Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Assassin's Creed II - Review

When you start Assassin’s Creed II (AC2), one of the messages that flashes by, goes something like this: “we, the developers, have based this game on real-world events and histories and would like to tell you that we belong to, and subscribe to, a varied mix of faiths and beliefs” – the implied subtext being: “so don’t hurt us please”.

Rarely does one play a game that crosses so many lines brazenly and with aplomb: AC2 questions morality, authority, religion, science, our history, our place in the universe, and expertly weaves a tapestry of conspiracy so vast, intricate and complex – connecting everyone from Eve to Jesus, Hitler to Gandhi – that by the time the game is done, only three words come to mind: What. The. F*ck.

WTF did I just play? And: OMG, mind blown.

But that’s not new territory. Games of past have played with gamer’s minds before – Xenogears, Deus Ex, even the better Metal Gear Solid entries – to name a few. What makes AC2 so unique is that it never shoves a point down your throat (*cough* MGS4 *cough*). The game gives you as much as you put in. You can play it as an action romp, you can approach it as an adventure, you can revel in its GTA-like open-world mayhem, you can unlock its many mind-bending puzzles, or enjoy some of the best platforming moments this side of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. You can do all, or you can do naught but jump from rooftops onto victims’ throats. AC2 succeeds in creating a play-as-you-like experience and should you choose to poke around and nose through the vast tapestry it lays before you -- it constantly rewards you with cool upgrades and nuggets of information.

Nothing is true

I did not think I would recommend this game when I started playing it. AC2 stumbles at the starting point -- falls almost flat on its face even before it begins -- through some awkward 30-odd minutes of uninspired dialogues, characters and setup. The game has something of a curve which is not just relegated to learning the ins and outs of its controls. It starts slow and almost creeps to a point before it hooks you. When the game starts, if you are like me, you will be snorting in derision over the game’s Matrix-like setup (complete with a female version of Tank), or will be laughing at the terrible and almost-stereotypical Italian accent of the characters (the game is set in Renaissance Italy). When the protagonist’s uncle goes “it’s a-me, Mario” (yes, really), one can’t help but laugh out loud at the ridiculous moment of self-depreciation. AC2 even looks pretty bland for a next-generation game. On the whole, it’s a bad first date but stick with her and the game grows on you. Over time you will tend to look past her average looking cut-scenes and bland environments – not to mention the texture pop-outs and screen tears – and come to appreciate her awe-inspiring, meticulous architecture and the ridiculous amount of detail lovingly poured into each of her cities.

Assassin's Creed 2: Architecture

While AC2 can look a bit bland at times, there is no denying the splendid architecture and level design

AC2, perhaps, has the liveliest city-life ever virtualized for a game. Inhabitants perform an orgy of tasks (and given the density of people milling about in an average AC2 city, orgy is just the right word): tilling fields, walking, carrying boxes, performing acrobatics, flirting, talking, pickpocketing, pushing, shoving, sitting on top of boxes and staring out to the sea... The cities are dense and claustrophobic, encouraging you to climb a nearby building and take to the rooftops; to escape. And once you do, you’ll rarely want to climb back down.

Leap of faith

Rooftops are AC2’s soul food. You will be ever-yearning to get on top, excuse the pun, not only to get away from the crowd but also to take in the vista and to explore. Rooftops also offer the game’s core platforming hook. Going from ground-zero to the top of the tallest church is as exhilarating as it is ultimately breath-taking. The controls for platforming are simple – press two buttons, or just one if you don’t want to sprint, and move the analog stick in the direction you want to go. Ezio – the game’s protagonist will automagically climb boxes, jump across poles, run across balconies, leap across roofs, swing across buildings, and so on... as long as your analog stick is true, everything goes almost according to plan. Almost.

Assassin's Creed 2: Leap of faith and platforming

Jumping across rooftops is where AC2 really shines; bar the occasional control hiccups

Here lies the most damning aspect of the game: its controls are not very reliable. They work most of the time but just when you need them the most, Ezio will do something stupid and spoil your run. I’ve experienced Ezio squatting between two elements of a roof instead of pulling himself over and running across; many a times (at least three!) has Ezio leaped to his death instead of to the nearest bundle of hay (when performing the signature- and ironically-named, Leap of Faith move). The controls work 99 times out a hundred. But the hundredth time is invariably when you needed them to continue working, and not spectacularly fail. It’s a case of Murphy’s Law working against you and is the only reason why this game falls short of perfection.

Everything is permitted

If platforming be the soul of AC2, then a sandbox presentation forms its heart. Like a Grand Theft Auto title, AC2 throws several cities at your mercy. Each city is unlocked as the game progresses, and within a city, you are typically restricted to one or more districts; others unlocked yet again over time.

Each city offers a variety of missions – assassinations, chases, stealth, tailing, eavesdropping, smuggling, racing across rooftops, delivering letters, stealing codex pages, hunting for treasures, raiding secret tombs, collecting feathers.

Typically, each successfully completed mission rewards you with money, some unlock new moves and abilities, while a few offer new weapons and tools. Money plays an important part until halfway through the game – after which you have so much, you will literally find yourself throwing money at passing people. Through money you can buy items such as health potions, poison, smoke bombs, throwing knifes; you can upgrade your armour and thus lengthen your health bar; you can also hire courtesans/thieves/fighters to distract or fight alongside yourself. The most important use of money is to upgrade your hometown / villa. As you improve your villa and its surroundings – either, for example, by upgrading the doctor’s or by adding a brothel – your town’s standing grows; more people come to visit, bringing in more money. It’s a positive loop and the first thing you should invest in. Pretty soon, the town will be earning you upwards of 14,000 in virtual cash every 20 real-time minutes.

Assassin's Creed 2: Flying across the city

You can also fly across Venice, oh-so-briefly

The game also borrows a notoriety system from GTA: When you perform tasks which are either too aggressive (like throwing a guard down a building), or too flamboyant (like jumping down a roof to kill a guard), your notoriety increases; pretty soon making you Notorious with a capital N – comparable to the Wanted status in GTA. This is when the authority has it in for you and every guard is after a piece of your hide. Well-meaning though it might be, the system feels a little broken as it’s a small task to bring the notoriety level back down – either via bribes, assassinations of key government officials (ironic!) or the easiest and cheapest means of all – through tearing down your “Wanted” posters. As such it never adds to any tension, as was the probable intent behind the notoriety system. In fact, a lack of tension is a common complaint in AC2.

Where’s the challenge?

Combat in AC2 is a simple affair: a target is selected through the L1 button (note: all keys correspond to the PS3 controller). Once marked, pressing X on the controller performs an attack. You can block attacks by pressing the R1 button. When blocking, X allows you to dodge, the square button starts a counter. While attacking the circle button grabs the enemy after which you can headbutt using the triangle button, or kick in the groins using the X button. It might seem confusing (and there is a very real chance that I made a mistake in laying down the control options) but once you have the controller in your hand and understand that L1 is an attack modifier and R1 the defence modifier – it all falls into place. Promise.

Combat boils down to a lot of blocking and countering. You can also go unarmed, in which case R1 and countering will disarm the opponent giving you a chance to one-hit kill them using their own weapon. Broadly speaking there are four types of melee weapons – small weapons (the knife variety), small swords, spears and its ilk, and hammers and blunt weapons. Ranged weapons are throwing knifes, a gun of sorts (worst gun ever in a game!), and the all-too powerful smoke bomb which can render a large group of enemy helpless and victim to your sword. You can also buy/unlock some special moves such as throwing knifes at multiple enemies or throwing sand to blind your foes.

Assassin's Creed 2: Disarming an opponent

Disarming an opponent and then stabbing him through the heart using his own sword is more enjoyable than it should be

The system is such that you never feel threatened by an encounter. Sure, a combat situation might be a tough one to crack, especially when surrounded by a group consisting of axe-wielding brutes and spear wielding, err dudes. But you know you will make it through, if not through skill then through chugging down potions. You never feel challenged or threatened during a fight.

Outside of combat, the platforming is key. Here you will feel threatened but only because of the aforementioned “Enzio could do something stupid any moment now” phenomenon thanks to the none-too-reliable controls. There are some incredible levels though – the secret tombs you need to traverse and defeat offer plenty of challenge and of the right type. You will look forward to these but alas there are only a handful of them in the game. Moreover, these tombs are entirely optional (it would be a shame if you skip them though). Another optional element, but one which requires a fair degree of mental acumen is glyph-hunting. All throughout the cities, glyphs tag some key structures.

Assassin's Creed 2: Weapon type blunt

AC2 offers a variety of weapons. It’s hammer time here; you can’t touch this

These glyphs must first be found (plaftorming) and then be solved (brain-teasers). Each glyph offers puzzles ranging from jigsaw-like complete the picture, to cracking a code.
On the whole then – unless you adamant on completing every aspect of the game, you will find little challenge in AC2, outside of a few moments of frustration.

The verdict?

AC2 does away with the mission structure of the first game. For the most part, it’s for the good but where the first entry ended an assassination with a long “confession” from the murdered party, AC2 leaves Ezio to do all the talking. It’s a small detail but you do miss the back story of your target and the reasons why he did the things he did which led to his assassination... Similarly, the pace at which an assassination takes place is less than ideal. In the first game the crescendo built up to an assassination and then the game played you out as you sought cover and refuge from the now-on-high-alert-guards. AC2, for the most part, ends a mission after you kill your target. There are a few missions which call on you to escape after an assassination, and kill a multitude in your wake. And frankly, these are the most fun. So while AC2 adds a whole lot to the first game’s formula – yes there is a lot to do – it also takes away some aspects that made the first outing enjoyable. Another small niggle: that “whole lot to do”, is rewarding for the most part. AC2 should have offered better rewards for two of the most mind-numbing hunts though: (1) hunting all the feathers, (2) opening all the chests. The reward for the former is a pathetic cape, while you won’t even care to complete the latter since frankly you have so much money half-way through the game that yet more money is not incentive enough.

These issues, a lack of persistent challenge, and the occasional control problem mar an otherwise excellent experience.

Bottom line: We strongly recommend playing this game. It’s one you must experience in the year 2009. If you don’t have a console, pick it up for the PC next year. But play it, you must.

Play it to experience the awesome architecture, play it to leap four storeys down and to kill two guards at once, play it to mow down a group of people under your horse, play it to hide bodies in bundles of hay, play it to poison a guard and watch him flail to his death, play it for the stupid Italian-English accent (it grows on you), for the amazing conspiracy theory the games weaves around you... if for nothing else, play it to experience the most satisfying 30-final minutes a game has to offer. It will blow your mind.

Assassin's Creed 2: Dual kill using dual blade

Can you say no to this?

Rating: 8/10

Genre: Action Adventure
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC (2010)
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft
Distributor: e-Xpress

Sunday, December 20, 2009 - Listen to Free Music!

http://www.grooveshark.comLately I landed into this superb website for listening to free Music. Sorry to be late, as it had been into the web since couple of years.

* Grooveshark is used for searching, streaming, and uploading music free of charge.
* The iTunes like interface makes it eye-candy and also easy to use.
* There is a huge database of songs in its collection. Like 7 millions and increasing!
* Users can upload their own library of music.
* Users can save their favorite songs, albums and playlists and access them from any PC on the web.
* Users can view the libraries, favorites and playlists of other users.
* The site offers one-click widgets for embedding a song, album or playlist to Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon. So sharing with friends is really easy.
* Unlike other music applications it recommends songs based on the similarities in people’s profiles and favorites.
* The process of streaming could not be easier: you simply browse to the site, enter a term in the prominent search bar which takes centre-stage, and press play. Albums or individual songs can be listened to; some albums have limited content, but some well-known ‘records’ are represented accurately.
* If you wanna download a song then you need to pay about $0.99 per song.
* Registration is free and is not required to listen to music on the site. Registration is required to save songs, albums and playlists and to save favorites or embed widgets to Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mass Effect 2 Preview!

Mass Effect 2

Last in the line-up of EA games we got to sample is arguably the most anticipated of the lot – Mass Effect 2. Once again, the build on showcase is the demo from this year’s E3. This was a very short demo with about 20 minutes of game play, which included a couple of NPC conversations and an enemy encounter.
Mass Effect 2

The demo starts off with Shepard and his crew just outside a pub on what appeared to be an alien planet. Traversing through the location, you eventually encounter Garrus Vakarian—the Turian party member from the first Mass Effect game. This counter eventually leads to a battle in which you and your party have a clear advantage from a vantage point, while waves of enemies attempt to crossover a bridge to reach you.
Mass Effect 2

This revealed (or rather confirmed) two of the most striking changes in the game, so far. Weapons now have limited (and collectible) ammo system, which has been used to replace weapons heating system from the first game. Second significant change is the health system which now automatically regenerates over time, effectively eliminating need for bio-gels seen in the first game. Another noteworthy change is additional character animations, especially with the cover system. The battle in the demo was too short and frantic to decide if the additional animation has an effect on actual game play.
Mass Effect 2

Visually, the game looks just like the last one—barring absence of texture pop-ins, which was one of the major technical issue last time around. Now, let’s just hope that the denizens of Mass Effect universe have gone ahead and upgraded their elevator systems with something quicker. The game’s European release is slated for late January next year—so it should hit our shores in early February, 2010.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Smile Effect - Today You Smiled
I don't know what got into my mind and I am posting about this website (blog actually). Its just like I feel great. Surfing this blog is a very good relaxation for me you know, all the time hooked into the internet, facebook. Its just another crazy enjoyable thing about internet you get recharged by new things that comes up.

Ok about the website
Have you ever stopped someone, asked them to smile… then later thought how you may have impacted their life?

I have, and it is a great feeling. I take pictures with my camera of people at random in my town then post them here on my blog.

I give them my card which has the url and tell them to check it out in a couple of days. It is a great feeling.

I hope you can appreciate the bigger picture I’m trying to show… that the only thing separating my smile and their smile is the camera.

Two complete strangers bonding only for that given time for the sake of the others benefit.

Just think about that….
As written by author! I need no more to explanations that this blog has pictures of peoples (anyone, strangers) with smile on their face. I loved the theme of the blog; by watching other smile it also can make you smile.

You know I just can't get the correct word for this blog's idea. This is a brilliant idea.

Although, you can also have your pictures (smiling ones) posted in the blog. Just send your photo entire album of pictures to with a brief description of your photo. Then he ( the blogger) will email you when your pictures are posted in the blog.

Keep on smiling and show your smiling faces to everyone.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins - The Review

Dragon Age: Origins has a lot riding on it. It has been one of the most anticipated games for me, since a few years now. Although I try not to expect too much from a game, I was expecting something special with Dragon Age, owing to its relentless positioning as a "spiritual successor" to the Baldur's Gate series. Baldur's Gate is generally renowned for two things -- its challenging and strategic combat system and its engaging storyline. At the very least, therefore, I was expecting a good combat system and a refreshing, or at least gripping, storyline.

The Blight
Dragon Age: Origins
The Dragon Age universe borrows ideas and culture from various fantasy worlds: Dungeons & Dragons, Dark Eye, and of course mother of all fantasy inspiration – the literary and adapted works of Tolkein. Origins introduces us to this universe through its denizens, their culture and their religion – to that effect the game deals with a phenomenon called the Blight. According to the religious beliefs of the humans of this world, their god, the Maker ruled the world from the Golden City. On behest of the Old Gods, the Tevinter Imperium laid siege to the Golden City in an attempt to usurp the Maker's throne. The siege was a failure but it left the city corrupted; so the Maker banished them for this transgression. Those corrupt are referred to as the Darkspawn and when they return in large numbers led by a corrupted Old God, you get the Blight. This is where an order of elite warriors called The Grey Wardens come in – a response to the threat. You, of course, play one of these wardens.
Be yourself; or not
Dragon Age: Origins
You can choose from three archetype fantasy races – Human, Elf and Dwarf. Humans and Elves can choose between fighter, rogue or the mage class; whereas dwarves can choose either the fighter or the rogue class. In the Dragon Age universe, Dwarves do not get to be mages as they are racially resistant to the effects of Lyrium – the fuel of magic. After choosing your race and class during character creation, the process requires you to select your background story; which in turn determines the "Origins Story". Various combinations of race, class and background yields six unique origin stories.
After customizing you character's appearance, the next stage of character creation is assigning points to your character's six different attributes – strength, dexterity, willpower, magic, cunning and constitution. The starting value of these attributes is factored by your choice of race and class. The next stage in character creation process is selecting starting skills, followed by picking talents (or spells).
The fighter and rogue class have acess to special abilities categorized under talents; whereas mages have acess to a pool of spells. In addition to this, all the classes also have access to another set of abilities called Skills. Talents and Skills are multi-tiered, categorized abilities, which in most cases directly affect the combat prowess of the fighter and rogue class. Mages on the other hand do not use Talents and instead they have access to a set of magic spells.
Of winning friends and influencing people
Dragon Age: Origins
The background and race selected during the character creation will determine your social standing in the game world. This subsequently affects disposition of the world towards you and will also offer a suitable starting point for your game.
A common thread connects the six unique Origins stories: each will invariably lead to an encounter with a veteran Grey Warden and your recruiter. Without spoiling the game for you, the main quest in the game is that as one of the few surviving Grey Wardens in the area, you need to garner support against the Blight from humans, elves and dwarves. Joining you on this venture is a group of ten other adventurers that form your party of companions; however the maximum travelling party size is limited to four.
There is no morality (alignment) system is Dragon Age; however you will face choices that can be placed within a spectrum of good and evil. As seen in games such as Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights 2, there is also a measure of your character's influence over other party members; your group’s behavior towards you will be based on an ‘approval rating’ which factors in both your influence on them as well as the decisions you make when faced with choices, as you adventure. A low rating with a party member will cause him or her to leave your party and in some cases even turn hostile. On the other hand, a high approval rating will give that party member a bonus to one of their attributes. You can also win a party member’s favour by completing their personal quests, or by giving gifts that are found in the game as loot, treasure, or bought from merchants.
Hard to the core
Dragon Age: Origins
The effort it must take to create a tactical combat system is quite evident with Dragon Age. Battle terrain plays a significant role in combat tactics, and along with a combination of skills, talents and spells, the combat system offers a wide variety of options to form a winning strategy during hostile encounters. Spells use the caster's pool of magic energy (or mana) and they come with cool-down timers. Similarly, Talents also have a cool-down timer and they use the character’s stamina instead of magic energy. There are also persistent spells and combat skills that reserve a certain amount of mana or stamina respectively.
I finished the game with a character at level 20 by pursuing the main quest and completing a handful of side-quests – this is not nearly enough to acquire all possible Skills, Talents or Spells. Effectively, you will need to decide on a particular style of play very early in the game and then focus on skills and spells accordingly.
Dragon Age: Origins
Each character class receives one point at level 7 and another at level 14 to select up to two specialization classes. There are four unique specialized classes for each class and they need to be unlocked by reading books or finding trainers, often with quests attached to them. These open up even more interesting options with character builds and overall combat strategy.
Another layer of depth is added to the combat system through implementation of spell combinations. Casting spells in a certain order (or combination) will yield additional benefits, like increased damage. It is quite unlikely that you will be able to explore all these possibilities in a single play-through, so this works as an incentive to replay the game.
The specialized classes that you unlock are carried over to all subsequent play-through. This coupled with a better understanding of the game world, combat mechanics, and items, should help you create a stronger, more focused character build from an early stage. A word of caution – the game dictates a greater level of patience and investment of time that we are generally used to.
Some enemy encounters, especially tougher ones may require you to reload the game a few times to rethink your strategy and approach. To slightly digress: the game recorded my total play time at over 60 hours with only 40 percent of game completed! Levelling may thus be perceived as quite slow after the first four or five levels as after spending 60+ hours in the game, my character was just level 20.
This much can be said about the combat system in Dragon Age Origins: those who revel in a tactical approach to encounters will enjoy playing this game. Origins is unlike any recent Bioware game when it comes to the game’s mechanics; it’s hardcore.
So far so good. The Dragon Age universe does not offer anything revolutionary or even unique; however the game’s designers have done a commendable job of adding a new level of depth using well-known building blocks. While the game comes quite close to delivering on its promise of old-school tactical combat; it disappoints on the story front.
Meet the new plot, same as the old plot(s)
Dragon Age: Origins
The one thing that stood out for me with Baldur's Gate 2 was its main plot – it was both personal and epic. Dragon Age can be summed up as clichéd. It offers the tired storyline of saving the world from imminent destruction. There are instances of déjà vu with the main story and it often feels like old wine in a new bottle. The developers have certainly experimented with presentation and have approached aspects that are RPG staple; the game feels refreshing at that. I believe that with role-playing games, what leaves a lasting impression is your *role* in the game world and how you fulfill that role or achieve your objective.
All the dialogues are spoken, so it spares you from reading reams of text and also makes the overall experience more immersive. However, this is hampered by repetitive and irrelevant character animation during conversations. There also appears be to lack of variety with NPC models as you often encounter characters with striking resemblance to each other.
Technically the game is certainly an improvement for Bioware; however it is not without problems. I experienced consistent system crashes while on the inventory screen. There are a few quest related glitches and crashes that had me scouring through various discussion forums. The game patch and the official support forums were of little help; thankfully this was offset by active community based forums and wikis.
Conclusively, Dragon Age Origins is a pretty good game; however in its endeavor to succeed Baldur's Gate-- it is a battle only half-won.

Rating: 4.25/5

Genre: Role-Playing Game
Developer: Bioware Edmonton
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform:PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - The Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 header
The movie and video game industries are increasingly being seen as competitors in the entertainment sector. With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 grossing over $550 million in the first five days since its launch – eclipsing the latest Harry Potter’s $394 million and The Dark Knight’s $203.8 million – it is no wonder that a lot of analysts and investors are banking their money on video games.
But what most outsiders and non-gamers fail to see is that video games have increasingly become cinematic experiences by themselves. The original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was incredibly engrossing, and befittingly called by many as an ‘interactive movie’. Bioshock put an amazing storyline in an eerie setting, building ambience and atmosphere for a player – it was like living out a movie. Splinter Cell: Double Agent gave the player moral choices, dictating the path that the story would take. And Uncharted 2: Drake’s Fortune had graphics and voice-acting that would have made the animators at Pixar proud.
Beyond all its controversies, critical acclaim and box-office success, Modern Warfare 2 furthers this concept of ‘interactive cinema’. Developer Infinity Ward (IW) has made what could best be termed as a socio-economic experiment, seeing how far anyone can push boundaries when the audience is directly interacting with a movie and assessing the viability of producing big-budget games over larger-budget movies. On both counts, IW has a winner on its hand with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
At the very base of good cinema lie good direction, good acting and a good plot. Of course, there are several other elements that go into making a high-quality production, but these three core features are of paramount important.
The storyline of Modern Warfare 2 picks up where the first one left off, recapping the events in a title sequence. While there is nothing spectacular in the plot, it’s still an imaginative take on how the next big war could happen: an American mass-murderer in Russia gives Kremlin the opportunity to go for all-out battle.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Over the course of the game, there are several plot twists, intriguing sub-plots and some amazing character-development. The player alternates between the role of U.S. Army Ranger Pvt. James Ramirez and an agent in a multinational special ops unit, named Sgt. Gary ‘Roach’ Sanderson. In your journey, you will meet popular characters from the first game – such as ‘Soap’ MacTavish – and encounter interesting new ones, like a covert agent who goes by the call-sign ‘Ghost’.
The voice-acting for all the characters is top-notch, and you will rarely find better performances in the world of video games. The quality of voice-acting can make or break the suspension of disbelief that is essential to letting yourself get immersed in a game, and Modern Warfare 2 does not let that drop for a second.
The essentials of your objectives in the game are quite clichéd: proving America’s innocence, finding the truth behind the entire war and administering justice. Yet, the way Infinity Ward has handled these tried-and-tested elements is what makes MW2 such a special treat.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Delivering a cinematic experience through a video game can never be an easy task. The biggest obstacle to this is the graphics element. A video game is competing against a live-action film, so it always starts off with a disadvantage when it comes to realism.
The first Modern Warfare caused a lot of jaws to drop with its breath-taking visuals. Indeed, no one can forget the camouflage part of the level in Chechnya. And yet, Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) manages to outdo its predecessor by miles, with both giant leaps in graphics technology and small tweaks in the way elements are portrayed.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The characters and their movements, the textures, the guns and vehicles, the art – Infinity Ward has created a visual feast for your eyes. It’s not often that you will find yourself stopping in the middle of a bridge to admire the view, let alone when there are enemy patrols on your tail and you are trying to keep a low profile.
The lighting and smoke effects in the game have no parallel; from dim light to bright, everything looks just perfect. The snow-based levels even have spots that reflect the light harshly, causing a bit of snow blindness.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Yet, it’s the attention to detail that always grabs you in MW2. A soldier standing for a long time shifts weight from one foot to the other; when sneaking up on someone through bushes, the squad leader ahead of you slowly moves a fallen twig aside lest it snap under your feet and give away position; and the blood splatter when you are hit by a bullet looks frighteningly real!
Modern Warfare 2 is still no substitute for live-action, but there is not another game around which has come as close. And at times, that’s a good thing…
For the past few weeks, the world has been debating the inclusion of a controversial scene in the game, where you play as a terrorist. The elevator doors at an airport slide open, you step out with three of your partners and proceed to mow down everyone in the building with your loaded guns.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Now, this isn’t the first time that a terrorist act has been depicted on screen, or in a video game for that matter. And with games like Carmageddon and Grand Theft Auto, it’s also not the first time you are killing civilians and innocent cops. What is different, though, is that you are playing it from a first-person perspective with this amount of realism. It’s your choice whether to shoot someone or not, and whether to put anyone out of their misery; but the game’s realism goes against MW2 here. It’s almost like the Uncanny Valley effect.
The unsettling aspect of this is really the fact that it’s played from a first-person perspective. You aren’t able to see a third-person character of Tommy Vercetti or Nico Bellic that does the shooting. Even in first person, while you play a character, the other terrorists don’t refer to you by a name, but only by the second-person pronoun of ‘you’. Small things that make a huge difference!
How you look at Infinity Ward’s intentions in including this scene will define your take: It can be looked at as art, pushing a gamer to challenge himself and view a dark side he wouldn’t want to go voluntarily; or it can be looked at as a cheap publicity stunt, garnering ample media and public attention with a controversy that is bound to lead to more sales. What you cannot deny, though, is that this is a scene you won’t be forgetting soon.
What you will take back with you from the airport massacre are the yells and screams carrying above the deafening noise of the gun-fire. The audio element is so critical to the experience of Modern Warfare 2 that it needs to be mentioned separately.
While game-defining tunes have been around for a long time now—Mario’s theme comes to mind first—they are not often crucial to the gameplay. But when you are making a cinematic experience with a game, the background score and the sounds you hear are what will get a gamer’s adrenaline pumping.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Infinity Ward went all-out in this department, hiring renowned multi-Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer for the game’s soundtrack. Zimmer strongly believes that video games are a medium for art, and his efforts show through. A fast-paced score while battling multiple enemies in an urban slum makes you instinctively hold the button to sprint; flat, deep notes greet you when you are looking down the scope of a sniper rifle.
And yet, all of it is so wonderfully gelled into the background that it never dominates the gaming experience, instead only adding to the ambience. These are the little things that add an X factor to a movie and make it great, and Zimmer couldn’t have done a better job in a Steven Spielberg production. The sound that comes from the gun you fire is just as important as the feel of the gun, and MW2 knows that.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The ‘feel’ of a game is talked about often in reviews. It’s an unquantifiable and largely inexplicable term, yet one of the most intuitive aspects that everyone understands easily. This appeal to a base instinct is a remarkable aspect of video games – one that is often experienced with music but not as often with cinema.
There is a ‘feel’ to an iPhone that makes it cool; a ‘feel’ to a Led Zeppelin song that makes it tight; a ‘feel’ to Pavarotti that makes him commanding; a ‘feel’ to a Mercedes that makes it classy. To appeal to this core aesthetic is beyond just difficult, and every instance of anyone or anything doing that is celebrated time and again.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 packs a punch. It delivers great highs and sombre lows; it gets you involved and makes you care; it challenges your skills and wit; and overall, it goes beyond being just a game. Play the game for its incredible bridging of cinema and games. Play it for its amazing action sequences and addictive gameplay. Play it for the incredible visuals and the inspired soundtrack.
But beyond all that, Modern Warfare 2 has a solid ‘feel’, and that alone makes it a game that no one should miss out on.

Rating: 4.5/5


Genre: First Person Shooter, Action

Developer: Infinity Ward

Publisher: Activision


PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360