GamesCom 2009 is officially underway here in Cologne, Germany. While the show has a heavy focus on European games, there’s still a huge presence of American games. But few games from the States are as high profile as Modern Warfare 2. We opened the show by checking out that game's new Special Ops mode, which expands on the format of the short, action-packed Mile High Club bonus level from Call of Duty 4 and adds some interesting new bells and whistles.
Special Ops mode now provides a third option for players to select at the main start screen that accompanies the traditional single-player campaign and competitive multiplayer featured in Call of Duty 4. It sort of connects the other two modes by allowing you to play either alone, with a friend using split-screen, or by going online for the full two-player co-op experience. Special Ops provides a series of quick scenarios for players to shoot their way through, moving from one point to another on a modestly sized map filled with enemies. You’ll unlock new levels as you collect specific numbers of stars, with more stars awarded if you play on the higher difficulty levels.
The level we got to see was called Breach & Clear. In this scenario--played single-player by an Activision rep--the player had to use a bomb to breach the wall of a Soviet gulag and shoot through dozens of Russian militia before dropping through a hole at the other end of a large, destroyed shower room. The player planted the bomb on the wall, which exploded to provide a new entrance into the room and triggered a brief but dramatic slow-motion sequence that let him get a jump on the stunned enemies inside.
Once inside, it was that familiar brand of fast-paced Call of Duty shooting through and through. Enemies flooded into the area from the front and up on balconies on the side, keeping the action quick and exciting in much the same way fans of the series have come to expect. The game looked fantastic, running very smoothly even at the peak of the firefight. Some new visual flourishes were on display, such as the redone blood splattering that covers the screen as you take damage. But the one thing that really caught our eye during the quick demo was the inclusion of riot shields. Certain enemies storm into the area equipped with these transparent, bulletproof shields, and when they die, you can run over and pick up their shields. The result is you holding the shield in front of your face in the traditional first-person view when your gun isn’t drawn and putting it away when you need to start shooting again.
After leaving an impressive wake of death and destruction, the Activision rep made his way to the end of the level and jumped through a hole in the ground to trigger the ending. Altogether, he made it through the scenario in about two and a half minutes. A screen at the end showed his finishing time and total number of kills, but he could have pulled up a timer during the actual game by hitting up on the D pad. Otherwise, the screen remains free of clutter to let you focus on the job at hand.
It’s worth noting that Special Ops won’t support perks or customized loadouts, which are the hallmark of Modern Warfare’s competitive multiplayer. There was no customization screen prior to the game and no XP totals appearing above the heads of enemies as you shot them. It was more like the straightforward action you’d find in the single-player campaign. It seems like a good decision on the part of Infinity Ward because the Special Ops mode seems geared more toward improving your finishing time under identical situations rather than unlocking new and better weapons to better your odds.
It may not strike you as much of a surprise considering the astounding success of Call of Duty 4, but Modern Warfare 2 is looking great, with few if any areas to nitpick. Players can safely expect another exciting shooter when the game is released on November 10.