THERE'S A MISSION in Modern Warfare 2, maybe two hours into the single-player campaign, that has already achieved a great deal of infamy. I won't spoil the plot, but it involves an airport and a lot of dead bodies, and not only do you witness the event, you actively take part in the slaughter.

As a result of this scene, the government of Russia has moved to ban the game, but I think this single mission demonstrates MW2's greatest accomplishment: For all its gorgeous graphics and the improvements developer Infinity Ward made to the already phenomenal multiplayer component of the first Modern Warfare, the game deserves the most praise for instilling an emotional response in all but the most heartless of players.

I could go on and on about how the game is a masterwork of graphical and aural design: Everything, down to the tread on your character's gloves, is rendered in exacting detail, and the report from each of the game's weapons is spot on, at least according to a friend of mine who spends his days as a military sharpshooter. Even the voice acting, long the bane of realistic games, is as good as any animated feature coming out of Hollywood these days. But then, we all expected that stuff from the sequel to the most beloved shooter this side of Halo, didn't we? What we didn't expect was that all of that brilliance would only serve as window dressing for a game that, if not a solid argument for the "games as art" argument, at least proves that these pixelated shooters can be as enthralling as Clint Eastwood's next war flick.

That said, Modern Warfare 2 isn't for everyone. Think of it like Saving Private Ryan: You probably wouldn't want toddlers witnessing soldiers cut down by Nazi machine guns as they storm Normandy, but the movie is still a classic. The same can be said of Modern Warfare 2—if you can stomach realistic combat in all its gritty, bloody, chaotic glory, this is one shooter you should not miss.