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Review: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 - 9.5

November 29, 2007

Call of Duty 4 brings the series into the next-generation of combat...

Well, ladies and gentlemen. It's here, Call of Duty 4 has been released. But, is the series' first huge shift in terms of setting and gameplay all its cracked up to be?

As always, Call of Duty 4's campaign is gaming's equivalent of an amusement park thrill-ride. Taking place in a fictional, near-future conflict, COD4's campaign offers a story involving stolen nuclear warheads and middle-eastern conflicts that could have been ripped straight out of today's newspaper headlines. The game follows the doings of two characters residing in different military branches, namely the British SAS special ops unit, and the United States Marine Corps Force Recon unit. The campaign often switches perspectives between the two units in order to advance the story in a coherent manner. The differences between the two characters and branches are more than just cosmetic, as the SAS missions are characterized by small unit gameplay, stealth, and often take place in different areas in Russia. The USMC missions involve a full-scale assault on a Middle-Eastern country, attempting to quell a rebel-funded revolution there, and as such, they often consist of huge battles with dozens of combatants duking it out. The gameplay, while taking place in a completely different time period as opposed to the WW2 setting the COD series is famous for, retains the Call of Duty feel. You are allowed to only carry a limited number of weapons, and you are encouraged to look down the sights to hit enemies. There are certain sequences where you are put in a vehicle and forced to defend convoys and the such from enemy attacks. One stand-out level puts you in the weapons station of an AC-130 gunship, and lets you rain death on enemy positions with the help of infared optics. Its a very eerie level, communicating the power and anonymity of modern battlefield weapons and technology. The campaign features an impressive assortment of stand-out moments, and often has the feeling of a fast-moving, well-written TV series, such as 24.

Unfortunately, just like an amusement park ride, the campaign is over way faster than expected. On the game's Normal difficulty,  pro players can often finish in under four hours. The Veteran mode takes longer, but artificially increases the game's difficulty by increasing enemy accuracy to robotic proportions and reducing your own character's health to almost nothing. The game also suffers from a problem inherent in the Call of Duty series since the beginning, and that's the infinitely-spawning enemies found at some points in the campaign. You often find yourself pinned down in front of a building with your teammates, and no matter how many times you snipe enemies in the window, there are always more to take their place. The only way to stop this is to advance close to the building, which stops the respawning and allows you to clear out the guys left in the house. The campaign is very linear, and its very rare for one playthrough to radically differ in approach from another. After you play it once or twice, you'll never pick up the campaign again.

Sound design is mind-blowing, from the grass rustling as you stealthily make your way to assassinate a target, to the deafening sounds of a nuclear explosion wiping out an entire army and a city with it. Everything fits, bullets sound like they should, explosions shake the room, making the battlefield sound even more chaotic than those in the previous COD games. The graphics are great and cinematic. Character movements are probably the most impressive, with allies and enemies running realistically to cover and dying believingly. Lighting has been upgraded and shows some truly impressive special effects, especially during the early-game stormy Cargoship mission, the middle east missions, or the desolate Chernobyl mission. The only thing that doesn't look as impressive are environments and textures, which have received a very minor upgrade over COD2. However, this is made up for by the stellar smoke effects the COD series is known for. The game also runs extremely smoothly and will break 60 FPS on high settings on many modern gaming PCs. The game looks similar across all three platforms, with the exception of the availability of higher resolutions on the PC version.

Multiplayer follows in the vein of previous games, with a few exceptions such as a class system and leveling up. The class system has five preset classes with default weapon load outs and perks assigned to them. The game also allows you to create five custom classes where the user can customize their weapon load out and three perks to assign to their soldier. The five default classes include Assault, Special Ops, Light Machine Gunner, Demolitions, and Sniper. Only two of the default classes are available to a first time player; the rest are unlocked as the player gains more experience online and gains higher rank. Create-a-class can be unlocked at level 4; players can name and save their own custom classes for quick access in multiplayer matches. Servers are well optimized and much work has been done to reduce lag, even when compared to the stellar Call of Duty 2 and United Offensive experiences. Your rank stays persistent and linked to your account in all three versions of the game. There's twelve different gameplay modes, insuring a range of different options.

Call of Duty 4, while not as revolutionary as Infinity Ward made it seem, is another solid shooter in a year filled with them. The campaign is cinematic and offers tons of fun moments, but suffers from short length and extreme linearity inherent to the series. The multiplayer is much improved over past iterations, and should be the focus of the player once they have finished with the short but sweet campaign.

Gameplay: 9 – The campaign is extremely fun, and preserves the Call of Duty feel even in the modern setting. However, the linearity of most sequences makes it seem oddly repetitive by game's end. The multiplayer is fun and improved, taking the gunplay of the campaign and accurately translating it into a competitive experience.
Presentation: 10 – The game's voice acting and sound effects make you feel as if you're really out on the battlefield. The level transition briefings are also well done and offer that modern military feel all while advancing the story and setting up the level's objectives.
Graphics: 9.5 – The game offers several improvements, especially in the area of character movement and animation. However, it is hurt by the fact that it's running on basically the same technology as the two-year-old Call of Duty 2, as environments and textures look underwhelming. The game looks nearly the same across all three platforms its been released on, and runs extremely smoothly.
Sound: 10 – Call of Duty 4 offers some of the most intense and authentic-sounding battlefields yet. Bullets whiz through the air and richochet. Explosions shake the room, and the radio transmissions of your comrades sound eerily authentic.
Value: 9 – The campaign is extremely short even when compared to an average shooter. The multiplayer makes up for this somewhat by offering lots of options and a persistent ranking system allowing you to eventually unlock better weapons and perks.

Final Score: 9.5 - While a little underwhelming at a few points, Call of Duty 4 successfully brings the series into the arena of modern combat. A short but intense single-player campaign combined with a lasting multiplayer component make this a solid shooter.

Marcin Skok
Editor-in-Chief
"The Gaming Corner"

Galeria