While Modern Warfare 2 may depict the harsh reality of urban conflict, Activision chose the penthouse suite of one of London's swankiest hotels to give us a final hands-on with the game. While the irony may have been lost on the publisher, the demo at least gave us the chance to see a brand-new level from the single-player game, as well as play an objective-based co-op level from the Special Ops mode. During this time, developer Infinity Ward's Robert Bowling answered our questions about multiplayer progression, cinematic influences, and using the game's Special Edition night-vision goggles for nefarious means.
The single-player demo took place at the end of the game's first act. You're on the hunt for an arms dealer, and after finding some marked shell casings, you're led to the dealer's right-hand man in Rio de Janeiro. The level opens as you're tailing a van. The van stops, and the dealer's confidant murders everyone in it. He then opens fire on your van--killing the driver as you and Soap MacTavish jump out and start a chase. We watched as Bowling ran after the suspect and then took him down by shooting him in the leg, allowing you and MacTavish to take him in for questioning.
After a short break, you take the victim to a quiet location, where MacTavish and a member of his squadron start interrogating him--using electricity "convince" him to talk. While MacTavish extracts the information he requires, he gives you instructions on where to head to find the man in charge of the operation. You enter Rio's slum with the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking it, and you encounter resistance from the arms dealer's militia. The problem is that the slum is also populated with civilians, and Bowling would periodically fire into the air to make them disperse.
The slum section was a classic Call of Duty set piece, with a seemingly endless supply of thugs to dispatch as you progress. The difference was in small details--your character will knock out an old clip using the new one when using certain weapons, and when you're injured, blood fills the screen more than it did before. This was a ferocious section filled with rocket-launcher fire and dog attacks, and it came to a head when MacTavish dived out of a window to catch the subject.
Alongside the single-player story and competitive multiplayer, there will be a third option in MW2's main menu: the Special Ops mode. This section offers around 25 co-op scenarios, which can be played by one or two people either locally or online. Bowling gave us an introduction to the mode, playing a level that took place at a house in a remote location. The mission was to pick off 40 enemies in as short a time as possible. He started off with the sniper rifle--pushing the left stick in to hold his breath and then firing into the skulls of far-away assailants. He then moved into the house, planting claymore traps for enemies who chased him, and he then took out a few more enemies that were taking refuge there. He then knifed out the windows and took up a new sniper position, and he was able to spot enemies by looking out for reflections of light in sniper rifle scopes. By the time he'd finished--about five minutes later--he'd taken out all 40 people without dying, including the heavily armed Juggernauts, which appear only in the Special Ops mode and take three sniper rifle shots or more to kill.
With that impressive demo out of the way, we were finally offered a chance to play for ourselves in another level set in the Brazilian slum. The map was laid out in nearly the same way as we'd seen in the single-player game, but that didn't make it any easier for us and our video producer to beat. The addition of innocent civilians makes it more difficult, because you can kill only six of them before failing the mission. There was a lot to like about the co-op mode: each player can select an independent difficulty level, and you can revive the other player if he's killed by holding X for a few seconds (on the Xbox 360 version we played). That said, we were saddened to learn that there are no leaderboards, so you can't try to beat your friends' times--although Bowling admitted this could be added in an update.
It looks like there will be plenty of variety in the co-op Spec Ops mode, including racing snow mobiles and diffusing bombs. More and more co-op missions are opened up by playing through the story mode, so there will be an incentive to finish the already fantastic-looking single-player game. It's a cliche, but if you loved Modern Warfare, you're sure to enjoy Modern Warfare 2. We'll see you all on the online servers come November 10.