Blind Review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2: Exclusive!

What follows is the second outing of‘s ground breaking new feature, the Blind Review. Lacking access to reviewable code, our reviewers have endeavored to evaluate the hottest new releases on the basis of what we like to think they are like. Please enjoy!

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – A Soliloquy

Ft. Sumter under fire AGAIN!
Ft. Sumter under fire AGAIN!

A great deal of controversy has proceeded the highly anticipated release this week of what is sure to be the biggest game of the year. The official modern day follow-up to the 2007 mega-hit CoD4 has been scrutinized and picked apart like few other titles. The official review embargo has yet to lift, but footage from stolen, pirated or retail copies sold by stores breaking the street date has been popping up all over the internet. Much of the sequences shown have lacked any context to allow for the accurate understanding of how the controversial bits fit into the actual game, but that hasn’t stopped the mainstream press, anti-videogame advocates and politicians or even gamers from condemning the game, suggesting boycotts or calling for government action. But that would be putting the cart ahead of the horse and, horse driven wheelbarrow experiments notwithstanding, I would like to put a great many of these concerns to rest.

It has been said that in this day in age, more than any other, wars are won or lost in the realm of public opinion. MW2 takes this addage to heart. The single player campaign, much like the CoD4, is constructed along two, intertwining story lines as you play the part of two main characters. The first is Soap from MW1. After the events of that game, Soap has left the British SAS to become a war correspondent for an international news service. Savy and tough, he has the skills and experience to tackle the most dangerous missions. In one of the early missions Soap has traveled to Rio de Janeiro with his camera crew to cover the gang violence there. His actions on the ground help bring to light a new international terrorist threat kicking off the main story line.

The second half of the game has the player taking control of a new character, Flynn Jefferson. Flynn is a Marine Corp veteran of the Middle Eastern conflict depicted in the previous game. After coming home he has taken to a life of politics. His intimate knowledge of warcraft and sympathetic story of having narrowly survived the nuclear bomb have turned Jefferson into a rising star. In his first mission you are already in Washington, DC acting as an enforcer for the congressional majority. Responding to the new threat uncovered by Soap you are tasked with twisting enough arms to ensure a new security bill is passed.

The game progresses in this fashion as Soap bears witness to the horrors of war and Flynn endeavors to manage the political ramifications of what Soap is reporting. It is a strange turn for a series built on balls-to-the-wall run and gun shooting. In MW2 you spend most of your time exploring exotic locals trying to track down informants, and trying to stay alive while shooting video, or alternatively, walking the corridors of power, wielding influence like a cudgel and spinning news as skillfully as you can during frequent guest spots as a pundit on the Sunday morning news programs.

Soap accompanies a squad on a training mission in Wyoming.
Soap accompanies a squad on a training mission in Wyoming.

The production values are through the roof and Infinity Ward has created a stunningly accurate simulacrum of the intersection between news and politics. They have approached subjects like terrorism and journalism with more understanding and nuance than could have reasonably be expected. Still, it’s hard to recommend this game as a shooter. Most of the gunplay in the game comes as brief flash backs where you control an incidental character. You also can take Senators or Congressmen out hunting for game birds and “accidentally” shoot them in the face. The most memorable shooting gallery set piece actually occurs when you are briefly controlling the White House press secretary during a Q&A. It’s a heart-stopping 10 minutes as the press corp spams grenades and you try to lob as many back as possible.

I think it’s a fascinating game, but it’s hard to imagine the kids on Xbox Live being interested in this kind of realpolitik simulator. It’s all pressing the flesh and fact-checking. Too much Tea-Party and not enough tea-bagging, even in multiplayer (which works fine on IWNet for PC gamers, incidentally). But MW2 should go down in history as an Andy Kauffmanesque experiment in topical gameplay, even if it is at the expense of millions of disappointed fans.

Our Score: An Apple Cart

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