Everyone is thinking the same thing; finally Call of Duty has moved past its WWII setting and embraced the brave new world of modern combat. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as Activision has already delivered two traditional Call of Duty experiences on next-generation hardware. Call of Duty might have just saved itself from becoming that “Sonic” franchise that gets stuck in the past.
Call of Duty 4 takes a break from killing Nazi soldiers and turns its head towards international terrorists. Unfortunately this subject matter is more suited to our current world state, so if you want to share you aggression towards the frustrating human nature around the world, lock and load and become patriotic. Call of Duty 4 gives you the firepower to take things in your own hands. From the seasick battles on an ocean liner to the ground warfare of urban settings, Call of Duty gets it done.
If you’ve played a FPS in the past, you will have no trouble getting into the firefight in Call of Duty 4. In this respect Call of Duty doesn’t do anything new besides give you modern weapons and a few off angle cut-scenes. The single player campaign is spotlighted in Call of Duty 4, like previous versions you will be in for some huge battles with enemies popping up around ever corner. Behind enemy lines you will share your time between offensive marches along side a tank called the Warpig, or in the defensive hiding in the darkness from enemy helicopters and skilled mercenaries. The death count will reach the thousands, and you’ll will be taped up from all the bullets your body has absorbed. It’s Call of Duty, would you expect anything else?
Looking deeper into the single player campaign you’ll follow one perspective instead of the three character multi-cultural versions in the past, you’ll follow two main characters with a United States Marine, Paul Jackson and a British SAS soldier Soap MacTavish, yes his name is Soap. Soap’s campaign searches out the Russian, Imran Zakhaev. Zakhaev is the typical madman with his hands on a nuclear weapons stockpile in the Soviet Union with grandeur thoughts of world domination. This intertwines with the US story as they are trying to quiet the Khaled Al-Asad who resides in the Middle East. Al-Asad’s forces detonate a nuke that was supplied by Zakhaev and the rest is history. Expect a few twists in the story along with a flashback segment which I'll keep as a secret. If you are interested in the plotline in Call of Duty, it does a good enough job telling a tale, but as most of us know, Call of Duty can be played blinding running through the levels without much care to a storyline. Put a gun in my hand and let me go!
If you’re wondering if Infinity Ward has switched up its scripting formula of marking entire levels full of invisible check points, enemy spawn points and retreat zones, the answer is no. Call of Duty 4 is just like all the Call of Duties that came before it. It’s scripted up and down which has to be accepted for what it is. I’m the FPS gamer who wants a variety of situations based on true AI behaviour, but Call of Duty always becomes the exception. In Call of Duty 4 there are more ways to approach targets, so you’ll have a few different paths to run down. The level design has to be the best in years for the franchise. If you haven't liked the formula in the past then I'm affraid number four isn't going to win you over.
The combat feels shallow at times because you never really feel a sense of urgency. Even though the plot tries to make everything sound important you can always restart an area and try again within seconds. The arcade style shooter does this as well. You’re character can get hit by a few shots depending where they are placed before he goes down, so running into a stream of bullets doesn’t always have consequences. A lot of the time you can just risk the run and try and hit that marker so you’re troops will come up along you and it will trigger the enemy to retreat. This can be done without firing a single shot. What you get out of Call of Duty 4 is what you put into it, if you want to cheat the system the game will feel a little dull, if you try and keep your cool and do everything without being reloaded every few minutes then the experience will be that much sweeter.
Online Call of Duty 4 follows the standard formula of games. The online play is highly addictive thanks to the ranking system which allows you to move through the ranks from Private to General. During you online game you will be award experience points that help you gain ranks which in turn gives you new abilities, and advantages. This means the longer you play, the better you’ll get, not only in skill, but in your characters abilities. Some of the perks involve new weapons like the P90 available at Colonel Rank, or Claymore Perk Class 1 at Master Gunnery Sergeant. Adding perks to playing online helps motivate gamers to come back to the action besides the rewarding gameplay. In addition to all this online also features a new feature called the Kill Cam. The Kill Cam is an instant replay that plays after you die showing your killer. The Kill Camera is an instant classic and one of the best additions to online gaming I’ve seen in a long time. Now when you wonder, how he got me, you will have the answers... sometimes its down right embarrassing.
A small touch that Call of Duty 4 included into the mix are the war quotes during the loading screens. After you successfully complete a mission or have been be re-spawned into the action you'll see a short sentenced quote. These range from quotes from John F. Kennedy like “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.” Or cost quotes that opened up my eyes to the cost of war, here are few quotes concerning costs, “cost of a single Tomahawk cruise Missile: $900,000”, “cost of a single F-22 Raptor: $135 Million”, and one more “Cost of a single B-2 Bomber: $2.2 Billion.” These quotes don’t affect the gameplay one bit, but I found it to be a nice touch that helps put the realism of war into the foreground. If playing Call of Duty 4 makes one person think about the effects of war, then I believe its admirable service.
Lastly since we’re covering the Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty 4, let’s have a look at some of the achievements you rank up. Surprisingly, Infinity Ward has put all the achievements into the single player campaign which might put a frown on online gamer’s faces. The standard beat a level achievements exist and then you have extras that follow scripted sequences like “Rescue Roycewicz On the Stairs” where you have a brief chance during the game to save the private and gain a nice and easy 20 gamer points. These instances are scattered throughout Call of Duty 4 which keeps you attentive to everything going around you. Besides finishing the game on Veteran, Call of Duty 4 will be obtainable to causal and hardcore gamers.
Graphically Call of Duty 4 showcases some updated tricks that captures a similar vibe to when I first checked out Call of Duty running on next generation hardware. The lighting, detailed war zones and an ultra streamlined framerate are the stars in Call of Duty 4. I almost didn’t believe the online videos I watched of COD4 before it was released, but now that I’m in the middle of the battle, I believe. Call of Duty 4 still has a few minor grips with wall textures, and objects seeming out of place and visually dated in the game world. Besides the usual, that could be better, Call of Duty 4 is impressive.
Its obvious Infinity Ward wanted to keep the framerate running smoothly to insure we get that ultra crisp Call of Duty experience and they do so with some impressive visuals attempting to bog down the processors. Looking at this game as a spectator, you’d think you’ve seen the second coming of action gaming. Call of Duty 4 looks good watching, more so than playing the campaign yourself. The action is so congestive and busy that it’s impossible to catch it all when you’re dogging bullets, reloading and returning fire. Call of Duty 4 might not have variety, but what it has it excels and proves that Infinity Ward still has some next-gen tricks up their sleeves.
The sound pounds in Call of Duty 4, kicking into gear with tremendous bangs in cluttered battlefields. I wasn’t overly impressed with some of the automatic chit-chatter in some of the levels from the NPCs, although as a whole presentation the extra bits of dialog, the screaming enemies all work into one solid performance. The weapons take the centre stage in the audio sounding impactful and realistic. Besides the sounds of war, the soundtrack which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios sneaks in a quietly and increases in volume when needed. Harry Gregson-Williams is the composer who contributes his talent to Call of Duty 4. His famed work doesn’t go unnoticed as it fills the games background full of themes to make you feel heroic enough to dive over a wall and assault the enemy head on.
Infinity Ward splashes a modern coat of coding on top of its old formula of checkpoint-to-checkpoint run and gun action. In an initial viewing it might seem like a lot has changed, but in reality it’s just an illusion. This noted, if you loved a Call of Duty game in the past then you are going to love Call of Duty 4. The modern plot line, fast action, great graphics and online play are worth the price of admission. Granted you are only on the ride of six or so hours unless you want to experience the thrill of gunning down strangers online. Recycled and reformated into an even better expreince, Call of Duty 4 deserves all the acclaim it's been gathering with its tried and true formula. If it works, why change? Well, as we can already see, a change will do you good.
Gameplay: 8, Graphics:8.5, Sound:8.5, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 8 Final: 8 / 10