|I ain't blowin' smoke up your colon when I tell you, handling a weapon has seldom been as fun as it is here. CoD4 just totally nails it, so much so that all other games now feel like peashooters|
Blasting my way through CoD4's single player mode, I initially had it down as one of my fave FPS games of all-time. Everything from the hilariously brilliant visuals, to the utterly amazing sound design, to the sheer brutality of the weaponry result in one of the most tightly packed and finely tuned shooters in years. The combat model and sheer satisfaction of the kill is so god damn glorious in fact, that - I'll say it right here - it houses arguably the best FPS guns of any game ever
It's about more than just the smirk that creeps across your face when you a plug a dude with holes though; Infinity Ward pack some seriously meaty moments into this campaign that I wasn't expecting too. Varied levels, surprising gameplay mechanics, tense showdowns aplenty and far more interesting plot twists than one would expect from a Middle Eastern war game. While there's precious little story in the traditional sense - characters, emotion, that sorta thing - the game does nail the epic war movie vibe of, say, a Black Hawk Down with surprising and pleasing finesse. It's a brutal and harrowing ride that's a noticeable step above its peers in the genre.
By utilising incredibly powerful first person cut-scenes, truly exceptional voice acting and some shocking horrors of war seldom seen in video game-ville, CoD4 pulls you into its conflicts impeccably well from beginning to end. Military coups, torture, suicide and death on a scale of thousands...all subject matters tackled with pleasing gravitas, and shocking realism to boot. I was hooked throughout to be honest, so much so that after my initial play-through on the standard difficulty setting, I went back for an instant replay on super hard bastard "Veteran" mode as I just didn't want it to end. Particularly after that jaw-dropping finale.
Between you and me, I was so god damn giddy at this point, that while firing it up that second time, I may have haphazardly scribbled down some cheeky little review notes to myself along the lines of, "first 10 outta 10" and "Halo what??". Notepad had never been so excited.
|I don't wanna talk too much about this stage as it has to be seen in the flesh to be believed, but fuck me...you're in for a treat|
Sadly, this second play-through was something of a mild mistake however, as it ultimately lead to a fair old dampening of my overall opinion, and the soon-to-follow deleting of said blasphemous notes. Not only is Veteran mode so totally and stupidly impossible as to zap every last ounce of fun outta the experience almost immediately (avoid it like the fucking plague
), but far more importantly...the constant deaths, endless quickloads and relentless replays that it enforces exposed some worrying truths behind this game, ones not really apparent on my first play-through...
I talk, of course, about linearity.
Sure, the Call of Duty games have always been incredibly linear at heart. To be honest, it's why I've never been quite the lecherously rim-jobbing fan so many are. I guess in this day and age though - four games in - I was hoping for some advancements to the formula. While it is indeed an incredible game, undoubtedly one of the year's highlights, and a true testament to how damn fun murdering pixelated dudes can be...that just ain't the case I'm afraid.
One or two missions do open up the environments a little, true, even allowing for the odd alternate route here and there (gasp!), but it's that underlying emphasis on trigger points, respawning bad guys and 100% scripted showdowns that rub me up the wrong way. It still
lacks even an "open door" button - a particularly huge peeve of mine - with you, once again, having to rely on your AI buddies to catch up, kick a door down then yell "move out!" before you can progress.
|Single player's incredibly short, and its strict, narrow path renders it not particularly re-playable either. While it lasts though...there are few that can touch it. Jaw-dropping awaits|
That's a little hard to swallow if - like me - you're been playing more freeform sandboxers like Crysis lately. Unlike that game, enemies spawn at all the same points every time here, while your same
team mates sprout the same
lines, the same
exact moment you cross that same
invisible trip-wire time in, time out. It becomes more like memorizing a scene from a play than improvising on a battlefield, particularly when you find yourself hearing, "Jackson, flash-bang that room!" five times in a row 'cos you keep dying at the same point. The friendly AI also does that super annoying "Sorry Mr. Player, I need to stand in that same exact spot you're in because I've been programmed to do so, so now I'm gonna PUSH YOU OUT OF THE WAY
to get there" thing. And it ain't cool when it gets you killed. Again.
This linearity is less noticeable in some of the more tight-knit SAS missions of the game's opening half. These truly exceptional levels see you and a pair of buddies carrying out late-night covert operations under the cover of darkness, and the linearity actually works pretty darn well within the context of your need to stick together and follow strict orders. It's in the larger, more chaotic US-based missions that the cardboard sets and miraculously regenerating enemies start to become more apparent though, with invisible walls keeping you firmly on track and pointed in the right direction while the rollercoaster ride presses on with its ever reliable spectacle. Disobey, and it'll conveniently find a way to spontaneously kill you until you learn to play "properly". Magically exploding cars have never been so deadly.
If I whine about all this crap though, it's only 'cos what you're left with when you do
stay on message, keep your arms behind the bar at all times, and enjoy the ride as Infinity Ward intended, is so god damn good
. As in "Half-Life 2 in its finer moments, first time you played Doom 1, mouth agape at the utter fucking hotness of it all" good
. My advice then? Don't poke holes at it. Don't try to deviate. Follow your god damn orders, soldier
. Because if you do? COD4 will blow your frakkin' socks off. And with it, those aforementioned thoughts of "best game in years" will indeed return. With a vengeance.
|Rumors hit the tubes a month or two back of downloadable co-op missions. What's the deal, Infinity Ward?|
Graphically, it's a showstopper, no doubts there, but as detailed and pleasing as it all is on the eye - with some of the greatest lighting effects ever to grace a videogame - it's the performance which brings it all to life. The rock-solid 60 FPS is truly a marvel in programming - present on both consoles, and a decent specced PC - blessing the entire experience with a gorgeous fluidity that you wish you could drink. It renders fellow shooters almost laughable in their comparative jankiness, and is a serious step forward for video game graphics as a whole.
Sound's also the nuts, with the most brutal of gunshots and a slamming score rounding off the experience nigh on perfectly. Running from cover to cover behind your Captain in the gloriously tense sniper flashback level, tribal drums firing off like some kinda war-torn episode of Battlestar in the process, is perhaps the purest example of how expertly this game utilizes its sound-scape to maximum adrenaline-soaked effect. Honestly? There's fuck all to criticize here whatsoever.
Disregarding some comparative toning down for the online game, CoD4's single player mode is a technical tour de force. As the GAF kids would put it; you will say wow.
|CoD4 does a bang up job of mixing up its levels this time out. Long gone is the never-ending onslaught of noise and chaos for ten hours straight, now we get stealth missions, truly original vehicular sections, and even some fab interactive cut-scenes|
That single player mode won't last a year, that said; expect a short but sweet ride here. That's fine, as there's so much to see and do along the way, you don't feel particularly gypped when it ends. You feel satisfied. Full. Content. Like you've been to hell and back and lived to tell the tale.
That said, a co-op mode does feel noticeably lacking in light of its FPS peers of recent times, which when coupled with the previously mentioned lack of freedom, result in hardly the most re-playable game of late. At least if my experience tinkering with the god-awful Veteran mode is anything to go by.
Multiplayer is what'll keep you going for the duration then by the looks of it. I already went into ludicrous details
on this back in beta-ville, thus won't do the same here, other than to say it's undoubtedly one of the true multiplayer highlights of the genre. PC guys'll find a Team Fortress 2
killer in CoD4 I'm sure, thanks to a wealth of superb modes and the game's far more satisfying combat, while console guys have a serious contender to the Halo 3
throne thanks to a similarly awesome party system and a wealth of incredible unlocks. The Team Tactical mode in particular stands out as a major highlight for me.
Perhaps not the
best shooter of all-time then as I originally forsaw, CoD4: Modern Warfare is still by far Infinity Ward's greatest title since their 2015-pseudonymed Allied Assault. Single player may be hella short, true, but the beautiful pace, incredible sights, and insane twists render it one hell of a memorable, stupendous ride for the six or so hours it lasts.
Co-op and some extra freedom could have resulted in borderline perfection, but even without 'em, there's always that multiplayer mode, which I'll no doubt be hammering for a fair long while when all these new releases dry up. If you too are enjoying one of the year's finest, look me up on Live and we'll smoke some infidels...