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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Prestige Edition
Score: 96%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4 (1 - 18 Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 are simply stunning. Seriously, this game series just keeps getting better and better and manages to top itself with every release. Your journeys will take you all over the globe, from the sweltering and dirty city streets of Rio de Janeiro, to a Gulag in the frozen tundra, to gritty Afghanistan and even to the East Coast in the good ol' USA. Every landscape is teeming with detail, from the papers that blow around, to the discarded items left lying about in the buildings you work your way through. The uniforms of both your soldiers and those of the enemy look good, but I must admit that at times, I'd get mixed up because of the similar look and shoot my own men. Not a popular thing to do.

Your experience will be quite visceral and even more bloody than in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Instead of your HUD just getting red when you take damage, it will not only be spattered with your blood, but also with, err... matter. This goes for your teammates and enemies as well, so be prepared for some gore.

The soundtrack is amazing and fits perfectly with every level, despite the vast differences in the regions you visit. At one point during the final missions of the game, I found myself musing that the music was so well done, it sounded like something Hans Zimmer (the guy that does the music for pretty much any epic movie out there) would have done. Turns out, Zimmer was behind the music for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, so that explains that. The music is sweeping, orchestral, moving and rousing - this soundtrack epitomizes the perfect soundscape for a war-based game.

Sound effects and voiceovers are also stellar. Lance Henriksen (Millenium) voices Gen. Shepherd, a bigwig in your military world, and Keith David (Mass Effect) voices another one of your supervisors. Nothing ever feels phoned in and all of the voice actors are fantastic. Likewise, gun reports, explosions and the screams of both your enemies and your comrades are very effective in immersing you fully into the world of Modern Warfare 2.

First off, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Prestige Edition, which is the version I am reviewing here, comes packed with not only what normally comes in the Hardened Edition, (the game in a sweet metal tin, a book of Modern Warfare 2 game art and a code to download the full version of the original Call of Duty), but it also comes with a pair of fully functional night vision goggles and a plastic sculpture stand of "Soap" MacTavish to display your goggles, Soap being one of several characters you'll play as. Ok, yes it's a got a hefty pricetag, but how sweet is that extra gear!

The Single Player Campaign, while a little on the short side just like it's predecessor, Modern Warfare, is still an amazing experience and one which has garnered its fair share of criticism and praise since its release.

You'll play as several members of Task Force 141 working in different parts of the world, all after a vicious Russian warlord. Whether you are infiltrating his inner circle, searching for proof of his crimes, trying to break someone out of the Gulag to assist you, or even trying to prevent the complete annihilation of America, your job will not be an easy one. Remember that point in Modern Warfare, the "Infinity Ward just popped a nuclear cap in my ass and killed me" moment? Let's just say that wasn't an isolated incident. If I seeem like I am trying to be vague - I am. The story is great and one that needs to be unfolded by the player, so I am not going to spoil it for you.

There are shocking moments aplenty in this game, some that are so emotionally moving and disturbing that you have the option to skip them altogether, but I can't imagine the game feeling the same without them. The game is designed to make you hate your nemesis and it accomplishes this in spades.

There will be stealthy missions, run and gun missions, protect and extract missions, and even one where you are being dragged to safety while you are providing cover fire. At times, you'll need to breach doors and once you blast the door, everything goes slo-mo and you have an opportunity to rapidly pick off your enemies before everything goes back to normal. I really liked these instances. There is also enemy intel scattered about the levels in the form of open laptops. It's all good stuff.

One weapon I really enjoyed was The Predator. Here, you'd bust out your laptop and select where the bomb would hit, being able to guide it mid-flight. Fun stuff. Aside from that, there are a bevy of weapons to pick up, anything from Rocket Launchers to Desert Eagles and everything in between.

The Special Ops area is a place where you can practice your skills for certain types of missions and areas. There are 5 sections: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo, each one more difficult in nature. Within each of these sections is a selection of different mission types and as you work your way through them, you earn stars which in turn, open up even more missions. These can be played alone, split screen with a friend or remotely online. Although they aren't all fun, some of them are a great deal of fun and they are something you can just hop into if you don't want to play the Single Player Campaign at that moment.

The Multiplayer aspect not only allows you to play game types like Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Capture the Flag, Demolition, Domination and Search & Destroy, but just as in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, you earn experience points to level up your character's rank and flesh out your new weapons, perks and equipment. You'll even earn rewards like supply drops, and the ability to call up a Predator missile or an air strike.

If you play the Single Player Campaign, you can begin your game on Recruit, Regular, Hardened or Veteran and the difficulty spikes accordingly. Your first mission will be a testing ground of sorts and once you have completed that, the game will suggest a difficulty rank for you. You can either go with the flow or decide what level you want and change it, if different. Further, you can always change your difficulty mid-stream if you find you are having to hard of a time. On the Regular difficulty setting, you can run through the Single Player Campaign in about 6 - 8 hours, so if you want an easier time of it, select Recruit. However, if you have any experience with these types of games, you'll want to start on Regular or above. The standard difficulty allows you to recover your health at a decent pace, but still gives you a run for your money. There were a few missions that frustrated me, but overall, I thought the difficulty on this setting was just right. Most of the missions were fun enough to warrant playing through again on the harder difficulty settings, so there's a ton of replay value here.

Special Ops missions can be played on Regular, Hardened or Veteran and will ramp up depending on which you select. However, since the Special Ops section consists of snippets of missions you have previously played, you might want to try these on a harder setting or just use them to brush up on your skills.

Obviously, your Multiplayer experience will depend on who you are playing against. However, the online games are matched such that you are not completely out of your league when you are thrust into an online game. You won't be the only Private amongst a bunch of 4-Star Generals, but with that being said, when I ventured into the online arena, I was a Private and there was at least one 4-Star General in my game, so it won't be all n00bs in there. I'll admit it - I got pwned. Hardcore.

Game Mechanics:
The controls in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 are very easy to work with and become second nature almost immediately. You'll move about with the Left Analog Stick and aim or look around with the Right Stick. Firing is as simple at pressing the (R1) button and you'll aim with (L1). (R2) fires your regular grenade, while (L2) fires your special grenade (usually smoke). Melee attacks use the (R3) button and you can sprint with the (L3) button, although as I was running, many times I found my character would stop running just when I needed him to haul ass. It seemed hard to keep the (L3) button depressed, while also directionally guiding my character. Maybe that's just me. I rarely used the sprint feature anyway, so it wasn't much of an issue.

(Square) is your action button and is used to pick up a new gun, reload your weapon or use an object, such as in cases where you are required to plant explosives or breach a door, or even transfer data to a computer. (X) is used to jump or vault and can also pull your character out of a crouched or prone position, and to change your position from stnading to crouched or prone, tap the (O) button. Finally, you can change to your secondary weapon by tapping the (Triangle) button and when you are in a fire fight and need to reload, this is often the best choice because it can be much quicker, depending on the weapon you need to reload.

Your HUD is your most important asset. You've got a compass to help guide you, a Damage Indicator to let you know how bad off you are (in case the blood and gunk spatters aren't clear enough) and where the shots are coming from, your Inventory icon which tells you whether you have a special weapon (like the Predator) loaded up, your Ammo Count and the all-important Grenade Indicator. When the Grenade Indicator flashes, you had better get to cover or you will be hurt or even killed. If you are super close to it, however, you have the option to hit (R2) and throw it back at them, but this is only if you are really close. If you are firing from the hip and not using the Aim function, you'll have either a green or red crosshair indicating whether your target is a friendly or an enemy, but this crosshair goes away while you are aiming. A nice feature that has returned is the Auto Aim. I found that by tapping the (L1) button rapidly, I could cycle through enemies, killing them as I went. If you are inundated by a horde of enemies, this is often a good strategy.

There is so much more to say, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a game that the player needs to explore and discover all of its nuances on their own. It has a Mature rating, so it's not one for the kiddies, but if you are into FPS war shooters, this is must-have stuff. I have played a lot of cool games lately and this one is, by far, my favorite. Highly recommended.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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