Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

When the guys behind the exceptionally-good Call of Duty 2, Infinity Ward, were announced as the developers for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, more than a few people took notice, and expectations were high for the next First Person Shooter in the series, especially following the relative disappointment of Call of Duty 3, arriving on PS3 at launch. Most interesting to many though, was the Modern warfare subtitle, suggesting a departure from the more frequently visited World War setting. While there's no denying the incredible heroism of the soldiers involved in the war, and no avoiding the lessons that must be, and have been, learned from those events, it's also the case that too many FPS games rely on those periods of time, allowing gameplay to become stale. In Modern Warfare, the genre is provided a new lease of life, with updated gameplay ideas, a gripping plot and weaponry that'll knock your socks off, all from the safety of your living room.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Almost certainly the most important ingredient in any FPS game is the handling, required to be a perfect blend of finely tuned controls and character motion, allowing precise movement that simply feels right, carefully straddling the gap between believeable realism and ideal game motion. In this respect, Call of Duty 4 more or less succeeds, providing a slightly different scheme and feel to that of Resistance, but one that will suit many players. The only likely gripe for some might be the running; a sprint can be activated by pushing down on the analog stick, but the move feels comparitively clumsy, and certainly doesn't mirror the flexibility you might expect in real life. That said, all other aspects of character movement feel very natural, with a particularly effective knife move that will keep many entertained (let's keep it in the game though).

With the controls in place, it's time for the game to start providing lots of stuff to shoot, a good reason for doing the shooting, and some fun stuff to do the shooting with. This means creating an exciting plot with plenty of baddies and some even badder guns. Starting with the story, Call of Duty 4 is somewhat of a rarity in FPS games, managing to keep a realistic plot featuring modern terrorist organizations, American intervention and UK SAS mixed in between, but at the same time keeping it interesting. Without needing to tap into the wide and wonderful world of science fiction or relying on unbelieveable plot twists, a story is forged that will make you genuinely care for the characters. Each person behaves as you might expect, with only small usage of stereotypes, and there are a few moments in the game that will undoubtedly leave you speechless. It's actually quite remarkable that, in a genre filled with bland, meat-head characters, the men involved in COD4 are so dynamic and interesting, and it's a refreshing change.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

It's not just the main characters that are interesting either. The enemies in the game, and especially their leaders, all seem to be complete roles, with motivations, emotions and more. The artificial intelligence in the game makes the average soap actor look quite silly, though it still can't quite challenge real human decision making. Still, it's always nice to see that, when soldiers step out and get shot, they think twice before doing so again, diving for cover and spraying weapons fire in your direction. There's plenty of stuff to shoot with too (and be shot by), with weapons ranging from light pistols through to rapid-fire assault rifles, shotguns, heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and more. There's even a Javelin to use against larger targets, with a rather cool user interface and targeting system, accompanied by spectacular results. The weaponry is nicely balanced though, particularly evident in the online mode, with each possessing unique attack opportunities. Every gun will have strengths and weaknesses, potentially firing rapidly, but inaccurately, or firing large heavy rounds, but at a lesser pace, for example. There's nothing anywhere near as inventive as the Auger or Bullseye from Resistance, but outside of the sci-fi setting, the choice isn't bad. A particular favourite would have to be the sniper rifles, with one mission in particular taking full advantage of the gun. Two British soldiers attempt to pass undetected in one of the most tense levels in gaming history, utilizing full camouflage and sniper rifles, desperate to survive. It's pure brilliance and reason enough on its own to purchase the game.

The other obvious attraction is the graphical side of the game, with quite sublime visuals and a superb game engine. There's little or no tearing, no major glitches, and everything looks incredibly sharp and vivid. The only minor gripe would be that things aren't spectacularly bright and colourful, but it does see some variety thanks to the variety of locations visited by the soldiers in the game. The weaponry occupies a sensible amount of the screen, and easily matches the graphical perfection of the rest of the game, with crisp reload animations and chunky looking guns. What's surprising though is that the visuals are actually slightly shown up by the excellence of the audio, with some of the best voicework ever to appear in a videogame (something that looks set to continue with the imminent arrival of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune). The musical interludes and impressive sound effects (featuring realistic explosions and gunfire) perfectly complement the sound package to deliver one of the best-rounded audio experiences on PS3 so far.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

It may seem strange then, given the praise heaped upon the game, that the score given here is as low as it is, but there are several annoyances in the game that detract significantly from the overall experience. Firstly, in the single-player, which is relatively short, lasting perhaps 6-8 hours, the health system involves no bar, but simply a reddening of the peripheries, indicating injury. The more severe the damage taken by the player, the greater the redness, until eventually the soldier's vision goes into greyscale, before blurring and going dark completely. It's about as precise as using a ferry to slice your sandwiches, and has the annoying effect of simply slowing you down. Where you might normally plow on, safe in the knowledge that you have a bar of health remaining, you are often forced to play safe, allow your character to heal, then allow them to proceed. It's an irritation designed to appear more realistic, but failing in that it gives you far less indication than you'd have in real life. Of far more concern though, is the online mode.

Playing Call of Duty 4 online should add tens of hours to the play time for the title. Complementing a short, powerful and impressive single-player campaign would be hours and hours of enjoyment brought about by exciting, well-balanced and emotional team matches, with players working together to achieve their goals. Sadly, Call of Duty 4 is a bit like a maths exam where the new students, with no background in mathematics, are given all the hard questions, while the experienced students are given easy sums and a calculator just in case. Oh, and they can have free strikes on the newbies should they want to. It makes no sense, and simply leads to an experience that is unpleasant for new players and unsatisfying for experienced ones. There's no fun in being outdone by better players with hundreds of hours experience and helicopters to aid them, but more importantly, there's nothing at all exhilarating about taking out new players with all your big toys when there's no way they can defend themselves. Weapons like the LAARK may have been criticized in Resistance, but at least that game was fair, starting each player on equal ground and allowing them to grab whatever weaponry they could. In Call of Duty, the more you play, the more special you become, and the more silly the experience is. That said, the online mode is extremely popular, but for many it will offer a fraction of the satisfaction found in the balanced aerial duels of Warhawk, and the tense online struggles of Resistance.

Call of Duty 4 may have it's flaws, and it's a shame that the game is quite short, since the single-player game is extremely enjoyable, but there's a lot that the game's developers should be proud of. Of particular importance is the character development in this game, setting new standards in a genre that has, for too long, allowed faceless, uninspiring, muscle-bound leads to dominate. They might not have the brains of Half Life's Gordon Freeman, but they've got as much heart as 300 famous Spartans. With only Resistance: Fall of Man providing serious competition in the genre on PS3 so far, the two titles go together nicely in any gaming collection, and so there's no reason not to recommend Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Activision

Developer:

Infinity Ward

Players:

1

Online:

1-18

Release:

2007-11-09

Trophies:

0

Review summary

Gameplay:

Finely tuned controls and excellent campaign

Graphics:

Stunning work, if a little bland

Sound:

Atmospheric effects and voicework

Lastability:

Disappointing multiplayer, short story

8.8

Supernova

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