- The ultra-nationalist Russian nuke-selling (and nuke-launching, don't forget that!) villains of the first game are now folk heroes in their country of origin.
- The CIA grotesquely flubs an undercover operation, playing right into the hands of a terrorist group (or the Russian government, it's not clear who's behind all this yet) and allowing them to portray a horrendous assault on Moscow's airport as an American-sponsored attack.
- Despite the utter absurdity of the notion that the United States would deliberately sponsor a terrorist attack on Russia, everyone in the world, the United Nations especially included, immediately takes the Russians' side.
- Days later the Russians launch a huge combined-arms invasion of the United States, thanks to having acquired a typical Hollywood computer macguffin that lets them slip past all early warning networks. Mounting such a colossal assault on the United States would require months if not years of obvious preparation -- look at how long it took to get Desert Storm II going -- which would surely also suggest that the "America is behind the terrorist attack" narrative is false, since the Russians just happened to be prepared to launch their retaliation on a moment's notice.
- Despite his colossal incompetence leading straight to World War III, the guy who was in charge of the flubbed operation keeps his job and is in fact put in charge of finding the proof that America wasn't behind the attack. (Which, as a side note, seems like a pointless exercise at this stage. Anyone willing to buy the Russian narrative despite #3 and #4 is surely not going to let their mind be changed by something as trivial as mere proof that it's not true.)
- Even though Washington, D.C. is in flames and Russian paratroopers are literally marching through suburban Virginia streets massacring civilians with the U.S. armed forces powerless to hold them back, the United States does not resort to nuclear weapons.
- In the process of trying to find the proof that America wasn't, etc., your commander -- again, the same guy whose dumbassery led to World War III -- has you go to enormous lengths to free enemy civilians who are being held hostage by enemy soldiers on an enemy anti-aircraft installation rather than just bombing the thing and moving on. I mean, I don't want to see hostages hurt any more than the next guy, but, uh, World War III, remember? Nonetheless you still have to go through with it. And that's where we stand at about halfway through the game.
So what do I think? My political views at this stage of my life could best be summed up as "bitter nationalist" so I'm finding most of those plot points depressingly plausible other than the magic turn-off-NORAD button. Aside from such quibbles, the storytelling is just as intense and over-the-top as the first game, though there hasn't quite been a twist like the nuclear bomb in COD4. At any rate, I'm definitely keen to see how it all turns out. The space mission from the launch trailer hasn't happened yet; my guess is that whoever's behind this whole scheme bought a ticket to hang out on the International Space Station and watch the world burn, and the final mission will take place there. But we'll see, I expect.
Oh, right, and the best surprise: Captain Price is back! Yay! Actually, he's the only character I remember from the first game, and that's mostly because of his awesome moustache. Check that action out, dawg:
Fig. 1. Dang!
As for the gameplay, it feels improved over COD4. Mainly, they've finally abandoned the clown-car spawning of the previous Call of Duty games where basically you were repeatedly throwing yourself at a wall of incoming lead fired by infinitely regenerating enemies until your bullet-riddled corpse managed to slide to rest far enough forward to advance the game. Instead, a limited number of guys will appear, and you can generally clear an area before proceeding. When it works out, you feel all satisfyingly tactical and badass. When it doesn't, it can admittedly be a bit frustrating, but at least retrying is quick.
There are lots of unusual or gimmicky gameplay moments, like climbing ledges with an ice pick, breaching doors to rescue hostages, or operating a Predator UAV. These do add welcome variety, but I can't help but suspect that they took a lot of development time and as a result the single-player campaign is going to be pretty short.
Once it's over with I suppose I'll try the multiplayer; I'll reluctantly admit to being curious about what this "Special Ops" co-op gameplay type is. But I fully expect that, since I didn't pick the game up at midnight and spent two days going through the single-player campaign, everyone else online will already be a million times better than me.