(CNN) -- Given the extraordinary anticipation swirling around "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," the follow-up to the 13 million-unit-selling military shooter game from 2007, living up to the hype might seem like an impossible mission.
But Infinity Ward, the savvy developers responsible for this explosive sequel, have delivered the goods -- and then some.
Now available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, "Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" ($59.99; modernwarfare2.com; rated "Mature") once again drops players into a war-torn future as part of an elite multinational squadron.
The story continues five years after the events of the last game. You now slip into the boots of Sergeant Gary "Roach" Sanderson, plus you'll also play as other characters throughout this campaign.
Your goal is to hunt down and take out Russian terrorist Vladimir Makarov and dismantle his devoted cells peppered throughout the globe. Your close-combat skirmishes will take place everywhere from desert towns of Afghanistan to the snow-capped mountains of Kazakhstan to the gritty streets of Rio de Janeiro to Washington, D.C., under attack by Russian forces.
A controversial (and optional) scene, and one that leaked to the media a few weeks back, involves a terrorist attack on an airport (and the killing of civilians) -- a scene in which you're working undercover as one of the Russian nationalists.
As with its predecessor, the game is played from an immersive first-person perspective, as you peer down the scope of your weapon to peg off baddies. And there's no shortage of horsepower at your fingertips, be it machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, grenades, mines and the awesome, earth-shattering Predator missile.
With bullets whizzing by your ears, you'll ride snowmobiles, shoot down choppers and of course, indulge in intense multiplayer matches.
While the campaign is a relatively short six- to eight-hour adventure, most gamers are buying "Modern Warfare 2" for its multiplayer offerings, including a new cooperative ("co-op") mode called Spec-Ops, with its series of varied mission types.
The game also includes a host of online competitive modes (for up to 18 players), including mainstays such as Deathmatch (everyone out for themselves), Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and others, spread across 16 unique maps.
Due to the realistic portrayal of modern military violence, this game is certainly not for everyone. But its intriguing story, outstanding production values (including near-photorealistic imagery, an excellent musical score and voice talent), and most importantly, thrilling first-person gameplay, all translate to one of the most memorable pieces of interactive entertainment of the year.