It's September but the summer heat is still wrapped around the city of Los Angeles like a warm, wet blanket. The sudden climate change as I step of the plane has me sweating profusely as I join Infinity Ward in Hollywood to get my hands on Modern Warfare 2 for the very first time.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a direct sequel to the original game and Vladimir Makarov has taken over the leadership of the Russian ultra nationalists who almost succeeded in creating World War III when we last fought them. Once again they have grown to be a force to be reckoned with, which is a good thing since that's how we like our video game villains.
One significant change is that there is a new hero in town. The main protagonist is Sergeant Gary "Roach" Sanderson. "Soap" MacTavish, the main character from Modern Warfare, has been promoted to captain as a result of his heroics and will be your closest superior in the recently instated Task Force 141. Their mission is simple, to eliminate the threat posed by the Russian ultra nationalists. Easier said than done, as they are in control of vast resources. But saving the world is never easy (unless you chicken out with the difficulty setting).
One of the early missions in the game is Cliffhanger (as seen in the E3 presentation), where Roach is tasked with infiltrating a Russian camp in the Tian Shan region of Kazakhstan. This gives us a perfect example of how Infinity Ward have chosen to create a more dynamic pace and a change from the typical intense battles we have become accustomed to. Instead we are treated to a treacherous hike in the bitter cold where an ice axe is much more useful than your trusted carbine.
Obviously things heat up further into the mission, where you are forced to flee the scene on a snowmobile in a chase that could have snatched straight out of a James Bond picture. With the exception of the Halo series, and perhaps one or two others, vehicles are often something of an Achilles heal in first person shooters. But the snowmobile sequence struck me as so well put together that I had to ask Todd Alderman, responsible for the multiplayer component, if there were any plans to include snowmobiles in the online battles.
My question made him jump and I was given a cryptic answer along the lines that the thought had struck them at one point or another. Regardless of whether there are snowmobiles are not, the multiplayer part of the game is shaping up nicely. Infinity Ward have gone to lengths to try and shake up the foundations. You will be able to create your own class from scratch with two weapons of choice, new perks, new kill streak bonuses, customisable appearance, side arms such as throwing knifes, design your own gamertag and much more.
On top of this a wealth of other options have been added such as a riot shield you can drag along instead of a weapon. It protects your back while not in use and provides excellent cover if you have to advance under heavy fire. The frantic pace has been turned up a notch, and the level design also appears improved. However, with all these options available I have to wonder how balanced the final game will be. I had a lot of trouble with one guy who played as a sniper with a silenced rifle accompanied with a shotgun. Lethal at a distance and just as deadly up close.
The hours I spent with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 left me longing for more. The Call of Duty series has always been dear to me, but the sixth chapter is making it look better than ever. The only unfortunate thing is that the campaign is as short as in the original Modern Warfare, and even though multiplayer will keep me occupied for countless of hours I would have wished for a slightly longer single player experience.