The changing face of war
Bullets swarm the air as smoke lazily drifts over the battlefield. Verbal orders are swallowed up by the rumbling of explosions. Soldiers cry for backup, cover and their lives, to no response. It's intense. And this is Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, launching you into one of its earliest levels.
Aiming to impress from the very start, the Infinity Ward developed shooter is all about action - and lots of it. Even with its high production values which present a convincing theatre of war from its engaging introduction, there's no pretence in trying to convey the stark and painful realism of war. What you're immersed in is a brilliant action movie which refuses to give you a moment to catch your breath.
Set five years after the previous game, the dramatically scored opening cinematics introduce you to a world of terrorist plots and the efforts of an elite, multinational commando unit trying to stop them. You're placed in the shoes of various squad members as each chapter of a comprehensive campaign plays out over settings such as Afghanistan, Siberia and Washington DC.
Each location is presented with a stunning amount of detail in both sound and visuals, making you feel part of your environment, whether it's the training base where soldiers play basketball and relax, a sunny cityscape rich with life and colour, or frozen wastelands complete with footprints left in the snow from your trekking.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is action, sound and fury, created in a well-devised Hollywood style that doesn't let go of your senses until the final credits roll... and even then there's more to explore.
Once more unto the breach
Despite its blistering pace, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 guides you into its powerfully fraught scenarios with a careful and trusting hand. A basic tutorial starts off the Campaign mode, introducing you to the controls, before running you through a quick shooting gallery training course to judge what difficulty level may be best for you.
From there you're set on an adventure which has you rescuing hostages, infiltrating enemy bases, riding on snowmobiles at breakneck speeds, chasing terrorist suspects and even going undercover to test your moral compass. It's an engaging affair that has you constantly wondering what will happen next as each mission throws a new surprise at you to keep the variation high.
Complementing this is a range of intelligent enemies who don't just fire back and take cover - they mount calculated assaults, panicked retreats, kick your own grenades back at you or even attempt one last shot at you while they're wounded. To even things up, you have a wide range of weapons at your disposal, from automatic rifles to Semtex explosives, and some sequences are even played in slow motion, giving you moments to act decisively.
As cars explode, wood splinters, metal dents and dirt and blood flecks your viewpoint, the atmospheric action works well to make you feel like a hero - and a villain when the story needs it - eliciting a range of emotions as the game moves through electrifying set pieces and powerful displays of destruction.
Call on your comrades
There are plenty of options for those finished with the Campaign mode, with the Special Ops and a huge multiplayer experience to take part in. Special Ops lets you assault a variety of custom-designed missions based on the Campaign mode, either alone or co-operatively (split screen or online), with awards dished out for timely and efficient completion.
Delving into the Multiplayer mode reveals equally slick and compelling gameplay, where you can take part in a number of scenarios, such as a free-for-all shoot out, Capture the Flag and various team matches for up to 18 players online.
Along with the imaginative level design and fast gameplay which is very easy to get into, Multiplayer mode grips you by rewarding good play and encouraging you to continue when you're not performing at your best. Whether you win or lose, each match earns you experience points which increases your profile's rank and unlocks more of the game. New weapons, bonuses, abilities and equipment becomes available, you can customise your Title, Emblem and Class so you start off with your favourite gear, and more environments and modes open up.
There are a massive number of accolades you can earn for your activities, such as getting the most kills with a certain type of weapon, gaining revenge on the player who killed you last and outstanding accuracy.
With its air strikes, auto guns, audio cues to let you know who's winning, and dramatic use of music to ratchet up the tension, there's a lot to take in for the Multiplayer mode of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 - which is all the more reason why it's so much fun. Lock, load and get ready for an explosive experience.