BY ADAM BONANNI Well the Xbox is finally out from under of the shadow of Halo with the the latest Call of Duty 4 — or Modern Warfare 2, or whatever the hell this franchise is supposed to be called — which may well qualify as with the most hyped new title launch ever. It’s coming in hot with first day sales of $310 million in the U.S.A. and U.K. vs Halo 3 $170 million, dethroning previous record holder Grand Theft Auto 4’s estimated $310 million across more territories, so saying “huge anticipation” only does this launch “huge injustice”. Kotaku offers an awesome little breakdown of developer Infinity Ward’s claims that Modern Warfare 2 was the most successful launch in the history of entertainment media, and damn is it impressive. Of course, it probably helps that the games come in a few flavors of price tag: $60 for the standard, $70, if you want to splurge for the “collectors edition” that will probably outnumber the standard or $150 if you want to go “prestige edition” if you want some questionably functioning night vision goggles and about 38DVD’s of behind the scenes material I’ve played the first Modern Warfare (actually Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, hence my earlier confusion of how to refer to the series after its decision to spin off its numerical installments), and it was an absolute stunner. It was fun and fast paced (if a little unbelievable at times) and generated a tense and dangerous atmosphere.
Call of Duty 1-3, as well as 5 all took place in a WWII setting, and playing through Modern Warfare just felt so new and contemporary, and actually scary in some parts, as if developer Infinity Ward saw that we might be heading for World War III and decided to incorporate their view of how real modern warfare could play out. Retooling the setting actually went farther to advance the series than building ongameplay mechanics, and I can think of almost no other games where this would apply. Other gamers clearly felt reinvigorated as well, and while the Call of Duty series has never been one to slouch on popularity, Modern Warfare held a commanding spot at the top of most playedmultiplayer game on Xbox Live, as well as performing extremely well in PC and Playstation 3 sales and multiplayer scenes. While any Call of Duty multiplayer always felt a little bland to me, the experience is much more tactical and teamwork oriented than most of what’s out there.
So what to do for the sequel? I haven’t played the game, but it seems like a revolutionary conception such as their original idea to bring the franchise into modern times eluded their grasp, so everything is bigger this time around. I’m talking Michael Bay meets “24” bigger, because the end of the world could always use more explosions. Really, every time I see a video of this game there’s a car chase or something followed by a series of explosions which are followed by more explosions, so yeah, it’s big. Unfortunately bigger doesn’t equate to longer, and its disappointing to hear that the story only clocks in at around four to five hours. New mode Spec-Ops also caught my eye as a series of short self-contained co-op missions with an emphasis on a tight, cinematic experience. This was an idea hinted at in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and I ‘m pleased to learn it’s been fleshed out.
Turn away now if you’re allergic to spoilers, but a certain scene that everyone’s probably seen by now a hundred times over on FOX News is worth a mention. I’m talking about the infamous airport scene where you control a federal agent disguised as a terrorist, and in order to keep your cover, you have to act as an accomplice while they mow down thousands of civilians waiting to board their flights. It’s the only mission I’ve seen of the game in its entirety, and it’s pretty gut wrenching to watch as a man drags an injured woman to cover only for them to both be murdered by your or your leader’s hand. The official explanation for this scene is “to evoke the horrors and tragedies of terrorism”, and it’s chillingly effective. So chillingly effective that there is a disclaimer that allows the player to skip the scene if they are offended, or choose to not fire a single shot if they want to brave it, although sadly neither option makes a difference in the context of the game. It’s a horrible thing to watch and I’ve had friends say it made them not want to finish the game, but just as we want to watch films like Passion of the Christ or Schindler’s List, it brings an emotion out in the player, and getting back to why the first Modern Warfare was so great, its a terrifying glimpse into what could happen at any given moment today. So video games having a more stellar launch than the biggest of the blockbusters? Pretty exciting time to be a gamer, and boy oh boy, we haven’t even seen what the holiday sales will be like.