Review: Call of Duty 4
Action/First Person Shooter
Back to Infinity Ward and beyond.
Another day, another first person shooter getting touted as a potential Game Of The Year contender on the 360. In this site’s short life we’ve already had Bioshock, Orange Box and Halo 3 and you could be forgiven for feeling utterly jaded. Especially, if like me, you’re utterly sick of the sight of two of those games. However, hopes were always particularly high for Call Of Duty 4 and for good reason.
Firstly, the series is back in the hands of Infinity Ward who were responsible for the stunning Call Of Duty 2, as opposed to Treyarch who defiled the series with the risible Call Of Duty 3. Secondly, they rather bravely decided to take the game away from the World War 2 setting and into the modern day. About time too.
The single-player campaign follows the story of an English SAS operative and some American ‘Force Recon’ bloke (sorry but it’s just not as prestigious) as they take on a ultranationalist Russian. It’s your standard post-Ghost Recon excuse to blow things up, drive tanks and snipe foreigners but it’s all handled with so much class that you can’t help but be drawn in. Especially after an introduction that is staggeringly bleak for what was always going to be a very well-selling title.
Once the game gets going properly you are treated to some fantastically cinematic sequences, easily as dramatic as anything you may have seen in the Metal Gear series, which is underpinned by some highly charged Tom Clancy-esque action. Indeed this game feels much closer to the likes of GRAW and Rainbow Six than before but with the emphasis on balls-out action rather than tactics.
However, it’s not all as fantastic as you may first think. Despite the gaming leaping forward sixty years or so, it is still anchored to some of the more annoying Call Of Duty conventions. Enemies still respawn, checkpoints are still invisible and objectives, whilst mostly being ‘get from A to B’ or ‘defend the area’, are often ill-defined and confusing.
A good example of this problem occurs quite early into the campaign when you have to storm a television studio (presumably Channel 4, reason: Hollyoaks). Your objective marker seems to be leading you to the far corner of the room, a room secured by two RPG-wielding terrorists and a gaggle of gunmen. Because I’m so hard and straight and cool I’ve got this set to ‘veteran’ which means the second I walk into the room I’m obliterated on all sides.
Each time I go in I get a little further, taking it one desk at a time. After (insert embarrassing figure here) attempts, I get close to the marker but I realise the enemies are respawning and will lob grenades at me if I stop for a breather. Oh fuck this. I change tack, deciding to go around the perimeter of the room. Death, death, death… lots of death, death… eventually I make it to the marker. Nothing here but a locked door. Oh fuck off. I place condoms on my fingers and type in the letters G. A. M. E. F. A. Q. S. into my browser. Oh.. apparently these enemies don’t respawn infinitely. The run out after a hundred or so. Ten minutes of attrition later and I progress. I clear the room, follow the marker, end up at the door I was at. My colleague opens it. I’m armed with fucking grenades here. At least Rainbow Six didn’t use locked doors to fuck with my life.
War is hell and given the roasting the second instalment served me as I completed it on Veteran, I was reluctant to try this having been gorged of late by first person shooters on the Xbox 360. Infinity Ward deserve a Bafta for making this game. Not a game Bafta, they are reserved for lemons like Assassin’s Creed, but a real Bafta given to films and stuff. No scratch that they need an Oscar such is the impact of playing this game.
The single player campaign is short but never becomes repetitive with fierce urban firefights changing to long-range assassinations in high winds. For once, the British get a chance to shine rather than have to play an entire game as some Delta Force goon as the always-reliable Captain Price returns still as immune to grenades as ever.
Where CoD4 really shines is in multiplayer I know that coming so soon after Halo 3 and Team Fortress 2, many will doubt our claims of its greatness but it really is that damn good. Even the sometimes unstable Ubisoft servers and twattish American player base can not detract from how much fun can be had from this game. This year we really are being spoiled for choice but be assured, Call of Duty 4 is the best of the best, Sir!
Secondary Score: 9/10
Also, other sections of the game require just a little bit too much for my liking. Especially as the AI tends to rely on weight of numbers and Lee Harvey Oswald levels of accuracy rather than any actual intelligence. Also, if you stop for any kind of breather (or even to hold a tactically strong location) they’ll rain grenades on your location. Yes, it’s action-packed but it still makes them cunts.
Where this game really scores big points is in its multiplayer mode which would almost warrant a full price release in it’s own right. For a start, and this is important, all the achievements for the game are linked to the offline mode. Awesome. That doesn’t mean there is no motivation to play multiplayer matches though, far from it. Multiplayer play rewards you with ranking points which give you upgraded weaponary and ‘perks’ such as better aiming, more stamina, radar jamming and the ability to set off a grenade or let off a few pistol shots when you get killed.
This is similar to the system employed by Rainbow Six: Vegas but much, much better. For a start the ranking happens a lot quicker and is sped up by completing challenges such as getting a certain number of headshots or grenade kills. You are constantly aiming for your next rank just to see what it might unlock. The only potential problem is that this only happens in ranked matches, which means you’ll have to face the full brunt of the Xbox Live community… eesh!
However, you can easily form a party which means that your friends can join you in these matches and, as a rule, this game seems less prone to arseholism than Halo. Even from our friends across the pond. A decent selection of maps and modes also help to keep everything interesting but the ever-present Xbox Live connection issues can also make getting into games a bit of a chore.
It’s not all good those as certain perks seem to unbalance things, especially the ‘last resort of all cunts’ Matyrdom perk that causes dead players to magically produce a grenade to scupper you with. Seeing as how the game rewards you for decent killing streaks (with helicopter support or air strikes) it’s a bit galling to have a good streak ended by a cheap prick.
So, ultimately it’s a very good, even great, game ruined by cheap AI and a cheap community. It’s still one of the best games of its type but Call of Duty 2 edges it in single player.