I know it’s not Metal Gear. Why are you giving me that face?
I haven’t been in on the FPS scene for years. The last time I played an FPS game with at least some dedication was Quake 2 over LAN during my secondary school years between 2002 and 2004. At school, during breaks I might add. I used to rape in that game, I was known amongst our player group, for a time. O tempora, o mores. Oh right, I’m writing about MW2.
Of course, I have played FPS games after that too. Unreal Tournaments, Far Cry, Medal of Honor Rising Sun, a bit of Crysis, Far Cry 2, Call of Duty 4. But none of those I played with dedication and over long periods of time. Most of them I only played at my friends or loaned it from them. I did, however, own Far Cry 2 and CoD4. Not for long though. Far Cry 2 was too tedious with all the long transitions and errands you had to run. I loved the openness of the game, but at the same time hated it for it. It just felt.. Off.
Call of Duty 4 on the other hand I embraced with warmth and love, as I thought FPS games as a genre had long decayed into mindless slaughter and sank into the trenches of World at W… Ahem, World War II. And, come to think of it, they have. At least the mindless slaughter bit. But I nevertheless loved how CoD4 tried to renovate the scene and blow over the whole genre. I’m saying this from an ex-soldier’s point of view, as from what I had gathered from different sources and leaks, I thought CoD4 was supposed to be geared toward realism. Oh, how bitterly was I disappointed.
Let it be known at this point (although it’s stated in my bio on this page) that I’m a huge fan of Metal Gear games, hence everything I play will always and constantly be in comparison of these marvelous games. The games offer so many tactical options for the gamer to choose from that it can be mind boggling, and I like it that way. I’m not forced to kill anyone in the games, and I tend to be a pacifist while playing. I’ll come back to this later.
I played CoD4 about a year after the initial release. Still remembering the times I played Quake 2 I decided to start the game with Hardened difficulty. I’ll spoil you already, I never finished the game. I was stuck in the end of ‘One shot, one kill’ where the player is surrounded by enemy forces and is forced to wait for their ride home and defend themselves ‘till the cavalry arrives. I was stuck in that godforsaken place for a week or two, never relenting nor lowering the difficulty, until my will finally bent and I sold the game for a good price. Not before trying the online side of it too, which didn’t last long: I was constantly killed mere seconds after spawning, and I could only scrape up a kill or two using the ‘noob-tube,’ meaning the under-barrel grenade launcher common in most assault rifles in action games and movies. It was not surprising in the least, seeing as most of the people in the game had been playing for a good year already, and I was just starting out. Also it doesn’t facilitate that I was, and still am, more accustomed to third-person games rather than the first-person perspective (although I think Portal is one of the best games ever released on any platform, mind you).
The thing I’ve never really understood about modern shooters is regenerating health. I know it’s not realistic to run around taking tens of bullets in the body, stumble upon a health pack and be up and running
after that, but neither is ducking for cover for ten seconds after taking multiple gunshot wounds or shrapnel and be perfectly fine after catching one’s breath. At least old shooters had some kind of intensity to them, trying to find health packs where ever possible and not just hiding in one place to get back to full health, brush up and get going again.
COD4, to my understanding, was building up to a climactic finale, yet I never got to witness it for my own eyes . I have, of course, seen it all on Youtube. I would’ve actually preferred if Infinity Ward had *SPOILER ALERT* left Captain Price’s fate a mystery and not bring him in for the sequel, although his handlebar-‘tached persona is a joy to watch, although I thought he was watered down in MW2. COD4 felt like a good Hollywood action movie, in vain to Black Hawk Down and The Rock, which is even more apparent in MW2, and the set pieces were fantastic at best like the memorable *SPOILER ALERT* death of Sergeant Paul Jackson witnessed in first person*SPOILER ENDS*, but at times it felt a bit forced. The characters were mostly one-sided cardboard cutouts, not including the giganormous gob of charisma otherwise known as Captain Price’s five o’clock shadow. It is obvious though that IW looked up to Valve for inspiration, as their protagonists are silent, uttering but a word while playing, and the events always unfold from the player’s perspective.
All in all Call of Duty 4 remains in my eyes a revolutionary, great game of the FPS genre, but nevertheless, a first person game will always be inferior storytelling-wise compared to a third-person game. It’s an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride, with a few touching moments, but mainly and openly focuses on epic action set pieces and fits that bill.
How does Modern Warfare 2 stand up for this then, the sequel to a hugely popular game, and arguably the most anticipated sequel of all time. It was anticipated, and no doubt with anxiety too. How to top the best (at least according to some) at its own game? Infinity Ward apparently decided to blow everything out of proportions to ensure success, and I really mean it, everything. The story is a roller coaster of set pieces unimaginably epic, it pulls in an ensemble cast of characters, including fan-favorite Captain Price; and perhaps the single most memorable moment in CoD4, the death of the player character experienced in first person, gets repeated enough times to make you die a little inside. I don’t think I have to tell you about the fuss ‘No Russian’ raised even before the game was actually released?
What I did enjoy in the campaign mode was the intensity that the game has to it. You feel like you’re in situations that matter, you’re under constant pressure and feel the heat in the back of your neck. Still there are levels, such as ‘Contingency’, where you get to lay low, think about what you’re doing and are given a chance to spare the lives of your adversaries. It reminded me quite a lot of CoD4 and the mission ‘All Ghillied Up’ in Pripyat with Lieutenant Price and Captain MacMillan where you get to be stealthy and sneaky like in the games yours truly ever-so-greatly appreciates.
The multiplayer got some additions too, and it could be described as more ‘noob friendly’ than its predecessor which, as I stated above, was nigh-inapproachable due to the unforgiving nature of the game. After playing the multiplayer for a good month it still feels fresh due to the structure of rewarding success: every once in a while as you get to a certain level you unlock new weapons, perks, equipment, and so forth, and you don’t get penalised for screwing up, unlike in Metal Gear Online. You can die as many times as you like, as long as you get a kill or even an assist you go forward on your way to getting a prestige rank. I find this system highly enjoyable, but other aspects of the multiplayer drag it down a bit, for instance, the
killstreaks. They are ridiculously easy to accumulate, for example, if you have a three, four and a five kill killstreak bonuses chosen, you get a kill streak award for three kills, a second one from your next kill and a third one from the following. When I started playing I imagined the streaks get reset after an award, not accumulate like that, and you don’t even get the killstreak awards allocated on different buttons, they all fall under the same button and you have to use the newest one first and work your way down towards the button, which is just plain silly and clearly a flaw in the gameplay mechanic.
Never mind the Hollywood-style, The Expendables-esque action, here comes the good news: the game is enjoyable, at least on my standards. I’ve not played another game as much as MW2 since the release of MGS4 and MGO. I do not root for nonsensical plot and fan service this game reeks of, but at least it is polished to a mirror sheen and makes you feel good when you play. What I did miss about it was the lack of choice in playstyle, you don’t get to be really stealthy if you want to, although you do get a chance to get up close and personal with the tactical knife if there is a need, or a craving, for it. Both of these games will be heralded and held in high regard by the current generation of gamers, and without a doubt be a benchmark in FPS games design, be it in good or bad, although MW2 will undoubtedly be remembered as Infinity Ward’s swan song due to Vince Zampella and Jason West departing the team, with a boatload of other key members of the team shortly after the release of MW2.