Call of Duty 4 offers an intense journey through Modern Warfare.
The Call of Duty series makes a big change by entering into the Modern Warfare. This is a good change from the popular World War II time setting used in the previous games. The campaign is short but very fun whilst it lasts. It's the multiplayer that works great most of the time to add to the replay value. If you've ever become bored of the World War II setting, then Call of Duty 4 looks to be the best pick. Not only does it do great for its series but also it is a tremendous effort that deserves to be one of this year's best games.
Call of Duty 4 very much plays like a film as you progress though. You'll start off learning some basics, which is very helpful for those new to the series and then you'll jump right into a cargo ship out in the stormy weather. For the most part, this level seems to focus on showing you what effects can be achieved in Call of Duty 4. You'll have parts where you have limited control because you've been injured and parts where the camera angle changes to show the change in position of the cargo ship.
The campaign missions are put into four main categories. The "Prologue" category contains the beginning missions, which start as a learning curve for the later missions. Most of the missions are playable throughout but there are a few which will be in a "cinematic" setting. When in one of these missions, you will notice that you can control the camera to make you feel like you are the person in that position. After the final Prologue mission, this is where the action really starts to let off. From there on, you'll notice the opening credits just like how they would be portrayed in a film. Rather than have the opening credits right at the beginning, these are placed in a little later.
Throughout, you'll play a few different characters. For the most part, you are a guy referred to as "Soap." You're not alone in most missions; with the help of your team to take out enemies with you. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any sort of directions you can tell these guys to go in. It feels as if this was needed since at times, they can become in the way or be taking your cover spot. They do a fairly good job at helping you take enemies out but sometimes they'll go ahead of you. When they're ahead, you assume they've killed and gone past some enemies but that's not always the case.
Missions do have quite a bit of variety between them. Some will have you placed in major gun fights, some will require you to go find someone and some require you to plant explosives. Some missions use a combination of these to make it varied. There's even one mission where you have to be very stealthy. The story throughout keeps you wanting to find out more and to reach the conclusion. It's fictional but some parts do compare to what we do see in real life. This is probably why the game was given a higher age rating.
Controlling works great and doesn't throw too much in to new players. Your player can duck, lay down and run. It is important to take advantage of these things when you are under heavy fire. The missions include some sort-of cover point such as a container, trash cart or vehicle to hide behind. However, some items can explode such as cars and the red barrels. There are no health pick-ups needed since your health regenerates after a short time. So, getting into a good cover position is needed for when you are low on health. Like many titles, your health is indicated by a red glow around the screen. The more redder it becomes, then the more closer you are to death.
For those who like to "plan ahead" and take out all enemies and then proceed will be slightly disappointed. Many of the missions seem to have what seems a constant spawning of enemies. So, at times you could be in one spot taking out what seems hundreds of enemies, when in fact, the game seems to be placing more and yet more enemies down. This feels like a rather cheap excuse at times to make the game feel much harder. At times, you'll have to run through gun fire to proceed to the next checkpoint. There are many checkpoints throughout that are triggered by taking out some enemies or by proceeding further down the level.
Some missions have a timer on them. Even with a timer, there are checkpoints but these only seem to activate if you reach a part at a good time (this is more noticeable on Veteran difficulty). So, if you've spent too long in one place, you could find yourself not being able to activate a next checkpoint. In terms of mission presentation, there's always a few missions here and there that really do shine with the effects and cinematic presentation.
Now being set in "Modern Warfare," Call of Duty 4 offers a good selection of weapons that can be used in the campaign and multiplayer modes. Some missions will provide you with a good selection of weapons (your player can hold two weapons), with more to pick up that enemies have dropped. There are a few special weapons such as the RPG and a weapon that auto-aims onto a tank. You'll be required to use this later on in the game. The animations on the weapons seem good and there's always a decent amount of ammo to hand. Many enemies can simply be taken out in a few shots with most of the weapons. There's a knife automatically equipped too. This comes in handy when you simply want to take an enemy out usually instantly if they are close. It can work great at times - especially on the multiplayer when you sneak up to someone who doesn't realise you are there. It's dirty but certainly gets you the points.
On the easiest difficulty ("Recruit"), you can pretty much get through whilst taking quite a bit of damage. However, on higher difficulties, you will constantly be needing to take cover a lot more often. It seems, the health is more limited on the higher difficulties. Although, at times on the highest difficulty ("Veteran"), enemies seem to throw far too many grenades. On this difficulty, some parts of levels seem near impossible. You'll be relieved when you get to a checkpoint. A few shots can often lead you to death. Timers for missions also seem to be decreased to further add to the difficulty. Getting through some parts on the Veteran difficulty seems to rely more on luck than a "learn and try again" formula. Enemies can be unpredictable too on this difficulty. So, when you restart from the last checkpoint, you could go to one part and then notice an enemy that was not there before. Playing through on the easier difficulties will be sure to make the campaign feel short. Playing through on Veteran seems to take a lot more time because you are constantly needing to take cover in many of the missions. It's certainly a tough challenge if you're prepared for it.
Call of Duty 4 does seem very linear so it's unlikely that you'll ever have a moment where you are not sure to go. The compass is shown at the bottom of the screen, which will usually indicate the direction you need to head towards. It works well and other members of your team often refer to a direction that an enemy may be coming from. As well as showing you what direction to go in, it also shows you how far away you are from the target. Thankfully, if you are below or above a target, this should usually indicate with a message.
Aside from the main campaign, you do have some very fun multiplayer modes. These modes are something you'll just want to keep playing over and over with a few buddies. Of course, you have local play and system link modes. The best way to play though is online, with a few buddies in a party. The whole matchmaking system works great and there's very little "hanging" around trying to get into a suitable game. You basically start off in a party. From there on, you can invite some friends if you want. Then, you can go find some matches. The good thing about this is it works so smooth.
There are typical team death matches, where you and your team have to go kill the opposition. The team with the most kills/points wins. There is a time limit though if the team does not reach the maximum points cap for that mode. So, upon the timer finishing, it decides who the winning team is with the current points. Occasionally, you may get draws. The key is to be on the winning team with a decent amount of points in order to rank up more quickly. Other modes include a free-for-all match. This is limited to just yourself against seven other opponents. You earn less points in this mode but have the opportunity to get more kills here. Later on, as you rank up, you'll unlock more modes where you can have 1-on-1 battles, and classic battles. These classic battles typically involve you going around the map with the default weapons and picking up weapons from spawn points. The usual modes, let you choose your own weapons and perk selections.
Another mode requires you to be more tactical. There's one where you have to go plant a bomb and prevent the other team from defusing it. Another has you taking over flags and defending them. So, plenty of variety here. It's this multiplayer mode that probably makes this game so much more lasting. The level of customisation is awesome, too. There are various weapons to choose from; ranging from machines guns, shotguns to snipers. Perks are a great addition. These give you some special ability. There's one for if you get killed, then it will drop a grenade, another lets you reload faster, one gives you increased health, another gives you a more steady aim and much more. Using some of these perks with the right weapons can be very helpful. Later on, you will be able to use more perks and more weapons. Upon completing the various challenges, you'll also unlock scopes and such for your weapons.
When you get matched up, the process is done to put you against similarly skilled players. You rank up by earning points, completing challenges and by winning matches. The higher your rank, then the more stuff you'll be able to unlock. This is a good system to show off to your friends about your dedication to the online modes. There's plenty of maps available - some you may have recognised from the beta. You can't choose a map yourself as the system chooses for you. However, whilst in the lobby, you can vote to pass that map and it will skip onto another (as soon as it receives enough votes). If you host private matches (these don't rank you up) you do have more freedom in selection of maps. Many of these you may have noticed are slight variations of the single-player levels. Each map has some good hiding spots, cover areas and good uses of the environment.
The multiplayer is a high point for Call of Duty 4. There's some minor problems at times but nothing too bad. Thankfully, you'll be shown how you got killed through a "killcam" in case you were ever wondering "how on earth did that happen?" Occasionally, the 18 player matches can seem a bit laggy but still playable. It may seem unfair in terms of spawning at times. Sometimes you'll just spawn right near an opponent or an air strike. These air strikes are good ways of getting some extra kills. You can get these from getting a good killing streak built up. If you get seven kills in a row, you can call in a helicopter to take out some opponents. The helicopter can feel annoying when it is not friendly but you do have the option to shoot it down.
In terms of graphics, Call of Duty 4 lives up to be pretty impressive. From smoke effects, to animations and lighting - it all goes together well. To further aid the experience, you get some great sound effects chucked in too. When you're shooting, it sounds solid and action-packed. Even in the distances, you can hear the firing and explosions. To top that off, the soundtrack is certainly an excellent addition. It feels very combat-like and comes in nicely when the mood changes. The score would certainly be worth having if it were to become available.
Call of Duty 4 suits just about anyone who likes a first-person shooter. The single-player campaign is brief but fun whilst it lasts. The multiplayer just adds continuous hours of fun with your buddies and well, that just does great on its own. Nothing feels too complicated or slapped right on the plate. Call of Duty 4 slowly pushes you to getting better on the campaign. Whilst on multiplayer, it doesn't feel like you're overwhelmed. It does a good thing by offering only a selection of modes and weapons to start you off. As you progress and rank up, you'll be able to dive a lot deeper with all the new unlockables awaiting for you. Certainly not to be missed for both the campaign and the multiplayer elements.