When the first Call of Duty came out in 2003 for the PC it was praised for its design and gameplay, as well as for making WWII the hot spot for war games. Being a major hit, it spawned sequels, and Call of Duty 2 became the biggest selling launch title for the Xbox 360 in 2005. When Call of Duty 3 rolled around, the original developer, Infinity Ward, took a break and passed the torch to Treyarch/Pi Studios, who delivered a game that was considered a let down compared to its predecessors. Well thankfully someone smacked some sense into Activision, bringing the old gang at Infinity Ward back into the action to not only make a sequel, but to completely start from scratch and re-invent the franchise with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. To say that COD4 is a good game is an understatement, because words such as ?phenomenal,? ?awesome,? ?intense,? and ?holy shit? just fit so much better.
The very second you begin COD4, you know that you?re in for something different. The previous games gave you the feel of the History Channel, but this time you?ll be feeling CNN, because shades of the present real war crises will unfold as your playing field. The game has been released simultaneously for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 on the same street date (a rarity in the current PS3 delayed port world); and an even bigger surprise is that both games are identical in graphics and gameplay. So now both sides of the fence will be enjoying the same experience.
After a basic boot camp tutorial to get you familiar with the guns and controls, you and your team will be dropped into your prelude mission on the deck of a freighter where you?ll get your first taste of the action. The controls are as smooth as butter, allowing you to switch weapons, reload, or equip a special item such as night vision goggles with ease. Anyone familiar with a First Person Shooter will be able to pick up and play this with ease. All the Call of Duty games did a great job with authenticity for locations and weapons, but COD4 surpasses them all. The Splinter Cell gang over at Ubisoft better to take notes, because when you look at the level of detail that went into this game you will be highly impressed.
Overall there are 18 missions that must be accomplished, taking place in various real world terrorist hot spots. And unlike the past COD titles, this time you are lead through one moving storyline instead of breaking things up into sections. You play through the eyes of both a U.S. Marine and a British S.A.S, flipping from one to the other between missions, following a single story structure surrounding stolen nuclear warheads that will continuously merge until the finale.
COD4 is not a ?You against them ? One man Army? military game where you?re the only soldier doing anything as your team just stands around waiting for you. In this game your AI squad mates earn their pay, shooting it out on the front line right there with alongside of you. Unless there is something specific you need to do like shoot down a enemy helicopter or set up C4 charges, your team will eliminate a good majority of the on screen chaos to make room for you. What makes this work even better is that you don?t even have to give your team orders like in a Rainbow Six game...your boys just know what needs to be done and do it. These guys are so well trained that if a grenade drops in your path, if one of them gets to it first, they?ll toss it away to save your butt. Even the enemy AI must be complimented, with soldiers that react to your actions instead of just running around mindlessly shooting. If you try to sneak up on one of these guys, but make one wrong move, he?ll spin around and unleash a wave of bullets in your direction.
When all hell breaks loose in COD4 you will be immersed in some of the best FPS action ever offered in a video game?.Period. The firefights are so intense that your level of respect will increase dramatically for the real American soldiers who are currently in Iraq fighting this war every day. Besides fighting in FPS mode, to mix things up one mission has you handling a situation via a satellite feed, where all you see is a bird?s-eye-view from a gunship of a specific zone, and must strategically decide where to fire so that innocent civilians or friendly troops are not killed when you strike the enemy. A black and white image displays what looks like miniature cars, buildings, and people running around, highlighted by explosions when you fire your guns on a spot. Scenarios like this are one hundred percent real with technology designed to wipe out a target from high above, who have no clue what?s in store for them until the blasts hits. It?s eerie, but that?s war.
Among all the missions in the single player mode, the one that really stands out is the sniper mission, where you tag along with an ace British sniper trooper into enemy territory, covered from head-to-toe in foliage to make you blend into the environment. Here you must assassinate a dictator, then escape to an extraction point before the enemy hunts you down. This gets complicated when your partner gets hurt and you must carry him on your back while avoiding getting you both killed as you race to the helicopter that?s on its way to get you out of there. Missions like this are on the same level of the best action films, where you have a character attempting to complete an objective and you?re emotionally involved with his progress, especially since the odds have been increased because now the hero has to worry about keeping someone else alive.
Some may complain that the solo campaign is way too short, clocking in at about six hours, but let?s be clear here, it may be short but it delivers some of the most adrenaline filled gameplay you?re going to experience in any action title this year. Remember, the solo modes of Gears of War and Halo 3 are pretty short as well. To make things interesting an Arcade mode is unlocked after you beat the solo mode, which is a first for a Call of Duty game. Here you must replay certain levels, but this time going for points determined by how many kills you can pull off before time runs out. And your re-spawn rate is capped off to make things even more interesting.
The meat and potatoes of COD4 is its multiplayer, which I had a chance to play in beta form a few months back and was blown away; but now after playing the final package it has become my new religion. Via Xbox Live or the PSN gamers can get their frag on with up to 18 players across the globe. The multiplayer looks incredible; losing nothing in visual translation that was seen in the single player mode. Players are measured by a ranking system with a selection of 16 maps to gun your way through. Modes of play featured are Free For All, a classic deathmatch and team deathmatch; Sabotage, a twist to capture the flag, where a bomb must be seized and then taken to an enemy base to blow it up; Search and Destroy, pitting two teams up against different objectives; and Headquarters, which is sort of like Halo?s King of the Hill with a base that is constantly moving.
As you advance in the ranks, better weapons are offered for your arsenal through upgrades, and you can take more advantage of the Perks, which is a system of rewarding your skills with up to three cool features at a time, such as the ability to hold two bigger primary weapons instead of a measly sidearm, advanced body armor that can take more hits, or the ability to instantly drop a grenade when you?re killed to take out the player who killed you as well. As you build up your multiplayer creed you can unlock additional features such as Old School, which allows you to make the gameplay more arcade-like with players doing super jumps and killing enemies with ridiculous ease; and then there?s Hardcore where your HUD is turned off and you?re penalized for accidentally shooting other players in a team deathmatch. What makes the multiplayer extremely rewarding in COD4 is that you are encouraged to keep playing to unlock more and more features, which with the addition of future downloads seems endless.
Again, side-by-side both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 version look and play similar with the only differences being that the PS3 version adds in a couple Sixaxis motion control features, but the Xbox 360 has rumble so you can feel the tanks rolling by or an explosion occurring nearby. COD4 is a one of those rare examples where no one loses, because no matter which console you play it on the experience will still be enjoyable. This is a game that hardcore gamers will praise and hold up as an example of what can be done with the hardware of the current systems. If you don?t like this game, then maybe you should consider a new hobby such as stamp collecting or Wii bowling.
Bullets and explosions will be rocking your speakers so hard that your neighbors will be calling the cops. Just as with the graphics, no effort was spared to ensure that the sound design would immerse you in the heat of the battle. This matched with a fine tuned musical score completely draws you into the circle of chaos known as war.
The solo campaign is short and sweet, but there?s also the hardcore Veteran mode and point driven Arcade mode to make you want to replay it again. Logging into Xbox Live or the PSN will keep the action going with a variety of game modes that will further demonstrate that this title was well worth your $60 investment. Plus throw in that the more you play, the more perks and upgrades you are offered to keep the online experience fresh. As of this writing there were no major lag issues with either console, but as the word of mouth spreads on how incredible the multiplayer is on this game, that could change.