Forget about Call of Duty: World at War, that hot zombie-filled mess. We loved it, but another year, another COD. This is the real sequel to Modern Warfare that you've been waiting for.
Modern Warfare 2 comes in several different SKUs. You have the option to buy a standard version (just the disc and a manual), which is your only option if you play on PC. The step up from that is the Hardened Edition ($79.99), which packages the game and the manual in a steel case with an art book and a token to download the original Call of Duty from Xbox Live or PSN. The Prestige Edition ($149.99) has everything the Hardened Edition has, bundled in with night-vision goggles that really work. You'll also get a head mold based on in-game character "Soap" MacTavish to rest the goggles on when shenanigans are not taking place, or to display as the centerpiece of your mannequin collection.
If you really want to go all-out, you can order a limited edition Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 ($399.99). The bundle includes an Xbox 360 with a Modern Warfare 2 design and a 250 gig hard drive, the biggest hard drive Microsoft has released for the 360 (no, it won't be available separately, at least for now). Two wireless controllers and a copy of the standard edition game round out the package, which is a great deal for anyone looking to pick up a new 360. We don't care how you do it, as long as you get your hands on the game somehow. It's just going to be that good.
You'll be happy to know that MW2 will retain the same ranking and experience points system as its predecessors, but with a few upgrades. First off, you'll be rewarded for your skills with new weapons and equipment that you haven't seen before. MW2 is also initiating kill streak awards: 15 of them will be available for the player to select from. You can, for example, elect to call in a supply drop after four kills, a Predator missile strike after five kills, or an AC-130 gunship strike after eleven kills.
For the, ahem, less talented soldiers out there, Modern Warfare 2 will offer, for the first time, the opposite of the Kill Streak: the Death Streak. Die enough times without killing anyone, and Infinity Ward kindly takes some pity on you. There are four perks in total, but only one can be assigned to each class. One perk called Painkiller gives you triple health for ten seconds after respawning if you previously suffered three deaths without revenge. If that still doesn't help and you die a fourth time without a kill, you'll instantly copy the loadout of the enemy that killed you the fourth time. So if you die three times in a row, it might be to your advantage to seek out a player with an insanely high ranking and let him waste you for the fourth time. This certainly adds an interesting layer of strategy to the game.
You can also now update your perks to a "pro" version. The pro version of a perk becomes available after consistently using that perk. You'll have all of the original benefits of the perk with some added goodness. One pro perk that has been detailed is Stopping Power Pro. After racking up 1,000 multiplayer kills using the original version of Stopping Power, you'll unlock Stopping Power Pro. This allows the player to inflict greater damage against kill streak vehicles (vehicles unlocked after opponents get a certain amount of kills in a row without dying) on top of the added killing power already given by the original Stopping Power perk.
We know the details of three multiplayer maps so far. Afghan, which takes place in the Afghani desert, consists of a cliff and a system of caves with airplane wreckage strewn about the middle of the map. This is sure to elicit strong feelings in a lot of people. The next map we know about is Favela, a city slum in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. A multitude of buildings will emphasize multi-level, vertical gameplay. Finally, Highrise takes place on a construction site on top of an unfinished building. Offices surround you and a helipad sits in the middle of the map.
Infinity Ward has announced that two map packs will be released on the 360 before any other platform. They'll use the public's response to these two map packs to develop new ones (if that's something they decide to do, but you don't need to be Nostradamus Junior to see this one coming). We always like to see companies with such a dedicated fan base listen to the public. Really, it's to everyone's benefit. Infinity Ward also welcomes suggestions for the game at twitter.infinityward.com. Read at your own risk, for a variety of reasons.
Special Ops mode will allow for co-op play across several independent missions (like Mile High Club, the bonus airplane level at the end of COD 4). The missions take place in areas from the single-player campaign and tie in with that story. You'll be able to play online or at home with one other person. If you happen to be one of those people who believe that the sun is sentient and trying to put an end to you, but are too afraid to go online for fear of the government spies watching you, you can play these missions safely by yourself. Gameplay modes include a snowmobile race, a fight side-by-side with U.S. Navy Seals, and a battle for survival against 50 waves of enemies. They're separated in categories based on difficulty, and completing more difficult modes will award stars that can be used to purchase new modes.
In campaign mode, you'll take on the role of Sergeant Gary Sanderson, known to most as simply "Roach." Roach is part of Task Force 141, an elite commando unit made up of soldiers from a group of different nations. Sergeant "Soap" MacTavish, a character you played as in Call of Duty 4, is back as an NPC. He's been promoted to captain in the Special Air Service, which means he's head of your Task Force and your commanding officer. Rounding out your squad is Ghost, also the star of an upcoming Modern Warfare 2 comic book published by WildStorm, a DC imprint. Ghost is a cuddly fellow who wears a skull-embossed mask (presumably on his way to an Army of Two costume party).
Task Force 141 has been established to combat the Ultranationalists (a group of Russian nationalists who wish they were back in the U.S.S.R.), formerly under the leadership of Imran Zakhaev, who met his end in COD 4 (TARDY SPOILER ALERT). Now led by Vladimir Makarov (who rallies his troops by painting Zakhaev as a martyr), the Ultranationalists have rebuilt their power base you'll need to bring down once again.
Infinity Ward CCO Jason West has publically said that Modern Warfare 2's campaign will not be any longer than Call of Duty 4's 6-10 hour campaign. While single player isn't the reason most people invest in a copy of COD, it would be nice to see this game expand into a longer single player campaign because those 6-10 hours are what we as gamers put in hundreds of hours looking for: the (nearly) perfect gaming experience. To put it in perspective, the amount of people who beat the Call of Duty 4 campaign is larger than the entire population of Finland. People love Infinity Ward's COD campaigns, and we want them to last as long as possible.
This time around, you'll be able to dual-wield handguns, which is a nice touch. It's also the only type of gun a human being can realistically dual-wield, so it's nice to see they didn't branch out into dual assault weapons. You'll also be able to issue swifter knife attacks now that the melee stance includes holding your pistol and a knife out at the same time. For the first time in Call of Duty game, you'll also be able to swim in an underwater level. Video games have a long history of underwater levels with terrible controls , so we look forward to finding out if Infinity Ward can design swimming mechanics that aren't completely painful .
The campaign will take you all over the world, including Russia, a military base in Kazakhstan (yes, that Kazakhstan), an Afghanistan desert area, and Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
We're happy to report that the voice acting in this game should be great. Call of Duty has a history of wrangling stars for in-game voicework (Kiefer Sutherland in World at War, for one example). Hate it or love it, 50 Cent will be providing the voice for an unknown soldier in this game. 24 will be represented once more by Glenn Morshower, who plays Agent Pierce in that show and an unannounced character in MW2. Ken Lally, son of a real-life spy and the person responsible for Albert Wesker's motion capture work in Resident Evil 5, will also play an unknown. Kevin McKidd will be back as Soap MacTavish, and Craig Fairbass, who played Gaz in COD 4, is rumored to voice Ghost. There are a lot of big names from video game voice acting here, too. Barry Pepper (Alex Mercer in Prototype, Pvt. Jackson in the movie Saving Private Ryan) and Keith David (the Arbiter in the Halo series, Capt. Anderson in Mass Effect) round out the known voice cast.
MW2 will use the IW 4.0 game engine, an improvement over the engine used for the last outing. Last year's Call of Duty: World at War, and Call of Duty 4, released in 2007, still looks sharp and new, so it will be interesting to see just how far Infinity Ward can take this engine, which is a generation ahead. The enhancements in the fourth version of the engine are subtle, but strong. IW 4.0 will employ a new streaming texture technique that allows for greater and deeper detail and better resolution. You may also notice more defined lighting, better physics, and smarter A.I.. Infinity Ward has alluded to their willingness to let Treyarch (who design the Call of Duty games that release in even years) as well as other Activision studios use the IW 4.0 engine. We say keep it coming as much as you can: Modern Warfare 2 is shaping up to be a great looking game.
Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare was a lot of peopleï¿½s FPS of the year, and judging by what weï¿½ve seen so far, we expect MW2 to be just as good.
Your lust for blood will be satiated on November 10th, 2009.