New Years Day found me in the dreaded Den of the Blue Shirts buying the second to last DS version of CoD4 in the entire city, at least according to a prolonged web search. I rushed home in time to catch the beginning of what would ultimately be hours of football interspersed with playing the single player version of the game. Yes, there was a flaw in my plan: we only have one DS in the family, what with the dog, who could afford one, lacking the opposable digits that would enable him to get much use out of it, and me myself being unable to afford one on my very small monthly stipend. Not to worry, though. The single player is fun too.
Now I'm sure that it doesn't fully compare to the “big” versions with regards to window-shaking sound and eye-bulging cinematics, but it is still a really good game. The controls aren't as comfortable to use as a mouse/keyboard or a nice, beefy console controller, but for the most part they work well. You use the stylus on the lower screen to perform the movement functions that would normally be the purview of the mouse or thumbstick, and the D pad for forward/backward/left/right movement. Either of the buttons on the back of the unit will work as triggers. Go lefties! You're covered too!
There is one thing that drives me nuts, though, and that's the ADS, or Aim Down Sight control. I think this is normally controlled with the right mouse button, but on the DS version it is controlled by a double-tap of the stylus. The problem is that I simply cannot get the timing right on the tapping. I've tried both ends of the sensitivity setting in the options, but its still like a cop: never there when you need it, always there when you don't. I've died any number of times because I either accidentally activated the ADS (which in this case stands for Another Damned Suicide) which fatally slowed my movement speed, or been unable to activate it in time to get off a precisely enough aimed shot. I sincerely wish they had found another, more reliable method for providing this control. It is the one and only thing about the whole game that I didn't like, and was very frustrated with.
It's not as bad as it could have been. I'll say that. The reason that it is more or less bearable is that, at least with the game difficulty set on 'Normal', the enemies are pretty forgiving. They don't move around a lot once they start firing at you, and they often wait a respectable amount of time before opening fire. Face it, the DS is small. If the enemy AI was overly aggressive, you wouldn't stand a chance. With the small delay built in and their propensity for immobile shooting, you have a fair chance. They're tough, though. Unless you can get a good head shot (which requires that darn ADS), you can fill them with more lead than a Chinese pacifier before they keel over. All in all, I think it balances nicely between too hard and too easy, with the result being a good challenge that can be edged towards “pushover” or “bloodbath,” depending on whether you select Easy, Normal, or Hard.
With my frustration with the ADS being what it is, it will be no surprise that my favorite parts were the levels in which I operated a large weapon (or weapons, in the case of the AC-130) that stressed throwing massive amounts of heavy projectiles in the direction of the enemy, rather than precisely aimed little bullets. Ah, those were terrific fun, and I suspect that they are the levels that I will return to when it comes time to use the Quick Play option.
All in all, I'm every bit as impressed with Call of Duty 4 as I expected to be, but for a different reason. I've always been in awe of the immersive abilities of the Call of Duty series on the PC, but never expected to be playing it on a DS. It's a different way of playing, and translates well to the smaller platform. As long as you consider the reduced capabilities of the DS version as compared to a full size console or a strong PC to be worth the trade off in cost and portability, you won't be disappointed.
As reflected in its lower shelf price, CoD4 on the DS doesn't directly compare with the higher end console and PC versions. It's a very good game in its own right, though. And the single-cartridge multiplayer could be the bargain of the year!
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