A game so wildly popular and well-known that we don't even have to explain what it is in the opening line for the Modern Warfare 2 Frankenreview.

so here we are. It's the next installment of Infinity Ward's s***. We could drone on and on about Modern Warfare 2's controversial terrorist level, or the fact that this could very well be the bestselling game of the year and possibly all-time. We could talk about robust multiplayer, the new cooperative missions, and the fact that Soap MacTavish is at least one of our writers' personal hero.

We won't do that, however. Instead, we give you the assembled game critics' responses to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Twice, Infinity Ward asks if you're absolutely sure you want to see it. The scene, the fourth you'll encounter in the most widely anticipated game of the year, could be "disturbing" or "offensive", repeats the warning. You smile and agree that, yes, you are sure you want to see it. This is a videogame. They give them 18 certificates, but only to appease people who don't really understand what's going on. Sure, the images of violence and bloodshed on Modern Warfare's battlefields can be disturbing to an onlooker, but death in a first-person shooter is a five-second setback, a micro-reincarnation designed to provide challenge and an impetus to improve, not distress.

Strategy Informer
Of course there will be a significant chunk of the audience that end up wondering what all the fuss was about; and for those of you of that persuasion, MW2's action beat and constant assault on the senses will prove the primary draw. It's here that Infinity Ward steps above and beyond criticism with superlative gunplay and a visual panache that – at times – borders on best-in-show. Enemies crumple realistically under fire, set-piece animation is integrated in an almost seamless fashion within the level design, and you'll be hard-pushed to spot a single respawning set of foes - which is about bloody time, even if early reports of nerfed veteran difficulty as a direct consequence are to be believed.

Thankfully many of the glaring issues from last time around have been fixed. You won't find unlimited enemy spawns in areas, there's always a waypoint icon on-screen showing you where to go or who to follow, and the amount of in-game chatter from your team is simply astounding. It isn't often in games that you'll hear your squad call out specific areas on the map and have it mean anything. When your friend shouts, "Two tangos behind the yellow station wagon!" you'll actually see two enemies behind a yellow station wagon. It's a pretty engaging experience. You'll still have random issues with friendly AI, specifically with blocking your movement or deciding to walk in front of you mid-firefight, but for the most part it's a better experience than the first Modern Warfare.

Game Informer
Modern Warfare 2's competitive multiplayer offering is the soul of iterative design. New ideas arise like third-person play and death streaks, but nothing substantially affects the core gameplay. On the other hand, the tweaks are almost uniformly great. Weapon-specific unlocks, cosmetic titles and callsigns, and upgraded "pro" perks contribute to a dramatic increase in the depth and breadth of persistent progression. The strategic variance of each map invites hours of study and experimentation. Included due to the mountain of feedback, the playlists (preset rotations of maps and modes for groups to play through) offer delightful bouquets of varied-yet-similar gametypes for all tastes.

The game's new mode is Special Ops which can be played solo or in co-op, both local and online. It's unlocked by completing the campaign mode, and is essentially a series of mini-missions; their design is similar to the epilogue mission in COD4's campaign mode, "Mile High Club". They're divided into four groups – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta – and are based on sections within the campaign's levels. They include scenarios such as defending a raised platform in a snow-covered shipyard, racing snowmobiles across tundra and taking out guerrillas in a favela in Rio de Janeiro while avoiding civilian casualties. A couple of fan-favourites from COD4 are also included, such as the chilling Death From Above mission in AC-130 Spectre Gunship. Special Ops range from one to three stars in their level of difficulty, and players can use the stars they earn to unlock more challenges. There are 23 missions in all, and a lot of them are highly addictive; the temptation to better one's time in the snowmobile race is particularly compelling.

Modern Warfare 2 may not innovate or raise the bar as impressively as Call of Duty 4 did in order to grant it automatic game of the year consideration. The better praise it may deserve is that it's likely the game that many will be playing well into next year.

Anyone surprised?