Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Review
It's not often that I find myself cheering upon the revelation of a new first person shooter. I don't throw my hands up and rejoice, I usually just let out a groan and self-rant how there's another FPS coming our way. Furthermore, I go into each and every FPS with low-expectations, no matter how much hype surrounds it. And as soon as I immersed myself into Call of Duty 4, all of my inhibitions were instantly erased. This is one of the most intense, and addictive, first person shooters I've ever played.
It starts out relatively simple, you find yourself in a training camp where you'll be taught a few very basic control features. You'll be told to shoot at targets, and later on trained on navigating and following orders. The training sequence lasts about five minutes, so it doesn't really get in the way of the experience, at all. Once you're past that, you'll begin your first mission - on a gigantic tanker, largely reminiscent of how Metal Gear Solid 2 starts out, pouring rain and all. The first mission may leave you a bit queasy, because the ship sways side to side, and that motion will translate onto the screen...things get especially nutty at the very end of the first mission.
So once the intro mission ends, Call of Duty 4 really picks up, and you're thrown into a turbulent war that takes place in various parts of Russia and the Middle East. The action is absurdly heated, far more than any other FPS game you've ever played. Hordes of enemies will come your way, all of which are armed with some solid artificial intelligence and a good eye, too. My one complaint about how Infinity Ward handled the enemies is the unlimited respawn count they've given them.
See, if you're picking off enemies from a distance, and hoping to advance by clearing them out first and then moving in, you can't do that. No matter how many enemies you pick off, a new one will magically run up to the spot and start unloading at your troops. It's a little annoying, and you'll frequently be forced to engage from a closer range, by infiltrating their location and taking them out within spitting distance. While it does keep the tension of the game much higher, it also does throw off the sense of realism COD4 aims for.
Tension, that's another big word for COD4. Tension is kept at an extreme high, as almost everywhere you go, enemies will be there to intercept you. If you try and hide, you'll still be startled by the sight of stray bullets whizzing past you, and flying chunks of debris that were broken off by the bullets. Call of Duty 4 does such an amazing job at immersing you into the experience, that you'll often find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, maybe even shouting a few obscenities here and there after a close call with a bullet or explosion. It's just that intense.
And when you're not on-foot wrecking everything that stands before you, you take to the low skies in an AC130 gunship chopper. There'll be a number of missions where you strap yourself to an aircraft-turret and fire off various explosives out of cannons or command a fast-rate gattling capable of 1500 rounds per minute. I personally found the cannons to be the most fun, since they pack an enormous punch and can clear out a horde of enemies with just one shot. Bottom-line: the airborne stuff is serious fun.
The game's progression is spread out into three acts, and you have a choice of four difficulty levels. There is a total of 20 missions, with the average mission lasting about 10-15 minutes, depending on your skill level. The single-player is a bit on the short-side, which is unfortunate. Experienced gamers can probably finish it in one six hour sitting, but at most, it shouldn't take longer than 10 hours to complete the campaign. Though, each stage does have a number of extras that you can pick up such a pieces of intel, and the like. You can also replay a level via Mission Select on another difficulty. And when you complete the game, you'll unlock the Arcade Mode.
Arcade Mode is another way of playing Call of Duty 4. Here you'll earn points and multipliers during gameplay - just like a standard arcade game. For every type of kill you'll earn a set amount of points, so multiple kills will rake in more, as will a knife kill. The more enemies you eliminate, the larger your multiplier is. Furthermore, unlike the standard game, you also have a set amount of lives that you can use before it's game over - so no more unlimited continues. Lastly, each stage has a time limit ticking down too.
But it's the multiplayer that most people will be enjoying, and Call of Duty 4 delivers it in spades. It features a horde of multiplayer modes such as Free for All, Team Deathmatch, Team Objective, Team Tactical, Search and Destroy, Headquarters, Domination, Sabotage, Team Hardcore, Old School, Oldcore, and Ground War. Like I said, there is a horde of multiplayer content here, making Call of Duty 4 the most feature-filled multiplayer game out there.
As far as the showpiece that is Call of Duty 4, you can expect some of the finest in special effects and animation from the game. Each character animates superbly well, and you'll notice that whether you're running behind your partner, or when you've capped an enemy off in the distance. The way that the bodies move about is extremely fluid, especially when they've just been penetrated by a bullet. Infinity Ward has certainly done a fantastic job in regards to animation. Moreover, they've done an amazing job of lighting up the skies and your screen with amazing scenery that's beaming with fireworks; the special effects really makes COD4 feel like a Hollywood action flick, adding to that intensity I mentioned numerous times.
Most importantly though, the framerate maintains a rock solid pace, and you'll almost never see any bit of slowdown in the game, not even stuttering. What's also highly commendable is that Infinity Ward didn't just let the game go with only one resolution, they've given us a choice of three: 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. Now, the game's native resolution is 720, but upscaling does clean the image a little bit, and also helps correct any overscan issues people with 1080i sets may have (like me). The shrubbery and foilage is also particularly impressive, and you'll see lots of it, which is nice.
But the graphics aren't perfect. While, the visual negatives aren't much, they need to be mentioned. A lot of the real-time shadows in the game are rather weak, as they look jagged and poorly aliased. It throws off the overall polish and smoothness of the game, which is a shame. Also, some of the texture work shows weak spots here and there, which is understandable, considering how nice the rest of it looks. And, again, COD4 is another game which utilizes poorly compressed videos. Why? I have no idea. Infinity Ward has 40GB of space to work with on a Blu-Ray disc; they could've easily dropped the uncompressed videos into the PS3 version. Other than that, Call of Duty 4 is one of the finer demonstrations of next-generation visuals out there. Definitely a brilliant job from Infinity Ward.
Last, but not least, is the final aspect of the entire intensity package - the absolutely tremendous audio! I encourage each and every one of you to consider a high-definition audio setup with your purchase of Call of Duty 4; this game is loud. The gun fire, the explosions, the yelling, the soundtrack...all of that rolls up into this kick-ass ball of excitement. And just like a big-budget Hollywood movie, it does a stupendous job in engrossing you until the very end. Even the voice acting in Call of Duty 4 is superbly done. And as someone who speaks Russian, and can understand some Arabic, I can say that both Russian and Arabic are spoken with fluent accuracy in the game - a testament to Infinity Ward's attention to detail.
Bottom-line, Call of Duty 4 delivers. It is the very pinnacle of first-person shooters. Unlike another mega-popular first person shooter franchise, Call of Duty 4 keeps the redundancy and repetition to a bare minimum through the single-player campaign. It does so by making you perform a variety of different tasks throughout most of the missions, and thus creates an exceptionally diverse single-player element that few, or even, no FPS game has done before. Call of Duty 4 combines a superb visual package with unparalleled audio for an experience that will surely not be toppled for quite some time. And while its single-player can last a paltry six hours, the multiplayer will have you going for a long, long time. At this point, the only FPS game that can possibly stand toe-to-toe with Call of Duty 4 is Sony's Killzone 2, but that one's still got some time before seeing light. Call of Duty 4 is brilliant. Go get it.
11/14/2007 Arnold Katayev