The gaming industry is getting quite sick and tired of all the games that revolve around World War II. It is devastating that such a terrible event and the death of millions has been exploited to the point where we no longer care about what happened all those years ago. The king of the World War II shooters, Call of Duty, has taken the rightful steps into a new setting for shooters. A bold move into the right direction and at the right time, Call of Duty is now in the modern warfare business. To kick off this change, Infinity Ward has developed a first person shooter that will blow the hinges off what we expect a good shooter is. Welcome to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
The real difference that players will notice this time around is that things are a lot fresher. The stale reek of the World War II era has been totally shrugged off, yet the game still feels like Call of Duty should. Animations for movements are fluid, guns are balanced and feel just right, and there is a purpose that drives you. That purpose has changed from cutting off enemy supply lines or retrieving captured soldiers to assassinating dangerous terrorists and stopping nuclear missiles from going off. These new purposes have also changed how the story flows. No longer are you the soldier who was part of history – you are now a soldier who will make history.
The game begins with a simple training exercise to get you orientated with your new environment and weapons. Some Brits with very strong accents guide you through the different courses and then onto a simulation exercise. After rappelling down onto a replica of an oil tanker you are instructed to move and fire through the course – with pop-up targets representing your enemy. The time it takes you to complete the course determines what difficulty setting is presented to you. Players can override this suggestion if they want but it is still a good way of helping new players with their choice of the four different difficulty settings available.
After the training level players are forced via helicopter insertion into a battle zone – but these are not the streets of Baghdad. Somewhere in the Atlantic ocean a cargo ship batters through waves, storm, and darkness – this is your battle zone. Close quarters combat ensues while you witness your AI team mates use real-life S.A.S. tactics to eliminate targets and clear the ship out. The animations and communication between squad mates makes the whole situation feel real and authentic. And for once in the Call of Duty series you can feel safe knowing that your team is going to be there when you need them all throughout the single-player campaign.
The campaign for Call of Duty 4 follows the classic way of story-telling done in the previous Call of Duty games – by splitting it. In the first couple of missions you follow a S.A.S. soldier named "Soap" where you and your squad track a dangerous terrorist around Russia. The other part of the story is told as a U.S. Marine fighting in the Middle-East to find the same terrorist that "Soap" is after. The two paths are different but are linked in their goal – to stop the terrorist "Al-Asad" and neutralize any threats to the western world. The campaign runs for a good eight hours on standard difficulty and can lengthen to around twelve hours on the hardest difficulty. And of course if you beat the game and still want a good fight then you can expect the multiplayer to cater to that need.
Multiplayer is what makes Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare an excellent shooter and heart-pulsating fun. In CoD3 you had your class and rank system that worked pretty darn well – the better you did in that match the better your armaments would get. This is likewise for CoD4 but this time it is more consistent – players can make and customize their own classes. Weapons are not the only items that can be linked to your custom class; there are also unlockable options known as "perks". These perks range from dropping a grenade when you die to being able to sprint for long periods of time. The more games that a player participates and excels in the more perks and weapons they unlock. New players can be thankful that they will not run into opposition with much more firepower than they have – ranking in the game separates the newbies from the veterans, which is beneficial for both parties.
Graphically, Call of Duty 4 succeeds its predecessor in some areas but not enough to make it ground-breaking. Smoke is still what it was in Call of Duty 2: spectacular – it gives a gentle and realistic haze effect to the battlefield that reminds players of the sun which pounds against them in the heart of the Middle East. Explosions and flames look somewhat mediocre against the amazing background and the mist of bullets that rip through the environment. Rounds will penetrate through different materials depending on what it is made of and the power of the bullet against it – this is the case for multiplayer too. No longer do corners guarantee safety.
Fans of Call of Duty can sleep safely without the gun under their pillow, knowing that the series has not been doomed to dwell in the nineteen-forties forever. It was a smart move to go into the near desolate war zone of modern era shooters. CoD4 proves that a game does not have to be set in the past or the future to be great – it just needs to be well made. A gripping story and simulative combat combined with a fantastic multiplayer system makes Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare a must-have on your Christmas wish list. Good luck soldier, go in deep and hard (you will understand if you watch the game's credits).