If you ask a first person shooter fan what makes Infinity Ward's Call of Duty games satisfying, chances are you'll get an answer about the series' knack for placing gamers inside a soldier's helmet, tossing them on a battlefield and enabling them to pull off multiple headshots in the midst of a symphony of explosions, whizzing bullets and air strikes. Couple this with a unique narrative style and you begin to see why many consider Infinity Ward games to represent the high watermark of the FPS genre. Hitting stores on Nov. 10, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is anticipated to be the largest video game release of all time.
The ending of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which left the game's two protagonists in a precarious position while attempting to avert global nuclear disaster, screamed for a sequel. Set several years after the first game, Modern Warfare 2 continues the story of a multi-national, anti-terrorist commando unit carrying on the fight to make the world safe.
Aside from its story, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had many gameplay factors that made it a success, such as smart enemy AI, stealth missions, and a dynamic experience-based perk system. Players started off with pre-determined classes, but once you reached a certain level, they could choose from a wide variety of weapons and augmentations to fit their play style.
In Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward had to walk a razor-thin line to preserve the core mechanics that made the first installment so successful, while infusing it with new elements to keep the series fresh. So say you felt like bringing down Heaven's wrath with the AC-130 gunship while your friend engages the enemy on the ground? How about taking a small break from the carnage and topping your best time in a snowmobile race? According to Infinity Ward's lead character designer Joel Emslie in a G4TV interview, the new Spec-Ops mode allows you to do that and more.
"(Infinity Ward) really wanted to make a brand new game but something that the players are familiar with. You don't want to disrupt what works. (Spec-Ops) is a totally separate part of the game from single-player campaign, you can play it solo at home, play it split screen with a friend, and you can hop online and play with a buddy."
As with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2 will be played through multiple perspectives, one of which has players filling the boots of rookie "Roach", silently infiltrating an enemy base set high in a snow-capped mountain range under the command of Captain "Soap" MacTavish, from the first game. As usual, things don't go smoothly, stuff blows up and Soap and Roach race down the mountainside on a couple of snowmobiles while dodging falling trees and helicopter missiles in an almost James Bond fashion.
So what about the multi-player aspect in Modern Warfare 2? The character and class customization looks to be amped up and more diverse. Players will gain access to a wide assortment of perks and weapons, including assault rifles, machine pistols, sniper rifles, throwing knives, and grenades to name a few. Infinity Ward also added weapon augmentations such as a heartbeat sensor. Another new item is a riot shield, which not only blocks bullets but doubles as a melee weapon, revving up the potential for more interesting and varied teamwork. Players are not able to use it in conjunction with a handgun as in Gears of War 2, however.
Modern Warfare 2 will also give players the ability to customize their kill streak rewards. COD4 had the UAV at three kills, airstrike at five and a helicopter at seven. In Modern Warfare 2, players still only get three different rewards, but now they get to choose how many kills it will take to get them and the types of assists because now you can choose from fifteen different options available, anywhere from a deadly C-130 to a Predator missile attack.
The graphic detail, diversity and map sizes have been amped up as well. Wannabe grunts can expect to engage in firefights everywhere from claustrophobic Rio de Janeiro slums to the snowy remains of a train wreck. Engagements will have more of a cinematic flair to them too as flower pots explode and papers fly in different directions.
"Every time you have a firefight, we want it to look like an action movie," said Infinity Ward lead multi-player designer Todd Alderman in a G4TV interview. "It's like a John Woo scene every time there's a firefight."
So whether you'd rather trudge your way through the single-player campaign, slalom through trees with a friend down the side of a snowy mountain, or top your highest kill streak in multi-player, come Nov. 10, Modern Warfare 2 will offer that and more.