Modern Warfare 2 is a Japanese RPG

Or maybe it’s an MMO. Either way, who knew? (Probably a lot of people, but not me)

I mention jRPGs because right now, I am in the thick of “leveling up” my weapons and all I could think of was Disgaea. In Disgaea, items are actually places you can “enter” and by progressing through the levels of the item, you actually make it stronger. You can also increase its attributes by taking out certain monsters (both specialists and bosses). In Modern Warfare 2, every weapon has a set number of challenges that systematically increase the “power” of your weapon. You can unlock things like sights, camouflage, and stronger ammo. It’s addictive, just like Disgaea was.

The beautiful thing about MW2‘s system is that, as far as I can tell, the improvements are small enough that they don’t knock the balance of the game out of whack. While I may have unlocked the thermal scope, heart monitor and grenade attachment, I am limited to using two (after unlocking another perk) attachments. It works perfectly. And even if I do happen to fully upgrade/unlock my current weapon of choice (A SCAR-H) I will probably move on to another weapon to continue the process.

Therein lies the hook. Raph Koster definitely had it right in his book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design. I know it’s is more complex than this but it it turns out that our brains are wired to enjoy doing repetitive things that we perceive as being fun. The designers at Infinity Ward have honed this to a razor’s edge. It’s like they looked inside my brain and tailored Modern Warfare 2 to pretty much inject fun directly into my brain.

I am a simple man who has simple (gaming) needs. I was actually going to discuss these things in conjunction with Torchlight and Borderlands, but this is just as good a time to talk about it as ever. I only need a few things in my games. I need to see little numbers popping up off the bad guys (multicolored numbers, if you are really trying), I need lots of things to unlock and I’ll take some leveling up (the more the better). Take all those simple things and throw in a robust statistic tracking system and I am in heaven. I haven’t played a ton of jRPGs, but I have played a ton of MMORPGs. Both of those game scratch that numeric itch.

So while it has its flaws, Modern Warfare 2 is almost the perfect game for me. It has these simple things I like, in spades. To recap: I need: Stats (check), Little Numbers (not quite what I want, but I’ll let it slide), constant progression (Leveling up (check)), and Unlocking (that’s a gigantic CHECK).

So I think I have a new favorite FPS on the 360. Halo 3 has been unseated and I’m not sure it (or Halo: Reach) can regain the throne. I don’t know how much I really believe this, even as I’m typing it, but if Halo: Reach doesn’t incorporate some these mechanics, I don’t know how much it will grip me.


  1. I don’t think it’s the idea of doing repetitive things that are fun as much as it’s getting a little reward for doing so. Games such as this one, Torchlight, Borderlands, and Dawn of War II come to mind.

    It’s like training a mouse with cheese. The next time the “hook” comes around, we’ll buy it–probably even without question.

    Then there are games like Arkham Asylum and Assassin’s Creed that we play because it’s just cool to be all bad.

    • Absolutely, the reward needs to be there. I knew I oversimplified when I left that little bit of information out! I’ve actually come across another post that looks at this repetition/reward topic.

  2. I think I’m one of the few people who still plays a CoD game for the single-player campaign and boy, was this ever a disappointment. It felt utterly empty and hollow. Sigh.

    I did fire up the SpecOps stuff and enjoyed it a lot more than the SP side of things, if only because everything was devoid of context and the thrills were immediate. I can get behind games like this if there is nothing else on my plate but that plate is always full.

    I will say that the inclusion of the levels, XP and perks at least piqued my interest back in the days of CoD4. Before then, I’d monkey around a bit here and there with the MP side of a shooter but never bothered with them. But give me a chance to improve my character and unlock stuff and I’ll at least give it a shot.

    • I’d love to give some to the SpecOps a try on Live if you have it for the 360. I’ve heard it’s the best part of the game.

      In MP there are too many chances to improve your character. Perks, weapon upgrades and hundreds of other unlockables will keep you busy for a long time. Especially if you’re a completist.

      • I just rented it for PS3 and after my 5 hours of play, took it back. I can appreciate why the MP side of things is addictive but I can go grind in Borderlands and feel like I’ve got a story to string that XP along.

  3. well go on live with me x BenSz

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