Review by MattVSin
Infinity Ward brings Call of Duty into the present and our hearts
Ever since the first game the Call of Duty series has been synonymous with WWII. This best selling FPS series has taken us along the beach of Normandy and into the heart of the Allies' battle with Nazi Germany for several years. Unfortunately, the success of the Call of Duty franchise has brought on a slew of WWII FPS that have flooded the market. It feels as if another WWII shooter comes out every week. Thankfully, Infinity Ward saw this and decided to make a change.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has brought the series into, as the title suggests, modern times. Gone are the Nazis and bombed out European cities. Now we face enemies that are more representative of the time we live in, terrorists. Specifically in this games are Russian Ultranationalist Party members and Middle Eastern terrorists that look to free themselves from the oppression of "The Western World". Battling in the Middle East and several parts in central Russia, you play as a United States Marine Corp soldier and a British SAS member. It's your job to stop these terrorists from destroying the world. Can you step up?
The Call of Duty series has always been about rewarding players for using the sights on their weapons. Nothing changes here. Using a variety of modern weaponry including some classics (AK-47!), players have the ability to pick up any weapon that they find including their enemy's. The game starts off with a brief tutorial to help get you accustomed to the controls which remain virtually the same as the previous instalments. From there you'll change between your British SAS soldier ("Soap" MacTavish) and your USMC soldier (Sgt. Paul Jackson). The single-player of COD4 will take around 5-6 hours to complete and while it's on the short side its one hell of a ride.
Enemies are smarter now than they've ever been in the series. They react to increased activity, duck behind cover, toss grenades, you smoke grenades to hide their movement, and respond to your movements. You want to charge at them in the hopes of a surprise attack? Don't bother. You'll be dropped before you even reach them. Their use of their surroundings and equipment is amazing. Another addition to their arsenal is dogs. These K9s are not man's best friend here. They run at you with lightning quick agility and jump on your throat. When this happens you have about 1-2 seconds to hit the correct button to knock them off. If you fail then the dogs are rewarded with your jugular.
With all these enemies and dangers ready to take you out you better hope you have some half-decent backup. Don't worry, you do. The allied AI is among the very best I've seen. They duck behind cover, toss grenades and flashbangs, cover each other when reloading, and are the reason you remain alive some times. There are no commands that you can issue to your fellow officers, however, that's probably for the better as they generally perform so well that any command you issued would probably do more harm than good. You generally care about the soldiers around you in COD4 (especially the British SAS guys) and will even try to keep them alive.
In order to avoid repetitiveness, COD4 mixes up the run and gun levels with a few interesting ones. One level has you control an AC-130 plane's guns as you provide air support for your team on the ground. Another great level (and my personal favourite) has you sneak through the Chernobyl radiation zone in order to assassinate someone. The intensity in the level is astounding as you sneak by soldier that are 1 or 2 feet away from you in your awesome Ghillie Suit (a real world sniper outfit). These levels break up the insane pace of the other level but remain just as exciting and most likely more memorable. Co-op campaign (online or offline) would have been a nice feature in COD4 considering you're teamed with the same soldiers through most of the game. Something to wish for in the next instalment. Once you complete the campaign you get the Arcade Mode. This allows you to play any level and go through with a time limit as you rack up points for kills.
COD4 isn't limited to just the campaign. Like previous instalments, the bulk of the game lies in the multiplayer. When you first jump online you have 3 preset weapon groups for you to choose from. While this seems limited, you then gain Experience Points (XP) from kills and assists and begin to level up. Your first big class change will happen at Level 4 (Private). Once here you can create your own custom weapon sets and gain new weapons and perks as you proceed further along the ranks. There are tons of challenges to complete here and they help you to level up faster. These can include getting a number of headshots with a gun, blowing up a certain amount of cars, killing enemies with your knife, and many more. You can also attain gold guns which are simply a few of your weapons in gold form. Nothing more except nice eye candy.
The top level you reach is 55 but the fun doesn't end there. Once you've maxed out your stats you can decide to stick with what you have or trade it all in and go back to Rank 1. For this you get a new medal icon and other players know you've reached the "Prestige Mode". There are 10 levels to Prestige Mode but unfortunately you get nothing once you've reached the final level. You do get some nice bonuses for kill streaks though. 3 kills (without dying of course) and you provide your team with a UAV scan of the area showing all enemies. 5 kills and you can call in an airstrike on any part of the map. 7 kills and you call in a helicopter that will take down any enemies it encounters. The kills from the airstrike or the helicopter count towards you kills and XP.
The game modes for multiplayer include classics like Free-For-All and Team Deathmatches. Then you add in Domination (control more flag positions for more points), Search and Destroy (one team has a bomb and the others have to stop them from setting it up), 1-on-1 Cage Matches, Old School versions of the other modes (everyone starts with the same weapons, pickups, and a limited HUD), and many more.
Both the single player and multiplayer will provide you with hours of enjoyment as you level up, adjust your classes, and just have fun.
The story is nothing revolutionary in COD4. Terrorists have obtained nuclear weapons and are attempting to destroy the world. There are a few twists in this scenario (alliances among enemies) but it's a straight forward plot. That's not to say that it isn't a great story. The intensity in the game is provided by the story as you race to try and prevent Armageddon. Some surprises occur that will really throw you off here and not everyone you've come to care about will live. Most of the story will be provided during conversations in the loading screen (which have a high-tech look to them) and in scenes before and after missions (seen from your soldier's perspective).
Let's get this out right away: Call of Duty 4 is a beautiful game. The characters, environments, weapons, and everything else are all amazing. The game runs at 60fps and there are no slowdowns or rips in the graphics. In the single-player campaign you'll find yourself staring at scenery and textures close up just to experience the level of detail placed into this game. Everything moves with fluidity and it looks fantastic. Some locations will highlight the detail put into this better then others. A church in one level has light coming through the windows and the rays show small particles floating in the air. It's astounding. Moving online, some of the special atmosphere effects have been dropped but the game still retains the smooth feeling and beautiful appearance. The game may slowdown once or twice during online play but this is usually do to bad connections between hosts and other and not the game. When all connections are great the game will never slowdown even during insane fire fights. All versions of the game (PC, PS3, and 360) play smoothly and there are no slowdowns for any system. Even the PS3, which has been treated with numerous buggy ports, runs perfectly compared to the other versions.
Infinity Ward really wanted to capture the sounds of war and be authentic here. Each weapon sounds realistic, each bullet hitting a surface has its own sound, every explosion, step, and atmospheric sound is amazing and helps to draw you into the experience. The music is wonderfully done with faster beats during insane battles and eerie music during the Chernobyl stage or slower scenes.
Call of Duty 4 has re-energized the franchise. It brought itself out of the WWII shooter clone market and into a more modern and intense one. The gameplay is rather easy to pick up but will keep you finding new ways for a long time. The graphics and sounds of the game are fantastic and really show what a developer can do if they put the time into a game. The story, while not completely original, provides enough twists and turns to keep you playing and caring about your fellow soldiers. This is truly a next-gen experience. With an incredible campaign and a loaded online multiplayer you'll be playing this for a long time.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (US, 11/05/07)
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