In terms of pre-release hype, few games have attracted more than "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."
Infinity Ward's follow-up to "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" — hailed as the best and highest selling first person shooter of all time — not only lives up to that hype, it absolutely exceeds it.
The story so far
The highly-anticipated title picks up five years after the events of the original and the death of Russian ultranationalist Imran Zakhaev. But what was seen as a victory by players of the previous game was actually one big loss as Vladimir Makarov — an associate of Zakhaev — has stepped into his shoes and gained even more support than his predecessor.
The tightly plotted story, co-written by Jesse Stern who is a writer and executive producer for drama NCIS, is engaging and full of surprises.
Players assume the roles of several key soldiers in Task Force 141 who are taken on a wild ride through several breath-taking environments and locations including the snow-covered mountains of Russia, the slums of Rio De Janeiro, the Gulag prison, an oil rig in the middle of the ocean and even a brief visit to the orbiting space station.
But the battle is also brought right to America's doorstep with all-out attacks on the suburban streets of Virginia and the famed monuments of Washington DC including the White House.
In the high speed action sequences players race down a mountain on a snow mobile, man a turret in an armoured vehicle and a helicopter and speed down a river and the rapids.
One scene which caused controversy ahead of MW2's release was in an airport where Makarov's men gun down innocent civilians in the terminal as they make their way to the tarmac.
At the time Infinity Ward says the level is taken out of context and, after watching the progress of the story, we have to agree. The player, assuming the role of a soldier who has infiltrated Makarov's forces, is not obliged to shoot but even giving the player that option might have been a mistake on Infinity Ward's part.
If the action were portrayed in a cut-scene — the part of the game which can be viewed to reveal more of the story but not played — we would have just been observers rather than participants.
A warning is issued at the outset of the game that some scenes may disturb or offend. At this point players have the option of skipping the scene, even though many may not even know what the scene entails. But that aside the game excels in all areas including game play, graphics and sound.
Controls for the game are identical to the previous so anyone who played the first Modern Warfare can pick MW2 up and play instantly.
One of the biggest improvements is the incredible look of the game which is more polished, life-like and cinematic than ever whether it is the characters, their movements and voices and the detailed environments they are populating.
Speaking of voices MW2 has some impressive voice acting — the most memorable being Shepherd voiced by actor Lance Henriksen who starred as Bishop in Aliens and Alien Vs Predator.
The weapons are also impressive with each having their individual strengths and weaknesses and providing another element of the game players have to manage intelligently.
One new feature on the weapons side is the ability, at selected times, to wield two of the same weapons at once to shoot from both hips.
Another new feature is Special Ops: a series of missions which can be played solo or with a friend in the same room on a split screen or online. These missions use maps from the campaign and set time and achievement challenges.
For many players one of the biggest motivations for buying MW2 is the multiplayer mode. The original Modern Warfare is recognised as one of the best shooter games to play online and MW2 continues that legacy with excellent new maps and new features to enhance the experience.
Players still have a variety of choices for games including Team Deathmatch, Free For All and Domination with a new points system awarding extra depending on the type of kill a player makes.
There's extra for stopping a player on a streak and killing a player who's already killed you. Players can also earn perks which give their weapons for power and help them reload faster.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has an entirely new standard for what an action adventure should be. And with an ending that's wide open for a sequel we are counting the days until we see Modern Warfare 3.