Critical Play: Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2 honestly may have been the center of my life when I was about 12 years old. Whenever I was allowed to (which wasn’t all that often) it was all I did with my friends, all I’d do with my brother, and if I could find where my Mom had hid it on school nights, I would even sometimes secretly play it late at night. In hindsight, one of the things that made MW2 so remarkable was how engaging it could be at all levels. And this ‘balance’ that was fostered in the game from the first time you played, to many times prestiged was certainly note-worthy. 

Right off the bat, there was an incredibly interesting balance of strategies that a user could employ. When you’re at a relatively low level, it can be very difficult to have the proper coordination to accurately shoot the guns at moving opponents. But by having a grenade launcher (which obviously requires less accuracy to be effective) new players were quickly able to have fun running around the map and making the occasional haphazard kill. Even this strategy itself was balanced, because while the ‘noob tube’ (as it was called) was awesome, it only came with a few grenades you could shoot, so theoretically it was hard to completely dominate the game with it. 

Interestingly, the balance of game objects in MW2 could actually be considered to be lopsided. Many of the best guns you can play with are not available until you reach a higher level. So many times you lose to players using guns with better fire rates and higher damage. Being objective here, you could actually argue this was a poor balance of game objects as it certainly made it more difficult for newcomers to be competitive with higher leveled players. Although I believe this was done with different incentives and game mechanics in ming (encouraging play to attain XP and get better guns etc). 

Clearly, MW2 is an asymmetric game. Different players have different levels, hence different access to guns, and even different preferences for weapons and strategies for using them. Some prefer to snipe and others prefer to run around with a knife. Ultimately however this vast asymmetry was actually a major driver of keeping the game fresh and novel. It adds just the right amount of spice to the game, to keep experimenting and really just having fun. 

All taken together, Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare 2 was a brief pillarstone of my childhood, and understanding game balance certainly helps me understand how all of my friends became so engrossed together, and why it stayed engaging for so long (or at least  long enough until the next Call of Duty game came out). 


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