It took awhile, but Infinity Ward finally got the message that World War II is played out. With modern times and international affairs becoming more and more, shall we say, interesting in recent years, the 1940s just don't carry as much weight as they used to. Perhaps that's why Call of Duty 4 has a new subtitle, Modern Warfare. By bringing things into a fictionalized story that still seems fairly plausible, the developer has made a much heavier game. But COD 4 is more than just an updated setting. It's also an amazing multiplayer first-person shooter and a great but brief single-player campaign with the visual chops to make it a standout shooter in an era filled with seemingly dozens of standout shooters.
While the game may feel short, it covers a lot of ground.
The only real catch is that the single-player is almost shockingly short. If you've been keeping up with this style of game, you'll probably shoot your way to the credits in under five hours. While you can raise the difficulty to give yourself more of a challenge, the main thing this does is make the enemies frustratingly deadly, which sort of detracts from the fun.
While it may have a lack of single-player quantity, it makes up for most of it with its quality. The game tells its story from multiple perspectives, and you'll play as a new British SAS operative as well as a US Marine. The campaign takes you from a rainy night out at sea on a boat that's in the process of sinking to a missile silo where it's on you to save millions from an unsavory nuclear-powered death. Along the way, there are plenty of jaw-dropping moments where you'll look around the room for someone to whom you can say, "I can't believe that just happened." In a world filled with war games in which the good guys come out unscathed and the world is left at total peace, Call of Duty 4 will wake you up like a face full of ice water.
The action in the campaign is usually very straightforward. You have a compass at the bottom of your screen, and the direction of your current objective is very plainly marked. But getting from point A to point B is never as simple as running in a straight line, as you'll be conducting full-scale assaults in Middle Eastern countries by moving from house to house, taking out what seems like a never-ending stream of enemy troops along the way. You'll also get an opportunity to raid Russian farmhouses in search of terrorist leaders, disguise yourself as the enemy, and, in one sequence, don a brushlike ghillie suit and crawl through the brush as enemy troops and tanks roll right past you. It's a breathtaking moment in a campaign filled with breathtaking moments. Unfortunately, it's about half as long as the average shooter, and there are plenty of sequences where you wish there were just one or two more hills to take.
Of course, if you're looking for longevity, that's where the multiplayer comes in. Up to 18 players can get online and get into a match on one of 16 different maps. Many of the levels are taken from portions of the single-player and they offer a healthy mix of wide-open, sniper-friendly areas and tight, almost cramped spaces where grenades and shotguns are the order of the day. There are six game modes to choose from. The old standby is team deathmatch, though you can also play in a free-for-all deathmatch, which isn't as much fun as the team modes. The other modes are more objective-oriented, and a couple of those have you lugging bombs across the map to blow up enemy equipment, or preventing the enemy from blowing up your base. Others have you capturing control points. Lastly, you can change up the game rules a bit with a hardcore setting that makes weapons more realistically damaging or an old-school mode that puts weapons on the ground as pickups and generally moves away from the simulation side of things.
The campaign takes you to multiple locales, but they're all full of guys who are begging to be shot in the face.
In addition to just firing your weapon or tossing grenades, you earn some more interesting tactical moves for skilled play. If you can shoot three opponents without dying, you're able to call in a UAV drone, which basically is an upgraded radar that makes enemy positions show up on your onscreen map for 30 seconds at any time. Normally, enemies blip up onto the map only if they fire their weapon to make their location known. If you can go on a five-kill streak, you can call in an air strike, which brings up a shot of the entire level map and lets you place the air strike wherever you like. When combined with a UAV sweep, this can be really devastating. If you can make it all the way to seven kills--which is actually easier than it sounds--you can call in a helicopter for support. It'll buzz around the map and automatically open fire on enemies, though enemies can shoot it down, too. These additions to the normal first-person shooter gameplay really open up the game a lot and make it superexciting to play.