(Warning: Total game spoilers ahead)
So Modern Warfare 2 is finally out, with sales through the roof after the inevitable controversy over its questionable content.
For those who don't pay attention to such things, MW2 is the cutting edge in big studio games console whizzbang. Overall, it's basically a deranged episode of 24: Jack Bauer's Disembowelment Splatterfest Christmas Special at its wingnuttiest, featuring some of the most equisitely rendered war porn I've ever witnessed.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was an astonishing game, mixing intense action and set pieces with some moments of genuine pathos. Walking through the swimming baths in a deserted Pripyat to the echo of long-departed children's laughter was spine-tingling, the city itself truly haunting. The game was, as they say, all killer and no filler, tightly-plotted, tense and relentless right up to the blockbuster finale - think Die Hard and Black Hawk Down doing tequila slammers while watching The Matrix on an IMax screen.
MW2, on the other hand, ditches all that wussy tension and plot stuff, and just turns the explosions up to eleven. It's Red Dawn joyfully skullfucking 300 during the opening sequence of Apocalypse Now, with Slipknot handling the tunes.
Charlie Brooker has called it The Citizen Kane of repeatedly shooting people in the face, and it certainly is - an astonishingly brutal and exhiliarating non-stop action extravanza, guaranteed to bring joy to the hearts of teenage boys and thirtysomething office drones with hardware fetishes, and to offend absolutely everyone else.
To be clear, MW2 isn't doing anything new or wildly clever. It's just a very, very flash first person shooter, not so much reinventing the wheel as packing the wheel with high explosives and firing it into an oil refinery. From space.
And yes, it does feature a level where you play a terrorist and can shoot lots of civilians. You also get to shoot Afghan militiamen, Brazilian gangbangers, Russian paratroopers (during a Russian invasion of the United States, for Christ's sake) and, when it turns out your commanding officer isn't necessarily fighting for truth and justice, lots and lots of American special forces. At one point, one of the heroes detonates a nuclear missile over Washington DC. Like I say, there's something in there to offend everyone.
In the end, the terrorist massacre is another big, dumb, flashy attempt at gravitas in a big, dumb, flashy action spectacular that rocks like a thermonuclear hurricane and will make about a zillion dollars.
P.S. Haven't had a chance to play the multiplayer enough to tell you whether MW2 is better package than Uncharted 2, my choice for game of the year so far.