Previews

Modern Warfare 2

Will Porter is called out of retirement and heads out on his final mission

When you're one of the first in the world to be shown what'll likely be the most successful shooter of recent history, it's bad form to repeatedly point at the game and excitedly bark which movies you've seen its setpieces in before. And, indeed, for flecks of your spittle to land in the eyes of its designers.

After 45 minutes in front of Modern Warfare 2 I'd stopped to excitedly bite my fist no less than seven times to stare with strange intensity at Infinity Ward's studio head Vincent Zampella and community manager Robert Bowling, and yell things like: Goldeneye! Police Story! Vertical Limit! Die Hard 2! To this Infinity Ward return a shrug.

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"I don't know that it's intentional... though we watch a lot of movies," offers Zampella by way of explanation, with perhaps an underlying glimmer of alarm that the feverish individual sweating into his leather couch is listing increasingly bad '90s actioners rather than marvelling at the updated graphics, remarkable motion capture and breathless innovations in level design on show.

Yet this isn't a criticism on my part; it's the recognition that more than any other game Call of Duty - or what was once Call of Duty - has increasingly pitted you as the star of the most visceral, imaginative and adrenalin-ripped set-pieces ever committed to 3D engine, or indeed celluloid.

That it occasionally stoops to cherry-pick the very best moments of violent popular culture is an affirmation that Modern Warfare 2 is aimed squarely at fulfilling the Action Man fantasies of a generation. The fact that I'm dribbling as I type this is proof enough that it will hit its target.

This stance is solidified as I watch the Infinity Ward twosome play a co-op mission in Modern Warfare 2's Special Ops mode. As Robert places an explosive charge on a dank brick wall, and they both charge, co-op style, through the flying rubble, accompanied by a beautifully animated slow-motion Russian soldier cartwheeling away, my animated burbling is proved correct. This mission-slice, cut and pasted from the main game for ramped-up difficulty and co-op jollities, is a dingy prison shower-block - a concrete basin full of grey shower fittings and crumbling cover points. Above this, two raised guard gantries on either side provide cover for a barrage of snipers.

"This," I delicately proffer, "is taken out of The Rock." I'm met with friendly affirmatives all round; we pause for a moment and hold each other in a testosterone-charged, yet powerfully emotional, embrace.

Modern Warfare 2's storyline picks up directly after Call of Duty 4's bridge finale, with villain Zakhaev dead by your (well, Soap McTavish's) hand, and everyone else apparently dead bar the oddly-monikered Soap and the heavily-bulleted Price. But what with international foreign policy being what it is, the slaying of Zakhaev has prompted an even more desperate state of affairs.

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"Killing Zakhaev has allowed Makerov - one of his main guys - to take power, and use his death as a martyr situation," explains Zampella. With Makerov pointing the finger at the Allies and screaming blue murder, Soap and his boys in Task Force 141 - an international elite military unit dedicated to hunting down terror targets are on the case.

Thing is, this time around you're not playing Soap - in the snowy mountain-top level I was shown he's become an NPC on the battlefield, ordering you around as you both get up to stealthy mischief in the manner of Price's COD4 Chernobyl adventures.

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