Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

April 9, 2008

Few series get up to part “4” in any medium and even fewer are any good. Call of Duty 4 is an exception. It’s the best game Infinity Ward has ever made and has set the new standard for modern, realistic shooters.

Call of Duty has made a beautiful transition to modern weaponry. The weapons and gadgets truly are modern warfare–flash grenades never looked so good or worked so accurately. In the previous games, the old ratchety pistols, rifles, and machine guns took a while to bring someone down. With an AK-47 in your hands, your enemy dies satisfyingly quickly. Of course, this means you do too, which makes routine firefights much more challenging.

The voice acting, graphics, script, soundtrack and plot are Hollywood quality. There are few good action movies anymore, and Call of Duty 4 delivers a more intense and involved experience than most of those. I actually wondered how certain characters would fare, and how the conflict would be resolved. The story was interesting and unpredictable. Unfortunately, the single player, despite its new setting and involving storyline, is a little bit more of the same: the controls and moves function identically and the missions progress in the same linear fashion as the first Call of Duty. This is really 4‘s only flaw: the weapons are the only thing different about combat, and if only buying this for the single player, you may just find it a good sequel.

For multiplayer, the Headquarters, Search and Destroy, and Team Deathmatch modes return; new ones include Domination (Halo‘s “King of the Hill”) and Assault, where two teams compete to rush a bomb to one side of the map and blow up the other team’s objective. Also included are ‘hardcore” versions of all the modes, where there is no HUD and no radar unless someone gets 3 consecutive kills to call in a UAV unit.

The experience point and create a class systems make Call of Duty 4 so different that it can hardly be compared to any other games, even the previous entries in the series–it’s here where the game goes from “good sequel” to “best FPS of the year.” Each kill nets points and accomplishing certain tasks (blow up a car, get 25 headshots with an MP5, etc.) give experience points, too. Going up levels unlocks new abilities and weapon choices, ranging from longer breath times for snipering to packing extra frag grenades to carrying two full weapons instead of a main weapon and a sidearm. It takes a long time to level to 55, and the challenges encourage players to learn the nuances of every game type and weapon. The abilities and new weapons actually matter and the ability to customize is almost on par with an RPG character. A newcomer who can only use the 5 default classes would be at a distinct disadvantage here, so the game is better bought sooner than later. The unlocked abilities are so distinct that all the new players will want them. I frequently heard new users wondering how they’d died, and on receiving an explanation, asking “Oh, when do I get that?”

While the level discrepancies work themselves out, a feature that detracts from multiplayer is the ridiculous power of the air strikes and the helicopters. In one Search and Destroy match, an air strike instantly obliterated seven members of the enemy team at the beginning of the round, and there was no cover that could have prevented it. The helicopters are definitely mortal, but they are tough and take away from the fun of the game, even when they don’t kill anyone. Fortunately, because this is the PC version, servers have the option to remove them, and many don’t allow air strikes in the first twenty seconds on Search and Destroy.

If you’ve never played any realistic, Tom Clancy-type shooters, make this one your introduction. Most shooters today are disposable wannabes, but the rewards for completing Call of Duty 4‘s campaign and the variety and customization of the multiplayer will keep players coming back for a long time. Call of Duty 4 is brilliant and will be difficult to top.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.