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Call of Duty 4 Review 183

Posted by Zonk
from the reporting-in-sir dept.
The Call of Duty series is a benchmark for first-person shooters. The first title refreshed the already-tired World War II setting by added a gripping gameplay-based narrative, while the second was an important launch title for the Xbox 360. The newest chapter in the series, Call of Duty 4, is a new standard for the series and the genre. Set in modern times, the title breaks the mold of previous CoD titles in other ways as well. Most intriguing is its online 'character' development system, which takes some of the great ideas used in Battlefield 2 to the next level. Though the game suffers somewhat from overly-familiar gameplay in the single-player component, you'll probably be too busy gawking at the scenery to care. Read on for my impressions of this extremely attractive series update.
  • Title:Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat
  • Developer/Publisher: Infinity Ward/Activision
  • System: 360 (PC, PS3)
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Score: 3/5: This game is par for the course in many ways, but is likely to be a classic for the genre. Any gamer might enjoy renting it.
The fact that it's even worth mentioning the story in a warfare-focused First-Person Shooter sets Call of Duty 4 above most of its contemporaries. As in previous CoD titles, Infinity sets you in the midst of an epic combat. With the new modern setting, instead of facing down Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, terrorists are the order of the day. The game avoids any uncomfortably weighty questions of nationality by placing the conflict in fictionalized nations, but the themes will be familiar to anyone who has read the newspaper lately. What makes these confrontations even more meaningful is that, like in previous Infinity titles, we get to see the conflict from multiple angles. In this case, by swapping between British and American troops as they work to quell the epic conflict boiling on the edge of the Middle East and former USSR. Though I felt the characters were better developed in CoD 2, you'll find yourself appreciating recognizable voices and names over the course of the game. The story accomplishes its goal admirably; you always feel a sense of purpose as you move through the game, and rarely are you left confused about what your current objective should be. The game also has one of the most amazing credit sequences I've ever seen in a title before. It's powerful on a visceral level, and shouldn't be missed.

How you accomplish your objective-of-the-moment is going to feel very familiar to anyone that's played a warfare FPS in the last few years. Yourself and a small group of soldiers move through a map, accomplishing minor goals in preparation for a larger set-piece battle near the end of the level. The tried-and-true core of the CoD series remains almost unchanged, and there's nothing wrong with that - because it's fun. Gameplay is tweaked in a few notable ways by the modernization of the setting. You'll occasionally do a stealth-style mission aided by nightvision (obviously absent from WWII), weapons now fire right through walls, and it's no longer a requirement to ditch the terrible American weapons for their superior German equivalents a few seconds into each level. In fact your default assault rifle is quite serviceable, and I found no real need to snag another weapon over the course of the game. Grenades felt a bit sloppier, likely due to their weighing less than WWII potatomashers. Both shooting through walls and tossing grenades back at enemies (another new move) are tactics the terrorists can make use of as well, improving their combat effectiveness. These groundpounding elements are broken up by some very enjoyable rail-shooting sequences. They are welcome diversions when they're injected into the story, with one nightvision-only sequence particularly well done.

For many players, the par-for-the-course gameplay and well-done single player story are just sidelines to this game's best offering: a full melding of RPG sensibilities with online FPS play. Much like the accolades offered in Battlefield 2's online component, Call of Duty 4 features a wealth of medals and awards to be handed out via multiplayer. The difference with CoD 4, though, is that these accolades are wrapped up inside a 'leveling' and 'class' structure, netting you the warfare FPS equivalent of superpowers. The ability for your bullets to pass through walls more easily, a larger inventory, new weapons, and a tweakable 'character class' all lead you through 55 levels of advancement. It's probably one of the most ambitious persistent elements to an FPS yet, and certainly the most advanced to come to a console. I haven't had as much time as I would have liked with this element, but it's quite a sight to behold the first time you enter that part of the game; it's sort of like opening a menu and stumbling into a MMOG hidden inside your FPS.

"Quite a sight" was actually one of the first things I thought when I began playing the game. There's an early level that places you at the far end of a broken and battered highway, raised up above street level. Your vantage point when you first enter the mission has you looking out over the battle-scarred ruins of a city. The terrorists are everywhere, and as a result smoke and anti-aircraft tracers light the sky. There are fires off in the distance, the sound of combat, and the occasional blast of a rocket explosion. It's an amazing image, a centerpiece for the title's visual imagery in the same way the title sequence is a centerpiece for the game's story. The sound in the game is likewise impactful, with 'Saving Private Ryan'-esque head ducks and dodges required by the zip of bullets and whiz of shrapnel. Probably the game's strongest suit, Call of Duty 4's presentation is a masterwork of modern gaming. It's easily one of the most beautiful games I've seen on the 360.

Overall, though I quite like Call of Duty 4, its core gameplay tries very hard to be humble despite the amazing presentation and strongly told tale. The basic, moment-to-moment activities you'll be performing in the game are so rote at this point that it's hard to get overly excited about the experience. When compared with titles like Rainbox Six Vegas, it's also hard to understand why I can't more effectively duck behind cover. In a game ostensibly touting modern military tactics, it's altogether unclear why 'duck' and 'crouch' are my only two real options when avoiding withering enemy fire. Even still, this game is a watershed for the CoD series. It's a breakthrough in technology and story for Infinity Ward, and sets the bar incredibly high for future modern warfare FPS titles. Via the online shooter component the game also has quite a bit of 'replay' value, and is a quality showing in the midst of a very busy holiday gaming season. Call of Duty 4 is worth a look from any fan of the genre, if only for an example of how to tell a story in the midst of a terrible (and timely) war.
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Call of Duty 4 Review

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  • by Boomer_Zz (548219) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @04:44PM (#21354371)
    There are still some bugs to work out though. I like the choice of guns and the fast leveling up (to get more guns).

    The perks you can give your character (2 of them) are cool, so people can assign them to their own strengths as a player.

    I do notice some people who seem to be able to see through smoke / through walls (google it). Admins can catch it, but it's so early I don't think many know what to look for. The kill cam helps anti-sniping if it's enabled on the server you play on.
  • by mikeasu (1025283) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @04:50PM (#21354469)
    Got my copy of CoD4 yesterday. Gorgeous game, but knew that from the demo. Gameplay is pretty typical I think - actually comes pretty natural. Comparing multiplayer to BF2 or BF2142...just different. CoD4 seems a bit quicker paced. Understandable, since there are no vehicles in CoD4, therefore, the maps were made smaller. Vehicles - FPS players seem to either love them or hate them. I think in the BF series, esp. 2142, they did a good job of varying strengths and weakness in the vehicles. Allowed for wide variety of tactics. And the maps in 2142, esp. Titan mode lent themselves to interesting strategies. The round or two of multiplayer CoD4 last night - first impressions...very good. Quicker action, but still (at least the map type we were in, Sabotage I think) playing as a squad makes a difference. All in all - a very good purchase for a FPS fan - not a replacement for 2142, but a good change of pace.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @04:53PM (#21354501)
    Don't try it right now if you are thinking about it.. the online multiplayer mode is 100% jacked up right now and has been for several days. Can't join matches unless its a private match.

    this is on the 360..

    when it worked it was hella fun.. but it dont work anymore
  • Re:Review (Score:5, Informative)

    by JohnnyBigodes (609498) <morphineNO@SPAMdigitalmente.net> on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @05:14PM (#21354785)
    Despite agreeing with the general statement, I'll have to say:

    "In this case, not correct".

    What the review has totally failed to mention is the sheer intensity of the combat in this iteration. I've played CoD1 and 2, and 3 was god-awful. Now *that* was totally no innovation, same game as before, with shaded and bump-mapped graphics.

    In Call of Duty 4, the best rough description I can give for the combat is that "there's shit flying EVERYWHERE". From the smoke to the flames heat effect, HDR (eye brightness adjustment) exploding cars, tracer bullets, laser beams (w/ Night Vision), the debris, all the bullet marks, a copious number of corpses left around, the really neat depth-of-field as you aim down the ironsights, etc... All of this contributes so that despite that, intrinsically, nothing here is *revolutionary*, it is a culmination of all the good stuff from before, which only happens because Infinity Ward built such a great (and fast!) graphics engine. It's very *evolutionary*, and has a good amount of little touches. The story, all the character voicings, the immediate briefing-to-mission fades, the "mini-missions" (one of the coolest things EVER is the mission where you're shooting shit below from an AC-130 plane), and so on. The combat system has some minor changes. Now you usually have 2 or 3 paths to pick to get to your target, and many larger locations present additional strategic challenges. There are also some new weapons, like Claymores and C4 for snipers (the sniping mission in Prypiat is one of the coolest).

    Oh, did I mention the engine is FAST? Probably one of the fastest engines ever written, in terms of "prettiness/speed ratio". It's just "another FPS", sure, that's a fact, but it's also by far one of the best. Played Crysis, next to this it's just "pretty, but meh".
  • 3/5? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zebra_X (13249) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @05:19PM (#21354861)
    Nah - maybe 4/5 or 4.5/5. There are a number of aspects of this FPS that set it apart from others:

    1 Physics. In the first level you are on a ship, as you walk around, run, and aim, you have to compensate for the roll of the ship. This is one of the first examples of this I've seen - it was a great effect and I'm pretty sure not super easy to do.

    Bullet penetration through "soft" targets such as walls is really realistic - it also makes you re-think what "cover" really is.

    2 Sneak. In most games of this genere it's kill or be killed. Taking a page out of metal gear solid, there are some levels where sneaking can keep you from getting into a fight - especially as a sniper.

    3 There is one level entitled "Death from above" where you are a gunner on an AC-130. The level was very easy - but the dialog from the "crew" of the Spectre was really cool. When you scan over an area where there are bad guys the spotter will say "Get those guys" or "Yeah take them out". In some cases it's difficult to see because of cover and things - so the added verbal confirmation that you are about to kill the right guys was really impressive.

    4 The enviroments flowed well.

    5 Online play is challenging and engagning with a wide range of matches and game play, some lag though and "replay" is not always what you "saw" right before you died.

    6 Wide range of weapons

    7 Air support, UAV, and Helicopters as added bonuses for killing streaks

    A FPS is an FPS but CoD 4 has really pushed the state of the art - you have to play with your eyes and ears not some crazy HUD that will always tell you where the bad guys are. There is the element of "maybe i can get that guy through a wall" - in a way this game redefines "cover" for the FPS genere. I also like the fact that dying is easy enough - it's not like it take a clip to take you down, three bullet strikes in a row is about all you can take.

    Also, in the second to last level in the missle silo - there is a computer that looks remarkable like J.O.S.H.U.A. of war games. Mad props to the designers for including that.

    Overall - a ton of fun to play.

    Hoorah.
  • by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @05:25PM (#21354943) Homepage Journal
    I think it's a better game than you give it credit for. The single player was extremely fun, far over and above the average game, and the multiplayer has enough grip to it it's above average too. I'm not going to go into details because, frankly, I can't be bothered (Maybe it's good for lazy gamers, who knows), but it's definitely worth 4/5, at least.
  • some nitpicks: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Simulant (528590) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @06:04PM (#21355417) Journal

    the first title refreshed the already-tired World War II setting by added a gripping gameplay-based narrative, while the second was an important launch title for the Xbox 360.
    The first TWO titles were developed by Infinity ward for the PC and the the third title, for the Xbox 360 only was devoloped by someone else.

    terrorists are the order of the day.
    This "you are fighting the terrorists in COD4" thing is starting to get annoying. I've seen it crop up in more than one review. It's my impression that you are up against highly organized and well armed, fictional, middle eastern bloc army. The sides are definitely equally matched which almost by definition would not be true if one side were terrorists a la Al Qaeda. I'm also not aware of any terrorist attacks taking place in the game (though I've admittedly not finished the single player campaign yet) unless you count the assassinations by the 'good' side, or the maryrdom perk which any side can use in multi-player. If you want to think you are fighting terrorists then fine but... it's not even a remotely realistic depiction of fighting terrorists, which IMHO would make a seriously disturbing & boring game.

    Score: 3/5
    I respectfully disagree. At least 4/5 if not better. Multi-player will give this game legs.
  • by another_twilight (585366) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @06:38PM (#21355905)
    Not entirely.

    Caveats - I have just finished playing online for the third time - a total of perhaps 5-6 hours of play, but I have been playing FPS' for ... some time. I have played a couple of the previous CoDs but not been a big fan. Xbox 360, mostly with and against Australians - YMMV.

    When you begin, you have access to some basic packages that include standard weapons and pre-set 'perks' (the ability to sprint for longer, take more damage, have your rounds do more damage or penetrate further etc.). For the first few levels, that is all you can use. In my case, by the time I had familiarised myself with the controls and gameplay, I had advanced sufficiently to be able to create my own arrangement of weapons and perks and even unlocked a couple of them.

    I have been playing almost entirely with people 20-30 'levels' above me and while their skill and familiarity with the maps is evident, this is much more significant than their weapons (which you can collect and use when they drop them) or perks.

    The more advanced weapons are slightly better than standard, but usually at some sort of cost (more power but more recoil for e.g.) and so require more skill to use. In my case, I am happier sticking with the basic weapons than picking up someone else's. The perks that I have seen are more flavour than anything else (drop a live grenade when you die - easy to spot and dodge; pull a pistol and shoot from the ground for a few seconds before you die - surprised me the first time, now I make sure they really are dead).

    I am used to being able to learn how many shots it takes to kill someone, how far a person can run before they stop etc. Having some weapons do more damage and some people with more HP adds an element of randomness that is frustrating that ability, but is a refreshing change to the standard FPS. Things are a little more uncertain. I find myself watching someone that has dropped, just to make sure they stay down. Firing a few more rounds than I think will do, just in case it doesn't. Perhaps as I play more I will unconsciously adapt to these elements, but for now it has significantly increased the play time required before I 'learn' the game. Which is fantastic.

    The gameplay may be similar to a lot of other material in this genre, but it is packaged and presented in a very polished fashion and the progression is both addictive (one more round and I'll level ...) and adds depth and dimension.

  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @06:41PM (#21355949)
    Anyone looking for depth in multiplayer combat should check out the fantastic Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
    Tons of options, development, and best of all no persistent unlockables.
    Smart teamplay is the name of the game there.

    Yes, it is arcady, and not a strategic shooter a-la Rainbow Six, but who wants to sneak around on silent footsteps for half an hour, just to be finished off by one bullet...
    It is not a standard deathmatch, or capture the flag. It has many elements and different play modes, asymmetric but balanced teams, vehicles, deployables and absolutely beautiful maps.
    It is not a clone of COD, BF, but a successor to Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, which was released for free by the same team that developed Quake Wars, set in the Quake universe, during the Strogg invasion of Earth (Pre- Quake II).

    Check it out...Link. [enemyterritory.com]
    And to boot, it has a free demo map you can download and get a taste of the action. But noobies beware, this can be an overwhelming game at first, and can take months to master even a single class on one side.
  • Re:Review (Score:3, Informative)

    by The Analog Kid (565327) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @07:29PM (#21356569)
    Doom 3 was a very pretty game, but it got boring very quickly.

    Clearly, Id's forte isn't in good storylines, character development, or anything else that would make a good story to play through. They are in the business of making game engines that provide excellent visuals and then making a lot licensing these engines to other developers who in turn will make great stories using Id's engines. Quake 3 was only really popular because of it's multiplayer (did it even have a single player?), and mods.
  • Re:Review (Score:3, Informative)

    by McFadden (809368) on Wednesday November 14, 2007 @09:15PM (#21357627)

    I think a problem the /. crowd has with super snazzy graphics is that games with great graphics are often poorly done in other areas, simply because the game studio concentrated only on graphics and not other (more important) game mechanics, and as a result the game becomes generally un-fun and disappointing. IMHO, from what I've seen, CoD4 is not one of those games--I do think it's going to be a very fun, compelling game, and the graphics, sound and play do make it an immersing experience.

    If I could mod you +5 I would. I couldn't agree more. The Wii effect, emphasising gameplay over graphics is a good thing IMHO, but unfortunately it's become so 'trendy' to follow this line, that certain reviewers (including unfortunately the individual who gave this game 3/5) have allowed it to blinker their view to the point that they can't see beyond the graphics, and actually appreciate the quality of the game for what it is.

    *** Warning - may contain minor spoilers.

    The cinematography in this game is outstanding. From the prologue involving the SAS raid on a cargo ship smuggling nukes, to the main opening car ride through the streets of the Baghdad-like middle-eastern city and the subsequent execution of the country's president, the story is woven with great finesse and attention to detail and it rarely lets up, allowing you to suspend your disbelief and get throughly involved in the action. It is as immersive an experience as I have ever had during a videogame. Clearly a lot of time has been spent on voice acting to produce something which is significantly better than the average. And the enemy AI is excellent, to the point where they actually make more effective use of tactics and cover than I do.

    The training mode gives you just enough to get you started, but leave you feeling like a raw recruit. The first mission in particular beautifully combined the calm, coordinated teamwork of highly professional soldiers on a mission, with the utter pandemonium and complete lack of focus that occurs when suddenly enemy combatants start ambushing you from all directions.

    Another point the review singularly fails to mention (and this is a sad reflection of the quality of the editorial on Slashdot) is the superb technical achievement Infinity Ward's game engine has turned out to be. I recently downloaded the Crysis demo, which although a demo, appears to be pretty much a feature complete run through of the opening mission. It runs like 3-legged dog, with my rig managing a barely playable 20fps at a resolution of 1280x800 with everything set to 'medium'. From what I've seen so far though, CoD4 is actually at least as good as, if not more beautiful lookin than Crysis, and yet I can run it with every setting on maximum, at 1920x1200 and barely even see a flicker of slowdown. I would never have believed my Radeon X1900XT (these days very much a mid-range card) would be capable of what I've seen with my own eyes.

    I'm really glad I bought this game before I read the Slashdot review. Although I've never really placed much trust in the quality of 'journalism' (for want of a better word) on this site, giving this game 3/5 is more about the reviewer's petty prejudices and grandstanding to the 'graphics aren't everything' crowd, and less about the quality of the game. It's true... graphics aren't everything, but that's why it's a shame that Zonk can't see that CoD4 has so much more than just eye-candy.

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