Wednesday, 05 December 2007 00:00

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC, 2007)

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Overview

I have something of a soft spot for World War I and II era games, I'll admit it. There's just something about the time period, for all its horrors, that seems... better. Better by far, at any rate, than our current global policy... When I ran across the demo version of Call of Duty 2, I knew that I wanted to play the full game, and indeed, it, along with Call of Duty 3, were two of the first games that I picked up when I got my 360. Just like I'd known I would, I loved every minute of them, too. They told damn good stories, and wove their multi-national tales together damned nicely, especially in CoD3 where all the groups were, in the end, working toward the same end point. When I first heard about Call of Duty 4, I was excited - until I saw the sub title. Moving CoD from World War II to a modern setting was just the sort of thing that could either be very good... or completely destroy the series.

Review

Call of Duty 4's storyline takes place right out on today's battlefronts, with most of the first half of the game block-to-block fighting in the middle east with terrorists. But that's not the whole story, and I can't even really consider it the real meat of the story. The game starts out with you, Sergent John "Soap" MacTavish, arriving for duty at the 22nd SAS Regiment. Now, of course, this isn't the only role that you play through the game - it wouldn't be Call of Duty if it was. However, in a departure from previous CoD games, the storyline is decidedly more focused, and you spend the majority of your time in the role of Soap. Your unit is practicing for a night mission strike on a tanker at sea, and you're just in time for your turn through the mock-up. I'll add that this is a rather nice twist for the tutorial - your performance in the mock-up is used to offer you a recommended difficulty level.

As I mentioned, you primarily take the role of Soap, as well as a US Marine by the name of Sgt. Paul Jackson for the middle eastern portions of the game. In addition to these two main characters, you also play as the gunnery officer on a C-130 support plane, and even take the role of Call of Duty 4's incarnation of Captain Price for a flashback sequence. As with every Call of Duty, there's also a fairly large supporting cast consisting primarily of your own squad mates, but unlike earlier CoD's, there's also a fair number of named 'villains' in Call of Duty 4.

My game play was a little hampered by the fact that I was playing this on my PC, rather than on a gaming console - I'm just not as comfortable with using the keyboard as I am a controller. After a little hacking, though, I was able to kludge in support for my 360 controller, and the control scheme worked fine even without it. The controls are responsive for the most part, though I don't like that the crouch and prone buttons are not only separate by default, but that they don't toggle back into a standing stance. This is easily enough fixed though, so no major issue there. More irritating was that every single weapon, side-equipment, and random bit had its own usage key. I would have liked for there to be a single 'hot-swap' key that could cycle through everything, especially when in the middle of a fight.

Weapon balance was good and solid, just as I've come to expect out of the Call of Duty series. There's a wide range of modern weapons and explosives to be used, from the M4 SOPMOD to the burly and wickedly powerful M82 .50 cal sniper rifle. I'll come back to that one in a second, actually. Like other CoD games, you're able to carry two weapons at any given time, in addition to grenades and a (very) small assortment of other gear. My favorite had to be the claymore mines, not that you really get a lot of good chances to use them. I would have liked to have had the option between smoke grenades and flash bangs, though, as the flash bangs wound up causing me more problems than the bad guys. Despite being behind cover and looking away, it seemed like I got hit by the burst half the time. I never came close to running out of ammo, though that's as much because I tend to be rather conservative in firing as it is because you get plenty.

If you're planning on playing Call of Duty 4 on your PC, I hope you've got one hell of a burly machine, because the photorealism in this game is just staggering. It's easily the best looking realistic game that I've seen, topping out Gears of War by a fair bit. With a meaty enough machine to pump the settings up, you're going to be enjoying jaw-dropping visuals and awesome looking environments. The first played stage, that assault on the tanker I mentioned, takes place in a driving downpour on seas that are coming close to capsizing the damn tanker. The console versions of CoD4 run at 60fps and 600p, according to the official site. On my own box I squeezed out a solid 45 with a 256 meg video card, 2 gigs of memory, and a 2.8 Ghz processor. If that sounds a bit low, consider that I'm running a dual monitor setup and was too lazy to turn off my secondary. This is a damned pretty game though, folks.

I'm not so sure that I consider the musical score up to the par of the earlier games, though that's as much because they match modern styled music, rather than the more dramatic ones from the earlier games. I dunno, I just didn't get the same feel for the game out of most of the selections. It's not that the music is bad... just that it wasn't quite up to par. Voice acting is considerably better on the British side of the fight, but pretty good overall. I kept wondering where all the German accents were, though, heh. Overall an ok job on the sound, though I'd have liked to hear some more distinctive, dramatic themes on a couple of the stages.

I can't say that I was too impressed by the multi-player, though, and that's as much because I haven't really played enough to get a sense of the level layouts as it was that I was having a hell of a time facing down players that had already advanced a fair ways into the advanced ranks, which gives them access to more powerful weapons and bonus skills. The system played well, mind you, but as I've said before, I'm just not that big a fan of PvP.

As I'm prone to do, I want to take a moment out before closing this review to discuss the subject of just how bloody some games can be... and folks, Call of Duty 4 is pretty up there, which is really kinda surprising considering the earlier games in the series. One thing that I couldn't help but note is that the characters like to shoot captives in the skulls with large caliber hand guns - in fact, I counted four such execution style killings. Splashes of blood as bullets tear through enemies are also in the game, and in a couple of the stages where you play sniper, it's entirely possible for the background of a window where you're taking out enemies to be just coated in crimson.

It's not nearly as bad as, say, Gears of War, but I took notice because that really hasn't been the style of Call of Duty until now. Last but not least, this Captain Price makes absolutely no bones about being willing to do whatever is willing to be done to get the job done - and after about a 5-7 second sequence in which the screen is blacked out but you can hear him beating the fucking shit out of somebody, you know it, too. I have a sneaking suspicion that the scene wasn't originally blacked out, either. Call it a hunch. There's an unusually high allied corpse count in this game too - staggeringly high, in fact. Again, this isn't necessarily bad... just unexpected, given the earlier games in the series.

Overall

Let's get the obvious out of the way: They did a kick ass job of it. Rather than destroying the series as I had feared that it might, Call of Duty 4 takes it to an entirely new level of awesome. One of my favorite stages is when you follow Captain Price through a flashback of going on an execution order mission with his commander, Captain MacMillian in a full fledged ghille suit. This mission culminates with a nearly 900 meter sniper shot on the target, something that felt freaking awesome to do because of the way that it's handled. You've got to WORK for that shot. The graphics are stunning, if you have a system with the power to handle them, and even if you have to turn them down a bit to play smoothly, they look great. If multi-player is your thing, you'll probably like the customization of your character at higher experience levels. Great storyline that plays in a very unique way compared to older Call of Duty games, and alright music. Grab it if you like FPS games folks, it's well worth your money.

Additional Info

  • Title: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  • Genre: Action, First Person Shooter, Warfare, Real World
  • Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams, Stephen Barton
  • Platform: Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, Mac
  • Developer: Infinity Ward, Aspyr, Treyarch
  • Publisher: Activision, Square Enix
  • Engine: IW 3.0
  • Writing: Very Good (+3)
  • Pacing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Graphics: Groovy (+5)
  • Controls: Very Good (+3)
  • Voice Acting: Groovy (+5)
  • Soundtrack: Very Good (+3)
  • Replay Value: Very Good (+3)

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