Ever since the success of the very first instalment in the Call of Duty series and the impact that game had on the genre of first-person shooters, as well as the whole gaming industry in general, Call of Duty has become one of the most popular franchises in gaming of all time. Sequel after sequel, Activision made sure that they gained as much profit from the developer's work as they could. At first, it was only Infinity Ward who made the CoD games under Activision's banner (with one exception, being the United Offensive expansion pack that was created by Gray Matter). But then, the greedy publisher hired even another studio to work on the series, releasing a game every year since. It is obvious that both Infinity Ward and Treyarch are kept on a tight leash by Activison.
While both of the studios put their effort into each new game in succession, they are always limited by time, resources and restrictions because of Activision, who see the series as nothing more than a way of grabbing more money. This resulted in each CoD being less unique and more similar to the last. The first Call of Duty was an exception because, well, it was the first. The ideas & mechanics presented in that game were still fresh & original back then. After that, most people had trouble distinguishing major differences between each instalment in the series. So what did Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare do that made it such a big thing? What caused the sales to rise even higher and what was so different from the previous games? If you're interested, then please, read on…
Well, first of all, as the title clearly says - it's modern warfare this time and none of those overused WWII themes. The campaign no longer takes place during historical battles that actually took place; it's all fiction this time around (though without a doubt, the plot is definitely based to some extent on current world affairs). Since it's all present day stuff now, you'll no longer be able to fire from your beloved MP-40s, PPSh-41s, Thompsons etc. Instead, modern weaponry is used. There is a ton of guns available to the player and there's plenty of variety among them. Shotguns, pistols, assault rifles, submachine guns, sniper rifles, carbines, heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and more. Examples of these include, but aren't limited to; the Heckler & Koch G36, Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 and 74u models, the Benelli M4, Beretta M9, the FN P90 and many, many more. There are also different versions of these firearms, some with camouflage designs or attachments (such as scopes, red dot sights, suppressors and so on). Overall, the arsenal available to the player in both the game's singleplayer and multiplayer sections is fantastic. Some of the weapons sometimes lack enough recoil to feel real, but that was most probably an intentional design decision to make the game more accessible.
The game is set mostly in an unnamed Middle Eastern country and different parts of Russia (with some exceptions, such as Pripyat in Ukraine, or Azerbaijan and a few other places). The player assumes control of multiple characters throughout the singleplayer campaign, but the majority of the time you will be playing as Sergeant John "Soap" MacTavish of the British SAS and Sergeant Paul Jackson of the USMC. The plot isn't original, but it's certainly nice to finally experience something fresh and a little different from the World War II setting. Unfortunately, the game's main antagonists are racist stereotypes of people from Arabic countries and Russia. The accents, the shouting in mother tongues, the "terrorism" and the brutality are all shown in the campaign as traits exclusive to Arabic or Slavic people, whilst the Brits and Americans are shown as the heroes.
Fortuitously, some of the characters are quite interesting. At first I must admit that I disliked Captain Price and his friend Gaz, but as I went further into the campaign, I got used to them. There are no personalities here that are as strong as Reznov's in World at War; however they are still likeable characters. When all is said and done, the plot is there only to engage the player and give you a cause to all the fighting, as well as an opportunity for some spectacular set pieces (such as witnessing the aftermath of a nuclear explosion). In short: you shouldn't expect anything original or interesting from the story - instead, be prepared for some awesome scripted events and mindless, yet incredibly fun, shooting & action. It's just such a shame that it all turned out so racist – whether it was intentional or not. This game is so biased and one sided that it could just as well be used as a tool for the recruitment of new soldiers for the American and British forces.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is dazzling on the PC. It has sharper textures of much higher resolutions than the console versions, smoother edges around everything, runs at a slightly better frame rate and overall looks superior than it does on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Of course, it can't compete with Crysis (which was also released in 2007), but it's still a very good-looking game. CoD4 is a few years old now; therefore it doesn't require any serious hardware to get it running even on the maximal settings, so if you have to choose between computer and console, I say go for the PC version. Especially since it also supports up to as many as 64 players on a server (whilst the maximum number of players - on all servers - on the consoles is less than 20), as well as singleplayer mods, total conversions, menu mods, custom maps, new weapons and much more created by the players; for those who want to try something new.
Ah yes, multiplayer - this is the area that Modern Warfare is most praised for. The Call of Duty series has always been known for brief, yet undeniably exciting singleplayer campaigns, with excellent online multiplayer features to make up for the short length of their singleplayer components. Sure, the campaign of CoD4 is great - but nothing will ever beat the first Call of Duty's portrayal of the battle for Stalingrad. On the other hand, the multiplayer is better than ever in CoD4. It refines online gaming across all platforms; PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 alike.
Players can duke it out on 17 different maps of varying size, architecture and environment; those who own the "Game of the Year" edition get 4 additional maps. There are 6 different modes to play, and they are: 'Team Deathmatch', 'Headquarters', 'Free-For-All', 'Domination', 'Search and Destroy' and 'Sabotage'. The ranks and classes previously seen in Call of Duty 3 have been improved and greatly expanded upon. Now the rank system is across all classes. Each class also has perks. As players advance in rank and get new levels by gaining XP points (this is achieved through killing other players, scoring headshots, assists and completing challenges), they earn new weapons, perks and unlock harder challenges. New weapons and perks can be used in the creation of your own class, where you can pick your favourite guns, grenade type, camouflage and special abilities to spawn with each time. As players go on kill streaks during matches, they can call in UAV radar, an airstrike and helicopter support.
At the end of the day, Call of Duty 4 has the best multiplayer that the series has seen so far. Even four years after release, there are still a huge number of people playing the game online at most times of the day. However, there are two obvious flaws in Modern Warfare's online features: there are no driveable vehicles (even though these were present in Call of Duty: United Offensive and Call of Duty 3) and there's no in-game friends list on the PC (though this can be easily fixed through 100% free services like Steam or Xfire). Also, the series has unfortunately attracted a lot of attention from unfriendly players across all platforms - when you're doing really well in a match, be prepared for insults being thrown at you (such as "noob", "camper", "hacker" and the such). There was one extreme case when I was playing on this one server, where some idiot even started voting to get a person kicked just because he wasn't doing well himself and wanted the other guy to lose the 1st place spot.
Of course, by praising the multiplayer with such glorious adjectives, I assume that you enjoy some mindless shooting in video games. That's because if you do, then you'll love Call of Duty 4's features. On the other hand, if you're looking for a deeper, more realistic and more team-based experience… expect to be very disappointed. Modern Warfare does many things to traditional multiplayer gaming, but it certainly doesn't radiate much innovation. The content is still great, though. Player progression in multiplayer is done better than in most games.
Now, let's review everything that Modern Warfare has to offer.
GAMEPLAY – 8/10 (Impressive)
A remarkable singleplayer campaign, but with low replayability; as well as addictive but without any driveable vehicles and not much incentive for team players.
STABILITY - 9/10 (Outstanding)
Runs at a smooth frame rate, with very few graphical hiccups and almost no bugs at all - as well as some annoying lag in multiplayer sometimes, but not always.
STORY - 5/10 (Mediocre)
Only once you get over the fact that the plot uses lots of racial stereotypes and clichés will you be able to appreciate its characters and simple story.
GRAPHICS – 8.5/10 (Great)
It's not Crysis, and it isn't Uncharted: Drake's Fortune either, but it sure as hell looks badass and the set pieces of the singleplayer campaign are stunning.
SOUND – 8.5/10 (Great)
Voice acting is done very well and gives each character a different personality; weapons and explosions sound authentic and the music keeps the action going.
LONGEVITY - 8/10 (Impressive)
While MW's campaign is a blast to play through, it's short and too heavily scripted to provide enough variety for multiple playthroughs; however, the highly rewarding and immensely addictive multiplayer more than makes up for it… assuming it's your kind of game.
In a nutshell; Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the breath of fresh air that the Call of Duty series has always needed since the second instalment. While it doesn't beat the original CoD's singleplayer campaign, it certainly does come fairly close to doing so and also gives us the best multiplayer seen in the series so far. Modern Warfare dumps the WWII setting for something new, yet not much more original either. Overall, it's an extremely impressive FPS that has influenced countless other shooters since its release and should be enjoyed by most gamers. It's a shame then that its story is filled with imperialist themes of American jingoism.
OVERALL RATING – 7.5/10 (Good)
NEW GS RATING – 7/10