Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare
21/4/08 by Lazarus and the Gimp
COD4 takes the familiar "Call of Duty" game out of its old WW2 setting and gives it a contemporary reboot, with a series of missions set in a pseudo-Iraq, and a number of Russian/Azerbaijani locations. This robs it of its period charm, but adds in a slick modern feel to the game, with the Middle Eastern missions feeling feeling like lifts straight out of "Black Hawk Down". Additionally, losing the slavish adherence to historic encounters allowed the designers to come up with a single cohesive storyline in which the individual players actually matter- helped along with cut-scenes of nuke blasts that are pure Hollywood.
The missions are split across US and UK forces, allowing play as both a terse, sarcastic SAS agent, and as a staggeringly irritating gung-ho US Marine. The US missions tend to be the most exciting- featuring furious street fighting with RPG's whistling overhead. In contrast, the SAS missions tend to be a little identikit- there's only so much creeping around broadly similar Eastern Bloc villages that I can take. However the Brit missions are redeemed by the white-knuckled tension in the brilliant "All Ghillied up" episode- a fabulously atmospheric sniper mission set around the ruins of Chernobyl.
For pure fun, nothing beats the "Death from above" mission, in which the player is the gunner of a ground-attack aircraft circling a series of conflict zones at night- with targets lit up on heat-vision scopes. After a hard day spent being a Guardian-reading saviour of humanity, there's nothing quite like sending little Arabs hurtling through the air with a 40mm cannon, whilst laughing like a maniac.
There are a few annoying features- it's no longer posssible to "cook off" grenades, which means they're now an outright liability. Conversely, this means that the best weapon in the game is a grenade that someone else has just thrown at you, which is a fairly bizarre state of affairs. Also the guard dogs are waaaaaay too powerful- they might look like German Shepherds, but they've clearly been coded by someone whose knowledge of dogs starts and ends with the Velociraptor.
Those niggles aside, this is a killer of a game. The graphics ooze clarity and detail, and the AI of the NPC's is great too. I'm particularly fond of the way critically-wounded enemies will drag themselves into cover, then shakily return fire. It's also pure gun porn, with every single state-of-the-art SMG being crammed in at some point or other.
As ever with COD games, the single-player game is too short- but it'll undoubtedly see lots of replays. It'll doubtlessly be a huge hit on the MP circuit as well. If you're looking for a modern-day shooter, they just don't come better than this.
Laz was playing the PC version of the game.