Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Review
I've always enjoyed the Call of Duty games. Sure, they were a part of the overcrowded World War II shooter category and were heavily scripted games, but these things never bothered me because the games were simply a lot of fun to play. The levels were well-designed and provided for some great gaming moments that I still remember today. Crossing the Volga at Stalingrad in a small boat while Stukas roared overhead and a propaganda officer screamed threats and orders at me has got to be one of my top ten favorite gaming moments. When I first learned about Call of Duty 4, I was excited for several reasons. First of all, the action was being moved from World War II to the current day, bringing modern weapons and combatants to the game. Secondly, the game was being developed by Infinity Ward, the studio responsible for the best games in the Call of Duty series, Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2. Lastly, it was revealed that the developers would put as much emphasis on creating a compelling multiplayer experience as they would on crafting a memorable single player campaign. Now that I have had the chance to play the game, I am very happy to report that it has easily met my expectations and in some ways even exceeded them.
Call of Duty 4's single player campaign weaves together two storylines that has you alternating between fighting as a US Marine in the Middle East and as a British SAS commando operating within Russia. It's a good way to give you an opportunity to take part in both large-scale engagements and covert operations, and in both cases you'll encounter plenty of memorable moments. Like in its predecessors, the events in Call of Duty 4 are scripted and you move from one set event to the next as you make your way through the missions. However, the level design does not make you feel that you are constrained to a tight path and you usually have plenty of options for approaching your objectives.
You never fight alone in Call of Duty 4, and the realistic behavior of your computer-controlled allies adds a lot to the experience. When you're fighting as a Marine you'll have plenty of your fellow Marines around you most of the time and you'll hear them call out enemy positions, yell for help, and warn you of incoming grenades. The game made me feel like I was a part of a larger force and not simply a solitary gunman who miraculously wins the war on his own. When you're with the SAS the experience is even more personal as you will take on each mission as part of the same small squad of elite operatives. Teamwork is critical in these types of operations and your SAS squad does a great job of working together. There is something innately satisfying about sneaking across a dark field with your squadmates and working together to clear a farmhouse of hostiles before they even know that you are there. The enemy AI is no slouch in the game either. Your foes will make excellent use of cover, move between different firing positions, and work to flank you.
Not only does the game play great, it looks great as well. The weapon effects are outstanding and some of the more pitched battles are almost jaw-dropping to watch. For example, you may find yourself the target of RPG fire from the upper floors of a building. You'll see the flash as the RPG is fired and then the trail of smoke as it heads to its target. After watching the shell impact with a brilliant explosion you'll see the smoke trail begin to twist in the wind as it dissipates. These pretty visuals are put to shame when a couple of Apaches arrive on the scene to take out the RPG gunners and both let loose a barrage from their Gatling guns. You may find yourself sitting mesmerized by scenes such as these and having to remind yourself that there's a war on and that you'd better get moving.