Good old fashioned modern warfare… minus WWII
The Call of Duty franchise has always been at the forefront of FPSes. The series has revamped and vastly improved the WWII shooter gameplay that was becoming stagnant when Call of Duty arrived on the scene.
However, there is only so much that anyone can do with the overfilled WWII shooter genre, so Activision and Infinity Ward wisely chose to set the next Call of Duty in the modern age, opening up many new possibilities for gameplay and infusing a freshness in the series that other WWII shooters need. The result is nothing less than stellar; Call of Duty 4 is currently one of the best shooters on the market and quite possibly a frontrunner for FPS of the year if they can edge out a certain helmeted Spartan.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare takes the CoD series and places it firmly into modern times. You get the opportunity to play as three different individuals as you attempt to save the world from the threat of Middle Eastern militants that have allied with Russians. The game bounces you between the three protagonists to show you the whole story, and even sometimes briefly places you in the shoes of other individuals to enhance the storytelling experience. A couple of these sequences, where you merely view the proceedings and don’t engage in combat, were particularly exhilarating and really evinced the ugly truth of war to me. It is difficult to explain without a spoiler, but some of these sequences make you examine your own mortality in a way that few videogames, with infinite lives and the ability to continue, have done before. Each stage is preceded by military satellite program that tells you whom you’re playing as, although many players won’t pay attention and will probably assume that they are playing as the same person…until, at least a crucial story element occurs. The storyline in CoD4 is well done and is generally better implemented than the average FPS, as the tale is given to the player but not forced down their throats. Of course, the majority of gamers aren’t going to pay much attention to the storyline anyway, and as with most FPS games, it isn’t essential to understand what is happening to enjoy the game, although it can enrich the experience.
In each scenario, you will play as part of a team, although your team size will vary. There will be occasions where it is only you and another team member and there will be times where you are part of a platoon. Each stage gives you objectives that are altered on the fly as circumstances change. You are a member of the team, so you’ll be taking orders throughout the game, although you do have a limited amount of freedom in how to do so, since the stages mostly seem to be fairly open. You won’t be shoehorned into a specific route, as you can make your way through multiple buildings or wide open spaces to get to your objectives. A compass on your HUD displays the location of your goal, and your team is constantly barking updates, telling you where to find enemies and what you should be doing, should you get lost. This system works surprisingly well too. Your teammates will yell out the location of snipers and enemies, telling you where they’re located. Sometimes they’ll cry out “To the south”, so that you’ll only have to check your compass and fire in that direction, and sometimes they’ll use the “o’clock” method, but as long as you haven’t wandered off, it is easy to find what your allies are pointing you towards.
You’ll also find yourself completing objectives beyond simple squad based combat. Your character may be manning a helicopter turret, rushing to rescue the pilot of a downed aircraft before enemies converge on their position, or carrying an injured commanding officer to safety, pausing at times to place him in strategic locations. There is such a wide variety of weapons and scenarios that you never feel as if you are trudging through a mission just to get to the next checkpoint, since nearly every moment of the game is intense in its own way.
Visually, Call of Duty 4 looks incredible. The environments and character models are all impressive, and there is a real sense of presence to everything. However, as good as the environment and people look, there are a few flaws. The objects lack interactivity with the player and his allies, so there isn’t a great deal of destructibility despite the fact that you can fire through thin enough walls and obstacles. Water is nearly unaffected by any passage through it, so don’t expect to see any realistic splashing when your party rushes through a small stream. Also, if you stay strained on a certain area, killing foes as they approach, you’ll notice the same animations, such as a rushed crouch behind an obstacle. Also, there are moments where it is really difficult to tell whether the person in your sights is a friend or foe. Night vision goggles segments can be really conducive to friendly fire. While the game does color your reticule to distinguish between friend and foe and a name icon pops up whenever your reticule rests over an ally, these aids don’t translate over to certain weapons when you character has to use the weapon’s sight to aim or the character you’re targeting is a distance away. At close range, you can’t even fire at allies, since the game disables the ability whenever the ally’s name is displayed, but at longer distances, you might find yourself crippling members of your team. However, these are minor complaints and are barely noticeable amid the frenetic gameplay and otherwise great visuals.
The sound effects in Call of Duty 4 are stellar. The voice acting from the various soldiers and enemies are all realistically portrayed, with teammates working in unison to yell out enemy locations and possible dangers. While in some games it is easy (and almost necessary) to ignore the background chatter of your allies, it would be in your best interests to listen to your comrades in CoD4. The only problem is that they are a little heavy on the military speak, which is understandable considering the game’s setting, but the jargon can get a little thick for those that are uninitiated.
There are also times that, when you aren’t doing what is expected of you or you find yourself stuck, your allies will loop or repeat themselves. It isn’t a really noticeable thing in other games, but CoD4 is so immersive otherwise that any minor flaw seems to stick out. The weapon’s fire and other sound effects all seem nearly flawless, with reports having the appropriate level of volume depending on distance. The visual and sound effects for stun grenades are so well done that they nearly dizzies the player.
Overall, the single player campaign is an intense, incredible experience, but it is short. To enhance the game’s replay, Infinity Ward has included hidden Intel pieces in the game that, when found, unlock in-game single player cheats such as the ability to slow down the game temporarily, turn the game’s colors black and white, or get infinite ammo. After finishing the game, the player also has access to an arcade mode, in which you try to get through the game or a single level with a limited amount of lives for the chance to get the high score. Finally, and most anticipated, Call of Duty 4 comes with innovative and incredibly fun multiplayer.
The multiplayer consists of sixteen different maps with modes that include the traditional deathmatch, team deathmatch, and free-for-all. Other game modes include Domination, in which players fight to secure objective points, Sabotage, in which players must plant bombs by an enemy objective, and Search and Destroy, in which one team defends an objective while the other team attacks. The multiplayer is set up for fast, frenzied gameplay, with wide open maps that have multiple methods of ingress for most areas. There aren’t a lot of places in any of the maps that are conducive to camping, which forces most players to stay on the run to survive. Also, whenever you are killed, you are shown your death from the enemy’s point of view. This is a cool feature, which lets you know who killed you and how, but it also reveals hiding spots and other player’s strategies. The savvy player will watch the killcam replay and seek out their killer’s hiding spot, which is a point of controversy, although the killcam can be turned off in private matches. Ultimately, the best strategy in multiplayer is to keep moving at all times and keep a pair of eyes in the back of your head.
Overall, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is an intense gaming experience from start to finish. The story is conveyed much better than the average FPS, the gameplay is varied enough to stay fresh, the graphics and sound both deliver, and the multiplayer is addictive. If Call of Duty 4 can attract enough fanboys away from Halo 3 to experience it, we may have a new contender for FPS of the year. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare proves that you don’t have to have Spartan superwarriors, wrenches, portals, or sci-fi to create a great shooter game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.7 Graphics
Incredible visuals that immerse you in the battle. 4.8 Control
Top notch voice acting and soundtrack. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Top notch voice acting and soundtrack. 4.7 Play Value
With innovative multiplayer, you have a reason to keep going back to the game. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.