Tuesday, 10 November 2009

[262] Modern Warfare 2 London Launch Report

"So who is in this film?" asks a beautifully accented girl, as I turn from snapping a photo of the impressive premiere-style spread across the Vue West End foyer for Modern Warfare 2. Her sweet, rising intonation was not misplaced. Indeed, if she had been in Leicester Square a mere week earlier, she could have spotted Jim Carrey, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins. I had to burst her bubble. "No. It's not a film, it's a video game."

"A video game!" - a mere hour later, in Screen 5, Vernon Kay booms out charisma by the decibel, positioned in front of a cinema screen cycling through trailers and gameplay footage.

Who'd have guessed? All this for a video game. But it's not just any video game. It's Modern Warfare 2. Sequel to the preposterously successful realignment of the Call Of Duty series. The kind of game that can set an above-average RRP, strip the PC version of all its quirks (and alienate hundreds of thousands of fans in the process), and even court controversy with leaked details before release, yet still remain an untroubled, undisputed blockbuster.

It's Activision's money-spinner - the kind of self-sustaining cultural monster that just prints the stuff. And it warrants this - nothing less than the best that early evening ITV, or Sunday morning radio, can offer, backed by glitz, if not glamour.

But Vernon loves it, and does a great job whipping up the crowd, giving shout outs to audience members, and CoD voice talent, Billy Murray ("Great in Caddyshack!") and Kevin McKidd ("Tommy in Trainspotting!") - just part of a guest list that boasts Dexter Fletcher, Jamelia and That Guy From T4.

Before long, we got to the 'good stuff'. A quick interview with Infinity Ward animator Chance Glasco (on the multiplayer: "We expanded it, and injected it with steroids... Okay, we injected it with heroin!'", a playthrough of the first level ("He's playing on easy!" Vernon jeers), and a visceral, hyperbolic featurette that mines the term 'blow you away' for all it's got.

Afterwards, a treat. A six vs six team deathmatch game open to members of the audience (part celeb, part PR/Media, part 'true gamer'). Glasco would captain one team, and the other would be helmed by Dom Joly - whose first teammate choice was Goldie. Throughout the match, Joly drops in cheeky comments: "What country are we in? Is this Belgium? I'm taking Brussels. There's Jacques Brel on the rooftop!", but Glasco prevails in the end.

A swift conclusion from Kay and it's all over. We're booted out into chilly November night, with any trace of the camo-carpet wiped clean from the City of Westminster paving slabs.

A few scant Modern Warfare fanatics had already started queuing at HMV Trocadero, but a handful of journos, Important People, and hipsters with funny hair were off to a secret underground bunker (actually a Student Union club in disguise) to drink free booze, and whittle away the 180 minutes until launch time.

Attendants dressed in strangely flattering khakis were on hand with cocktails and boxes of vegetable stir fry 'rations' to make the journey smoother. And, at midnight, who turns up but Dizzee Rascal, a musical force that should be weaponised, if the ringing ears and mild cases of tinnitus are to be believed. "This game, man, is serious, serious!" he intones, before launching into his current blend of Balearic hip-hop.

Of course it is. It's Modern Warfare 2. The Holst of head-shots! It layers its seriousness, its drama, its tension, on thick. And its 'epic' promotional events chimed perfectly.

Modern Warfare 2
is out now.

Article originally published at Den of Geek here. More photographs here.

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