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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

I can still remember the look of amazement on my friends face when I told her I had never played any Call of Duty games. However, in my defence the computer I had couldn't run Minesweeper without slowdown and the console releases seemed to get average reviews.

So when the same friend told me that people were literally throwing £50 at her for a copy in the shop she worked in I decided to track down Call of Duty 4 and see what all the fuss was about. So, after selling a kidney I finally had enough cash, I got my copy and set aside an evening to get a good start with the campaign.

So, disc safely whirring up inside the console, I must admit my expectations were high. Well, first impressions were pretty impressive. After a brief introduction I found myself thrown headlong into an action packed opening level which barely left time for my jaw to drop before I was eliminating terrorists left, right and centre. Wow, this was before the opening titles had even happened!

From then on Call of Duty 4 was just a blur of astonishing set pieces, gritty shoot-outs and the kind of epic action that would shame a big budget Hollywood film. The gameplay itself has been seen before, but has rarely been done better. The typical limited number of weapons restricts your choices, making each decision a tactical one. Do you arm up with a good all round selection or take a risk with a sniper rifle and shotgun?

The combat itself is well balanced and challenging. It is just realistic enough to be believable whilst at the same time exaggerating one or two elements to give it a cinematic feel. A few shots will kill you, unless you manage to find cover and inexplicably regenerate health (hey, I don't mind. It works)! This can be especially daunting at first when thrown in at the deep end, but the difficulty curve is generally ok with one or two small spikes.

The range of weaponry available is staggering with so many recognisable weapons which all have subtly different applications. They feel ridiculously powerful, unlike many games, where weapons feel merely like on and off remotes for the enemy. When using the sniper rifle, it feels like you have a tool for dispatching people with needle sharp precision and this gives a sense of gratification at the skill. However, the use of weapons also brings in slightly more emotional subtleties. The reactions of the enemies give them a real human element rarely found in other games, which is oddly disquieting.

The set pieces in this game are truly epic. From a helicopter assault on a terrorist leader in the bleaching sun of the desert to an epic last ditch defence of a farmhouse with a squad of SAS soldiers, this is action gaming at its very best. The entire campaign has standout moments and the characters involved are well developed and really have their own personalities unlike the generic cardboard cut-outs which populate most of the genre.

What really impressed me about Call of Duty 4 was the fact that it doesn't pull any punches and tackles subjects which most developers would steer well clear of. Levels which reflect the impersonal flippancy with which people are killed really make you realise that you aren't playing just any old shooter. The level in which you dispatch groups of rebel soldiers from the safety of a flying death fortress (well, that's not the technical term for it) is pretty powerful in highlighting modern conflict. There are also one or two levels which can't be mentioned to avoid spoilers, which left me with raised eyebrows and made me stroke my beard in thought.

However, this close to the bone realism might be uncomfortable to some. The fact that many troops are fighting and dying in similar situations as you read this makes you wonder whether this game was made too soon. Yet, it raises issues by tackling this and doesn't shy away from the horrors of war.

The single player campaign is fantastic and virtually flawless, or so I thought. However, astonishingly it took me just over 3 hours to complete the entire single player campaign. Well, perhaps 4 if I include the phone call I got in the middle of it. I still wonder whether I somehow missed out half the game, but evidently not. Now, I normally wouldn't criticise a game for being short and amazing (i.e. Portal) but in this case there are a number of factors which seriously weigh in against COD4.

Portal was a game with good value, costing around £10 at the most, which works out at around £2.50 an hour, which is still reasonable value in my money. Yet COD4 cost me £50 for 4 hours, which is pretty steep even with new modes being unlocked.
Another criticism is that there are times during the game when seemingly endless waves of enemies keep spawning, which was annoying as I didn't work this out until I had died several times thinking I had to fight them all off. Instead you merely have to get far enough forward when they stop spawning, which seems a little dated now.

COD4's saving grace is the multiplayer. The multiplayer in this game is refreshingly deep. The game modes tend to include classic multiplayer objectives or subtle variations on them mainly revolving around the traditional deathmatch modes.

Yet where the game shines is in the achievement progression you are awarded for performing well, getting kills or completing various tasks. You gain levels in a similar way to an RPG which rewards you with additional skills and abilities, such as being able to fire off one shot when you die in an attempt to get a kill. I am amazed more games haven't utilised such a system, but I imagine it would be hard to implement as well as the developers have here.

All in all, I have debated the score a lot. The single player is so good that it just leaves you wanting more but is criminally short. The £50 price tag puts me off recommending this wholeheartedly for purchase and if you don't play multiplayer then a rental is a must. If you play online with your PS3 and are looking for a good game then COD4 should satisfy, but if like me, you are a single player then it may leave you a little disappointed.

Pros: 
  • Amazing singleplayer
  • Even better multiplayer
  • Excellent graphics
  • Atmospheric
Cons: 
  • Short singe player campaign
  • Endless spawning enemies are frustrating

Playability:

9 out of 10

Replayability:

9 out of 10

Graphics:

10 out of 10

Sound:

9 out of 10

Overall:

9 out of 10
evilgiraffeman | 12th November, 2008

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