Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Review
|Genre:||First Person Shooter|
|Release Date:||November 9th, 2007 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Craig Dudley (Mani)|
Until very recently it had been a while since I'd played a shooter I enjoyed, indeed I have not even been interested enough to complete one until Half-Life 2: Episode 2 & Team Fortress 2 arrived a few weeks ago. Then all of a sudden, like buses, along come a few. Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat is the latest and so far it's the best of a very good bunch. I suppose it's no surprise I do like it though, it sticks closely to the successful formula Infinity Ward concocted with the original Call of Duty, maybe it even improves upon it.
As the name suggest Call of Duty 4 takes place in modern world, a fictitious modern world I might add where it seems that Russia is in the midst of a civil war and the War on Terror has taken a turn for the worst. As is usually the case in CoD games, you'll play more than one character; without wanting to spoil any of the plot elements too much that will be either as a US Marine or British SAS soldier either in a fictitious Middle Eastern city or in the afore mentioned war torn southern Russia with perhaps a jaunt or two into Ukraine.
A sense of being part of the story is a big strength of this title; you just get sucked right into the events and thing become almost immediately believable, given the setting and current events around the world it's perhaps a little scary at times for that very reason. That clearly adds to the tension though which from a gaming point of view is only a good, if it provokes a thought or two about the geopolitical state of our world then that's just a bonus.
There are however a few little niggles with Call of Duty's game style; first and foremost it's very much on rails, you certainly don't feel like it most of the time but it absolutely is. There's very much a feeling that if you don't push on along the predefined path certain enemies will just keep on re-spawning forever, again it's not always the case but you sure as hell don't get rewarded for staying behind cover and picking of bad guys for ages. You'll need to get used to clearing a path and moving forward, of course such a gameplay mechanic does have its benefits, most notably that fact that Infinity Ward are able to add so many of the excellent scripted sequences that Call of Duty games are famous for. You shouldn't take any of this as too much of a negative though, you very rarely feel like you're being funnelled in the one and only available direction, it's usually more of being coerced into taking certain actions or moving to certain points to get your squad mates out of bother or complete certain orders.
Graphically Call do Duty 4 is very impressive, maps are highly detailed and character models move in an unnervingly lifelike way. Lighting and smoke effects are also very good and if you don't look at the textures with a microscope the entire package adds up to perhaps the most realistic looking military shooter ever, it really is stunning. It might not hold that title for long however as Crysis is due imminently, but perhaps that is irrelevant anyway; Call of Duty 4 looks superb and its engine is totally fit for purpose, even without breaking the bank to purchase multiple expensive graphics cards.
Along with the superb scripted sequences, Call of Duty has always had good voice acting, and Modern Warfare is no different dialogue between squad members is gritty and realistic with only one character's voice seeming slightly unnatural, a Scottish sniper that sounds like an actor pretending to be Scottish, but still this is the only one I had any sort of issue with and there's plenty of other voice acting going on, another massive thumbs up for Infinity Ward's production values.
The single player campaign is played out across four acts, each of which is perhaps slightly more than an hour long for the experienced gamer, perhaps six to seven hours length in total; definitely not the longest single player game you'll play this year. However, it's that good it will most likely warrant a play through on one of the harder skill settings at a later date. A small bonus arcade mode mission is tacked onto the end once the game has been completed once, this is quite good fun and could be good practice for your inevitable multiplayer escapades.
Multiplayer Call of Duty was a favourite of mine; I never did get much chance to play Call of Duty 2 much. I personally love the Search and Destroy game mode which for the uninitiated is similar in many ways to a destruction map in Counter-Strike and certainly seems to be the most popular mode, that's not the only game mode though with the old favourites of free-for-all death match and Team Death Match making a returns also along with Headquarters. Further modes Domination and Sabotage I have yet to try.
There are sixteen multiplayer maps included, all of which look superb in keep with the single player game. One for the maps is absolutely tiny and set in a container yard, small squad duels are great fun but add five to six players a team and it can go from being very funny to absolute chaos in short order. Most of the rest of the maps are of a medium size I would say, perfect for clan matches of no more than eight players perhaps. However, visit a 32 player server and none of the maps are really big enough, given that damage is set on a more realistic level than most games and you actually die if shot more often than not, it can get very frustrating. Still that's easily fixed by sticking to smaller servers or being extremely careful. Both aren't a bad idea.
Of course, the reason for the need to be careful is that the net-code is good and the guns are accurate and powerful, if I'm honest I'd like to see a little more recoil though, it can seem a bit easy to get mid to long range kills with assault rifles, even whilst spraying a full clip it's not too hard to maintain a solid grouping at present. The weapons do all have a superb feel though, the word visceral seems to get banded about lot when trying to describe how weapons feel in a game, I'm not sure how good a description that is, but they do feel great and it's easy to imagine that they are just like this in real life.
As is often the case recently, Call of Duty 4 multiplayer includes a system of rewards, challenges and un-locks. As you gain experience points for kills or planting bombs you will gain ranks, ranks will give you things like access to different weapons and perks, there are a lot of ranks but you do travel through them fairly quickly. Perks are such things as faster running speed or more health. In time you can have up to three perks at once and mix and match any perks to suit your own needs, up to five custom class slots are available for you to save your own class creations which to be honest is cool. You might want to create your own uber-sniper who has perks for hiding from the enemy UAV and extra stopping power from his bullets, or maybe a heavy gunner who has the perks for extra health and higher un-scoped accuracy. There are plenty of perks and therefore plenty of potential combinations. There are a lot of guns to choose from too, but they will all need unlocking.
Challenges are more akin to achievements on Xbox live, you know the sort of thing, get three kills with gun Z to unlock item Y and unlock further challenges, there's tonnes of stuff to do here though and if you're the type that gets hooked on finishing these sorts of challenge trees, you'll be at it a while!
My main complaint about the game is more of a complaint against its publishers Activision, I think we've all seen that if you buy Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on Steam from the USA it will cost just under 50 dollars, whereas should you buy it from Europe, the cost will be 70 dollars. Neither come with a disk nor manual or any extra support so this is quite frankly price gouging and morally reprehensible. My advice? If you're in Europe, don't buy it via Steam and don't pay the RRP for you game either, shop around on-line, it can be found from multiple retailers for under £30 including delivery which is much more like it.
Despite being a little short and too expensive in this country, it's still the best PC first person shooter I've played this year, though The Orange Box isn't very far behind at all. If the price of CoD4 was the same in Europe as it is in the States then I would have awarded a further half a mark, meaning that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is somewhere between excellent and perfect on our scoring scale. Can't say fairer than that, a definite must buy for all shooter fans.
- Awesome fun
- Graphically superb
- Great voice acting
- Good story
- Weapons feel incredible
- Multiplayer is excellent
Not so good stuff
- Campaign is a bit short
- Expensive in the UK
- Could do with a few bigger multiplayer maps