Head-to-head: Classic vs. Modern – Call of Duty vs. Modern Warfare 2

This is the first post in a long and glorious series (I hope) covering classic gaming titles and their modern counterparts, looking into which game at the time of release had more of an impact, which one was more enjoyable and which one I’d just love to be able to play from fresh all over again.

Now before I get started I need to make an important point. This isn’t a comparison between an old game and a new game, this is a comparison of the old game when it was first released compared to the new game on release. I’ll be looking into the quality of the sound and graphics for the time, not as a direct comparison.

The original Call of Duty was launched back in 2003 in response to the success of titles such as Medal of Honour and Battlefield: 1942, and was met with huge critical acclaim. The feeling of comradeship you held for your fellow squad mates, the tinge of fear that struck when caught in an ambush and the sheer feeling of exposure or vulnerability was something that I hadn’t felt in a game before. The first mission I played was from the demo, taken from the 2nd mission in the game, and is a great example of the set piece battles that the series is now famous for. Waking up on the streets of St. Mere Eglise following last night’s drop on Normandy, you’re greeted with machine gun fire as a Panzer bursts through the wall across the street. “Wake it, shake it, the German’s are bringing you coffee!” is the only warning you get before enemy Paratroopers start swarming over your position. What follows is frantic dash to your MG in a destroyed Church to repulse the first attack, jinking from cover to cover to get some Bazooka fire onto the tank and working with your terrified squadmates to hold onto the town. It’s non-stop action throughout the American missions, focussing on the 101st Airborne’s assault on Normandy, and keeps you riveted to your screen throughout.

Now the real beauty of the game is how Activision let you play three interlinked campaigns throughout the game, a far cry from the one track story line of Medal of Honour, and something that has stuck throughout the Call of Duty series since. If you love the way Modern Warfare jumps between characters and storylines then you have the original COD to thank. The opportunity to fight as the 101st Airborne, as a Russian conscript (starting without a weapon and having to scavenge from your fallen comrades) and the British Airborne assaulting Pegasus Bridge is too good to miss. Mixing in true to history events (such as fore mentioned Pegasus bridge, as well as Stalingrad, St. Mere Eglise, etc) alongside the usual battle scenes is incredible, and truly make this one of the games that I have enjoyed more than any other. Couple this with a fantastic multiplayer and you have a title that is deserving to be the grandfather of Modern Warfare 2. But, is it any better?

I picked up Modern Warfare 2 on the day of launch, which is great indicator for how much I was looking forward to it. Until World at War (I loved that game..) I’d found the Call of Duty titles had become stale. The original was fantastic, as was the expansion United Offensive (focussing on the Ardennes campaign, for the Americas at least), yet things went downhill for 2 and 3. The Modern Warfare series reignited my interest in Call of Duty, so Modern Warfare 2 was probably one of the most anticipated games for many years.  Needless to say, the final product lived up to the hype.

So, what had an impact on me? The single player game was superb, with believable characters, well crafted set-pieces, accurately modelled weapons, explosions, changes of scenery, incredibly addictive co-op play, and some pretty good multiplayer (I personally don’t enjoy the frantic MW2 multiplayer and find games such as Battlefield Bad Company 2′s multiplayer far more satisfying).  There were a few moments in the game that really stood out, namely the ice climbing and final riverside scene, so it’s something that has a very good replay value. Yet it’s in the Co-op mode that I really enjoyed myself, particularly when defending an objective from attack or stealthing it behind enemy lines with support from a Spectre gunship. Great fun, and incredibly addictive.

However, in writing this review I’ve been struck by something regarding MW2. Whilst in COD I can remember several battles, moments, set pieces or even lines from the characters (“Wake it, shake it!”, a line I still use today..), with MW2 I’m struggling to remember just a few, and I played the game only this year.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the game isn’t incredible, but aside from the final scene on the river bank I find it slightly less memorable.  It didn’t have such a huge impact on my as COD did, which I think is the measure of a game.. Yes, you can argue that tastes were simpler back in 2003 and it’s without doubt that MW2 is the better game by today’s standards, but COD was so memorable in comparison to the other FPSs of the time that I’m forced to come to the following conclusion:

Call of Duty vs. Modern Warfare 2

The winner, due to the memorability of the single player and impact it had on the Call of Duty franchise:

Call of Duty!

Now, I know I will have annoyed a few people with this conclusion, and it’s difficult to see how MW2 didn’t win, but for me, at the launch of COD back in 2003 there really wasn’t anything any better.

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