By November 12, 2009

Get off my lawn: my disappointment with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

I guess I’m officially old. When the sequel to Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare video game launched yesterday I was super excited. I took yesterday off in order to play online as late as I wanted to Tuesday and Wednesday.

I played the original Modern Warfare a ton online, mostly “free-for-all,” which pits players against each other. There were other game modes that were team-based, but I preferred the lone wolf style of FFA. I didn’t like my playing skill to handicap an otherwise good team, and I didn’t want to feel like lesser-skilled teammates were pulling me down.

After struggling with my Verizon FiOS-supplied router for over an hour, I finally got connected to Xbox Live!. After a short game patch I was in the multi-player lobby. I joined a game of other new players, and was ready to relive all of the fun I had playing COD4.

I spawned, took two steps, and was killed. I respawned, ran about ten yards, and was killed again. And so on. And so on.

Now, when you play a game like this online there is an adjustment period where you learn the maps, and the mechanics, and what not. But something felt different. It turned out that the “difference” was an increase in weapon damage and game tempo that I disliked. I sold my copy of MW2 after five hours of gameplay.

Here’s what went wrong.

I started playing “first person shooter” games in 1996 with iD Software’s Quake. Things have certainly changed, but one of the principles has stayed the same: the dogfight.

Dogfighting is the part I like the most about an FPS. You enter an area with an opponent and scramble around trying to get the best shot without being killed. You might jump up and down (bunny hop), shuffle in a circle while keeping your foe in the middle (circle strafe), hide behind boxes, cars, bushes, even other downed opponents. Some of the shenanigans required to win a dogfight required skill and luck. It was fun. This is a major tenant in every FPS I’ve ever played, the original COD:MW included.

MW2 increased the weapon damage (or lowered player toughness, or perhaps both) and increased the number and lethality of “helpers” like the Predator guided missile, AC-130, Harrier jet (hovering), Harrier jet (missile strike), Cobra gunship … etc etc etc, all adding up to a nuclear strike. What’s worse is that multiple players can fire off multiple helpers. The original MW only allowed one helper at a time. This not only slowed the killing down, but gave you a chance to either deal with the helper or move away to another side of the map.

MW2 is like playing Killhouse on Hardcore with 32 people on it. There’s shit happening all the time. Multiple air strikes, chopper machine guns, even an “Aliens” style sentry gun that automatically targets players. Multiple attackers from multiple locations, including above and below you. The experience is intense and hectic, and results in pairing my two most hated aspects of FPS games:

Hiding / camping and “pray and spray” shooting.

With the damage up so high and safe spots at a premium, it is completely common to round a corner, see a dude sitting behind a barrel, and be killed by one shot to the arm. It’s as if everyone has a built-in Stopping Power perk (each shot does extra damage) and the hit boxes on the player models are super big and seem to compute all damage equally. It doesn’t matter if you shoot someone in the foot or the body, you kill them with one or two shots just the same.

When you die, you have the option to watch how your opponent killed you. This is useful early in game play because it helps you see where other players hide and what tactics they use. In reviewing the “killcam” footage from my opponents, they had one common strategy: hold the trigger down and paint the area around my character with bullets. Snipers and knife-wielders were the notable exception, mostly because sniper rifles have a slower rate of fire and, well, the other guy is using a knife.

All of this adds up to negate dogfighting, the part of FPS games I enjoyed the most. Instead of jockeying for the best position or doing silly things like jumping in the air before lying flat on the ground, you can now win by being lucky enough to get behind someone and shoot their leg as they run around a corner. MW2 encouraged me to take shots I would have never attempted in the original. An opponent ran by a set of windows; I led them up until the final window and held the trigger down. I hit them once and they died. Totally ridiculous. Another time I jumped off of a building, held the trigger down in midair, and dragged the barrel of my weapon onto a target below me. One kill for me, and the guy never saw me coming.

The last kill I described was one of the reasons I decided to stop playing. There was no skill involved. There was no control. There was luck in being at the right place at the right time and just holding the trigger down.

I skipped over Treyarch’s Call of Duty 5: World at War, so perhaps some of these things were present in the last COD game. Maybe damage was increased already, or they allowed simultaneous helpers. Maybe if I had played the “middle child” of the series I would have had different expectations of MW2, but after five hours of multi-player game time I threw in the towel.

Hopefully the fellow who purchased the game from me on Ars will be happier with it than I was. I’m headed back to Torchlight.

Not recommended.

Posted in: games, review

3 Comments on "Get off my lawn: my disappointment with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. roclar says:

    They finally made a FPS for me. I have very little FPS skill. I have only enjoyed playing Domination. I don’t enjoy Death Match modes and haven’t tried anything else. “Hiding / camping and “pray and spray” shooting” is sort how I play, so that works very well for me. I feel like I have hit a number of targets multiple times and had them survive. There are definitely less dogfights though.

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. 🙁

  2. Tomax says:

    You may have run across numerous people running the “Steady Aim” perk. It unlocks fairly early, and I found that shooting from the hip is pointless without it (PS3). I was pwnd until I hit like level 12-15 and started unlocking some good toys and perks. I then found myself doing the pwning and managed to fight the fight on my terms. Which is just how I prefer it, because I’m the guy with the throwing knife. I like it up close and personal. I take great joy in ripping down a camper’s tent and shoving his marshmallows down his pie hole.

  3. Agreschn says:

    Probably a good thing that you sold Modern Warfare 2, DrFaulken, with stuff like this going on – (Double Shotgun Dude as Penny Arcade calls it). And then the Javelin Glitch ( to counter it. Freaking ridiculous.

    I had a lot of fun with the first Modern Warfare’s multiplayer but from some of the videos I’ve seen online MW2’s multiplayer looks way too twitchy.

    Of course, it might not help that all the multiplayer I’ve played lately is Halo: ODST stuff.