In 2009 I was 12 years old. It was a weird time for me. I had convinced myself I was too old to be playing with toys, but was too young to be independent. I'll never forget that day in Gamestop. I stood there looking at the massive wall of games, pretending to be unsure of which one I wanted, knowing exactly why I was there. After about five minutes of browsing, I handed my dad the newest addition to the Call of Duty franchise. Upon realizing the games' rating, my father paused for a brief moment, made me promise to not tell my mother, and we walked up to the counter. The kid who would've called Super Smash Bros. Melee the extent of violent games he's played, was about to play his first FPS game.
Modern Warefare 2 was the 6th installment of the games' series. It had some tough shoes to fill, following the original Modern Warfare and World at War. The game came with 3 different modes: Campaign, Spec Ops, and Multiplayer. The campaign had you part of a "Special Ops" team that goes on various dangerous undercover missions around the globe. Going back and playing through in 2022 felt a little different, as I was playing it on my high end PC rather than on console. Surprisingly, the storyline and character POV's didn't feel too corny. On top of that, I never felt bored or that something was too repetitive. With each level set in so many various locations, it helped to keep things fresh. Whether you were using ice picks to climb up the side of a snowy mountain in Kazakhstan or fighting back home in the suburbs of the United States, the game took you on a journey through many aspects of the war. Spec Ops was essentially individual levels similar to Campaign where you could play solo or with a friend in co-op. This was especially fun to play split screen when having friends over. While Campaign and Spec Ops were thrilling, we can't talk about this game without talking about Multiplayer. If MW2 helped define this era of gaming, it was because Multiplayer defined MW2.
Like most Call of Duty games, Multiplayer is what made this game. I'm not just talking about online. The now, dying art, of playing split screen with three other friends was hours of fun. Challenging a friend (or enemy for that matter) to a 1v1 Rust match was a moment so many of us can recall. Even with the games many flaws, such as ridiculously over powered "noob tubes" (grenade launcher) and heartbeat sensor attachments, we still chose this game over others. The community had its fair share of toxic players. As soon as a match would end, nine out of ten times it would be instantly met with the entire opposing team screaming at you or you hearing them scream at each other. For many, this was the first experience they had using in game voice chat. Voice chat was good for communicating with teammates in intense game modes, such as search and destroy. Most of the time though, it was used for people to trash talk you, to say the least. In these lobbies we had a whole sub community of "Quick Scopers", as they were called. People who used the Intervention Sniper to perform various "trick shots" that would appear in the game ending kill cam. Looking back, this was ahead of it's time. For many, this game was the inspiration for creating "epic" trick shot montages.
The summer that MW2 came out I barely went outside. I spent most of my day inside with the blinds up, trying to grind to 10th prestige with friends. Do I regret how I used this time? In short, no. I understand why I enjoyed the game so much, games give us a sense of instant satisfaction. That instant satisfaction is something that, especially when you're young, can be hard to find a balance with. Playing this game was one of the earliest memories I have of being truly obsessed with something. It was a way to connect with friends who I couldn't see very often, and was more stimulating than just a phone call. Nostalgia is a driving force of why I remember this game so fondly, we easily connect these games with simpler times in our lives. Seeing these games or going back and playing them, gives us a sense of that feeling again. Maybe seeing an old trick shot montage reminds you of an old friend you don't talk to anymore.
I think if MW2 came out today, I would find the game to be pretty average. I would probably spend most of my time watching analysis videos on why the game needs to be patched and what guns are broken. My friends and I wouldn't play it on and off for a decade, we would give it about 2 weeks then move on to something better. This game was far from perfect, it's as if the developers sprinkled in some terrible mechanics, to play a joke on all of us. However, in this era of FPS games, MW2 was everything it needed to be, a game that brought so many of us together.