Call of Duty began as a PC exclusive World War II shooter in 2003, based on some of the most memorable conflicts of the war. It was critically acclaimed, and followed by Call of Duty 2, which also made its way to the Xbox 360 as a console launch title in 2005. It was a fantastic experience that followed the battles of Normandy and beyond. Treyarch, sister studio of Infinity Ward, developed Call of Duty 3, another title set in the theatres of that war. In 2007, Infinity Ward decided to make a bold move by changing the setting of Call of Duty and placing it in a modern timeline. After three titles, perhaps Activision decided it was time to change, considering the amount of games that use World War II as their setting. Regardless of the reasons, it was without doubt their best decision. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is an outstanding game, and easily the best Call of Duty to date. It's an evolution that couldn't have been handled by anyone other than Infinity Ward. It's story is a good yarn, its audio-visual presentation is remarkable and its gameplay is the best it's ever been. Then there's multiplayer, which is easily one of the most rewarding and addictive yet in a shooter. Infinity Ward and Activision haven't exactly revolutionized the genre, but they've changed the template of what to expect from a shooter going forward. Call of Duty 4 is incredible.
Call of Duty 4 is based around a fictional conflict involving the S.A.S and the USMS, as they attempt to find leaders of an ultranationalist group, namely one Zakhaev, as a civil war erupts in Russia. Then, there is Khaled Al-Asad, who is set to become the most powerful figure in the Middle East following a coup on the president. two organisations hunt for Zakhaev and Al-Asad respectively, in hope that the ultranationalists do not use nuclear warfare against the United States. It's a quite complex set up, but its well told and demands your concentration. Players control multiple characters, a Call of Duty tradition at this point. Soap is the F.N.G for the S.A.S, teaming with Gaz and Captain Price, a franchise favourite who begin their hunt for Zakhaev. On the other end, players will also play as Sergeant Jackson as the USMS travel the Middle East. Switching between the perspectives of these two characters paints more of a picture on the two parallel sides of the conflict, which is very good. The setting is terrific and mixes together both a fictional country and real locations, taking in war-torn Middle Eastern city streets, the cliff sides of Azerbaijan, Russian facilities and more.
The presentation is amazing overall, mainly in part to the outstanding visuals and audio. It uses a powerful new proprietary engine. The detail in the environments is incredible, and the effects like fire, water and smoke are superb. Explosions occur a lot in Call of Duty 4 and they look and sound amazing, all while maintaining a rock-solid framerate. The lighting is fantastic and watching mud splashing, car doors denting through bullets and water rippling is incredibly immersive. Add in the amazing sound design, with booming sound effects that make use of a surround sound setup. The voice work is generally great, with some well-known actors like Billy Murray and Craig Fairbrass as Captain Price and Gaz respectively. The music is also great, with scoring by Harry Gregson-Williams and Lorne Balfe.
Call of Duty 4 plays strongly like its predecessors, yet there's much more to the core gameplay than previous titles in the series. Because of the new modernized setting, players will have access to some fantastic new weaponry and equipment. All of the weapons you'd want are here - assault rifles like the M4 Carbine (a personal favourite), AK-47, G36C, shotguns like the M1014and W1200, submachine guns like the Skorpion, Uzi and P90, sniper rifles like the M40A1 and Dragunov and RPGs and grenades - and they are all great. There are lots of attachments to use such as suppressors, grenade mounts, grips, sights and infrared. Another cool feature is night-vision, with illuminated green in darkly lit environments, and it looks great. Another important part of the game is that bullets can penetrate thin materials such as wood, plaster and sheet metal. Creates a whole different dynamic for cover, as some objects you hide behind may not be enough to save you, and I think it's a great addition to the gameplay.
Shooting feels smooth, thanks to the fantastic controls. The configuration implemented is similar to previous games but feels a hell of a lot more crisp and responsive. Aiming, reloading, changing weapons and knifing are all good. Fighting against enemies in fixed position with your squad mates is tense and engaging. You'd be hard pressed to find a more thrilling experience than Call of Duty 4. Whether you're fighting Russians or Middle Eastern terrorists, the AI is generally solid. They'll take cover, throw grenades, attempt to kill you with the butt of their gun if up close and will often crawl and fire with their pistol if shot. This means you'll have to make sure they're dead, as they can still kill you. The setting also introduces dogs into the game, and boy are these sequences tense. If a dog gets close, they'll pounce on you and attempt to rip out your throat. To prevent, you must exercise precise timing and grab their necks, ultimately snapping them and free from that danger. Even though they could happen often, they are never repetitive. The level design is fantastic. The levels you'll fight in are well designed so that you are engaged from every side of the battlefield. You'll fight in and subsequently escape a capsized freighter, engage hostiles in a television broadcast station, get ambushed at a safe house in daylight and much more, and its brilliant. There are some memorable moments that will have you on the edge of your seat, and you'll want to experience them.
The campaign is excellent and will run at around 5-6 hours, which is unfortunately short for such a great experience. However, there is an additional campaign mode called Arcade Mode. This mode tasks you with playing through the Campaign again, but this time with a score system and lives. You'll gain points by killing enemies (more for headshots and knife kills) and will lose lives if you die. The score system is a good addition, and it gives the campaign an old-school feel. Add to that fun cheats that are unlocked by collecting intel from levels in the campaign. It doesn't add anything to the game, but its there for a bit of fun and admirable because of that.
Once the campaign (and Arcade Mode) is over, there is multiplayer, and it is magnificent. It eclipses all other multiplayer shooters in my opinion, due to its revolutionary feature - progressive ranking. This changes the dynamic of online warfare going forward, and focuses on levelling up and constantly unlocking weapons, attachments and perks. All of the weapons from the campaign are in multiplayer, including all of the other guns that you probably didn't utilise. These weapons are steadily unlocked at certain level requirements. The subsequent attachments are unlocked by completing weapon-specific challenges, which is highly rewarding. Getting a certain number of headshots with each weapon also unlocks paint skins, which is cool. The multiplayer battleground is addictive. There are 16 maps and 14 modes, which is a great setup. There are traditional modes like Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, with the latter being incredibly fun admits all of the other variants. There is a mode called Demolition, which tasks one team with arming two bombs that the opposing team must defuse. It's a tense match as well as a balancing act that changes constantly. Domination is another great mode that pits two teams with capturing and defending three flag locations in the map, which is another tipsy-turvy sequence. Sabotage tasks players with securing intel they must be taken to his/her's respective base, while other plays try to kill the carrier. There ate hardcore variants of Deathmatch modes too, which remove the HUD, have increased damage rates and friendly fire, which tests the skill of players all the more. These modes are great because of the teamwork required. Though there will be some lone wolves who prefer to go alone, those who play carefully and correctly will be better off. Teammates can save your life on many occasions, and you can do the same.
The map designs are great, and there are some memorable ones here. Some of my favourites are Overgrown (a vegetated village), Crossfire (a dilapidated Middle Eastern town), Bloc (an abandoned Pripyat apartment block) and Crash (a deserted town with a downed Sea Knight helicopter at the centre of the map). There are modes that suit particular modes, too, like Shipment (a dense shipyard for Headquarters games), Bloc for Domination matches and Vacant (abandoned Russian offices) which is best suited to Team Deathmatch. You'll love these maps, which will memorable when reminisced years after release.
Another game changing feature is Perks. These are special abilities during online matches that give you the edge over certain enemies. Everyone has perks, which makes the game well balanced. There are three perk slots, with many different abilities to choose from. An example of the perk system would be having increased health in one slot, deeper bullet penetration in the second and faster aiming in the other. Another great feature is Create-a-Class. There are five class slots to customize, meaning you can have five different loadouts with ever-changing perks. These can be changed at any time and is an ingenious inclusion. You can have different perks depending on the class, too. A heavy weapons class might use faster aiming, Sleight of Hand (quicker reloading) and longer sprint duration. Yet, a sniper would have Iron Lungs (longer breath duration), deeper bullet penetration and faster weapon switch. The possibilities are limitless for different classes, and experimenting with them is rewarding. The level cap of 55 is a rewarding grind, and eventually reaching that cap will give you the option to prestige. This resets your classes, challenges and level, but keeps your stats. It's for those who want another challenge, even though you may be tempted to remain at the level cap and keep all of your weapons.
Adding to the fun of Call of Duty 4 multiplayer is the presence of kill streaks. These are special rewards for achieving a required number of kills without dying. You'll get a UAV drone at 3 kills which highlights enemy positions on the map. You'll get an air strike at 5 kills, which drops 3 bombs at an assigned location of the map (which is devastatingly powerful). Lastly, there is a helicopter, achieved at a 7 kill streak. A chopper is called in and fires automatically at enemies while you continue fighting. These rewards are again ingenious and really nail the fundamentals of teamwork and mayhem in an online game.
Tying the levelling and challenges together is an excellent XP system. You're given XP for completing matches, killing enemies and accomplishing challenges. You'll get more XP for different game modes. For example, you'll get a match bonus after every match you play. TDM will award you 10 points per kill, yet Search and Destroy (arming a bomb with no respawns) awards 250 points. So you may either be the type who wants to kill and maintain a good Kill/Death ratio (which is more obsessively addictive than it sounds) or the one who just wants to level up and unlock everything regardless of statistics. Every type of player benefits from playing the game, which is great.
Call of Duty 4 is a winner. It'a fictional story is solid and ends dramatically, the visual and audio presentation is phenomenal and the core gameplay is intense and fun. The best part of the game is undoubtedly the multiplayer, which changes the online landscape from here. It's deep, flexible and incredibly addictive, and will go down in the history books. You must play this game, its one of the very best shooters on the market, and simply shouldn't be missed. Activision and Infinity Ward should be commended for their decision to change the setting of Call of Duty 4, its easily their best move yet.
Presentation 9.0 - An enjoyable story, accessible interface and a expertly integrated front-end.
Graphics 10 - In all aspects, Call of Duty 4 is one of the best looking games around.
Audio 10 - Great voice work, a worthy soundtrack and superb sound design completely immerses you.
Gameplay 10 - It may not be revolutionary, but Call of Duty 4 nails every aspect of its design - shooting, level design and multiplayer - to create one of the most well-rounded experiences yet.
Replayability 10 - A 5-6 campaign is disappointing but remedied by the Arcade Mode. Multiplayer though, you could be playing forever.
Overall - 10/10