Forget Halo, people. Gears of War? Please. Bioshock? Might as well call it Biodome. When it comes to modern video games, only one series stands out, and it's Call of Duty. And the newest entry, the unfortunately titled Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, isn't just the greatest entry yet in the series, it's the best entry yet in any shooter series. In fact, it's more than that. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (hereafter referred to as MW2) is the best game that will be released this year. It may be the single greatest video game in history.
This isn't hyperbole. I've been playing these games since the first one, called Medal of Honor, and each one has, in turn, offered interesting improvements over its predecessors. (The game Call of Duty was PC-only and was made by the team that did the first Medal of Honor game.) In 2005, Call of Duty 2 was released as one of a dozen Xbox 360 launch titles and it was, in my opinion, the best game of that year by far. The 2006 entry, Call of Duty 3, was the surprising weak link in the series, a buggy, Achievement-adverse mess that almost derailed the series but did offer some multiplayer innovations, including character classes and drivable vehicles.
And then there was the seminal title in the series, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. For the first time, the COD world was expanded beyond World War II, this time to a fictional present-day conflict involving terrorists and the former Soviet Union. The single player game was gripping, but what really sold COD4 was the multiplayer: For the first time, a COD game offered an ever-improving experience, with experience points that build up over time, giving you new weapons and weapon functionality, called perks. As you improved with each weapon, then, they could get better over time. It also added assist points for kills, though I felt that the 2 points allotted (vs. 10 for the actual kill) could be a bit cheap if you did most of the work only to see another player swoop in and get the kill shot. COD4 multiplayer was so good, in fact, that it continues to be one of the most-often played online games two years after its release.
Last year, the team responsible for the middling COD3 release delivered Call of Duty: World at War (COD5), returning to the fertile territory of WWII and adding an interesting (and well-conceived) Japanese theater of operations to the proceedings. The single player campaign was a bit short, but the game offered cooperative play, something previous COD games lacked. The multiplayer was, however, impressive, and even better that what was offered in COD4. This time around, assists were given weight based on damage, so you could score 2, 4, 6, or 8 points on an assist, instead of the paltry 2 offered by COD4. There were drivable, usable tanks. And COD5 multiplayer was simply better looking than that of COD4, with brighter, more colorful levels and nicer font treatments. Overall, COD5 is actually the better game than COD4, and I played it almost endlessly right up until this week's release of MW2.
With MW2, the COD series returns to the fictional, modern setting of COD4, a move I'm increasingly unsure about. It ratchets up the violence, the intensity, and the controversy in the single player experience, and it offers a multiplayer experience that builds off of COD4, rather than COD5--a mistake, in my opinion--but does improve on the color and overall graphics quality. It is an epic, amazing game, and if you've been playing any COD games over the years, or any shooters at all, you absolutely need to get it, sooner rather than later. Here's what's happening in this release.
Call of Duty:
Modern Warfare 2
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