A Call of Duty 4 review by CS5000.
MODERN WARFARE has always intrigued me. The technology that people develop specifically to kill the enemy better is insane, and almost a little sad, because so much money and time is put into finding out how to make someone die that much easier.
But this is a videogame. I don't care as much about the characters in a videogame, because they don't really exist (granted, this game did tap into my emotions a bit, but I'll cover that later), so in a videogame, modern weaponry and warfare fascinates me. And when my boss came back from a gaming convention in Vegas telling me that CoD4 was going to be a definite Game Of The Year contender, and would beat Halo in anything, I got excited.
4 months later, CoD4 hits store shelves, and I nab myself a copy. To anyone that has complained about the ridiculous pricing of video games these days (trust me, I agree with you), this is by far the best $60 you'll spend this year. Forget Halo (I can't stand it, to be honest). Forget Bioshock, which was epic on so many levels. Forget all the other FPS games that've come out in 2007, because Call Of Duty 4 has redefined the genre.
The minute you turn this game on, you'll be going "Wow.", or something similar. The game is GORGEOUS. And Infinity Ward promised us nothing below 60 frames per second. They delivered. Even in the most frantic parts of the game, with bullets and shrapnel and dust and bits and pieces of everything flying everywhere, with half a dozen enemies attacking you from the front, and another dozen on the left and right, this game holds up at a steady 60 FPS, and looks amazing while it's at it. I couldn't find a single graphical hitch to complain about all the way through the campaign, and the online levels deliver just as well. The lighting is superb, and there'll be moments when you'll see a teammate pass by a light source, and you'll see how much work was put into the self-shadowing bit, and you'll just sit there and be amazed. Outdoor levels are a thing to behold in themselves, with so much grass and so many trees, or in the urban area, so many broken down buildings and car skeletons.
And to think, all of this is based off of what I see on my craptastic 13" TV from the mid-80s. I can't even begin to imagine how much more beautiful it is on any HDTV. Certain moments will have your jaw through the floor (in particular, the end of the second to last mission in Act I comes to mind.....). I replayed one of the most annoying missions 6 times just to see the end (which is in real-time graphics, mind you). Bravo, Infinity Ward. You did a marvelous job.
In terms of sound, well, what do you expect from a war game? The voice acting is superb (and I have a thing for the S.A.S. They rock hardcore.), and guns sound like guns, and explosions sound like explosions ought to sound. The bits and pieces of random sounds they threw in for the hell of it really pull the game together in the end, though. The random things your teammates will shout out in the battlefield that never get old, because there's just too many varieties to what they're telling you for you to feel like you've heard them say it a million times before. And of course, nothing is quite as satisfying as hearing the echoing crack of a .50 cal sniper rifle.
And whoever was put in charge of the soundtrack deserves some kind of Emmy or something. The soundtrack is fabulous, keeping you on the edge no matter what situation you're in.
And various other parts of the audio design really make this game what it is. The echoes of childrens' laughter at the most depressing of moments sends a chill up your spine (unless you're absolutely heartless) each time it happens. Again, excellent job, IW.
Gameplay-wise, the game plays just like any other FPS. In fact, I'm surprised I'm not sick of it. Move into one area, kill everything, try not to die in the process. At times, the game can get frustrating (especially if you're going for those Veteran achievements...), but it rewards you with enough checkpoints to keep you from getting too discouraged. Most of it, FPS fans are used to, and can jump right into, but then there are some parts that are a bit outside of the box for an FPS. Mowing down tiny ant-like people from an AC-130U gunship is pretty amusing, and they went as far as to make the HUD look something like the real thing. What all those numbers mean, I don't know. But it makes it that much more authentic. On another mission, you and your commander are sent in on what may as well be considered a suicide mission to take out a target in the middle of an enemy infested town. But it gives you an amazing sense of satisfaction when you take out one enemy, only to hear your commander go "Tango down. Lets move!", and no one knew you were there. The intensity rockets sky-high in situations that have you laying in the middle of a field while troops and tanks pass by mere feet away (thank god for ghillie suits), and helicopters come crashing down close enough to choke you with the debris clouds. Looking back through the missions list, I don't think there was a single mission where I got tired of what was going on, which is impressive. It takes a lot for an FPS to tie me down this well, and CoD 4 nails it.
There isn't much I can say about the controls... If you've played one FPS, you've played them all, in terms of how the controls are generally laid out. But hey, if it isn't broken, don't fix it, right? The only quirk I can think of is using L3 as your sprint. It seems odd to have that as sprint as opposed to... Say... Calling an airstrike or something (but then right on the D-pad for sprint would be even weirder... I dunno). That isn't to say it doesn't work, as you most certainly get used to it, I just found it to be a bit odd.
Storywise, CoD4 is pretty straightforward. Bad guy has nuke, so we wanna go get him. He's a friggin' ninja, and is nowhere to be found, so we go after the people closest to him to try to find the big bad guy through them. One thing I have to point out about this story is that it plays out much like a movie, and by the end, I had gone through an emotional rollercoaster during the course of the game as the events of the game play out on you and your AI companions. Very few games are able to maintain such a cinematic story, but CoD4 does it remarkably well, even if it is just another rehash of a story we've all heard a million times.
Online play is another place where this game truly shines. You play online, and anything that benefits you or the team, be it kills, bomb plants, kill assists, or whatever else, nets you points that lead towards higher ranks. Everytime you go up a rank, you unlock something, be it challenges that give you ways to get more points, or new weapons/perks/attachments for your weapons.
Speaking of perks, I was worried about this feature, and I know a few other people were as well. The general concept is that you have 3 special abilities that give you an advantage of some sort, be it more health, better stopping power from your weapons, the ability to not appear on your enemies radar, dropping a live grenade when you die, or one of plenty of other things. My initial thoughts would be that it would throw off the balance of the game, but it really doesn't. Yeah, it's annoying when a guy you shot drops a grenade, and it somehow manages to kill you from 20 feet away, but hell, you may have killed him by shooting the crap out of the wall he was hiding behind. It all evens itself out fairly well, and you'll find yourself looking forward to unlocking certain perks just to see how well they suit you.
Not only will perks be something to look forward to, but new weapons and challenges, as well. Challenges are kind of the same as achievements, just not. IW left all the achievements for offline missions, which I think is great. Instead of people playing simply to improve their gamerscore, they'll be playing to move through the ranks. Everything from getting a set amount of headshots with each weapon, to throwing yourself off a 30 foot ledge make the list for challenges, and everyone is worth a set amount of points towards your next rank. You'll find yourself going to the barracks between matches to find out which challenges you're closest to accomplishing, and just about all of them (save for the 30 foot jump) can be earned in a way that not only helps you progress, but helps your team win at the same time.
All 16 maps are AMAZINGLY balanced, and IW found a way to make them all work for the 13 different game modes. Yes, 13. Granted, like most everything else (even the option to have a clan tag), most of the modes have to be unlocked, but it works, because the last thing you want is someone to just hop on that's never played before and go into a match with friendly fire and just TK the crap out of everyone. IW found ways to make online fair for everyone, and motivational enough (in terms of ranking up and the like) to keep you hooked until you reach that coveted rank at level 55.
Overall, I can only think of one thing that's off with CoD4, and that's simply the lack of a night time map online (you have nightvision, what for?). Otherwise, it's practically perfect. Graphically, it rivals Bioshock, and gameplay-wise, I think it's something that I'll be stuck to for a LONG time. If you happen to have the money, I suggest buying it. It's most certainly worth all $60. Can't afford it? You don't know what you're missing out on.