Often games attempt to be too much. Not content with focusing on doing a few particular things right, many games spread themselves too thin by switching between different styles or genres. On game that completely succeeds where others usually fail is Modern Warfare 2, an incredible example of multi-layered adventure gaming.

What really sets Modern Warfare 2 apart is its top-notch storytelling. In the not too distant future, a group of people got really mad at some other people and they both started shooting and all of a sudden it was war. You play not one, but five protagonists, each with his own unique backstory and motivations. There’s Roach, who likes to shoot Russian soldiers, Allen, who likes to shoot Russian civilians, Soap and Ramierez, who also like to shoot Russian soldiers, and astronaut guy, who likes being in space. Sadly, only two of them get to follow their dreams as the other three are all murdered in cutscenes.

Speaking of characters, the game has a lively group of NPCs. Your various squad commanders and support squads definitely increase the immersion with their incessant use of military jargon. After playing the game, I still didn’t know who “Oscar Mike” was, but that made me feel like a real marine, only a small part of a bigger movement. This feeling is undermined slightly by your character’s apparently vast skill-set that leads to him taking the role of every specialist in the squad. Still, even when your character is constantly called upon to secure every objective and fix every problem, you begin to feel the weight of the responsibility you have for your squadmates.

Modern Warfare 2 also features a variety of puzzles, ranging from the short use-gun-on-communist-scum challenges to the overarching enigma of figuring out what the hell is going on with the plot. Some of the puzzles seem a bit too easy, like the repeated use-explosive-device-on-door-and-use-gun-on-occupants-of-room, which would have posed more of a challenge if the inventory system was a little deeper. As it stands, you can’t actually see the items in your inventory, the game only automatically select the correct one when it is needed. The good news is that the puzzles still flow very well thanks to the intuitive point and shoot interface.

Modern Warfare 2

On the audiovisual side, Modern Warfare 2 excels. All the characters have very detailed sprites, though there’s not much distinction between individual members of each faction. The environments are rich and ripe for exploration. There’s plenty of gun porn for the firearms enthusiasts and tons of burning government buildings for the terrorists. Though as I’ve mentioned, the inventory system is virtually non-existent, you can see the grenades and ammunition you are carrying in the GUI at the bottom of the screen, which functions well without being intrusive. The game is fully voiced, with some big name talent behind the characters, including Keith David and Lance Henriksen. The music is a bit of a letdown, as it alternates between frantic, driving beats and patriotic, orchestral wails delivered directly by Hans Zimmer. On the plus side, just about every action has an associated sound effect, including enemy footsteps, which is helpful in strategizing plans of attack. Despite a few minor nitpicks, Modern Warfare 2 is a great pleasure to the eyes and ears.

Lastly of note is the complex and intricate story. I must warn you that the following analysis contains some spoilers that might detract from the jaw-droppingly amazing twists. The plot begins in not-Iraq and skips merrily among various colorful locales all while successfully juggling two epic storylines. Half of the game deals with the special operations squad Task Force 141 and their top-secret undercover missions, while the other half focuses on a small American squadron fighting off the sudden Russian invasion. The amazing part about the story is the many unexpected turns; just when you begin to get your head around the politics mixed with conspiracy theory the game’s thrown at you, someone will betray or kill you and knock you right off your feet. It’s a puzzle in itself trying to decipher who has switched sides and why, and it’s all wonderfully cerebral.

On the whole, Modern Warfare 2 delivers an exhilarating adventure that is compelling, cinematic, and all those other nice buzzwords. While at times, the puzzles falter a bit due to their simple nature, the immersive atmosphere more than makes up for the gameplay deficiencies. And with the deepest and most multifaceted story since The Phantom Menace, my all-time favorite film, it really delivers the feelings of being in both a war and a movie at the same time. Modern Warfare 2 is a must-play adventure for all fans of great characters, interesting gameplay, beautiful environments, and mass murder, and I encourage you to pick it up.

Drew’s Score: 4/5

DDQScore: Apple Pie

Drew Wellman apologizes for the fault in the review. Those responsible have been sacked.