Oh how I missed Call of Duty on the PC. Call of Duty 3 was a console only release but it wasn't by the folks at Infinity Ward. No, they had something better in mind and it takes the Call of Duty series to the modern era. No more World War II setting and that's perfectly fine with me as I think that period's been done to death. It's time to move on and Infinity Ward has moved on in a very, very big way. Simply put, Call of Duty 4 is one of the best to come out this year.
There's a certain checklist that I go through when I play a Call of Duty game. Let's start with characters. Multiple characters that you will control? Check. You'll step into the shoes of a few different characters but I would say the main guy is "Soap" MacTavish . You'll be a member of a unit commanded by a familiar character to those that have played other Call of Duty games. The commander must be an Immortal as he looks pretty much the same as in the World War II era games. In any case you'll step into the shoes of a few and you'll travel to a few different destinations between them leading up too the final few missions where the British and US forces combine. You'll start out going after a terrorist named Khaled Al-Asad but will shortly find out he's not the only one you need to take out.
A beginning that grabs you and makes you say wow? It's in the game. You'll run through a quick training course and setup the difficulty level you'll want to play in. The first mission puts you on a barge that sways back and forth with the waves. It's a nice little setup mission that ends in a bang, literally. What follows after the first mission is a pretty intense sequence that serves as the beginning credits of the game. I won't spoil it for you but suffice to say you get to look through the eyes of a person in an unhappy situation. Rather than showing you a generic cut scene, you get to look around a little. When the beginning credits ended, I couldn't believe what I just witnessed but it was pretty sweet.
If it's a Call of Duty game, you have to have some rail shooting sequences on some vehicle and Call of Duty 4 has a great sequence on an AC130 as well as launching mortars from a Chinook. If you have ever seen those black and white videos of a helicopter unloading on terrorists where their bodies explode from the gunfire, the AC130 mission looks exactly like it. Friendlies blink from their beacons so you pretty turn any non-blinking person into Swiss cheese with your machine gun. For clearing small or large areas, you get access to some pretty powerful and destructive shells. You'll see bodies fly as you bring the rain on the enemy below. I'll admit I got a rush taking out all those terrorists with my powerful machine gun. The Chinook sequence is a little different as you'll actually run in and out of the helicopter during the mission. First you'll start out flying around and clearing the area below. Then you'll actually travel on foot to help rescue some of your comrades. You'll go back to manning the gun but will have to get out again for another part of the mission. Finally, no Call of Duty game would be complete with a car sequence and this one has one as well. It's a nice change of pace switching back and forth from being a rail shooter to a first person shooter.
Speaking of changing paces, the folks at Infinity Ward have done a remarkable job at changing the pace between missions. Sure they'll be plenty of heavy gun fights that rely on your quick instincts but you'll also partake in different missions that are in a different tone. The AC130 sequence that I mentioned is a little slower paced and you'll also experience a pretty cool sniper mission that takes a lot of stealth to get through. A firefight in a close quarters TV studio will have you one your toes as you take out all the enemies stationed in the building. The change of pace offers up a nice variety and keeps the game from feeling repetitive. The bread and butter though are the intense firefights that will happen in close quarters.
A new addition to the series that is pretty useful is that you can cancel your reload with a melee attack. I don't know how many times I'd be reloading and someone would pop up around the corner in front of me in other games. Here, you can do a quick swipe with your knife to try and take them out but you'll have to initiate your reload again of your weapon. Switching to the pistol is also a little quicker than reloading and you can try to take apart your enemy if they are not in striking distance. Either way you have some options should an enemy surprise you while you are trying to reload.
Bullet penetration is new to the series and now you're not going to be safe behind every type of cover. Like in real life, bullets can and will go through certain materials so if you see an enemy ducking behind a wooden fence, open fire because the bullets will go through and hit them. This opens up a new wrinkle in the game as you not only have to find cover but quality cover so you don't get pummeled by bullets even when you are hiding. You'll see bullets fly through certain walls so you'll be able to tell if it's truly safe at a certain area. The bullets that do penetrate have a lesser effect that's calculated so while it might take a few more bullets to take you down, there's still a good chance you'll die if you stay behind weak cover too long. I really like the new feature as it makes the game a little more realistic and opens up some new tactics on taking out the enemy.
Along the lines of cover, you'll have to make sure you're not sitting next to anything explosive. While cars are great at stopping bullets, they have a tendency to explode when too many are put into it. I don't know how many times I've been caught but a random explosion of a car but it does teach to you always keep an eye out on it if you're hiding behind one.
Great scripted events? Hell yeah they're in Call of Duty 4. I've always appreciated the single player experience in the series and it's one of the few games that I replay a few times after I am done with it. Infinity Ward really knows how to setup situations and lead you through some masterfully crafted scripted sequences that immerse you into the game. All of this happen in game of course as there are no pre -rendered sequences. One of the better examples of this occurs in a sniper mission that's a flashback for one of the characters. You'll be led by one of your teammates in sneaking through a heavily guarded area to take up a position in one of the buildings in order to take out your target. The close calls and areas you have to move around in are highlighted by various scripted events raise the tension on the situations while providing some interesting moments for you to experience. Some events are more subtle such as running through and seeing one of your squad mates being being assaulted by a terrorist as they struggle for control of a rifle. Others are bigger of course such as seeing planes fly above you or calling in a helicopter to take out the tangos in a building. Call of Duty 4's scripted events are top notch and really add a lot of fun to the single player portion of the game.
Awesome graphics? Call of Duty has always tried to present itself really well and the fourth game looks incredible. The amount of detail put in to the models and environments really bring the game to life. Character faces are diverse showing great detail. All your weapons are modeled immaculately. Character animations are nicely done with some great motion capture. One of the cool things I witnessed was one of my teammates running at full speed and then sliding into cover. The environments are full of life making it a very immersive experience. For a few missions you'll witness air support flying over head as you head towards your way point. Fast moving jets and helicopters buzz over you giving you a sense that the fight is happening not just where you are but all around you. The aircraft models are also impressively done and you can easily tell what type they are because they are modeled so accurately. Even though Call of Duty 4 is made on a proprietary engine, all the cool effects are in there such as HDR lighting, realistic shadows, dynamic lighting, and so forth. I played the game on a PC with an Intel E6750 powered by a Foxconn GeForce 8800 GTX and my computer had 2GB of memory. I installed Call of Duty 4 on a Vista build and didn't experience any problems. The game ran pretty well with all the options turned high and it look absolutely gorgeous.
Physics effects are also in the game but it's more subtle than others. You'll get the rag doll physics of enemies dying and objects being pushed bounced around and reacting to each other and the environment. The TV station level is a good example of this as during a firefight in a room full of computer monitors, I saw them spin and jump around as they were hit by bullets. I also saw enemies tumble off the balcony as I fire a kill shot into their body. The physics effect look pretty realistic and don't overwhelm you like some games.
The nightvision effect in the game is one of the best I've seen. With one mission taking place in very low light in a city, you'll see the infrared lasers emanating from the guns of friendlies as you work your way through buildings. The level of green isn't over-saturating and the level of detail when you do have the goggles is impressive.
One of the really interesting effects in the game is that really up close objects are blurry just like in real life. When you're crawling through some thick grass, you'll see the blades get bigger as you head towards it. At a certain point the blade of grass starts to get a little blurry and at its closest point to you it becomes out of focus. This depth of field effect is another small but noticeable feature that really makes Call of Duty 4 a great visual experience.
The one thing about the single player experience though is that it's short. And when I say short I mean it's really short. I finished it in roughly five hours which is comparable to the second Max Payne game. Both have something in common though because of this. Even though you can get by the game quickly, you'll have a hell of a time doing it. The length might disappoint some but Infinity Ward seemed to have cut out all the filler and just presented you with the best parts one right after another. Thankfully, the single player experience is just half the fun and I'll get into the multiplayer portion in just a bit.
When the game is done, you'll unlock two modes including a nice arcade mode. The arcade mode lets you play a certain mission and you'll rack up points depending on the level you play, how fast you accomplish the mission, the number of lives you have left, and so on. There are various multipliers as well so the score won't always be the same when you go through it multiple times. It's a nice little benchmark for how well you do against your friends as you can say you scored this high on this mission and see if your friends can beat it.
One of the things that Call of Duty has never really excelled at was the multiplayer portion of the game. That's not to say the older Call of Duties weren't fun to jump in and LAN with. Call of Duty 4 really takes the their multiplayer feature to a new level for the series. You'll now go through a leveling process whereby you get access to new classes, weapons, and features the more you play. You'll see notifications of increase in rank and you'll also see new classes appear. For example, demolitions and sniper will be selectable once you acquire a couple ranks. Building a class is something that's really cool and will be used a lot in my opinion. With a class construction option, you can tailor make your multiplayer character to how you play by assigning special abilities and default weapons. The persistent leveling adds some incentive for you to keep playing as you get access to some great special abilities later on.
You do seem to be pretty vulnerable like in real life where only a few bullets will take you down. Grenades are pretty powerful as well. Because of how quickly you can die, you'll be forced to be more careful and check areas more diligently. The Kill Cam is a feature that will discourage camping. When you die you'll see a video from your killer's eyes so you can see where they were when they took you down. Because your position is given away when you kill someone, you're more apt to move to another area as you don't want to risk the person respawning and coming after you in the same spot. If you do stay alive for a while and rack up a lot of kills without dying, you'll be able to access some helpful extras like a UAV to expose positions of the enemy, an air strike, and helicopter support. I have to say the helicopter support is pretty powerful and can really be frustrating when you're on the other team.
There are twelve various multiplayer modes ranging from the usual deathmatch option to a Counter-Strike like bomb and defuse game. The Counter-Strike like Search and Destroy game really appealed to me as I spent a lot of time in CS and I had a lot of fun with it in Call of Duty 4. The various multiplayer options should keep you pretty busy and there's a nice variety to satisfy a large group of gamers. The multiplayer is strong and helps compliment a quick but fun single player experience. Once you are done with the single player game, Call of Duty 4 has an extremely long life with a satisfying and well made multiplayer feature.
Finally, Call of Duty 4 doesn't do anything really new but does put a complete package together that's fun and action packed. It's one of the few games I've played lately that didn't crash or exhibit any weird behavior. I'm really really happy to see the series back on the PC and was really impressed at how well Call of Duty 4 was put together. While the short single player experience might disappoint some, the extensive multiplayer feature will keep you coming back for more and more.
Call of Duty 4 is a complete package that does everything well. From the intense single player campaign to the fun multiplayer options, the game's got it all.