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Modern Warfare 2 Hands-On Preview

Preview: We've played it again

Yesterday morning we got another chance to see Modern Warfare 2 as part of Infinity Ward's epic European tour. It was a more laid back affair than last month's multiplayer event in Los Angeles and felt less like we were being treated to something completely 'new' but we did get a chance to catch up with Robert Bowling (Infinity Ward's adopted spokesman and Creative Strategist) see some more single-player and have a go on Special Ops.

Bowling began by showing us a play through of one of the single-player missions. Titled Takedown, it's located in Rio de Janeiro and features the 'Favela' area that we'd already seen in multiplayer. This mission is a manhunt through the hostile slum alleyways to chase down a character called Roja. The team need to him capture alive so he can be used for intelligence gathering.

The opening cut-scene, seen from inside a car, sets the tone when the man sat in the seat next to you gets his head blown off, splattering you and the dash board with blood and brain. From there in the level captures the adrenaline-fuelled chaos and confusion of ground-level, urban warfare, with your team dressed in plain clothes and the streets filled not only with aggressive militia but also innocent civilians who you have to avoid shooting.

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Having already played MW2 we can testify that the game's trademark controls have hardly changed in the sequel - one thing that was key in our initial appraisal - so it's more the new locations, motivations, weapons and visual polish that we were noticing today. Incidental details like glass shattering and falling off in angular chunks and a new infra-red sniper scope are obvious, but more subtle is the maps now look like they have proper geographical location, with more landscape visible on the horizon.

Difficulty-wise, at points it looks remarkably intense with Bowling failing one checkpoint two or three time in a row, reminding us of the notorious TV station section of the original Modern Warfare - ie. Multiple enemies firing from all directions and elevation - many of whom you can't see.

As Bowling completes the level - an in-game cut-scene shows Roja being unceremoniously taken into custody via a few bullets to the leg - he tells us that the next part of the mission changes the dynamic from 'manhunt' to 'being hunted' as your team has to escape the Favela alive. He's not going to show us that bit yet though, the big tease.

Bowling then goes on to explain the philosophy behind MW2 (something he refers to a lot in the course of the demo) which was to create three, distinct game styles, all tailored to different types of play (this is what you see in the opening menu screen).

First is the single player 'campaign' option which is very specifically designed to be a solo experience (so no co-op here) second is the multiplayer experience and third is Special Ops, a series of two-player co-op experiences. It's actually quite refreshing to hear that IW are being so prescriptive with their co-op, choosing two as the maximum because it suits the play style best, rather than cramming in more for the sake of it.

We also learn that maps have been specially created for both Special Ops and Multiplayer, rather than being adapted versions of the single player option. Similarly, certain weapon types are unique to specific play styles.

We're shown two Special Ops games, one of which we loved, the other, well, we don't exactly hate but can't imagine ever playing. The first (that we like) is Elimination, where the challenge is to kill a set number of hostiles without dying.

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