be excited about.
For one, it’s a direct sequel to 2007’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Yes, there was another CoD game last year: World at War. No, that one took place in World War 2 and doesn’t fit into this chronology. And it was developed by somebody else.
Wait. Yes, that is confusing. Recall this post, if you will, about my dislike for the two-developer system (specifically one of the two developers) that Activision uses to push CoD games out the door on a yearly basis, quality notwithstanding. In that article I wrote:
What if Infinity Ward stopped making COD games, leaving the franchise to Treyarch, and instead used the technology they’ve already developed to create a new, self-owned franchise with similar content? Presumably it would continue in the modern warfare vein and would play the same.
Interestingly, that’s sort of what’s happening here. I don’t know what the plans are for the seventh installment in the CoD franchise, but presumably it will be a Treyarch effort once again. But in the meantime, notice that the “Call of Duty” label on MW2 was extremely downplayed. Initially they had planned not to include it on the marketing at all, but I suppose it’s helpful in that most people are totally clueless and wouldn’t make the connection. So in a sense, Modern Warfare is very much poised to be its own franchise at this point (or already is, I suppose).
With all of that said, I hadn’t picked up a CoD game since the first Modern Warfare. World at War and its return to the WW2 setting didn’t entice me enough to buy or even rent; only when one of my CoD-addicted friends finally replaced his WaW disc with a shiny new one with the words “Modern Warfare 2” on it did I ask to borrow the old one to give it a try.
Call of Duty: World at War
In a few words, I found World at War to be very, very good. As is typical of the series, you’ll frequently be switching between two protagonists (in this case an American and a Russian) as they embark on their distinct tours of duty (plan on visiting the Pacific and traveling from Russia to Germany). The characters are likable enough, with excellent voice acting. Your immediate superiors are voiced by Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman, respectively (wow!), as are the narrations between missions.
Speaking of “between missions”… holy shit. Even if you have zero interest in the game whatsoever, you NEED to see these cutscenes. They are simply gorgeous examples of motion graphics:
Seriously, this game has no right to have graphics this nice. I think that’s a compliment. Other than that, it’s pretty much all standard Call of Duty fare. I enjoyed playing through it even thought the missions were not without their frustrations, but I can only handle so much trench warfare before wanting to move on to something else.
Modern Warfare 2
Enter “something else”. With all the ruckus about the newest member of the family, I knew I had to give it a try. I managed to find a lone copy available for rental yesterday and figured I could hammer through it by the end of the weekend. Well, I was right, but change “end of the weekend” to “one sitting” and you’ll find my single-player experience to be comparable to that of anyone else who’s enjoyed the game.
I think we’re almost at that point where the single player campaign is becoming token addition in Call of Duty games. You don’t buy this game to play it alone. Well, you can, but that would be a waste of $60 (this coming from someone who has wasted $60 several times). Single player is good for about a week of entertainment at best, which is why it’s fine rental fodder for folks like me who are adverse to shooting strangers online. And by “shooting strangers online” I mean “getting shot by strangers online”.
And in this case, the campaign is not only short but somewhat disheveled. As I mentioned before, MW2 is a direct sequel to the first game, in that you see the return of some of the original characters. I think this is great, because it’s already a huge divergence from the traditional Call of Duty “slice of life” model where you see a little bit of everything.
I don’t know that they take advantage of this as much as they could, though. As with World at War you’ll be switching between protagonists constantly, each of whom has missions that feel quite different. I understand the reasoning for this mechanically, but it also seemed a little unbalanced. Then again, that’s easy to forget because I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what was going on.
I think that in writing the “story” for the game, Infinity Ward had a meeting and said “okay, we want to have missions that take place in A, B, and C, with combat that features X, Y, and Z” and then they wrote some scripts that vaguely made that possible. That’s not to say the game isn’t a lot of fun to play; it’s just more disjointed than usual. The fact that MW isn’t tied down by a factual background and has gobs of technology at its disposal means that you can cover a much larger variety of terrain in a much smaller amount of time.
You’ll notice that I didn’t really go into any detail about graphics or sound, but if you’ve played any of the CoD games on the new generation of consoles, you know what to expect. They’re both great, and they remain great year after year.
Even though I’m not interested in what is really the focal point of the games (multiplayer), I’m still interested to see where the series (plural?) heads after this. Treyarch really pulled a 180 with World at War, and Infinity Ward can do pretty much anything they please with a title as vague as “Modern Warfare”.