As intense as firefights in video game combat can occasionally be, they're obviously nowhere near as intense as the real thing. That said, Activision and developer Infinity Ward have made a franchise out of creating some of the most harrowing, as well as draining, combat games out there with their Call of Duty series. While the previous games in the series have dealt solely with World War II--a time-honored, but well-worn subject--the developers behind the series have taken the bold (and necessary) step of moving combat into the modern day with its upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. We had a chance to see the game in action during a pre-E3 Activision event a few weeks back, and our ears are still ringing with all of the intense action promised in the game.
The demo of the game started off with a nighttime assault of a cargo ship in the middle of a violent storm. A team of heavily armed soldiers boarded the ship from ziplines and made their way up to the bridge where the squad took out the officers on deck with extreme prejudice. From there, it was through the lower decks of the ship, blasting enemies as they went in typical fast-paced shoot-'em-up Call of Duty action. The soldier's mission was to grab a manifest located on board, and just seconds after grabbing it, the entire ship is rocked by a massive explosion. Immediately, blasted holes start appearing in the side of the ship, leaking in tons of water per second. Seconds later, the ship begins to teeter to one side under the weight of all that invading water, while the soldiers are literally scrambling for their lives through the skewed bowels of the rapidly sinking ship. Back on the deck, with minutes to spare before the ship goes under, the soldiers sprint toward a helicopter waiting to take them to safety. With all the soldiers on board, save for the player in the game, the game ratchets up the tension one more notch by having you slip as you jump into the copter. With inches between you and the stormy sea below, our hero is pulled to safety by a comrade and the mission is complete.
As you can tell from that example, the level of intensity and action in Call of Duty 4 is going to rival the best summer blockbusters. In the game, you'll be taking on missions as members of two special ops military units: the British SAS fighting against a Russian enemy and the elite Marines Force Recon unit involved in a Middle Eastern struggle. That's right, no more Nazis in Call of Duty, though you will be dealing with a formidable opponent in the form of a Russian ultranationalist and his henchmen, affectionately known as "The Four Horsemen." How's that name for foreshadowing their intentions?
While there will be plenty of run-and-gun combat, what makes Modern Combat so intriguing is the addition of all the modern-day technology to spice up the missions. In some missions, you'll be riding as the gunner in an attack helicopter; in another, you'll be manning the weaponry on an AC-130 Spectre, raining down hell on enemy combatants during a night mission that looks and plays like something straight out of the US military footage vaults. Flying high above the combat zone during a night mission, you're using thermal vision and are tasked with taking out enemy combatants as they scurry around looking to escape. But there's no sound as you blast them with your Vulcan cannon; instead, you're met with the calm voice of one of your squadmates who records your kill with a level-headed coolness that is a far cry from the madness of ground combat in the game. It's cold, it's calculating, and it's thoroughly modern combat.
In another mission, known as The Bog, you're tasked with securing a stranded M1A1 Abrams tank, fighting through a dusty, chaotic urban landscape while bullets buzz by you and careening copters crash around you. Snaking through the buildings on your way to your objective, you'll need to make liberal use of your night-vision goggles as you pick off enemies as you go. From what we've seen of the game so far, The Bog mission seems to be one of the toughest, most action-packed fights in the entire game; it's certainly one of the loudest with explosions happening all around you and the chatter of your squadmates keeping you up to date on the ever-changing face of the battle.
Beyond the promising single-player game, the team at Infinity Ward has been working since day one on the game's multiplayer features. The same team, in fact, that worked on the multiplayer on the first two COD games is back for the fourth game, and as a result, the game is looking to match the in-depth yet accessible experience found in previous games. One of the most exciting new options in COD 4's multiplayer is the ability to create a class of your design. As an example, producers created a stealth-based class to show off the different options; they outfitted the soldier with a silenced submachine gun, a light sidearm, a GPS jamming device that would prevent him from showing up on the game's minimap, and an increased sprint ability. This is just one example of the kind of options you'll have available to you, but how you design your character will be up to you. However, should you get killed in the game by an opponent, you'll be able to check out his or her makeup, which may perhaps spawn some new ideas for how you might like to modify your character in the process.
At the time of this writing, the multiplayer beta for Call of Duty 4 had not yet begun, so we're eagerly looking forward to seeing what the game has in store for us once we get our hands on it for some expanded play testing. Expect to see plenty more on this amazing-looking game in the coming months.