Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was, in a word, superlative. Fawned over by critics and rabidly defended by its massive fanbase, the game was an instant blockbuster that topped sales charts and spawned an online community the likes of which are rarely seen outside of timeless classics like Counter-Strike and StarCraft. Developer Infinity Ward is aware of the microscope that Modern Warfare 2 is under. Only a few flaws show up under even the greatest scrutiny, though. Modern Warfare 2 is an unqualified triumph.
MW2 takes the concept of action-packed first-person combat, plops a live grenade at its feet, and mows down its friends with an incendiary minigun. If you have time to breathe, it’s because you’re being flanked. Every reload is a tense few seconds of unwelcome defenselessness. Each enemy dispatched yields a surge of adrenaline that soon gives way to fear as his allies eagerly unload in your direction.
To excel, you have to master the use of various tools, starting with smoke grenades, thermal vision, Claymore mines, and Predator drones. It’s extremely helpful to familiarize yourself with each weapon class; assault rifles, LMGs, SMGs, pistols, and explosives all have vital roles. In the co-op Special Ops mode (and the single-player campaign, to a lesser extent), even more diverse skills come into play. Targeting allied support units like Stryker APCs, defending hardpoints with sentry guns, and directing the overwhelming firepower of an AC-130 or helo-mounted minigun are all necessary.
Modern Warfare 2’s competitive multiplayer offering is the soul of iterative design. New ideas arise like third-person play and death streaks, but nothing substantially affects the core gameplay. On the other hand, the tweaks are almost uniformly great. Weapon-specific unlocks, cosmetic titles and callsigns, and upgraded “pro” perks contribute to a dramatic increase in the depth and breadth of persistent progression. The strategic variance of each map invites hours of study and experimentation. Included due to the mountain of feedback, the playlists (preset rotations of maps and modes for groups to play through) offer delightful bouquets of varied-yet-similar gametypes for all tastes.7 /10