Infinity Ward returns to reclaim its throne in the shooter genre with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for the Xbox 360. In a departure from past entries in the series, the game takes place in the modern day, and pits American USMC and British SAS forces against ultranationalists in Russia and the Middle East. The single-player game unfolds like an action movie. Each mission is accompanied by a cutscene introducing the player with the general goal and locale of the mission from a bird’s-eye perspective, which is quite interesting to watch while the game loads. Combat in single-player is considerably straightforward; while that maybe the case, Infinity Ward is able to turn the warfare into a very entertaining experience.
The general gameplay flow is much like past entries in the series – you spot your targets, find a hunk of cover to hide behind, aim down the sights and start to fire away at your foes. There are a number of grenades in this game as well, and plenty of heart-pumping reasons to use them, too. Along with the change in locale and time, Infinity Ward is able to bring a larger variety of weapons and technology to use, such as night vision, portable anti-tank guided missile launchers, AK-47s, M4A1’s, etc. Call of Duty 4 also takes into account bullet penetration, so you’re able to pierce and shoot through thin sheets of metal or wood. Players who love their guns will find plenty to love, especially with the new bullet penetration feature.
Online and offline, the multiplayer in Call of Duty 4 is where the game truly shines. There is no shortage of excitement as well suspense, and being able to build a kind of virtual kinship amongst social orders. During the multiplayer battles, you’ll soon discover that knives are just as brutal as playing catch with the grenades, thanks to the dramatic sequence that provides some exhilarating moments; not to mention surprise attack through thin walls make victims a target of ridicule. The game’s increbile depth challenges many shooters of its time, including Counter-Strike and Halo, thanks to the customizable class system featured in the game, which lets you select your weapon load-out upon spawn, along with perks.
The “perks” are an innovative new feature in the latest installment of Call of Duty, which seem unnecessary at first, but they are actually useful, fun, and are definite necessities in combat. They are special abilities that you can choose for your player, such as a faster running speed, the ability to throw grenades on death, and the ability to get a chance to get a few shots in at your killer before you die. Bullet penetration also plays a critical role here – players must differentiate between cover and concealment – what will keep them hidden, and what will keep them safe. These additions change the way Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer is played tremendously, and makes for unlimited variation and a rudiment for non-stop action.
The multiplayer aspect takes a simple system and makes it the most exciting it could possibly be. Simply put, Call of Duty 4 is one of the best online shooters of all time. Infinity Ward didn’t stop with the showcasing of its “modern-day warfare” gameplay, however. They also polished their game engine and added features to fully bring out the best aspects of the technology they were working with. Characters now cast shadows on themselves, dust motes shine in the light, and lights affect the environment in real time. Rim lighting has also been added, which is vital in creating a realistic image. This allows characters and objects to have that “glow” of lighting around their silhouette, or the rim of the object. To put it in perspective, this means the silhouettes of enemies and players will be clearly visible against light.
Depth of field is also added, which blurs your surroundings when aiming down the sight, making target spotting much more difficult but realistic. The deaths of enemies are now governed by a blend of a predefined animation and physics, which means that foes will now topple over in a realistic manner. This resolves the technical glitches and several other issues some games have with rag-doll physics in their corpses. Unfortunately, even with the newly implemented physics engine in Call of Duty 4, the environment is not completely interactive. You won’t be able to shoot lamps off desks, or knock shelves over. This just a minor concern, but it can be easily overlooked, as it could have some adverse effects to the gameplay.
A wonderful musical score has been incorporated into the game, composed by Harry Gregson-Williams (the man behind the Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 soundtracks) and Stephen Barton. The voiceover work is top-notch and full of energy, and the best part is that it doesn’t overdo it to the point where it becomes “forced” or cheesy. The sounds effects of guns firing in the distance and in the face of radicals couldn’t be more satisfying, and so are the sounds of explosions going off left and right in the background. Overall, Call of Duty 4 is a shooter fan’s dream. Hell, it’s a gamer’s dream. It’s simply the best the series has yet to offer, and while it doesn’t deviate from standard shooter far too much, it seems to have perfected its craft to such a point that several other shooters are unable to compare. A perfect shooter!