If war is hell it has never looked as good as it does in Infinity Wards newest Opus Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Their follow-up to Call of Duty 2 (Developer Treyarch helmed the third installment) finally takes the series out of the trenches of World War II and into the frighteningly advanced combat boots of modern soldiers.
In this title you follow an overlapping story as played from both a British SAS Soldier and a U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant, your mission is to recover stolen Russian Nuclear missiles and stop Mid-Eastern terrorists from using them. Infinity Ward has played it slightly safe with this story as the terrorists are a made-up organization and the country they base from is never mentioned by name. Fortunately this has no impact on the amazing story and trademark scripted sequences you face as you progress through the short but incredibly satisfying campaign in this amazing game.
The graphics in Call of Duty 4 are truly a sight to see, when viewed in High Definition (as this game must be played in for full enjoyment) the amount of detail is astounding. When playing at dusk the shadows and lighting play off every surface and crease in your uniform. The other soldiers are equally detailed, get close enough and you can see the stubble and sweat on your partners face. Environmental effects such as blowing sand, rain and sleet are also rendered incredibly lifelike, you could really believe this is what it would look like if you were in these cities or ships. Infinity Ward should be credited for creating a game with this much graphical fidelity while maintaining rock solid frame rates and stunning animations.
A word on the animations, this game has an incredible physics engine that for once it is not overdone. Developers tend to have people flail and bounce heavily in their physics based animations, but when people are hit or fall in CoD 4 they do it just right, it may not sound like a big deal, but the realistic animations go a long way to enhancing the realism in this game.
The audio in this game is also top-notch, with convincing voice acting and a wide range of accents to convince you that your allies or enemies are truly who they say they are. Sound effects and music are phenomenally represented in this game with the score rising and falling in tempo and volume as the action heats up or abates. Full Dolby 5.1 audio is used in this game (if you have the proper setup) and it really immerses you in the action, bullets seem to fly overhead, enemies and allies voices seem to come from all around you, explosions and grenades buffet you with noise and disorient you from the action. It all adds up to an aural experience that places you in the action, I confess there have been times when I actually unwillingly flinched when a bullet was fired overhead.
Playing through Call of Duty in the amazing Single Player and Multiplayer (more on that later) modes is a dream. Infinity Ward did not deviate much from the standard First Person Shooter controls on a console, Left stick controls movement, right controls where you are looking. Various actions like shooting, throwing grenades and reloading are mapped to the various buttons in a very intuitive way. You can choose to crouch in order to remain low and utilize cover, or lie prone to have a steady shot and be almost invisible in the right environments.
To further add realism to this title you have two weapons, a main rifle, shotgun or machine gun and a handgun as backup, you will also have grenades and explosives as necessary. In a really nice graphical nod, all the weapons can be spotted if you look closely enough at your teammates (including grenades and C4 satchels). All of this ties in together in a very tight game play experience, shooting feels natural, from the hip shots react as you would think and the recoil when firing down the site or zoomed through a scope is realistic and can be adequately compensated for.
The only gripe I have with the game play is that there is no advanced cover system that you, the player, can use; all you can do is crouch or lie prone, there is no blind shooting or sticky cover system. While this is not a make-or-break point it does get annoying because your teammates and the enemy do these things, I am not sure why it was not implemented for you, but it does grate at times when the action is really heavy and you can see the enemy shooting around corners and ducking behind cover quickly.
One of the most interesting things about this game is the fact that you are always part of a squad, and despite this you have no control over the teammates, normally this would be a disaster, but the A.I. in this game is top notch. Your teammates will intelligently breach doors, clear hallways, throw flash bangs and take down as many (or more) enemies as you do. It is a rare thing to have teammate A.I. that works this well, but this game has it and it is a true testament to Infinity Wards skills. It is a good thing you have these intelligent teammates, because the enemy A.I. is just as smart, they will hide behind cover, throw grenades, surround you and generally do everything they can to end your life as humanly (or in this case computer controlled) possible. Also at your disposal to end this global threat are advanced weapons and tools of war, stealth gear, high powered assault rifles and stun grenades are just a few of the components in your arsenal, each are rendered perfectly and animate brilliantly.
While the single player campaign is short (five to six hours from start to finish), once completed you unlock an arcade mode for the campaign that allows you to play any level you wish at any time with arcade style play (set number of lives, points for certain types of kills, etc…), but the real star of this show is the Multiplayer. This game has some incredibly deep options for you to enjoy online, first off after a bit of play you can make custom classes with different weapon load outs (with attachments), different grenades, and three perks (bonus abilities ranging from extra health to dropping a grenade upon your death to get extra kills). This class system allows you to really choose a play type that suits each situation. To further make this a great system, if you chose a class that isn't working you can change on the fly and it takes effect as soon as you respawn.
Multiplayer in CoD4 comes in many flavors that unlock as you invest time in the game, from the classic modes like Free-for-all and Team Deathmatch to more Objective based modes like Headquarters and Sabotage; there is more game here online then many games feature in two or three iterations. A great engine powers this game and I have personally experienced 16 person matches with full voice chat, hundreds of bullets flying and explosions raging all around with no slowdown and little to no lag. The lobby system ties this all together perfectly with an automatching system and the ability to instantly invite people from your friends list to join your game, it does have some glitches as it loads lobbies or ends matches, but these are few and far between. As you progress in Multiplayer you attain rank and gain new weapons, gadgets and perks to build your classes with, it is a great system that rewards players with new ways to play, but does not severely overpower anyone enough to be a game breaker. Playing this in multiplayer brings back memories of when I (and everyone else I knew) was playing Quake 3 Arena, it has an addictive edge that has you wanting to play one more match over and over again until your eyelids hurt.
Final Word: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a fantastic experience in both Single and Multiplayer modes, with breathtaking graphics and outstanding sound this game is one of the best looking and sounding on the PS3. A short campaign and some minor gripes don't even seem to matter as you delve into the deep multiplayer and replay the campaign with different variants, this is a must have game for any FPS fan.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360