You'll also always have something to work toward, regardless of mode, because in standard, public matches, you earn experience points for just about everything you do. Capturing control points, getting kills, calling in support, all of these things give you points that go toward your rank. Ranking up unlocks most of the game's multiplayer content.
The class system in Call of Duty 4 is also very interesting. Each class has a different weapon loadout and different traits, called perks. As you rank up, you eventually unlock all five of the preset classes and the ability to create your own class. This lets you pick your own main weapon, your sidearm, attachments for both weapons, what sort of special grenades you want to carry, and three perks. The perks are broken up into three groups to help keep things balanced, and as you continue to level, you'll unlock additional perks. These class traits are one of the game's neatest tricks and, again, really helps to set COD 4 apart from the pack.
We're pretty sure that real war doesn't look quite as cool as Call of Duty 4 does.
Perks in the Perk 1 group are more focused on explosives, letting you get more flashbangs if you like, or letting you lug around a rocket launcher, which is great for taking out enemy choppers. The other two perk groups have traits like juggernaut, which increases your health. There's also last stand, which activates when you are killed by dropping you to the ground and switching you to a pistol, giving you a moment to kill the guy who took you out before he realizes you're still squirming around and finishes the job. Our current favorite is martyrdom, which causes you to drop a live grenade when killed. It adds a healthy dose of mayhem to the proceedings. The perks and other unlockables feel nicely balanced, too, so you probably won't run into situations where one class is just better than the other. As it should be, your ability to point the red dot at the head of your enemy and squeeze the trigger before he does the same is still the deciding factor.
While there are a ton of compelling gameplay reasons to play Call of Duty 4, it also has top-notch presentation. The graphics are fantastic throughout, and they do a great job of rendering wide-open fields, tight buildings or houses, smoke-belching silos, and lots more. Some of the multiplayer maps look like they've already seen a lot of action, with blast craters, destroyed tanks, and other things that you can hide in or behind. It also has terrific lighting, so everything looks as it should. Everything sounds right, too. When you hear a battle raging in the distance, it sounds appropriately muffled, and up close, the crack of an M16 or the full-auto barrage from an AK-47 are appropriately loud and angry sounding. There is also quite a bit of voice work throughout the game, and it's all nicely done. The music, for the most part, is the typical sort of action-movie music you've come to expect from a first-person shooter, except for a rap over the end credits that seems to simultaneously detail the game's story while also acting as a subliminal diss record with some slick talk about how this is the third chapter by Infinity Ward, perhaps lightly inferring that you should ignore Treyarch's contribution to the series, Call of Duty 3. It's great.
There are plenty of things to unlock in the game's multiplayer mode.
COD 4 is available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, and each version holds up admirably. The differences between the two console versions feel mostly negligible. Both systems deliver good frame rates and have good, easy-to-use multiplayer setups that most closely resemble Halo 2 and 3's party system and matchmaking playlists. The PC version of the game uses a more traditional server browser to get you into games. Both systems work just fine on their respective platforms. The PC version has the ability to run in a higher resolution, if you're equipped with a PC that can handle it, but it seems to scale quite well. You can also create servers that allow up to 32 players to play at once on the PC, as opposed to a limit of 18 in the console versions, but given the size of the multiplayer maps, putting 32 players in them makes things a little too crowded. Despite listing 1080p support on the back of the box, COD 4 appears to prefer 720p on the PlayStation 3. The only way to get it to run in 1080p is to tell your PS3 that your TV doesn't support 720p or 1080i, but the difference seems minor. Either way, you'd be hard-pressed to tell it apart from its Xbox 360 counterpart. And all versions control just fine, making the decision over which version to buy totally dependent on which controller you like the most.
It's a shame that the single-player is so brief, but you should only skip out on Call of Duty 4 if you're the sort of person who doesn't appreciate great first-person shooter multiplayer. The quality of the content in the campaign is totally top-shelf, and the multiplayer is some of the best around, making this a truly superb package.