Call of Duty offers a specific kind of action spectacle, that of witnessing career professionals efficiently carrying out their jobs, in which saving the world at the last second is rendered as rote work. By making explosive superheroics mundane, the games ultimately lionize its characters and deeds. The game, especially the thunderous Modern Warfare 2—all climax and final countdowns, with little respite—understands that to make its action appear effortless, it must render these feats as another day on the clock, whether that be breaking into a Siberian gulag fortress or racing across the rooftops of Rio de Janeiro.
Like the game before it, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 follows an ensemble cast with an economical storyline that flips back and forth across time zones, suggesting a sprawling sense of scale and urgency. The game quickly propels us through tightly linear, desperate setpieces and eschews older games’ focus on measured, meticulous conflict through battlefield spaces that would slow the action down. Instead, Modern Warfare 2’s playable characters are professionals who conduct violence swiftly and brutally with frosty precision before the pendulum sways the other way and plans succumb to disarray.
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