Trying to grasp why Modern Warfare 2 was so popular

I’ve always been a fan of the FPS genre but I really dislike the most recent Call of Duty titles. I’ve picked Modern Warfare 2 as it is the last I completed and was very well acclaimed. I would also like to point out that this article focuses only on the single player campaigns. No doubt I am missing a huge chunk of the game, but it isn’t the online action that gets advertised.

The core action is pretty routine for a modern FPS but reasonably well done. When playing I was rarely, if ever, overawed by level design creating a great combat environment or encountering a gameplay element that made me think “hey, that’s really clever”. I remember watching the video at Gamescom ’09 of someone playing through a level and thinking “that looks awesome” but in truth, it wasn’t. Everything felt a little plain when I was there and didn’t play as well as I’d hoped.

I think what throws me is the need to have little climbing sections using the shoulder buttons to climb up and down, or set pieces where you jump down on someone. Looks cool for a trailer but the actual gameplay, well is it really that good? There’s no skill aside from paying attention. If it involved a series of different button presses, a little like the boss fights in Naruto Ultimate: Ninja Storm, that would be involving and exciting but ultimately it would still be a pointless distraction.

What probably bugged me the most was my team mates and “command” constantly yelling at me to haul some ass, despite the fact that we were pinned down or my AI buddies were dithering about. There seems to be an aim to create intense action scenes where explosions are going on all around, people are frantic and you’re thinking “oh crap!”, however perhaps someone should have let the AI on both sides in on the plan because as combat goes, it was a bit “meh”.

Incase of damage, apply to screen

One other thing that was added to increase intensity was a highly visual low health screen, something that I’ve ranted about before. After getting shot in the toe, suddenly the screen has jam smeared all over it. Having never been shot, I may be wrong but I don’t think this is entirely realistic. More to the point though, from a gameplay perspective I find it fucking annoying. I’m not the biggest fan of health regen in general as it requires taking cover, or more to the point, hiding. The strawberry sauce effect only makes this worse as it takes away the player’s ability to shoot back, forcing them to retreat, which I find very disruptive to the gameplay. There are other means to display feedback that you are hit, games have coped just fine for many years, so I’m not accepting that this is required to let the player know that they’ve been hit. I just honestly don’t know why, aside from in a stealthy shooter (which CoD certainly isn’t), you would design a health system that regularly forces the player to retreat and slow down.

My final area to rant about is the plots used in pretty much every CoD game that I’ve played over the past few years. They are becoming increasingly ridiculous and to be honest, I really don’t care for it. Long gone is the day when you were part of a unit fighting a war as now you are an elite soldier who single-handedly stops the apocalypse. The writing is also rather sporadic and whilst the first Modern Warfare title did a fairly nice job of intertwining the different plots, Modern Warfare 2 is a bit of a mess to be honest. If this was a film we would be demanding our money back. Even Michael Bay would be ashamed…

There are quite a few things that I don’t like about many modern titles. From the need to yell and be in your face every few minutes with achievements, messages and notifications to things like the low health effects. The recent Call of Duty titles encapsulate all of that into one showy and over the top title that everyone apparently must own.

Maybe people like all this yelling and explosions. People actually enjoy pressing buttons over and over to climb up a cliff face. People actually enjoy plots that make as much sense as Kim Bauer’s decision making in 24. If they like all that crap, then people really are idiots. If not then I can only conclude that either the multiplayer is the best there is (which I’ve played and no, it isn’t) or people just buy into it because “its Call of Duty” and comes with a massive name and marketing budget behind it, which again leads to… people are idiot. Don’t be one. Get Battlefield: Bad Company 2 instead. *

Source: Xbox 360
Completion: 100% Single player campaigns and bits of other modes

* I’d say Battlefield 3 but the whole EA/Steam thing has annoyed me to the point that I won’t be buying the game.

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