The Call of Duty namesake is one that demands a degree of respect in the FPS gaming world. The first two games helped explode the WWII first-person genre, while CoD3 was responsible for opening up the home console online gaming realm with its stellar multiplayer offering upon the Xbox 360’s release. The games managed to push themselves above the uber-crowded WWII shooter pack with excellent technology, compelling gameplay and engaging multiplayer. Above all else though, the key stand-out for the Call of Duty franchise is the series’ penchant for dynamic narrative driven through cinematic action and drama. Three instalments on, however, Activision and series creator, Infinity Ward, were faced with recreating their success through the same campaign all over again, or moving the game’s setting back to the drawing board. Since development of CoD3 had been handled by someone else, it was decided the fourth chapter would in fact offer something completely new, and be delivered from the creative types at Infinity Ward themselves. With no real-life woes in the way of tackling the bustling WWII genre, Infinity Ward were freed up to offer gamers a completely original concept set in modern times.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat comes riddled with Infinity Ward’s amazing technology, compelling gameplay and engaging multiplayer once more, but thanks to its more than fictional premise, everything on the dial has been turned up to 11 and beyond.
From the outset it has been Infinity Ward’s goal to create one of the most cinematic and action-packed combat experiences of recent times. And through their fictional game-setting, have managed to do just that. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Seriously. They’ve crafted an intricate story here, and from the word "Go
" you’re involved. In fact, one of the key points about Modern Warfare is you no longer ultimately feel like a generic soldier – another faceless, nameless grunt charging up the middle. Here you feel like you’re making a difference – and believe me, the way this story is told, and your involvement in its myriad of arcs, you are. It all plays out like a mini series. Missions, locations and characters change every level – it’s paced a lot like the first series of the new Battlestar Galactica (bear with me here), where we’re busy watching the last surviving fleet outrun the Cylons, but intermittently we’re also taken back to Caprica (the planet attacked by the Cylons, for those unaware) to watch another group try and survive. Throughout a major chunk of this, the two seem like they’ll never meet up, never cross paths or intertwine, but then, in a brilliant twist it all comes together and you’re thankful for the constant glimpses at both parties, worlds apart – Call of Duty 4 does this, and arguably does it better.
So that was a bit long-winded, but that’s what this game does to you. It gets you riled up to tell your friends to beef up their old PC, or just go out and buy a 360 or PS3. It really is that
good. It’s almost a misnomer to even consider comparing it to the other Call of Duties. Gameplay is largely mixed up between events taking place in the Middle East and Chernobyl, both of which you’re completely across. You’ll take out tanks, helicopters and dogs (yep, dogs). You’ll hide from the enemy wearing a Ghilli suit and have them walk within inches of where you’re lying proned, you’ll even man a massive sniper rifle where you need to take into account things like distance to target, bullet travel time, wind and more. If all this walking around killing stuff is too much for you though, why not man the guns on an AC 130 Gunship, or fire grenades from the side of a Blackhawk chopper? The pacing throughout is almost unparalleled, and you’ll never find yourself bored or confused, a true testament to the level of detail and immersion Infinity Ward have crafted.
There’s room to tackle certain areas in certain ways (especially during major bottlenecks), and while you can’t command your team-mates in the same way you can GRAW or Rainbow Six, they’re smart enough to act on their own. But this is where the game loses minor points of merit; enemy AI is tough, but predictable and if you find yourself dying often during an intense bottleneck, you’ll pretty much remember where and when certain bad guys are going to pop up each time you go through. There’s nothing overly dynamic about the way they act, which in the face of a game like Halo 3, where it’s almost impossible to catch the enemy doing the same thing twice during a repeated portion, is a bit of a let down. There’s also the difference in difficulty between Hardened and Regular, which seems a little too high when considering the lack of truly dynamic AI. And finally, there’s the gripe you’ve probably already heard with the game’s length coming in at around six or so hours for the single-player campaign. Really, for me this isn’t so much of a problem, especially when you consider we could all just rally for episodic content down the track. Besides all that, Call of Duty 4 is a near perfect single-player outing. Oh, and there’s this other thing the game has to offer called "Multiplayer
If you were smart enough to sign up for the beta, you already know I’m going to tell you this is the shiz. If you didn’t, well, this is the shiz. Seriously though, where the single-player campaign borders on art in terms of its pacing, presentation, narrative and action, multiplayer will have you
bordering on obsession.
The depth here, while initially very subtle, will continue until it’s time to upgrade your console to the Xbox 720. Every time you make a kill in the multiplayer you earn points, you also earn points for assists and overall points based on your rank at the end and just for chiming in. These points are then distributed to your XP, which each time its maxed out promotes you to the next rank. Promotion is more than just bragging rights though as you’ll progressively unlock new weapons, classes, custom settings, weapon upgrades and abilities. Abilities can be things like stronger armour-piercing bullets, faster running, better aim and so on. Nothing will make you invincible, however, as everything is offset with a balanced con to its obvious pro offering up a delectable amount of customisation for multiplayer shooter junkies. Create A Class
is one of the key rewards given to you early on and the way in which you begin ranking after your first few rounds within the game also serves as a great invite to spend just a little more time in what is arguably the best multiplayer experience available on either 360 or PS3. Good stuff.
Game of the Year? Too early to say, really. There are still a few other titles to hit shelves before the coveted GOTY can be announced. But boy is it up there. Everything from the incredible game engine, amazing visuals, engrossing, artful presentation, unbelievable sound and score, compelling story, gameplay variance and never-say-die
multiplayer flesh this out to be one
of the year’s best, to be sure, the real point here though is if you haven’t bought it yet, pimp whatever it is you need to, to get down to your local game store. Across all platforms this is one of the most memorable moments you’ll have in your videogaming life. That much I can guarantee.