Towards the end of last month, someone leaked eight minutes of Modern Warfare 2 campaign footage onto YouTube. As I'm sure was the case with many of you, I was immediately torn between the desire to satisfy my curiosity, and the knowledge that what I'd be watching would be both low in quality and packed full of spoilers. In the end I mustered enough willpower to steer clear of the video, and I'm now glad that I did: last week Activision and Infinity Ward allowed me to see the same level, "Takedown", demoed live in HD, and it was certainly worth the wait.
This episode takes place in Rio de Janeiro, on Day 4 of MW2's storyline. There's still plenty of mystery surrounding the exploits of "Soap" MacTavish and Gary "Roach" Sanderson (no word yet on whether Peter "Tucker" Jenkins will make an appearance), but by this point in the plot it seems that the gang are hot on the trail of a drug dealer named Rojas. At the start of the mission Roach and the other members of Task Force 141 are watching over a couple of Rio cops as they attempt to arrest a man named Faust - a subordinate to Rojas. Roach is keeping an eye on proceedings from the passenger seat of a nearby car, but it soon turns out that he won't be doing much sitting around today.
The two cops approach Faust as he leaves a building. Almost immediately he whips out a handgun and blows their faces through the back of their heads; seconds later another hail of bullets takes out the driver sitting next to Roach, leaving him slumped over the steering wheel. All hell breaks loose, but Roach is already out of the car with his weapon drawn. Captain Soap may sound like a brand of bubble bath, and Task Force 141 may sound like a failed boy band, but we know that these guys eat trouble for breakfast. It's a lesson that Rio's underworld is about to learn the hard way.
The first section of the level takes the form of a brief chase through the streets of Rio. Somewhat unusually for a CoD game, there's no direct combat here - although there's plenty of evidence of recent violence. As the player sprints after Faust we pass dozens of terrified civilians; most of them are screaming and cowering in fear; at least one of them lies dead in the road, having run into our quarry. Faust himself seems long gone, but as Roach rounds a corner we suddenly spot him climbing a flight of stairs. There are mere seconds before he'll escape, but that's long enough for a professional action hero to do his thing: Roach fires a few rounds into the fugitive's leg, and the screen fades to black.
When we fade back in, the action has jumped forward in time. Faust is tied to a chair and is about to be interrogated by Soap in true Jack Bauer style, with the aid of a car battery and some makeshift nipple clamps (well, a pair of jump leads). Soap sends Roach out into the favelas (slums) to look for Rojas with the help of two buddies - Meat and Royce. As the trio enter the shanty town, they fire into the air to scare away the local civilians; unfortunately this gunfire also attracts a the attention of Rojas' men, and a massive gunfight ensues. While the intensity of the action is pure Call of Duty, the gameplay here is given a slight twist due to the maze-like design of the map. Enemies seem to attack from all sides, and as Roach dashes from alley to alley it's easy to become disorientated - or at least it was for me, as a spectator.