No, it's not as visually cutting-edge as Uncharted 2 or Killzone 2, but that doesn't mean it's not a fine looking game. Other than some frame rate hiccups here and there (slightly worse in the PS3 version, sadly) the frame rate is silky smooth, there's always an absolute ton of stuff going on all around you (take a moment to look into the sky and you can see how much work has gone into creating this virtual world) and the audio work is exceptional. The Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight, among others) score is incredible, matching every heart-stopping moment the campaign throws at you, and the voice acting for the main characters is top drawer, putting many other triple-A releases to shame.
So, that's a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred, action-packed single-player campaign and a staggeringly good co-op mode, and I've yet to mention the competitive multiplayer. It's this that is likely to be played for months and months, keeping Modern Warfare 2 in your disc drive well into 2010. Up to 18 players can take part in numerous solo and team matches set across 16 brand new maps. You also get the same levelling up and perks system as seen in CoD4 and Cod: WaW, meaning that the more time you pump into it the greater your selection of perks will be.
Perks are nothing new these days, but they're still a great inclusion and let you customise your style of play to a greater degree than what your weapon load-out alone would allow. You have three perk slots to fill, each offering you a choice of unlocked abilities or bonuses. As well as plenty of the perks seen in CoD4 (Slight of Hand, Stopping Power, Steady Aim), there are new choices such as Ninja (invisible to heartbeat sensor) and Hardline (killstreaks require one less kill). These can be improved by the new Pro perks, unlocked by completing time-intensive objectives during play, giving you enhanced abilities.
Kill Streaks - the system that rewards you with mid-match bonuses for racking up a certain number of kills in a row - are present and correct, and there are a handful of new rewards on offer if you're good enough (access to the Predator missile system and an air-dropped care package, being two of them). Terrible gamers needn't get too despondent, as Infinity Ward has added a new Deathstreak mechanic that assists players who die frequently. Martyrdom, the infamous perk that saw your character releasing a grenade upon death, is now one of these, as is Copycat, which gives you the kit of the guy who killed you - great if you're still wandering around as a noob with the starter load-out.
Modern Warfare 2 also features unlockable attachments, such as laser sights for your weapons, and lots of new firearms to get your hands on; this is just as well, as the starting kit isn't anything to write home about. Also back are multiplayer challenges: weapon-specific goals that award more XP to go towards your overall rank. These range from the relatively simple (10 headshots) to the downright tricky (40 bullet penetration kills - achieved by firing through walls). All of this stuff sets Modern Warfare 2 apart from its competitors, making for one hell of an addictive multiplayer experience.
In truth, CoD4's multiplayer mode didn't quite get the credit it deserved back in 2007, with no-one really knowing how well it would be taken up by the millions of people who bought it. Today it's obvious that gamers will be playing Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer for a very long time. In fact, it's hard to see the majority of people wanting to play any other multiplayer shooter until the next CoD is released, such is the quality of what's on offer here. That seems like as good a place as any to end this review: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 takes everything that was great about CoD4 and ramps it up to the next level. With the best multiplayer shooting that money can buy, an incredibly action-packed campaign and plenty of superb two-player co-op levels, this is without a doubt a real contender for game of the year.