I came to an interesting realization last week. Truth be told, I’m not even sure where it came from. I was going over this console generation’s FPS titles in my head and I discovered something: Modern Warfare 2 may be the best of the bunch.
Now, let me emphasize something here: I’m only comparing console FPS games. No Crysis 1, Uncharted, Gears of War, or even the recently released Spec Ops: The Line (which may not be the best of the best, but it’s certainly an excellent game). Still, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is able to hold its own against just about any FPS on the market.
While the general masses play CoD for the endless replayability the multiplayer offers, there’ something that, in my eyes, helps MW2 stand out above the rest of the crowd: its campaign. Specifically, the pacing of both the narrative and gameplay makes its big set pieces that much more effective.
As a certain Australia-based gaming journalist often says in his videos, juxtapositioning elements helps make set pieces stand out more. If you have one level filled with loud noises and explosions, then the next three levels follow that with more of the same, it starts to feel mundane and shallow. But if you spend time scaling the cliff of an ice wall, then sneaking into an airport base and escaping in a snowmobile shootout, the impact resonates more with the gamer.
And that’s just the game’s first level. The controversial “No Russian” mission? It slows things down and gives the story a huge emotional clothesline. It’s more than just a mission filled with shock value; it highlights both the lengths Makarov is willing to go to carry out his plan, as well as the amount of intel he has.
But let’s face it, people tend not to play Call of Duty for the narrative campaign, regardless of how impressive Modern Warfare 2‘s was. They play it for multiplayer, the killstreaks, the weapon customization, the maps. All were done incredibly well here, especially customization.
It’s a personal pet peeve of mine to be thrown into an online fray on uneven terms; if I have an ironsight M-4 when I’m going against a red-dot M-4, my opponent has an unfair advantage. Well, at least that was true in the original Modern Warfare. But in MW2, I never really noticed much of an issue, thanks to some outstanding map design. I felt MW2 had a far more intimate layout than, well, any FPS not named Counter-Strike. I never worried about what grenade or sniper bullet would appear out of nowhere from unknown vantage points, but instead worried about what was behind each corner.
In addition, the customization features themselves had a larger presence on, well, customizing your weapons. Having a heartbeat sensor was great for knowing where everyone was, but it cost you in terms of sight accuracy. It was a design formula that presented a balanced risk and reward system.
The bottom line is this: Modern Warfare 2 was just flat-out fun. Well, aside from the PC version. But I’m not talking about the PC version; I’m referring to the console version. And when you feature a campaign with superior pacing that keeps you on your toes and a refined and polished multiplayer experience that addresses the issues I had with its predecessor, you’re going to have a great all-around title.
That’s the case here, and that’s why I think it might be the best console FPS on this generation. For all the good of Halo 3, the campaign moved far too slow at times. The same could be said about Halo: Reach, but on less of a level. For as polished of a title Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was, it lacked modern features. Modern Warfare 2 was simply able to deliver on all fronts, and that’s no small feat.