Summary: JCal gives us the scoop on Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4. Check it out to see if the break-away from the WW2 setting is a welcome change, or as shocking as lemon juice on a deep cut.
So what is the Infinity Ward formula for making great first person shooter games? Simply put, they keep the action going and don't let up for one second. While some have accused the developer of making games that are too linear, it's that focus of making the player encounter every cool situation the designers have constructed that makes their ames entertaining from start to finish. From storming the beaches at Normandy to fighting off hordes of Nazis in Russia, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Call of Duty 1 and 2 put the player in harrowing situations from start to finish.
Infinity Ward chose to skip making Call of Duty 3 (and it showed in the game's final release) to move up to the next level for Call of Duty 4. This time the decision was made to finally dump the WWII genre and move onto the present day. Indeed Call of Duty 4 might seem to some as an odd title for the game; aside from the first person shooter genre itself there's really nothing to link this new game to the previous all Call of Duty titles. Obviously this was meant by publisher Activision as a marketing scheme; new IP (Intellectual Property) can be a hard sell, even if it is made by Infinity Ward. So Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare may share the same title but in many ways this new game represents a quantum leap over the two previous Infinity Ward developed games in the series.
While the Infinity Ward formula is still intact in most of the game they have decided to deviate from the formula a few times. At one point you are in an airplane that's using high powered ammo to take out enemy positions while friendlies are awaiting pick-up. In another sequence (which we won't spoil completely here) you will be doing almost no shooting at all as you and an AI buddy sneak around a location trying to keep out of sight of Russian troops. The storyline for Call of Duty 4 does have a couple of surprises along the way (one of which might be considered controversial by some) but the end result is that the single player campaign looks and feels like a $300M Hollywood action movie.
In most first person shooters you are mostly alone in your fight. In Call of Duty 4, Infinity Ward has done a great job in creating not just clever AI for your enemies but also solid AI for the many teammates you have in the game's sequences. While you don't control them directly you really don't need to; the AI in the game rarely gets in your way. Your pals know when to breach and clear a room and move around to outflank your opponents. Level design, while again mostly linear as in past Call of Duty games, is still solid in this new entry. While you don't have a lot of choices about how to enter a location at least Infinity Ward's designers have made those locations interesting to check out, from the cargo ship to a bombed out Ukrainian city to a countryside in Russia. Health has been simplified in the game; if you are injured, the screen turns progressively more red until you get to cover where you can recover your health in several seconds. It's not realistic and we wonder if perhaps the designers could have found another way to handle the health in the game.
Visually Call of Duty 4 is a treat and while not quite as impressive as Crytek's efforts in Crysis Call of Duty 4's art design, character and weapons models and visual effects are first rate. Infinity Ward has moved away from using id Software's Quake engine tech to their own in-house technology and have created a graphics engine that rivals the looks of the tops engines out there. It's also not a performance hog, either as the game ran very well on my less-than-optimal PC.
However great the single player campaign is (and it is highly entertaining) there is one rather huge issue with it; it's almost criminally short. Most players should be able to blow though the game at normal difficulty in about five to six hours. While completing the game does open up a couple of extra single player challenge and arcade modes, we think most folks will be disappointed that the single player portion wasn't at least a couple of hours longer.
That's not what makes Call of Duty 4's multiplayer interesting, however. Infinity Ward have put in some RPG-lite features that can make players go massively obsessive. In playing a match, you can get more advantages if you kill a string of enemies before dying, from better radar coverage to air strikes to at its highest point calling in an AI- controlled helicopter that fires on your foes.
Even better is unlocking special ammo, weapons and extra physical abilities the more you play the game online. The more kills you get and the more wins you and/or your team get in a match create more points for you which you can use to upgrade your rank and get more "stuff".
The game's class system starts you out with the minimal stuff but as you get more points you unlock more classes and the ability to create your own class with your own set of weapons, items and "perks". It's the perks that make Call of Duty 4 multiplayer more of an RPG experience than most shooters. From being able to take more damage to running faster to being able to pull out a pistol when killed in order to take out the enemy that killed you. It's new features like this that make playing online more fun.
If Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare had a longer single player campaign our score would have been even higher. As it stands Infinity Ward's latest game still is worth the money to buy and experience for yourself. You will enjoy the single player storyline, even if it's not as long as it should be, and the impressive graphics and you will keep coming back to the game for its cool multiplayer features. Call of Duty 4 is, as expected, one of the best first person shooters to be released in 2007.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|