Product Type: Activision PC games
Newest Review: ... lead in the air you can't even move or you'll get shot up. Eventually I got the hang of it, popping off rounds and dashing from cover to ... more
Call of Duty: good fun, but overpriced, overhacked and overhyped.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Game of the Year Edition (PC)
Member Name: cheffrey
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Game of the Year Edition (PC)
Advantages: Fun, compelling and popular
Disadvantages: Overhyped and too pricey
Up until this release, the Call of Duty series had relied on churning out generic World War 2 FPS (first person shooter) games that did little to stand out in the sea of dull, uninspired FPS games that have swamped the market in the last decade. However, with this release Activision brought the action right into the 21st century.
The story is a slightly confusing one of a political coup and ensuing potentially dangerous situation bordering on civil war in a fictional Middle-East country, which is all very topical and possibly a bit insensitive given that it is basically Iraq and Afghanistan: The Game. You are thrust into various roles of different soldiers throughout the game, mainly as a rookie SAS recruit 'Soap' McTavish, or and American Ranger. You go through the routine of combat training to familiarise yourself with the controls (fairly straightforward if you've played any games before), and some of the characters you'll be fighting alongside. This is immediately one of the things that sets it apart from other bog-standard FPS games - you immediately feel a rapport with the other soldiers in your platoon. Gruff, paternal figure Captain Price is your guide and wingman, and sports the best facial hair ever rendered in a game, and Gaz offers a bit of light comic relief on occasion. It's little touches like this that count.
The action is intense and violent, with an array of weapons on hand from automatic rifles, pistols, high explosives and grenades at your disposal to slaughter your way through countless terrorists, mercenaries and revolutionaries in a variety of missions. This variety is also important to keeping the game fluid. The story unfolds through different settings, from rescuing downed helicopter pilots in a mission reminsicent of 'Black Hawk Down', to raging street gun battles and the thrillingly tense stealth-and-sniper assassination mission. The latter sees you playing a young Captain Price recounting his memories of the mission in 1980s Chernobyl, which is so well done it's probably the highlight of the game. The shifts in perspective work really well to keep the interest up, and there's a very memorable bit where you get to protect your men on the ground from the omnipotent position of a Spectre gunship.
The Call of Duty games have a few features that have always been part of their identity. You can only carry two firearms at once, which is sensible and believable. But cod realism (no pun intended) is one of the bugbears of this game. Whilst fanboys rave about its alleged realism, its verisimilitude ends at its being set in the present day with recognisable locations. The designers eschewed the need for medical packs to heal wounds,instead favouring a system similar to that of Halo. That is, when wounded with gunfire, all you need to do is hide behind a rock and catch your breath for 30 seconds. This does detract from the enjoyment, as it does take away a sense of overall danger, and that coming under fire isn't really too much to be worried about. Knife attacks are also instantly lethal without fail, and you always automatically know when a grenade lands near you, thanks to a handy little grenade radar. This isn't realistic, it's a game.
I tried this on the PC after having a go on the XBox version and getting frustrated with it, mainly due to the control system. Playing an FPS with thumbsticks is just horrible, you may as well tie one hand behind your back there is so little finesse to be found in the handling. Mouse and keyboard offer greater fluidity and control, especially when it comes to sniping. However, the PC version is terrible when it comes to online play, as there is very little anti-cheating protection on the servers I found, with every other gamer hacking their copy with aimbots, speed hacks, recoil hacks... you name it, it was there, and it was unplayable.
Not that I was too fussed though, as the online play, which is meant to be the crowning glory of the game, is a bit of a let down. As a one-time Counterstrike addict, I found little to stimulate in the choice of online game types. For most game types, death is no punsihment with you being instantly respawned with full health and ammo back into the fray. Teamwork is rarely to be seen as well, with most gamers roaming independently round the map. From what I've seen, most people who play this online seem to be sucked in just to gain more of the thousands of perks and achievements that can be unlocked, only to 'Prestige' and start it all over again... Whereas Counterstrike matches would evolve into fraught, tactical, almost chess-like situations, COD is mostly little more than frantic, Quake-esque deathmatch.
Finally, a bit about the way Modern Warfare is perceived. There are a number of ways of looking at it, and I'm not sure if it's either as harmless or villainous as it has been made out to be. Its so-called realism is limited, but on the other hand you do wonder if its exciting portrayal of war is some sort of sinister recruitment tool, appealing to the macho instinct in countless teenage boys. Perhaps there is a slightly guilty conscience on behalf of the developers, as the load screens are strewn with anti-war quotes and slogans from throughout history. Does it de-sensitise people to the horrors of warfare, or is it not horrible enough to really portray what modern weaponry can really do? In this, all casualties fall down quite neatly with a few sprays of blood, not turned into visceral, human soup by high explosives, or horrifically maimed and wheel-chair bound for life. It's a tough one to call, and it's best played with a reserved attitude - you'd have to be pretty naive to think that war in the real world was fun, easy and without consequence.
In all, it's a compelling romp through a ficitonal war, which sets the pulse going and the breath to be held. It's also been far too expensive for too long, hovering around the forty quid mark for ages after its release. Its sequel was retailed at about fifty pounds, which stinks of blatant profiteering as the developers surely knew that it was going to sell by the container load.
Summary: Good, but not that good.