Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 [MW2] for PC is one of the big titles for the year. This game has had much press time as it has gone from eagerly anticipated to hated and back again. The game is the follow on to the exceptionally popular Modern Warfare [hence the "2" in the title]. In it you take on several roles including one of a new "FNG" [Freaking New Guy] who gets coopted into super-secret unit that naturally covers highly critical operations around the world. But is this new game from Infinity Ward able to grab you and pull you in like its predecessor? MW2 has some rather big shoes to fill so let?s quit talking about it and see if it can get them on and still run.

Package
MW2 comes in a variety of packages and editions we picked up the cheapest one [we were not on any sampling list]. In reality there are probably too many for us to cover here[including a Steam version]; so we won?t.  But no matter which version you chose you will get what you need to play.


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Installation
With an installer [including all packages and CABs] of roughly 11GB, MW2 can take a few hours to download and few minutes to install. The record for the installation time on the systems we placed it on was just under 20 minutes from start to being ready to play this was on a Intel’s Core i7 Extreme 975 system with a 128GB SSD [Patriot Torqx] and 6GB of DDR3-1333MHz RAM. On our mobile gaming platform it was a little longer at 25 minutes.

Configuration
MW2 is very simple to get up and ready to play; you can allow the game to detect your hardware and setup the best setting or, you can manually adjust them to your liking. As we were using the AMD Radeon HD5970 for this "test" we maxed everything out and ran from there.

 
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Game Play
Ah the real meat of the review. So, was MW2 able to grab our attention in 30-minutes? This is an overwhelming YES! As with the original you do have to go through a boring "learning" stage and there is another CQB [Close Quarters Battle] course like the ship. Still I suppose they have a purpose for someone used to the game. I just wish you could skip it if you are already used to first person shooters.

 
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Still once you are through with that the guys at Infinity Ward dump you straight into the fire. Right from the beginning you are tossed into heavy combat with multiple enemies. From there the pressure never lets up. I have to be honest I was not able to stop at the 30 minutes, when the buzzer went off on the timer I simply turned up the volume and ignored it. I played for over 4 hours that first session. The game is quite simply that compelling. IW [Infinity Ward] has done a good job on improving the "bar fight" AI. In the past the bad guys simply rushed at you with very little thought or complexity. The thought seemed to be the more enemies the harder the game.  With MW2 the same basic principle is used but they bad guys actually take cover, fire around corners and try to flank you. There were several times where they actually setup ambushes and crossfire situations. Having been in the real thing [Ed's note: Given your military career and the fact that you're a decorated soldier, wondered what your opinion was ;)], it was impressive and heart racing to play through this type of simulated combat.
Below are a few random [and out of game play order] screen shots from inside the game.

   
   
   
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Performance
MW2 is not a system killer. It will push some older hardware but that is more from the sheer amount of rendered images and "bots" on the screen. On the HD5970 we were able to get a consistent frame rate of around 180 FPS [frames per second] so there was absolutely no stuttering or video issues there. On our mobile system we only saw stuttering when a large number of enemies were on the screen during combat [most noticeable with RPG fire]. Otherwise you should not see too many issues with performance unless you are trying to push older hardware too far [GeForce 6 and 7 series or HD 38xx and below].

Final Thoughts
MW2 is an impressive title with great action, immersive game play and more than a few twists surprises in store for you. IW has done an excellent job on the game play, AI and the tweaked engine. The story line is excellent and compelling. The cast of characters is great with some excellent voice talent provided by people such as; Billy Murray [Captain Price from the original MW], Craig Fairbrass [who played Gaz in the original MW], Kevin McKidd [Trainspotting and Grey's Anatomy], and Keith David [Armageddon, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Transporter 2]. The voices add flavor to the game play and a sense of familiarity that drags you in. I do have a couple of complaints, my first is the way IW handles you being wounded, while I am all for the blurred vision, slowed reflexes and even the jerking that happens [adds realism] I do not like the way they "splash" blood all over the view. It makes it cartoonish and takes away from the game. My second complaint is a little bit of a cheat on the game, as I was supposed to only test this for 30 minutes and ended up finishing the game in two days [roughly 6 hours of play total]; I found the single player game to be way too short. Of course this pushes you to either the multi-player side or to the Special Ops missions. We did not test the multi-player side at all and only briefly looked at the Special Ops missions.

Was it worth it?
I have to tell you that I had some reservations about dropping $60 on a game that had gotten so much bad press over their multi-player choices. I also was concerned with the obvious ?console? push the game was taking.  With Ads showing up saying "best played on Xbox 360" and the move to the matching system I had fears that MW2 would be a horrible console port. Thankfully it was not, the game was excellent on the PC. It quickly and easily grabs your attention and gets you into the game head first. It is a little short [single player] for a $60 title. $10 for an hour of gameplay is quite a bad value even when compared to movie theaters – Infinity Ward seriously dropped the ball with pricing. I do not feel that the multi-player functions justify that price completely. The new mix and match service is not to my liking at all [and I am not an online gamer] to me it limits choice and restricts players. It also opens up paths to charging for new content [like console players are charged]. If you are an online PC gamer and used to custom servers, the new multi-player style will be different and probably not to your liking. Console gamers will not notice anything unusual as it is pretty much the same as they have always had. In the end although I loved the single player campaign, I simply do not feel that 6-8 hours of game play is worth $60. Especially when you compare that to the $20 Episodes that Valve pushed out for Half-Life 2. They pretty much equaled the play time and experience at 1/3 the cost.