Q&A: Infinity Ward's Grant Collier on Call of Duty 4

Infinity Ward studio head Grant Collier on creating Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, why they ditched the World War II setting, Mecha-Hitler, and why Live 360 versus PC matches don't appeal.

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Better guns--one of the reasons why Call of Duty is shifting to the present day.
Better guns--one of the reasons why Call of Duty is shifting to the present day.

When publisher Activision and Infinity Ward unveiled the latest in the uber-successful Call of Duty franchise several months back, they had a huge surprise for long-term fans--the series was ditching World War II in favour of a contemporary setting. GameSpot AU spoke to Infinity Ward studio head Grant Collier on a recent trip down under to find out more about Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, why the series was moved into the present day, and why Live functionality between the Xbox 360 and PC versions isn't being built into the game.

GameSpot AU: Infinity Ward's last game--Call of Duty 2 for the Xbox 360--was one of the key launch titles for Microsoft's new console. What sort of pressure did that put the team under?

Grant Collier: There was definitely pressure, but it was all pretty much self-imposed. As a developer, there are only a few things that elevate you out of the masses--being able to step up to the plate and deliver on a launch title is one of those things. That can make you a household name. I mean, how many of Bungie’s games can you remember before Halo? They did a bunch. What really put them on the map was they successfully made a launch title for the Xbox and did a great job. There are many stories of developers coming out of obscurity and into the mainstream by doing that. It was an exciting opportunity to have been given to us, and we said early on that we were not going to squander that opportunity.

GS AU: Is there even more pressure now for Call of Duty 4?

GC: I doubt that the amount of pressure externally can match the amount we put internally on each other. People coming in from the outside will probably be a little shell-shocked coming in and seeing our development process. Because when people come in and pitch some ideas, they’ll get slapped down. You have to have the fortitude to keep modifying your idea, bringing it back in, having it slapped down again, and just continuously modifying it. Once you’ve done that many, many times, then you can finally gain acceptance with your idea and push it through and make it happen in the game. I’ve had a hundred ideas knocked down—it’s your 101st idea that makes it in. We’re really hard on ourselves, and we set a high bar for ourselves, and I think it’s one of those bars that you can never actually reach. So external pressure has never really fazed us.

GS AU: You've shifted the setting of this game into the modern era. What did that allow you to do that you couldn't achieve if you stuck with World War II?

GC: We really wanted to have characters that were memorable, and we wanted to have those characters be able to be in different settings. In the past it was always, well, if you wanted winter, you have to be in Russia. If you wanted desert, then you’re with the British in North Africa. We wanted to keep the game fresh by moving to new settings, but we had to leave all the people behind when we did change. With a modern conflict, you have high-speed transportation, but we also wanted to keep it to units that would realistically be able to be redeployed very quickly. We wanted Call of Duty to always be a global conflict, and we want to be able to do that and not be hampered in creating compelling characters.

We also wanted to be able to create our own villain. You kind of have your baked-in villain in WWII--the Nazis. Anything else you create becomes absurd, such as when people try to create a previously unnamed Nazi, or "here’s the return of Mecha-Hitler", or something like that. Also, there's the modular nature of the weaponry in modern times which allows us to give weapons a lot of personality. In WWII, you can pretty much put scopes on rifles, and that was all the modular nature of weaponry in WWII.

GS AU: But why the emphasis on character now? Your first two Call of Duty games were campaign-based and still sold well.

GC: Because we have raised our internal bar. We’ve done those games--and we’ve been able to dominate in a lot of spheres, so we want to choose new battles and push ourselves in new directions.

GS AU: So how many characters will you get to play in CoD4?

GC: Because it’s a multinational effort, there are multiple characters that are in there. But we also wanted to be realistic--so if you are the pilot of a Cobra attack helicopter, that person is not the same person as the recon marine on the ground. We do change up characters--you will mainly be two characters, but there will be other characters thrown in there for flair, just like a star who does a cameo in a movie.

You go back in time--to 15 years in the past. Those are storytelling vehicles, but they also allow us to change-up locations. There is a history between Zakhaev (Call of Duty 4's villain) and Captain Price. Price was in CoD 1, we killed him off, brought him back for CoD 2, and then we thought may as well bring in him in the modern day--we love that handlebar moustache. There’s a mission where you are working in concert with Price trying to assassinate Zakhaev. The assassination mission fails, but it gives you an insight into why these two characters hate each other so much.

GS AU: Call of Duty 4 is coming out for the 360 and for PCs. Why did you decide not to include Live cross-platform functionality?

GC: We got a call from Microsoft who said they want us to do Live Anywhere for CoD 4. They just left a message--we didn’t actually get the phone call. We talked about it, and really feel that we worked really hard on the Xbox 360 version, and there’s a lot of things that we do that we didn’t do for the PC because of the control you have with a mouse and keyboard which allows you to have a higher level of precision. When you are on the 360, you have auto-aim, and you have a movement compensator so when you’re getting close to the edge of the screen it moves really quickly, but when you’re in the middle of the screen it slows down so you can target. We don’t do that on the PC.

When someone is playing on the Xbox against another player, he knows that they have the same hardware and the same controller--the only advantage is skill. On the PC side, you never know what the guy is playing with. He can have an archaic machine, or he could set his settings low, or he could be using the lowest form of DirectX. He can have all of the graphic bells and whistles turned off, or can have a dual core machine, or a quad core, multiple video cards--he can have a lot of advantages, and there’s not an equal playing field.

I think Live Anywhere is great for certain games, like Poker or Tetris or something. But, realistically, for first-person shooters or real-time strategy games, trying to pit those two people together is inherently imbalanced. Anytime someone playing an RTS can click and drag and choose a whole bunch of units and select one of your buildings to blow it up, and you’re sitting there with a controller, you’re not going to have the same reaction time. So why pit those two against each other?

I think Live is a great idea and it’s good for certain games, but Call of Duty isn’t one of those games.

GS AU: Grant Collier, thanks for your time.

Check out GameSpot's previous coverage of Call of Duty 4, including our hands-on preview, by clicking here.

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shadow9669

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what is Grant Collier's gamertag i would like to find him and play him in some COD4

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lamprey263

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The '07 game lineup is looking hot!!

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Juggernaut140

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come on why not vietnam?

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UniQ

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Holy moly! I was amazed at the movie, it was so awsome. I loved the WW2 games but you coudlnt really grind out more of it. Now I may have to get a new machine to play it :(

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Mariofan1314

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Call of Duty 4 is easily one of my most anticipated games of this year! Check out the gameplay trailer and you'll see why!

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Alpha172

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This is gonna be definatley better than all the COD!!!

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lurenceo

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well it may be abit more exiteing then WW2 i wonder if the medal of honour boys are going to do the same or they might call it the quits any ways this is great for most but not all i have told people about this and they reckon they will stuff it up but hay dont know intill it comes

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plm3d_basic

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It would be interesting to see a pc gamer using a mouse and keyboard play against a console gamer without the autoaim and assist. My guess is that an average pc gamer would crush any and all console gamer, even the best of the best. Why console makers haven't figured out to add mouse and keyboard controls to their systems to increase their community. Right now the only games I'll play on consoles are the racing sims and fighting games like DOA 3 or Soul Calibur 4 or 3-d scrolling games like Sonic or Mario Brothers. FPS and RTS games can not be played effectively on console gamepads without cheating.

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ftjx

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Mecha-Hitler???

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Penguinboy7777

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i think what he meant with the live anywhere thing is hackers. cant get hackers on the 360 :P but still, i enjoy PC over consoles, even when my cod2 game is filled with hax :( also he talked about running a very old version of direct x - some people do this on purpose, and some stuff like the bushes/walls aren't rendered so they can see through them. back in the day it was called 8-bitting ;)

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smoothn00dle

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Grant Collier got a good pts on Live Anywhere. PC does have unfair advantage compare to console. The best PC player vs the best console, PC will always win.

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ffgothic

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I'm quite happy that Infinity Ward is developing this COD, that is the way it should be. I'm sort of a COD die-hard, and others like me, are skeptic that the new modern setting will mess up the franchise. I think it will expand the series even further, and place on a higher pedestal of greatness, and with Infinity Ward behind the wheel, there is nothing to fear.

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backinthekrak

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nice - sign me up

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PacoL250

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Well Live Anywhere could possibly work in regards to FPSes. Examples: Auto Aim helps a lot on consoles, but you could theoretically have that on the PC (I think some PC FPSes have it anyway). Also, in regards to the hardware disparity. I don't know, did Collier forget about something called minimum system requirements? If you have low graphical settings, that almost always translates into a high frames per second rating. However, that's not always true on the opposite graphical end because of the crazy-awesome GPUs out there right now. Typically, I'd assume PC gamers (myself included) will tweak their settings to make it that playing online or in a LAN is lag free on their machine. The only expected lag would be the connection speed. And speaking of connection speed, it's because of that aspect that there's still not an equal playing field even on XBL. Cable vs. DSL, cable usually wins (I have DSL and have spent time on cable so I've seen the differences). Honestly, they may not have Live Anywhere, and that's fine, but Collier seemingly generalizing about it in regards to FPSes isn't 100% true. Maybe for CoD 4 it won't work, but it could for other FPSes. If Microsoft pleads/begs/pressures Activision to do it, they in turn could force Infinity Ward to do it anyway. After all, the publisher does have some say. But I sure as heck agree about his RTS bit; no way it could evenly work. :)

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godzillavskong

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PSN network interface sucks.I would gladly pay the 50 a year for Live.I understand that the Playstation Network is still coming along and relatively new, but you can't compare Live to the PSN and say the PSN is better.FREE YES/BETTER NO!

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F1sTDaCuffS

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the guy just said its gonna be the bomb on 360, did he even mention ps3, not once, you know what that means. xxx its overa

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godzillavskong

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Why would a PS3 fanboy(speedycmaro) jump on here and start ranting that its going to be better on PS3??Get a life and enjoy the game when its released .

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Rossdaboss777

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LoL There working hard on the pc/360 but for PS3 they will just port it

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Bull_Of_Mors

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NO!!! WW2 ruled i loved using the thompsons and and m1 garands there awesome Call Of Duty will turn into like a Tom Clancy Game!! noooo

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psdsoldier25

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Sweet...Cant wait.

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MjolnirMaster51

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I'm just glad Call of Duty is back in Infinity Ward's hands, where it belongs. I 'm anxious to see how they bring it into the modern era.

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Pete5506

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looks good to me

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hitman1988

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awesome

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ag1002

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i agree with you drangel_jam, live anywhere has its place and like they said FPS isnt it. im glad they aren't going to attempt to quickly stick live anywhere in there, touch up on the controlls, and hope it still works

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speedycmaro

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well there u have it they're testing it on 360 to make it even better on ps3

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F1sTDaCuffS

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also, i like to point out the fact that, he said he worked really hard on the 360 /pc version. ps3, port it.

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drangel_jam

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Their ideas are very true. I hate gimmicks, I hope they most developers think twice before compromising too much a game just to make it Live anywhere. Some Live Anywhere games will go overboard for that. In Shadowrun, the pistol and the SMG have very poor accuracy/rate of fire. It is a way to make it fair, but they should give us a choice to either play one platform only or both. Just a thought

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F1sTDaCuffS

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grant, basically said that bungie sucks. hahah. thats funny. i agree with him.

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Jermwarfare

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LOL! PSN better than Live.... someone should tell that to every magazine and website out there.because Live is consistantly sighted as a major advantage over Sony for MS. ....and the problem with hit detection(lag) on Gears and a few other games has to do with the U3 engine not Live....i believe its the server side hit detection,but im not an expert,just what ive heard from some sources who are.

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JoshChambers

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I cant wait. Anything infiniti ward touches is gold!

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R3V3N4N7

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I love CoD games no matter what the setting.

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SilentHillX

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-PhantasmCipherX I, like buehler_evan, completely agree. I have both PS3 and 360, and while im playing my 360 substantially more, the shift to PS3 is going to be sooner than later with all the games I have my eye on. And again, to reiterate what was said, PSN (and the service is in its infancy...) kicks live in the nuts.

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speedycmaro

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in my opinion i hope they dont input the endless enemies stategy to make the game fun like they did in COD2. i just think its a good way to preserve the intensity of the battles if they break it up into sections of long term hell breaking loose.

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BigBadBully

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If anything this is going to give Infinity Ward more stuff to work with by moving into the modern era. The only reason I never got a Call of Duty game was because I didn't like WW2 game's. Now with the Modern Era I'll definitely be eyeing this up. The battle's will probably be insane with explosion's and use from modern weaponry (imaginge if we get to steer a cruise missle !)

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buehler_evan

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thank you PhantasmCipherX that is totally true. i can play resistance on ps3 with 40 players and experience no lag. but when i play gears of war on 360, it has so much freakin lag. i mean you shoot and 2 seconds later it hits something. xbox live is not as good as psn. and i like treyachs decision 2 go with no live anywhere, it makes the game unfair 4 people with 360 or pc. live anywhere is a bad idea

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Rob_101

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I knew that guy was Cpt. Price! I'm glad that there bringing him back, hes such a cool character. I think all CoD's should have a Cpt. Price, I just wonder what he'll be like in modern times :D

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Absolutezerr

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He's right about Live anywhere... I own the 360 version of Shadowrun, and all I keep thinking is HOW CAN I KILL 100 VISTA PLAYERS WHEN THERE ARE HARDLY ANY ACTUALLY PLAYING ONLINE?

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superdance14

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I'm glad that it won't have Live Anywhere. That means I won't have to update to Vista to play this. Thank you Infinity Ward!!

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PhantasmCipherX

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I've played both Live and PSN. Live sucks. I own both systems. Xbox Live runs like **** it's terrible. It's laggy, slow, and takes forever just to sign in. I can safely say PSN is a much smoother, faster experience. You can literally jump in and jump out of online... and I hardly ever experience any lag on PSN games. Xbox Live is not worth the 50 bucks a year at all, it's freaking terrible. I'm going to stick with a free, fast, easy, and ultimately smooth online experience with PSN. My only gripe with the PS3 is that it needs more games, but by the end of the year I will have no gripes. I absolutely love my PS3. It hasn't broke down or anything in the months that I've had it. I've been through 2 Xbox 360s (lol...). I admit, the 360 has the games, but it won't for long... the PS3 is definitly a better a choice in my opinion.

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jdiegs21

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nebacadneezer why is it gonna be best on ps3 because of the slight difference in graphics that no one can even notice. You obviously dont play online because the 360 live is way better than ps3 online. And what is this MS owns GS. Sounds like the ps3 fanboys are getting a little butt hurt because ps3 isnt the center of attention.

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jdiegs21

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[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

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Jermwarfare

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im sure its "aim assist" or the "sticky reticule"(like Halo or most console shooters)....no way would they put an actual lock on system.i stil dont think its needed(aim assist) and wish more console shooters would atleast make it optional for those skilled enough to do without it.

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taino1128

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360 has auto-aim. Does that mean target lock or something else?

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Paul_TheGreat

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Xbox 360 and PC cross platform is a joke.

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PSdual_wielder

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rico212 i was wondering the same thing while reading the article. Not mentioning the ps3 version makes me think if its coming out for it or not.

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VenDaler

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Well, what is the game going to be like? I wonder about the gameplay, not just the story. I'm not sure that I fully agree with him on the Live issue. I personnally like FPS's on consoles. The controls are simple and easy to use.

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jacky531

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I just hope its great gameplay and graphics since this game looks awesome

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Cap_n_Crunch

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You can see why Grant is the studio head down there at Infinity Ward - the guy is smart. This is probably one of the most intelligent, well spoken members of a dev. team I have ever heard from. I have more confidence now in the quality of COD4 after reading this article. Also, very good call on his part for not making it Live Anywhere enabled. He makes a very strong argument for not using it, and that justifies it completely. Finally a good read for a Game Spot interview.

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gamerfreak1991

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Can't wait, hope its a major improvement over last years installment.

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Lord_Bafford

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completely agree with his argument about live anywhere.

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