The setting for this battle was a huge, isolated house surrounded by hills. As with all the Spec Ops levels, the player starts the mission with a prescribed weapon load-out, but thankfully there’s a good selection of alternative weapons nearby. In fact, that’s a massive understatement: there’s a blanket covered with boomsticks on the floor in the front room, and nearby there’s a sort of terrorist’s larder with an entire wall full of things to murder people with. The guy demonstrating this level was playing alone (you can do this with any spec op mission), so he immediately started laying claymores in the mansion’s many doorways. The stage was set for an epic battle, and what followed did not disappoint.
Some 30 seconds after the stage began, gunmen started bearing down on the house. My demonstrator was clearly well-versed in the level’s best hiding spots, but since the enemy generation is different each time you play, even he wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. He’d run to one end of the house, trading bullets with baddies across open-plan rooms, then dash back to the entrances to deploy more mines. Amid all the carnage I took a moment to appreciate the detail in the level design, the abundance of objects that brought the environment to life. The house itself was filled with domestic clutter – at one point the player took refuge behind a stack of printer paper – and these decorations really helped to make the house feel like a lived-in place (and subsequently, a died-in place).
A short while into the mission, something unexpected occurred. To the sound of a sinister drum beat, a new enemy type showed up – the Juggernaut. This guy is a ridiculously tough nasty who wears thick, padded armour; as a result, he can take a metric tonne of punishment before he’ll finally lie down to die. Dealing with the Juggernaut looks to be a major challenge. At one point the demonstrator hammered a ‘naut with rounds from the lethal Barrett .50cal sniper rifle, and even here it took four or five shots to drop him. During another confrontation the player resorted to a combination of flashbangs and close-range shotgun blasts to get the job done. You can get four or five Juggernauts in one of these maps, and sometimes you may need to face more than one at once.
As is probably clear by now, the whole level was an incredibly tense affair. Despite the obvious skill of the person walking me through the action, there were several intervals where it looked like he wouldn’t make it. There were plenty of surprises, too: in addition to the appearance of the Juggernaut, there was a great moment when the player left the house and moved out into the surrounding hills. Almost immediately I caught a glimpse of a flash in the treeline. It took me a moment to realise that it was a sniper, and that the flash was sunlight hitting the lens of his scope.
One of the great things about Modern Warfare 2 is that there’s an awful lot to look forward to. We already know that the multiplayer is looking superb, and none of us can wait to get our teeth into the main campaign, but after playing Spec Ops I have no doubt that this part of the game is going to be just as sublime. Infinity Ward has mastered the art of satisfying gunplay, and when you marry that to all the good stuff that accompanies co-op play – the competition, the strategy, the sheer buzz of rescuing your fallen comrade – well, then you have something truly special. And hey, it even works brilliantly when played in offline split-screen - good news for gamers without an internet connection.
As it happens, Special Ops wasn’t all that was on display at this week’s showcase event. I was also lucky enough to get a look at one of the campaign levels – but rather than rushing through that now, we’re going to give this material its own article. If you’re hungry for more details Modern Warfare 2 (and I suspect that quite a few of you are), then keep an eye out for another preview early next week.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is scheduled for release on November 10.