“Alright children, welcome to the storytelling corner of the cryptkeeper”
Let us start with the beginning, one would say.
Back in 2003 when the original Call of Duty was released, games about the second World War were actually refreshing. Medal of Honor was the first big hit of the genre. But after a few tons of clones about it, World War 2 is a washed out subject.
Luckily, Infinity W. Recognized this after the release of CoD 2 and immediately started to work on its present day shooter, Call of Duty 4, which seems to be a big success.
The story takes place in different parts of the world, most of the time you will fight in areas that are remote and deserted, and where brutal violence is a fact of daily life.
Perpetuating this brutality is Al Asad, who hopes to take over the Middle East by setting up a revolution and thereby diverting US and Great Britain's attention while his cohort Zakhaev tries to return Russia to a communist state.
Both characters are easy to hate and the game does a very good job presenting you their detestable persona thru the eyes of the former president that is executed or, later in the game, the eyes of the much younger captain in an assassination mission.
The story is told entirely through real-time cutscenes and interactions with the characters that are possible to miss entirely and briefings that are between missions.
In typical Call of Duty style you play from the perspective of more than one player.
Eventually some of their objectives intercept and not all of them make it through alive, thereby destroying the modern gaming myth of the godlike superhero player which always survives if the mission is a success.
The story is captivating, yet fails to provide many twists: Zakhaev and Al Asad are bad guys and you have to take them out. What is interesting about this game is the fact that it is presented in a real manner, making sure that the true horrors of war don't stay too hidden, making the game accessible only for a mature audience.
Call of Duty has built its aura by creating easy and accessible level designs in which there are little to none puzzles but with grand to epic battles.
You will find yourself running from one epic battle to another, while being escorted by your teammates. This certainly limits confusion to a minimum during those periods, whilst in the midst of a battle you not just once will feel overwhelmed with the events around and run in circles or hide. The maps limit your ability to flank the enemy or perform advanced combat maneuvers, something not really needed over the course of the game.
CoD 4 opens up the size of the battlefield, allowing lots of vehicles to get mixed up with foot soldiers that are guarding them. With bullets flying in every direction and soldiers staying hidden, intensity is in no short supply. The game is split in about a dozen chapters, each taking 30 to 40 minutes to complete. After you complete single player, an arcade style option becomes unlocked, and you play for points, not for the mission….. nice touch.
The original Call of Duty had a decent single player, but what made it a legend was its multiplayer. CoD 4 is not far from that legend, because there has been a lot of attention for the multiplayer, as for the single player, being rivaled in ferociousness only by Halo 2 on Xbox .
One of the most interesting abilities is the perks. Perks are special attributes that you can give your character, due to the fact that it's not fun to select an already made soldier, but build one your own. Only three perks from three categories per soldier are allowed, thus making the game balanced.
Martyrdom I believe it is the coolest of them all: when you get killed, you drop a live grenade, thereby taking out the enemies close-by.
Weapon upgrades are available in the form of attachments and camouflage when the player has a level-up; more level-ups, more upgrades, something familiar from Battlefield 2142. There are six game types in all, my favorite being sabotage, where both teams run to detonate a bomb in a plant.( sounds like a Counter-Strike driven idea ).
Oddly enough, there is no Capture The Flag scenario, but you can change each game mode by selecting no HUD display or weapons packing a much bigger punch.
Another oddity is the absence of any controllable vehicle: you can call in airstrikes and helicopter attacks but you can't drive one. Even so, considering the single player and multiplayer modes, you are getting your money's worth and then some.
The game is absolute eye-candy, running at 60 frames per second with no cutbacks whatsoever, and, as a bonus, CoD 4 runs on weaker systems pretty decent thanks to that . (let's say NVidia 6150 with 256 shared memory)
Animations are done with the real warrior perspective in mind, their movements and angle of view. Your teammates are most of the time aces in combat, being far superior to your own skills, thereby removing the need of controlling them. You just watch your own ass in combat.
A lot of veterans screamed out “blasphemy” when they heard that the game is being brought in modern days, but I beg to differ: bringing the game in the modern days it is the best thing that could've happened all year. Just play it and see its awesomeness! Cold-hearted killer, baby!
The key of the game is still using your gun's sights, as in previous Call of Duty games. If you're gonna shoot from your hip, you might as well close your eyes, because the effect would be the same: no precision whatsoever in mid or long-range. And another thing: Rambo-style attacks are most of the times suicidal, so forget about it.
Another thing about CoD is that the game is not a duck-and-cover shooter, because most of the times the cover will be destroyed, leaving you either injured/dead from the blast, or shot because of the penetration of the rounds. Yes, you saw it right: bullets go through some materials, depending on what you are shooting and what you are shooting at. So the main rule is: keep moving to survive.
In CoD 4 bullets tend to act in a very interesting way, because under certain angles they bounce, while still keeping most of their velocity, and thus killing hidden opponents. Master this and you will have a lot of kills in multiplayer.
A.I. opponents don't go off the charts with their I.Q. in battle, making them more dangerous in larger numbers than solo operatives. Most A.I. human opponents know where and how to take cover, fire through the sights and fire without looking above the wall, and also keep the fear element close-hand. They can get scared pretty easy.
The second type of opponents is vicious dogs, which represents a nice, yet real touch. When you hear barking, chances are that if you don't have some bullets in your gun and are facing the right way, you are dead. Dogs don't fear you, don't fear your gunfire, and will go straight to your neck to slash it and kill you. When you are downed by a dog, you have less than 2 seconds to melee it and cut its throat. Or you die.
Curious enough, the human A.I .opponents are adversaries worthy of baseball big leagues, because they can throw a grenade several hundred feet, landing them at your feet. When that happens, a small icon appears on the screen; far too small for something this important. In the game you will most likely die from a grenade far more than from gunfire.
So you won't pilot tanks or helicopters. That is a bit sad, but to compensate, you'll be in the gunner seat time and time again, manning machineguns and grenade launchers in helicopters, and long range cannons in AC-130 airplanes, trying to make sense of the infrared/ nightvision screen.
I feel the need to talk about one last detail: tactics. The game is extremely impressive due to the extent of using tactics: your men, or the enemy. Both will use cover-fire, attacks, falling back, hiding, etc. in true real-life ways.
You will gradually learn to use stealth as you go, and one mission in particular caught my eye and my interest; “All ghillied up” is a mission in which you play a sniper advancing through enemy territory. That mission will surely slice and dice your ideas of the standard sniper: you just don't go up a building and start shooting people from long range. That is just a fraction of a real sniper's job.
Seeing a lot of documentaries on SAS and USMC I need to say that I believe a military advisor was present, due to the game's weapons and systems behavior. The personal nightvision will act like real-life, whilst the thermal sensors of the plane will keep the smudging effect of the real sensors present.(I asked someone who used the system and he was amazed by its life-likeness)
Many military assets are presented during the mission briefings (which is also a loading screen, a stroke of genius making the loading screen a thing of the past) which can be validated by any army enthusiast. Even certain attack formations are true to the real deal.
The game has strengths and weaknesses, I admit, but I feel obliged to say that it's weaknesses go unnoticed due to the absolute attention to detail, and not just graphics. Every nook-and-cranny of this game is thought seriously beforehand in order to be as real to the life situation as possible.
Helicopter going down!? Well, you can bet your chips on the fact that it's not far from what would happen in real-life; the crash site? Identical to a real one.
Debris is set-up in such a beautiful manner, explosions and fires so true to the real-life, and many more details make this game far above its opposition.
The sound of the game is exquisite (you can even hear the sound of the empty cartridge touching the floor), making sure to bury anyone under its 5.1 downgrade from 6.1 surround system.
At certain moments you can feel that a pair of headsets just won't do in capturing this game's sounds. I fell in love with it, I must admit that.
Voice-acting is another big plus, the characters chosen to add the drop of soul to the characters doing their job in a very good manner: when the ship you are in blows up, you can fell the tension in your commander's true Scottish voice, and the unrest in the voices of your teammates when the bridge you are on is about to collapse; another big plus for the game.
In all, the game does a wonderful job at being a tactical single-player modern warfare simulator, and in multiplayer it is bound to rock the servers, even more than its predecessors, despite some things missing.
In closing, the game deserves in all its grades.