Double Take: another look at Modern Warfare 2
Editor's note: Frequent Silicon Sasquatch podcast guest (and PC enthusiast) Spencer Tordoff has more than a few things to say about his experiences with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. With our review now live, we felt his commentary would be the perfectly compressed chaser to our long-winded critique.
I'd like to preface this by saying I have no interest in Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer component. The betrayals of Activision and Infinity Ward have come and gone; the damage is done, and for once I feel like I have nothing to say on the topic.
However, the single player portion continued to intrigue me. I loved the campaign in Call of Duty 4, as well as the previous Infinity Ward-crafted stories of Call of Duty 1 and 2. Procuring a copy of the latest game to continue the Modern Warfare storyline felt like a good idea, like an olive branch offered to a quarrelsome friend.
To the studio's credit, the single player was certainly an exciting experience. Indeed, it never stopped the excitement. Even when I hoped the game would slow down a bit and let me get my bearings, there was non-stop, full-on action. Too much perhaps, and out of some necessity.
As it turns out, Modern Warfare 2 is a hideous patchwork beast assembled from the successes of its predecessor -- stitched together with threads of blasting sound, unrelenting fury and boring cliché. Only a few moments weren't copies of some pulse-pounding Call of Duty 4 scene. Did you enjoy Modern Warfare's sniper segment? Now there are two. What about a stunning mid-air leap to a helicopter? Check. Vehicle escapes? Three. First-person reception of an execution-style pistol round? Two. Spectacular character death scenes? One (and a half). Every little facet that made Call of Duty 4 special was copied and plastered all over Modern Warfare 2's campaign, and unconvincingly so.
Spots that Infinity Ward couldn't properly put a primer coat over were painted in thick shades of camp. Modern Warfare 2 runs the gauntlet from the popular good-guy-turns-bad betrayal to the Cold War-era Soviet invasion of the United States fantasy, à la Red Dawn, Red Alert 2 and World in Conflict. The only moments where this abomination is remotely reminiscent of classic Call of Duty were the sections from the perspective of the U.S. Army Ranger, which fell victim to the already-mentioned Russian invasion absurdity. Even old videogame clichés were pursued, including the obligatory character voiced by Keith David, and the vaguely-justified motion sensor. No ironic stones, it seems, were left unturned.
I dubbed Call of Duty 4, without hesitation, both my favorite game and the best action movie of 2007. Tragically, Modern Warfare 2 was for me the worst action film of 2009, a year that saw Transformers 2 in theaters. When the dust settled from my straight-through six-hour campaign session, I knew why the pacing had been kept so frantic: Such haste temporarily distracted me from all the sameness; it shifted my attention from the growing feeling that I had experienced all of this content before in previous games and films.
Once the credits stopped rolling, Modern Warfare 2 laid threadbare at my feet. The challenges were somewhat amusing, but easily abandoned, and the graphics hadn't improved in two years. In all, well... it felt like a Treyarch game.
Thankfully for Treyarch, Modern Warfare 2 has set the bar nice and low. Perhaps the World at War developer can take the crown from Infinity Ward; it seems the old guard has forgotten how to wear it.