November 16, 2007
Single Player Review by Antonio Hernandez
The cold Atlantic wind howls through the choppers open canopy, bringing with it the rain that pours relentlessly outside. The captain doesn’t seem bothered. Biting down on a cigar, he looks outside with anticipation. The rest of your team sits silent with their weapons as the helicopter you ride makes a hard turn left. Through the downpour you spot the hull of a cargo ship, its gigantic skeleton fighting to stay afloat amongst the massive ocean waves. The helicopter levels off and drops its ropes; quickly, you snag a rope plummeting down and landing on the deck. Landing directly in front of the bridge, you peer through the windows to watch as the crew reclines and talks amongst themselves.
“Weapons free,” a voice chimes over your earpiece and soon after a wall of automatic fire cuts them down.
This scene isn’t from a Hollywood blockbuster. This is “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” developer Infinity Wards’ latest addition to the popular franchise. As the title suggests, the series has taken a leap of 60 years from its World War II setting and places gamers into the shoes of modern day soldiers. Rightfully, fans have been worrying if the developer could handle the jump forward in time.
Well stop biting your nails, Call of Duty 4 brings back everything you love about the series and wraps it in a modern package. The epic battles, storytelling and multiplayer mod present a finely tuned game.
In the usual Call of Duty fashion, you are thrust into the shoes of multiple soldiers who play a part in the overarching storyline. The game takes place in the near future, where a Middle Eastern revolutionary group has overthrown its government and acquired nuclear arms from a Russian ally. So what? Players have saved the world from hell bent terrorists many times . What truly makes you care about the story is in the way it is told. From the small villages of Russia to the cities of the Middle East, there is never a point when the game stops and puts you into the distant shoes of the observer. Even though the story is generic, the well rounded script, excellent voice work, and first person cut scenes make you forget the clichéd story.
The Call of Duty franchise is known for its frantic levels, fighting against insurmountable odds and throwing wave after wave of enemies at the player. Again, this all comes intact in Modern Warfare and even brings it to a higher threshold. There is one level in which the player has to defend a broken down tank from all sides as enemies fight to overtake the position. This situation we have all been through, but what makes Modern Warfare different is the delivery. The pace is frantic with waves of enemies firing Rockets (which oddly they have a lot of), throwing grenades with Halo-like accuracy and at some points finding ways to flank you.
If you want to take a breather, good luck finding cover. Almost all cover, no matter how solid it appears, is never bullet proof. Modern Warfare introduces a great bullet physics-engine. Projectiles fly through dry wall, bricks and concrete as though they are paper. It all depends on the type of weapon used and firing trajectory. Don’t want to storm a room with a dozen enemies waiting for you? Just pump a few rounds through the wall and they will tumble down. This threat not only applies to the enemy but the player as well. Don’t be surprised if you duck behind a wall, only to be cut down by the machine gun on the other side. However, rockets don’t destroy walls. If a bullet can hit an enemy straight through a wall, then why can’t a rocket blast away what he is hiding behind? Hopefully, this annoyance will be fixed in the next installment.
The simple controls for Modern Warfare are a great aid to the player in the hectic environment. As expected the aiming is done by the left control stick, while movement is handled through the right. Click the right stick when you are close to an enemy and you deliver a one-hit-kill knife attack. The aiming scheme from the previous Call of Duty games comes back unchanged. If you are a veteran of the series you already know, never fire from the hip. In order to pull off accurate shots you must always hold the left trigger and peer down the sights.
While the action can be over the top at some times, it is always believable. This is done in part by the A.I that your teammates possess. Unlike Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six, there are no squad commands for your team; there is no need for the option. Your team moves like a real life trained military squad. The motion capture for each character is amazing and everything down to their simple hand gestures appears accurate. They clear rooms with deadly grace (they actually saved my life, as I blindly ran into a room full of enemies). However, the Team A.I is not completely flawless. There are times that I witnessed my comrades blindly fire into a wall or run straight into enemy fire.
Of course, these problems are not acceptable, but inevitable. Thankfully, the constant action distracts the player from these small hiccups in the A.I.
The enemy A.I suffers from these problems as well. While they take cover and fire from behind buildings, they also run straight into your bullets. Or in some cases run directly for you as you unload a clip in their direction. These small moments of A.I stupidity are a shame, as the rest of the presentation is extremely believable.
A game is only as believable as it looks. The graphics for Modern Warfare are something that other developers will be trying to achieve for years. Everything from the expression on your squad mates face to the detail on a wall is top notch. The air around your weapon wavers with the heat as you shoot round after round. Cars don’t simply explode; they send debris in all directions with a plume of smoke and flame. White contrails follow rockets as they slam into the dirt, sending the rock and soil directly into your face. This is the best looking shooter on the X-box 360 and it is surprising that so late in the consoles life span developers are still finding ways to ‘wow’ the audience.
One such “wow” moment is when you first activate your night vision goggles. You watch as your arm tugs the goggles into place and with a chime the whole world lights up in a bright green. The laser sights from enemy and friendly guns are suddenly in plain view with tracer’s blazing across the sky. There are plenty more of these graphical wow moments, so many in fact that I wonder if Infinity Ward will be able to top Modern Warfare’s visuals in the possible next installment.
The Audio is near perfect. In order to experience the sound truly, you should be hooked up to a Dolby Digital system, but even with simple TV speakers it's amazing. Standing next to tank when it fires will give you a deafining ring, gunshots echo through hallways, and radio chatter constantly adds to the frantic pacing. I understand that the guns can't sound 100 percent realistic, but, why does the sub machine gun sound like a bottle of rocks? While this is a small problem, every time I pulled the trigger of the weapon, I couldn't help but snicker.
What is lacking in this iteration are levels devoted to vehicles. No where in the game do you drive a tank or jeep. While this might be refreshing to some who are tired of driving around and shooting bad guys, itis almost a trademark for the series. Even though you don’t get to control a generic tank or jeep, Modern Warfare does put you in the gunnery seat of a very powerful weapon. The AC-130 gunship level, where you command its titanic guns, will make you never want to drive a petty little tank again.
All this action combines to make a campaign that will take the average player five to seven hours to complete on a normal difficulty level. While the single player is short, just the simple awe inspiring moments will make you want to revisit it on all five difficulties. If that’s not enough to quench your thirst, the game has a total of 37 achievements. While some of them are your simple “complete level earn gamer points”, others are more creative, such as saving a soldier from being ambushed by an enemy. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it really doesn’t need to be. The campaign alone will make you want to go back and play it all over again. Tack onto that an arcade mode that rewards players for certain kills, and there is almost no need for achievements at all. Yeah, I said it.
Multiplayer Review by Joshua Wirfs
Let me start out by saying flat out, hands down, Call of Duty 4 is one of the best multiplayer titles on Xbox Live. Anyone who's played it can attest to that. Everything Call of Duty 4 brings to the table is pure gold. In more hours than I'd like to admit of playing it, I've not been disappointed yet. With 16 well-designed maps out of the box, 13 different game modes, a plethora of different perks and skills to choose from, a unique and balanced Create-a-Class option, and an arsenal of 26 different firearms, it's pretty damn hard to be anything less than impressed. I played Call of Duty 2 on Xbox Live for months when I bought my Xbox 360, so I had high hopes and expectations for this installment. Every single expectation I had was lived up to and then some.
Perhaps Call of Duty 4's greatest feature is the ranking system. For every action you take in a game, you're rewarded with experience points. Earn enough experience points, and you'll be promoted and gain access to a new weapon, perk, or challenge. Sounds simple enough, but it's far more indepth than you'd expect at first glance. You're given five different custom create-a-class slots, and you can load up each one with whatever weapon, sidearm, and perks you choose. Each weapon and perk changes the gameplay dramatically, so a lot of thought goes into building the perfect class for your playstyle. Like to hide in the bushes with a sniper rifle? You'd be best suited to the Sleight of Hand perk to reload faster and the Iron Lungs perk to hold your breath longer for a cleaner shot. Want to drown the enemy in a sea of bullets with a light machine gun? Grab the Double Tap perk to make your gun shoot twice as fast and the Bandolier perk to spawn with more ammo. There's literally thousands of different combinations of weapons and perks you can set your custom class up with, and the higher your rank, the more options you have at your disposal. A large part of Call of Duty 4's charm comes from experimenting with different weapons and perks until you find the perfect combination.
On top of the ranking and custom class systems, there’s also Challenges you can complete to earn bonus experience. More challenges are unlocked as you progress through the ranks, with four different categories. Challenges range from simple things like killing several people with your knife, to more complex objectives such as killing two enemies at the same time while in midair. They add a refreshing twist to the combat, giving you incentive to try out new strategies. Challenges are also a huge help in the later ranks where the experience you gain simply from winning a match does little to move you towards your next rank.
Making the experience even more fluid, Call of Duty 4 uses a matchmaking system almost identical to Halo 3's accessible interface. From the lobby, you can invite friends to your party and dominate the competition in 11 different team based game modes. There's even built-in clan support, a feature shooter fans have been begging developers to implement over Xbox Live for ages to avoid paying the hefty $10 charge to change your Live gamertag. Once you've reached a certain rank you're given the option to include a clan tag in your gamertag, so people will know your team means business. My only gripe with the matchmaking system is that it doesn't seem to filter players out by rank. At rank 4 I was playing games with people ranked in the 40's. This is a bit unfair, because at rank 40 you have access to vastly superior perks and weaponry. Aside from that small issue, the matchmaking system works flawlessly, perhaps even better than Halo 3's.
The 16 maps included out of the box are for the most part phenomenal, although there's a few duds and balance issues with some maps in certain gametypes. Most maps are simply recycled from the singleplayer missions, with a few changes made to make them more suitable for multiplayer games. None of the graphical luster from the singleplayer campaign is lost in the multiplayer maps, with spectacular particle and environmental effects abound. Paper and leaves fly through the air, carried by the wind. Dust and sand are kicked up in desert levels like Crossfire and Backlot. Heavy rain makes objects glisten realistically in the Downpour and Wet Work maps. All of this makes the action even more intense and realistic, although I've been killed a couple times because I was too busy marvelling at the graphical prowess displayed in nearly every map to defend myself. But there are some maps that just don't add up to the standards set by the rest. For example, Shipment and Showdown are both way too small to support the maximum of 16 players in a ranked match. Shipment in particular seems like it belongs more in a test build of the game, because the map is small enough that one air strike will kill nearly everyone on the map. Overall though, the maps are outstanding, and Infinity Ward has to be commended for releasing so many maps with the retail version of the game, while other developers (you know who you are, Ubisoft) seem to love releasing their games with very few maps and charging exorbitent amounts of money to download more off the marketplace.
The 13 different game modes are for the most part, completely unique to Call of Duty 4. There's the standard fare like Team Deathmatch and Free-for-all naturally, but that's where the similarities to other games of the genre ends. My personal favorite is Team Hardcore, where friendly fire's turned on, your HUD disappears, radar's only available when someone activates a UAV, and bullet damage is increased. Domination is reminiscent of Gears of War's Annex game mode, where two teams compete over three different stationary flags. Each flag generates a point every few seconds and serves as a respawn point for your team, so the objective is to hold down as many flags as you can until you hit the score limit of 200. Call of Duty fans will certainly remember Search and Destroy, which makes a comeback in this installment. Respawns are turned off, and you have to either plant a bomb on one of two objectives or defend those objectives depending on which team you're on. There's also a mode called Old School, which turns off classes and starts everyone with the same weapon so you'll have to pick up different weapons and perks scattered throughout the map. Then there's Oldcore, which is basically a blend of both Old School and Team Harcore's rulesets. The quantity and quality of the game modes offered here is amazing, and every one of them is fun in its own right.
The gameplay itself is, as would be expected, outstanding. As saiux mentioned earlier, the bullet physics are unparalleled. Gone are the days where you'd lose a kill because your target ran behind a wooden crate and your machine gun, for some unexplainable reason, couldn't penetrate it. In Call of Duty 4, you can run but you can't hide. Enemy hiding behind a car? Blow it up and send him flying. Shooting someone on a balcony and they duck behind a wall? Unload on it and watch their bullet-riddled corpse fall out the other side. What objects can be penetrated is determined by the calibur of your weapon and the type of object you're trying to shoot through. Obviously your bullets can't penetrate heavy concrete or thick steel, but wooden boxes and thin walls are fair game for a machine gun or shotgun. The bullet physics add a whole new dimension to the gameplay, giving Call of Duty 4 a realistic feel that's simply unmatched in any other game of the genre.
Also worth mentioning is the air support given to you when you get a kill streak. This is hands down one of Call of Duty 4's coolest and most innovative gameplay features. Kill 3 people in a row without dying, and you're given UAV support for 30 seconds which will highlight enemy positions on your radar. Drop 5 people without dying, and you can pull up a map of the entire level and choose a spot to call in for an air strike which will carpet bomb the area a few seconds later. If you're good enough to kill 7 enemies without dying, you can call in the best support of all, an attack helicopter that will circle the entire map laying waste to the opposition with heavy machine guns and rockets until it runs out of ammo or gets shot down. This is some seriously cool stuff, and I pray that other shooter developers will step up to the plate and implement similar features in their games.
As fans of Infinity Ward's previous work with Call of Duty would come to expect, the 26 different weapons you can bring into battle are accurate representations of their real life counterparts. Every gun is distinctly different and requires a different playstyle to use. I've never shot an AK-47 personally, but I'm pretty damn sure this is as close as I'll ever get. Each gun sounds spot on, and fires completely different from the last. For example, the AK-47 has more recoil and a slower fire rate than the M4 Carbine, but it does more damage and can penetrate thicker objects. If you're a fan of sniping, you'll love each one of Call of Duty 4's five different rifles. The Barrett .50 Cal is particularly satisfying in a morbid manner; it's almost like taking an Elephant Rifle out to go pheasant hunting. The shotguns also have a satisfying kick to them. The W1200 pump action shotty packs a bit more of a punch than the semi-automatic M1014, but the M1014 can put out four shells in one or two seconds, making sure whatever you're shooting at is unrecognizable by the time you're done. Each gun can also be customized with one attachment and the camo of your choice. Attachments range from different kinds of scopes, grips to reduce recoil, silencers to prevent you from popping up on the radar when you fire your weapon, or grenade launcers for the assault rifles. There's five different kinds of camo you can apply to your gun, with Woodland and Desert camo available from the start and Digital (grey, white, and black), Blue, and Red camo unlocked after you've gotten 25, 75, and 150 headshots respectively with each gun. If you're truly hardcore, you can even unlock golden guns if you manage to unlock the camo for every gun in that weapon's category.
There's nearly unlimited replayability to Call of Duty 4's multiplayer portion. Once you've reached the maximum level of 55, which is no small feat, you're given the option to enter Prestige mode. When this option's selected, your rank and everything you've unlocked is reset back to where it was the first time you popped the game into your Xbox. The only benefit is a special icon that lets people know what a badass you are. If you hit rank 55 again, you can do it all over and get an even spiffier icon. Prestige mode can be activated up to 10 times, so it's unlikely that many people will ever reach the maximum level of Prestige. It's an interesting feature, and certainly ramps up the replayability to near limitless levels.
Overall, Call of Duty 4 is arguably the greatest multiplayer title on Xbox Live to date. It holds a solid place as one of the absolute must-have titles on the Xbox 360 for shooter fans, right up there with Gears of War and Halo 3. With the plethora of different maps, game modes, and weapons and the outstanding Create-a-class and ranking system, I challenge anyone to come up with a reason why this game is anything short of phenomenal. You'll be hard pressed to ever find another player using the exact same class build that you're using, meaning that you never know what to expect going into a match. To top it all off, everything is balanced near perfectly. While some guns and perks are a little overpowered, it very rarely becomes an issue. Besides, you'll be having way too much fun to notice such small details anyway. If you haven't bought Call of Duty 4 yet, you need to quit reading this review and go buy it. Right now.
You really need a Dolby Digital system to enjoy this baby, amazing sound effects and point on voice acting is abundant. Please Infinity Ward, make the sub machine gun sound a little better next time.
Really? did you not look at the screenshots? This is easily the best looking First person shooter on the market. Hands down.
The controls for this game are spot on, everything from movement to aiming seems polished. The only gripe is clicking the left stick to sprint
Epic storytelling. We've all heard the story before, but never delivered like this. The fact that I want to play the game again just for the experience and not the achievements is a testament to it's delivery
Generic campaign achievements are what brings this score down. "Complete level" achievements are a bit old by now.
Modern Warfare delivers on the hype. It's a great looking game, has a solid campaign, and great online multi-player. More importantly, it shows that Infinity Ward can break from what they are comfortable with and still deliver a great game. Hopefully this trend continues.