So, I know have my hands on Modern Warfare 2, and have been playing it a fair bit. I've completed the campaign, and gotten to level 21 in multiplayer so far. It's rather telling that I picked up Dragon Age: Origins at the same time... and I've barely touched DAO. MW2 is just that compelling.
The multiplayer, of course, is what I would like to talk about. The single player is cool, is interesting, is technically impressive and fun to play, but it's quite short, and the plot makes me wince. The first Modern Warfare, though the plot was not that mindblowing, had some truly astounding moments and sequences. This one... feels like it's trying too hard. Also, you need to switch off your mind, or you will go NUTS. The connection between events is so incredibly loose, you wouldn't believe it. Gameplay designers, you kicked ass. Writers... you need to be kicked in the ass.
But multiplayer. So the multiplayer of Modern Warfare was pretty awesome, and when World at War came out, Treyarch, who was in charge of that one, pretty much decided that either there was no way to improve on the formula without drastically changing it, or was just lazy as hell. I'm leaning toward the latter- the Russian campaign was the only thing about that game that was truly excellent. It wasn't bad, but it was a pretty meh game. I think I've ranted on that before. If they thought there was no way to improve on the formula, though? Modern Warfare 2 proves them DRAMATICALLY wrong.
The addictive levelling and challenges of the first have been built into every aspect of the game. Perks can be upgraded through use now, and using certain attachments on your weapons can unlock new ones. The secondary weapon slot is no longer exclusively pistols, and therefore people actually care about it now. The grenade slot is no longer just grenades- claymores, throwing knives, blast masks and more fill the slot. The perks are just more balanced, and interesting besides. Everywhere you look, you can customize things- the icons and background on your screen name when you kill someone, your loadout of killstreaks, your plethora of weapon attachments.
It's an amazing experience- the game has been upgraded in terms of every major feature, and just feels better to play besides. It annoys me a little that the guns I wanted in (if you check my earlier post) didn't make the cut, but the selection is stellar, I can't fault it. It's so balanced, it's so intense, it's so involved. And there is just so much to do! When I hit the max level in Modern Warfare, I prestiged, and quickly regretted it- I hate the prestige system, frankly. I only did it because I was pretty much out of things to work on. It would take a long, long, long time to run out of things to work on in MW2. I'm sure some people will do it. Those people, and how little they have to do, terrify the everloving shit out of me.
And perhaps more encouraging? Playing MW2 shows you that there is STILL room for growth. You get a sense for what the core of the game is, and thus can understand what can change. Infinity Ward originally didn't intend Modern Warfare 2 to bear the Call of Duty name, because they wanted it to be its own series. At the time, I thought that it was a commendable virtue, but shortsided- with all that they are improving, how could they expand on it? But there was wisdom there. Maybe Modern Warfare 3 won't be a Call of Duty title, then.