Playing Call of Duty 4
, it's hard not to get the feeling that this game is the game Infinity Ward has been working towards to ever since its inception. Leaving World War II, leaving the history, and leaving an area of familiarity must've been like a 100-ton weight being lifted off their shoulders. No longer does Infinity Ward have to conform to a timeline that's set in stone; they can do whatever the hell they want. Call of Duty 4
: Modern Warfar
e is the game Infinity Ward has wanted to make since its first blockbuster debut and it really, really shows. Call of Duty 4
is Infinity Ward's magnum opus, and it's stunning.
Admittedly, the shift to a modern setting isn't very fresh or even original, but what Infinity Ward did for WWII shooters, they've done for shooters in a modern setting, which is a tremendously awesome thing. The single-player narrative is fairly straightforward; you mostly shift between the perspectives of two soldiers, a U.S. marine and a S.A.S. (British) soldier, and both sides are working towards the goal of extinguishing a terrorist threat. It isn't the most original story in the world, but it's presented so well and in such a raw, gritty fashion, that it's easy to be drawn into it. Another positive is that the campaign doesn't feel disjointed anymore, because past games had you jumping from one Allied force to another, with little or no reason, whereas Call of Duty 4
avoids this. The British and American forces work together as a cohesive whole in Call of Duty 4
, making the shifts between the two soldiers natural and understandable. The narrative is also a lot less predictable, because WWII was one giant spoiler to begin with. By taking off the cuffs of WWII, Call of Duty 4
doesn't hold back with the dramatic twist and turns; you'll easily understand why this is the first Call of Duty
game to earn an M-rating. It's guaranteed some of the sequences will shock and leave you completely breathless. The good guys aren't always going to be winners, and you'll have to play for yourself to figure out why. Considering the war in Iraq, it's incredibly brave for Infinity Ward to push the envelope like this, and it only benefits the game.
As much as Call of Duty 4
benefits from the modern setting already, its gameplay receives an equal amount of improvement and refinement. The single-player largely follows the formula established in past games in the series; you start with a squad, get into some white knuckle firefights, trigger awesome scripted sequences, and then you're on to the next level. It's a formula that has always worked, but Call of Duty 4
refines and hones the formula into an art form. The modern setting lets Infinity let loose with practically everything. Firstly, we have the guns. They hold more ammo, some of the guns have a secondary fire in the way of a kick-ass grenade launcher, and a lot of the guns now have laser-sights, making it easier to shoot your tangos. The biggest change, however, is how you can shoot through walls. Drywall, wood, or anything that looks like it won't provide ample cover for your adversaries, and instead, they'll get slaughtered if you let loose. This is a great feature, and it drastically speeds up the pace of the game in general, because waiting for Nazis to take a peek out behind their apple crates in the past games tended to be an exercise in patience. An oddity with the bullet penetration is how it doesn't seem to affect you, at least in the single-player mode. It does remove a lot of potential frustration, but, at the same time, it's a strange thing to see tracer rounds obviously hitting you, while it does nothing to your health.
You even have stuff like night vision, flash-bangs, air strikes, bombing runs, claymores, and other various explosives to give you an upper hand over your enemies. Infinity Ward balances out your strengths by propelling you into a lot of desperate situations. Practically every single mission will leave you at a huge disadvantage in terms of numbers, and your enemy knows this. They're smart; they'll take advantage of cover, grenades are a constant, and, if they're given the chance, they'll outflank you. Granted, they sometimes jump out on the open, making them easy targets, but they're smart and convincing in general.
Call of Duty 4
's is also one of the best paced games of '07, if not ever. If there's one thing that was tiresome about Call of Duty 2
, it’s that it never shut up. The intensity was always cranked up to 11 and never faltered in that sense. It tended to get tiresome after awhile, and it seems Infinity wised up with Call of Duty 4
. Make no mistake, it's still an intense and heart-pounding game, but it evokes the same reactions differently. Since you shift between two totally different soldier types, the American missions tend to be the more traditional levels, while the British missions tend to be much more covert. Instead of joining the fray head-on, you'll sometimes pick off enemies with your rifle. The British mission "All Ghillied Up" is a prime example of this, because it requires you to line your shots up with a lot more precision than usual, making the entire mission a tense and refreshing experience. The AC-130 mission also spices things up by letting you take to the skies and man a deadly effective gun. It's an unsettling experience, to be sure, because all you're doing is raining down hell on unsuspecting terrorists while in the safety of the skies, while your pilot utters lines like "Boom, you got 'em" in such a monotone fashion that it's hard not to get a little uncomfortable.
"...it's easily the best single-player campaign in the series."
If there are a couple problems with the single-player, one of the obvious ones is that it's incredibly short. It's possible to finish the campaign in just one sitting, but it's definitely an explosive thrill ride that rivals any other recent single-player shooter, like Half-Life 2: Episode Two. You can try to tackle it at difficulties above normal, and while it does change up the gameplay significantly because of the punishing difficulty, it can be an extremely frustrating experience, rather than a challenging and fun one. Tackling the arcade mode is a potential boost for the single-player's replay value, because you'll be scored on every kill, but the biggest draw to play it again is because the single-player mode is flat out amazing; it's easily the best single-player campaign in the series. And once you're done exhausting the single-player, an entirely different game awaits you.
What makes Call of Duty 4 such a shining star is its multi-player mode. You have your usual multi-player variants, like deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, territories and so on. So, in the sense of just multi-player modes, there isn't much that really stands out. Instead, what makes it such an addicting experience is the level and perks system. You start off by choosing one of five preset classes. Once you hit level 4, you're allowed to craft your own class via a combination of weapons, different iron sights, camo patterns, and, most importantly, perks.
"...you'll definitely feel the benefits of a perk, but you never feel over- or underpowered."
Perks are essentially skills. For example, the Last Stand perk allows you to have a jab at your opponent after you've been shot down. The Juggernaut perk lets you take more damage. Others make your bullets harder hitting, while still others let you sprint for a longer period of time. The perks system could've easily made multi-player an imbalanced experience, but a couple smart moves from Infinity keep things in check. You can't have more than three perks at a time. You have to choose wisely, and there never seems to be a combination that makes you practically invincible. That's because perks don't drastically change your character. It's much more subtle in how it’s implemented; you'll definitely feel the benefits of a perk, but you never feel over- or underpowered. It's your shooting skill that's ultimately the most important asset above all else.
As mentioned before, you level by killing, which nets you experience. You can also level by completing challenges, like attaining so-and-so number of headshots. It's super addicting, because it's much like tethering a tantalizing price on a stick. It's always just one more level, just a couple more experience points, which then translates to just one more round. To make leveling even more addicting, you're awarded new ranks to boost your ego, new perks, and new weapons. Completing challenges net you new scopes, new skins for your guns, and yourself and various other attachments for your guns. The multi-player constantly doles out new stuff by just playing, and it works brilliantly. The level cap is at 55, but even when you've reached the top, the core multi-player gameplay is so strong that it's more than enough to hook you in for another round.
The gameplay is also significantly different in the multi-player arena than in the single-player one. Playing like you did in the single-player, staying behind a nice chunk of cover and popping off a few rounds, will probably get you killed immediately. Constantly moving around the map, finding your targets, proves to be the most successful method. Bullet penetration also takes a major role, because it affects you and your opponents in the multi-player. Netting kills by guessing where your human opponent is taking cover is immensely satisfying, and your battle cries will definitely be heard all over your neighborhood.
As twitchy as the multi-player can get, there's a tactical edge to it all. Shooting without using your iron sights means you won't hit anything, unless you're in their face and most of the maps are designed in such a way that you have to be smart about where you're moving about. The maps are fairly big in size, with crossroads, bridges, and buildings scattered throughout the map. Moving about around the borders of the map, instead of the center, will most likely extend your life and your kill streak. Your skills in self-preservation will also be rewarded. Get enough kills in a row, and you'll get be granted a much more comprehensive radar. Extend your kill streak even longer, and you'll get bombing runs. Extend it again, and you'll get to call in a helicopter that'll wreak havoc on anything that moves out in the open. It's another thing that keeps you motivated to try to be smart about what you're doing, and all the more reason why Call of Duty 4
has one of the best, if not the best, multi-player modes to date.
Shooting is a visceral and exciting act, and the audiovisuals in Call of Duty 4
amplifies that to an immeasurably high degree. Call of Duty 4
is easily one of the most eye-pleasing games to date. Gorgeous destruction, eye-piercingly sharp gun models, and attention detail have always been a given for Call of Duty
games, and Call of Duty 4
is no different. Also, Call of Duty 4
is the home to a lot of firsts for the series, graphically. Dynamic shadows are now fully implemented, and it adds a lot more atmosphere and immersion to levels visually compared to its predecessors. Motion-captured animations are utilized also, and the results are fantastic. Watching your squad mates and the enemy run from cover to cover, taking a hit, throwing a grenade, etc. all look so incredibly natural and life-like that again, it only adds to the immersion of being in the middle of a war. Physics are also implemented to a greater degree. Through a combination of pre-made animations and physics, the death animations are stunningly convincing, and the days of corpses floating above objects are a thing of a past. The graphics do have a couple blemishes; the texture work isn't always outstanding, the face models have a weird, artificial look about them, and the particles aren't the sharpest. Something that affects the actual gameplay, however, is how both the good and bad guys look similar off in the distance, potentially resulting in team kills. You'll be able to distinguish them after awhile, but you might accidentally kill a few of your friends every once in awhile, both on and offline. Taken as a whole, though, Call of Duty 4
is a visual feast for the eyes.
Unsurprisingly, the audio is the better technical component. Traditionally, Call of Duty
has always featured superb audio work, but Call of Duty 4
hits superlative levels. Every single sound effect is stunningly clear and distinct. When bullets whiz by you, you might literally duck down while playing. Again, this is all a given, but Call of Duty 4
goes above and beyond in the realm of voice acting and music. Gone are the cheesy one-liners and the relative lack of cussing. The voice acting is practically flawless, and the Russians finally speak in their own native tongue, only speaking in English when they need to tell you something. Cussing is used with proper restraint, and it adds to the authenticity and grittiness of the game. Not only has the voice acting improved, but the music takes a much more modern approach. Instead of a blaring and bombastic orchestra, the score is much more low-key, and the use of electric guitars and digital sounds enhance the feel that Call of Duty
has truly evolved. Call of Duty 4
's audio, from top to bottom, is a masterful effort and it's nothing short of flawless.
The shooter market is crowded with a lot of blockbusters and top-tier releases, but Call of Duty 4
easily stands out as one of the best. The core shooting feels and looks fantastic, the single-player, while short, is a gripping and jaw-dropping experience, and the multi-player is so well done that it feels like you're buying two games for the price of one. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
represents Infinity Ward's best work to date and it represents everything a shooter should be and more.
+ Intensely intense (that’s really intense).
+ Extremely addicting multi-player.
+ Outstanding presentation.
+ Unflinching story.
+ Single-player is a heart-pumping thrill ride.
+ Flawless audio.
- Single-player is extremely brief.
- Sometimes hard to tell who’s bad and who’s good.