E3 2009: Modern Warfare 2 Preview - Putting the Wood Back in Hollywood
Written Monday, June 15, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
I’ll hold my hands up here and admit this ... I was supremely underwhelmed with the showing of Modern Warfare 2 at this year’s Microsoft press conference. I’m not sure why, it just didn’t “wow” me like COD4 did when I first saw it a few years back. After a long bloody few days at E3 and with 30 minutes of the show left on the last day, I had one game left to see, Modern Warfare 2. In the end I couldn’t have planned it any better, ending such a successful show with a bang and with Infinity Ward restoring my faith in their franchise. That’s a double whammy closer if there ever was one. Before I go on, let me first point out that the walkthrough that took place behind closed doors was an extended version of the one at the conference and from a personal standpoint ... the press conference unveiling skipped out the best bits which made it seemed disjointed.
With Infinity Ward’s Drew McCoy at the helm, we pick up the mission, “Cliffhanger,” right at the beginning with fan favourite MacTavish on hand to assist McCoy’s character, “Roach.” It might be worth noting at this point that Modern Warfare 2 is in fact a direct sequel to the 2007 title and similarly, tells the story from multiple perspectives. This scene will be familiar to people who managed to see the Microsoft press conference, but being in a more intimate environment allowed us to pick up on things that were lost in the white noise of the Monday morning conference. It tended to be the little things we noticed more ... the impressive attention to detail. As Roach traversed the cliff edge and continued to climb the cliff-face, we couldn’t help but notice the little things, like the ice gripping onto MacTavish’s beard, the much more refined and impressive character models, the wind whistling across the cliff-face wildly blowing about the tassels on Roach’s jacket and the ice cracks getting steadily bigger the longer Roach’s ice-pick stayed embedded in the icy cliff-face.
The first part of the mission was to stealth through an enemy encampment taking advantage of the low level visibility and harsh conditions. Roach and MacTavish made use of their suppressed rifles and heart beat detectors on their weapons to get in unannounced. Just after Roach places the C4 on the fuel station, the press conference gameplay cut away, however, luckily for us, the mission continued. The attention to detail continued to become more apparent the further the mission went on, whether we highlight the light snow fall, the harsh winds echoing across the base or the MiGs flying overhead, they all help create an atmosphere. An atmosphere and mood that helps you get immersed in the gameplay and the world that Infinity Ward have created.
(this screenshot is not associated with the walkthrough. Infinity Ward & Activision have only released 3 fairly generic and random screens so far ... but we want to make it look pretty of course)
The next area was just all out war as Roach and MacTavish attempted to flee the base and head for the extraction point whilst having to contend with the enemy on full alert along the way. It’s here we encountered a much more open and less linear environment that we really didn’t see much of in the original. Whether this is a sign of things to come for the title, who knows, we don’t. This was a vertical splice and we’re not mind readers ... yet.
The next scene – listen to me, I’m talking as if it’s a film now – takes Roach and MacTavish down a large snowy embankment. One scripted MacTavish ice-pick to the chest later and you’ll find yourself aboard a snowmobile heading to extract. Before I make obvious note of the “ZOMG, rideable vehicles in Modern Warfare 2!!!!!1!” I must draw attention to the impressive and realistic character animations that I’d seen throughout; the MacTavish ice-pick to the chest incident was just a perfect example of that realism. Where was I? Oh, I know ... vehicles. Of course the snowmobile means that Modern Warfare 2 will feature at least one rideable vehicle, but how far they take that remains to be seen. McCoy did add though that there was “no vehicle mandate” stating the snowmobile fits from a design perspective.
Halfway through the snowmobile chase the Microsoft press conference showing faded out and ended. I’m not sure why though, because the huge downhill chase scene – showing off the large environment and impressive draw distance – that followed, was one of my highlights of the presentation. If I could use one word to describe it, “wow” might actually be pretty damn appropriate. When MacTavish and Roach reached the end of the run, one cliché Hollywood style jump across a large crevice later and our two boys are at the extraction point and the presentation ends.
The Modern Warfare 2 engine has been tweaked and upgraded since COD4, and rightly so as well. Infinity Ward highlighted a few key upgrades that allowed them to get the best out of the engine for Modern Warfare 2. The first tech upgrade was now that the engine features “texture streaming,” ultimately allowing bigger environments and a much higher level of detail in the world to be portrayed. That much was apparent in the walkthrough. The second major upgrade was the enemy AI, as Infinity Ward sought to make it more dynamic, which must be a necessity especially with their new focus on creating bigger environments. Seeing as not all the action took place in narrow corridors, the scripted AI of COD4 would never have worked. Now the enemies will be more aware of their surroundings, whether it be where they are, posing behind cover for instance, or where you are; watch out for that melee now. This essentially means that they’ll move around and the battles should never be the same, giving it that more natural and instinctive feeling.
Infinity Ward seems to be back on form with Modern Warfare 2, but then again, are they ever off form? Questions regarding campaign length were inevitably answered with the usual non-committal response, “we’re not sure yet.” A similar non-committal response was issued when questions regarding the multiplayer were pinged around, although they did remind us of the two exclusive Xbox 360 map packs being available after launch. What we did see on show was Infinity Ward delivering another Hollywood style shooter with plenty of variation throughout. Our first impressions of the shooter, out this fall, are that this bad boy oozes class and style, and we’re excited to see more of the title in the coming months.
Modern Warfare 2 is currently slated for a November 10th release in North America and Europe (unconfirmed for Europe).