Being that Activision Australia is in charge of informing, feeding and generally looking after all of the Asia-Pacific when it comes to their games, the Aussie branch of the current biggest third-party publisher was smart enough, some six years ago, to throw an annual event called “Activate
”. Activate showcases the company’s biggest up and comers as well as informs retailers and press alike about Activision business movements, growth and projections. This year was jam-packed with massive titles from their well-known franchises, but because the likes of Call of Duty 4, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, Guitar Hero III and Bee Movie don’t seem to be enough to keep them on their toes, Activision Australia also has exclusive distribution deals with both Capcom and LucasArts giving them Devil May Cry 4 from the former and Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Thrillville, Fracture and Star Wars: Force Unleashed from the latter.
So, with a massively robust manifest of games to go over in 2007, AusGamers was invited up to Cairns this past few days to see what’s happening with the aforementioned titles, talk directly to the likes of Infinity Ward, Neversoft, Red Octane, LucasArts and Capcom, and get some dirty hands-on time with all of the above in one last effort from Activision to maintain their electric buzz surrounding what are arguably some of the year’s biggest releases. So stay tuned to this channel over the next few days as we break down each game into a coherent hands-on/impressions-based editorial beginning with what is easily Activision’s most anticipated 2007 release…
There’s no question this is a massive game, and having just signed up for the multiplayer beta (you can too, just by clicking here
), getting some more time with the single-player campaign was one of the highlights of Activate (it was also cool having Infinity Ward’s Grant Collier standing next to me while I played). This is going to be one of the biggest games of the year, and fans of the first two Call of Duty games (both developed by Infinity Ward) will definitely want to get in on the action November 7, when the game is released. According to Activision, the Call of Duty franchise has exceeded more then 20 million units sold worldwide (300,000 of which were sold across Australia and New Zealand), which is an impressive number by any measure. But if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat, as its name suggests, takes the series out of the familiar World War II setting of the series (and so many other FPS games) and throws together a robust narrative using modern combat.
It was important for Infinity Ward to avoid any obvious parallels to what’s happening in the Middle-East and so brought back an old foe [Russia] in the form of a fictional Russian revolutionary (poetic license is a wonderful thing isn’t it). Zakhaev wishes for a time like the old days when the former Soviet Union was an important player in world politics and equally wants to reinvigorate the fear the rest of the world (especially the US) had of the now defunct super power. He is also seemingly a masterful puppeteer of war and constructs a series of events that will see the likes of the US, the UK, and more banding together to thwart his attempts at world domination/destruction.
While the story might seem a little far-fetched, Infinity Ward are holding nothing back in the realm of realism when it comes to the game’s most enticing element: Modern Combat. Here we’ll see everything from SAS training and equipment in action to what it’s like manning an A130 Gunship marking targets on the ground and wiping them out which, in my opinion, is set to become a landmark moment in games of this nature (I’ve seen this in motion, trust me, it’s awesome).
The single-player level I went hands-on with began with a company of US marines crossing a bridge in the middle-east. Overhead scores of Black Hawk choppers fill the sky while burnt out cars, destroyed buildings and more war-caused debris litter the streets around, but taking the time to soak up the stunning visuals would be your first mistake as the enemy immediately begin to fire upon you. Tracers zip overhead as your comrades frantically duck for cover. Some make it, some don’t. Overhead one of the majestic black birds is struck by an RPG and twists out of control to a fiery wreck beyond the bridge. Again, there’s no time to gawk at this event, you need to survive, and you need to do it now. Nearby a few soldiers taking cover behind a car fall victim to the punishment inflicted upon it while the enemy try to shoot your buddies. The car explodes and they’re sent to their death. Brutal.
Pushing in on the left analogue stick while pushing forward switches my soldier to a sprint and now it’s a desperate attempt to reach cover; I do and breathe a quick sigh of relief. But it’s not over yet, now we need to move to a firing position – around me everyone is shouting orders, contact sightings and directions of what to do next. Holding in the right trigger zooms me into a more focused aim from behind my weapon, the depth of field blurring that occurs as I do this is incredible – stop blushing at how impressive the game is, you’re being fired at and your friends are dying, fight back! I find a hole and can see the enemy running about in the distance; finding their own cover and vantage points. A few well placed shots of controlled bursts of fire and a handful of them fall at my aim. Okay, move on. Orders come through to move to a new position – we’re in a gutted out building with multiple levels, there are soldiers scattered everywhere firing into holes blown through the walls and it’s dark because the building has no electricity, time to switch to the night-vision goggles. Will this game stop impressing, I need to survive damn it!
Night-vision on I move through the building’s lengthy corridors, glowing tracer bullets are flying within centimetres of me and the debris and particle effects from these are doing a bang-up job of making me feel pretty lucky I’m not being hit by them. I head upstairs and find a massive hole in the wall, my guys are being pushed into cover so I throw up the rifle and start laying down covering fire. A few lucky hits and I’ve dropped some more enemy soldiers – this continues for a while, until I’m given orders to take out enemy positioned high up on another bridge, there are also tanks placed up there and we need to take them out if we’re going to have any chance, and those metal behemoths are blocking our air support. I get out onto a rooftop and take careful aim at the bad guys lined up on the bridge. There’s very little cover for them but it is far away, it takes only a minute or two though and I have enough of an opening to use a rocket launcher. Taking aim at the first tank, the target bleeps at me letting me know I can fire, I do so and move back to cover, but can’t resist aiming my field of view skyward to watch the rocket find it’s intended target though, and it descends toward the tank at a deadly pace. Boom. One down, two more to go.
Once the tanks are destroyed it isn’t over. There are still enemy suppressing our guys and we need to move on to the next area. Now it’s a fire-fight and things become even more frantic than before – thankfully Call of Duty 4’s friendly AI is way better than what we saw in CoD 3, and the enemy numbers begin to decrease at a rate that allows us to begin to push forward, out of our broken building of safety.
Pushing on, we come to a point where we’re looking at the enemy completely dug into their own safe structures, and they have us firmly pinned. The only way to get these guys is to order an air strike, but we need to grab something lost in the field to do so. Obviously it's my job to grab it and it’s time to duck and cover, move and run. Eventually we get the item, lay down some covering fire then move back to our company. Taking cover behind a nearby friendly tank, we can safely watch the fireworks as our birds come in and fly overhead blasting the buildings and knocking out the enemy who had us standing still.
The whole mission lasts about 20 minutes or so, depending on how often you die. And I have omitted a few bits and pieces to ensure when you play it, it’s not completely spoiled, but throughout the entire confrontation you almost never once feel safe; the sensation of combat is so alarmingly real that your heart races during the whole event. The background stuff adds to this with frantic cries from both the good guys and the bad guys, while the incredible audio and visuals make it difficult to simply waltz on through. And this is but one small section of a pretty big game. According to Collier, the game takes place in an episodic narrative lasting roughly two weeks (though there are a few missions set in the past for background story purposes), and across all this you’ll play as various soldiers from the aforementioned countries. And while the pacing and progression of the game is reasonably linear (ie not sandbox-like), the narrative, scripted events and ways in which you can play each level will keep things incredibly fresh.
With less than two months to go before the game is released, it’s time to mark your calendars and start saving your cash. Also, as mentioned above, you can join the multiplayer beta by heading to the game’s official site, Charlie Oscar Delta (just follow the link above), but for more on the game, click here
for the official trailer and check AusGamers regularly for any other news on Call of Duty 4.