Review by MobiusUnoDos
Heed the Call, save the world.
Call of Duty 4 is the latest installment in the series. Associated before with killing nazis and storming beaches, Infinity Ward takes us into the modern world where things are fast, deadly, and pin-point accurate.
Call of Duty 4's criminally short single-player campaign centers around two soldiers: an S.A.S. trooper known as "Soap" and United States Marine Sgt. Paul Jackson. Since the World War II theme is gone, so has historical accuracy gone with it. Infinity Ward allowed itself a much more imaginative scenario not unlike something found in an episode of television's 24. Russian nukes have been stolen and a coup in the Middle East serves as a front while the real nasty stuff happens in the background. On a sidenote, it was rather smart of Infinity Ward to keep the Middle Eastern country unnamed, lest it alienate some players with political commentary.
The very first thing you'll notice when the game boots up is the sheer beauty on your television screen. Make no mistake: there are no pre-rendered sequences in the game, everything that appears before you is 100% real-time, and truth be told, this is as close to real as any game has gotten thus far. The Bloom and High Definition Lighting really stand out when you're inside a helo and the sun is shining out. The slight glow on the uniform of your comrade, the sharp shine on the goggles of an S.A.S. trooper...everything is incredibly detailed and realistic, down to the threads your boys wear. Weapons are gorgeously textured and are true-to-life. Character models are also outstanding, with a nigh-perfect representation of human emotions in the face and some of the best animations seen. In terms of graphical beauty, Call of Duty 4 is unmatched.
Sounds bring the locales to life. CoD4 eliminates the tired cliche of giving each weapon the report of a 105mm artillery piece and instead makes everything sound much more like the sharp "pop pop" of most real weapons. Even so, every weapon has it's own distinct sound, allowing you to distinguish what your foe may be wielding, but the sounds are very reserved considering how most modern weapons are represented in video game culture.
Music is nice where it kicks in, featuring an orchestral backdrop to some of the game's more intense moments.
Gameplay is simple, just like most games in the genre. Move around, shoot stuff, maybe jump over an obstacle or two. Of course, it wouldn't be a CoD game unless you were able to use your iron sights, and CoD4 is no exception. Also, see that little piece of wood your foe just took cover behind? Go ahead and pepper the spot and you'll kill him. Bullet penetration is present and it can be used in many different situations, so it's not one of those throw-away gimmicks.
The controls feel very smooth and natural. Instead of using the new "trigger-like" R2 and L2 shoulder buttons, CoD4 sticks with using L1 to bring up your sights and pressing R1 to fire your weapon. Your frag grenades are relegated to the R2 button while your special grenades, like a flashbang, are mapped to the L2 button. Such close placement makes sure you can easily provide covering fire or lob a grenade within a moments notice. And instead of hitting another button to melee your enemy, you simply press in the right analog stick. Once you try it, you'll find it much more accommodating than letting go of your aiming stick and hitting any of the buttons.
CoD4 features one of the deepest, most strategic online components ever featured in a console video game, not to mention there are over a dozen different modes to choose from, even if some of them seem like simple rehashs of another. The different modes offer a nice balance of fast and furious (Free-for-all, Team Deathmatch) to slow and methodical (Search and Destroy, Hardcore modes). In this reviewer's opinion, the most fun is to be had in a mode called "Headquarters", where an objective is placed somewhere on the map and both teams have to fight in order to control it, and then it moves again once enough time has elapsed or when it is destroyed.
That being said, there are plenty of maps available for you to play on. Some maps support certain modes, some don't. There are maps that stick to the traditional kind that focus of symmetrical arenas meant for small games, and some that are more open and diverse, allowing for much larger battles. There are two maps that take place at night, but the use of night vision is never and absolutely necessity, so things are never too dark.
The thing that sets CoD4 apart from the rest of the oh-so-familiar group of FPS games is that CoD4 allows you to level and and use perks online. Completing objectives, winning games, and killing foes will net you set amounts of experience. Get enough of said experience and you'll level up, with each new rank being represented by a number (1-55) and a military rank, complete with bars, chevrons, stars, or what have you. As you level up, you also unlock new weapons, attachments (like a reflex sight or an ACOG scope), and new perks. Whats more, once you reach level 55, you can choose to forfeit all of your weapons, challenges, and perks and start all over again in "Prestige Mode", but this time with a special insignia next to your name. You can enter "Prestige Mode" a total of 10 times, allowing you the choice to stop whenever you like.
Perks are the things make CoD4 stand out. After you get to level 4, you are given the option to create your own class. You can create and save up to 5 different classes. Whenever you create your own class, you choose a primary weapon, secondary, a special grenade and 3 perks (or two, depending on your weapon attachment). Perks allow you to customize your class in any way you want. Want a heavy machine gunner that can cut enemies down through walls? There's the "Deep Impact" perk, which allows you to shoot through walls with greater effect. There's also stopping power which increases the damage you dish out, and there's even a perk that lets you carry to primary weapons. There are 22 in total, so you're never at a loss or feel restricted to just a few bonuses. Perks can make a weak weapon deadly and can make a machine gun reload in an instant. Your online experience is never the same, since everyone around you has their own set-up and an individual can change the outcome of a game.
Not to mention that there are also in-game bonuses for doing well. Kill streaks result in special abilities that can turn the tables in your favor. Killing 3 enemies in a row without dying nets you the use of an unmanned aerial drone, which shows enemy players on your radar. 5 kills without dying grants you the ability to place an airstrike anywhere on the map, and 7 kills lets you call in a helicopter that circles the map, cutting your foes down with the machine gun. The chopper, while intimidating, can be taken down with RPGs or small-arms fire, so it's not invincible if you use teamwork.
All of those good things being said, there are some things that Infinity Ward could've done better. Matchmaking is a mess. Many times, all the good players are put on the same team over and over, and it makes the game very unfair for newer players. Even for experienced players, you can't win if your team is acting like a bunch of idiots.
And there is no in-game report system. if someone is abusing a glitch or using a lag exploit, you have to fill out a complaint form on the forums. Dealing with loud-mouthed kids who have nothing better to do than sing into there microphones wouldn't be nearly as bad if we could report the little buggers. At least give us a mute option at the very least.
Also, the matchmaking seems to like stacking the odds against you. Don't be surprised if you get put into a game where you're team is losing by 200 points with 20 seconds left on the clock, because trust me, it will happen a lot. Infinity Ward would've been better off by making so that games in progress were unable to accept new players.
While I have had no problems in connecting to a game, there have been many complaints about it taking upwards of 5 minutes just to connect. That is unacceptable, but thankfully it doesn't happen much anymore.
With all of the online problems stated, Infinity Ward does release periodic updates, so the problems above can be fixed.
Call of Duty 4 is nothing short of spectacular, with a cinematic single-player campaign and a deeply involving multiplayer mode that sets a whole new standard for how multiplayer should be made. Call of Duty 4 is the game to own, and with a strong community, it will be around for a long time to come.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (US, 11/05/07)
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