Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Lets face it, most people are sick to death of "even more than ultra-ultra-realistic" World War II scenarios in computer games. I know I am. Don't get me wrong, everyone should play them to experience what life was like on the Battlefields of WWII and appreciate the daring and heroism of those who preserved the world from evil between '39 and '45, but after several incarnations of Medal Of Honor, Call of Duty and Wolfenstein- I've killed more Nazis then were killed in the actual war - enough already.

Infinity Ward had two hit "games of the year" with the fantastic Call Of Duty that stole the WWII FPS crown from Medal Of Honor and succeeded in crafting a superior sequel in Call of Duty 2. For some reason which seemed inexplicable at the time - they outsourced Call Of Duty 3 which was a console only game and it failed to impact at all on a tired market. It only became known recently why Infinity Ward had outsourced COD3 - They were busy working on

Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Infinity Ward, has returned to the fourth iteration in the series. Gone, thankfully, is the familiar setting of World War II, replaced with a fictional modern war. That means all of the insane attention to detail paid towards accurately representing WWII weapons and vehicles is now being brought to the high-tech age of the new millennium.

With this announcement, many thought COD4 was going to become tactical, but no. It plays much like previous Call of Duty titles but could possibly yet compete against Ubisoft's Tom Clancy dynasty. Infinity Ward has spent the past two years improving its technology to create a far prettier game and they have created an all-new graphics engine that's impressive in motion. Dynamic lighting effects combined with wind and rain effects create a dramatic look, a physics system allows you to do things like shoot tires off a car or blow it up with a few well-placed shots in the right spot. There's an astounding level of detail in both the environments and the characters. You'll see beams of sunlight breaking in through the cracks, you'll see dust particles in the air and a smoke trail from a rocket launcher. The sun will rise or set during a level with realistic lighting effects so that the transition from dusk to dawn appears natural. There's impressive damage modeling on derelict cars and you can toss a grenade in and blow the doors off. While it may not be quite as jaw-dropping as Crysis, the game looks extremely impressive running on the PC.

As for the characters, each has full self-shadowing and a level of detail never-before-seen in Call of Duty. Get close to a soldier and you can actually read the time on his watch, breathe down his neck and you will see realistic-looking flesh, you might even see them sweat.

What's truly impressive is that all of this works in a frantic environment. The chaos of modern warfare has U.S. Marines (now see why I'm excited) screaming ooh-rah as gunfire echoes through the ruins of a Middle Eastern city. There are explosions left and right, enemies around every corner, helicopters spinning out of control and crashing in a fiery wreck. And all of it happens at 60 frames per second. The screenshots here are exactly what the game looks like.

COD4: Modern Warfare is set in a world where a quartet of evil men threatens global peace. The Four Horsemen, as they are called, must be stopped. To do so, you'll do some globe trotting through Russia and the Eastern Block and also through the Middle East. As is standard in the Call of Duty series, you'll see the war through the eyes of several different soldiers. However, instead of working from one national campaign to the next, the viewpoints will switch around more frequently and be strongly tied to the narrative. COD4 plays out like a TV miniseries with one cohesive story tying the various viewpoints together.

The bulk of your missions will be either as a mustachioed member of the British SAS or as a U.S. Marine. You'll notice a difference between the two well beyond a change in uniform and standard weaponry. The Marines are loud, with AI partners shouting a lot, cursing excessively, and being a bit looser even in the heat of combat (which isn't too realistic considering they're supposed to be Force Recon - but we'll let that slide for now). The SAS tend to be a lot quieter and calmer on missions and, at least outwardly, appear more professional.

The thing that really changes up COD4 is the weaponry and equipment. While World War II may have been the stomping ground of "The Greatest Generation", modern warfare has all the cool gadgets. One such weapon is the Javelin - aim it at a tank and wait for it to lock on. Launch and a rocket fires at a higher arc and comes straight down onto the top of the tank. We will finally have superior Night Vision functionality. In COD4 NV does a bit more as with it on, you can see the UV laser light from your gun -- and anyone else's. You can also see the glint tape on friendly soldiers.

There are a number of huge trends in modern videogames, and two of the biggest are undoubtedly sandbox gameplay and the move towards fully destructible environments. However, Grant Collier, the Studio Head of Infinity Ward says that they're not sold on either trend "everyone right now is demanding sandbox gameplay and total destructibility. We personally don't think that it's that fun, I mean, 'go anywhere! Do anything!' That's just - I think it's a buzzword. Total destructibility can really ruin the gameplay. There's so many spectacular moments that you have when you funnel the action into certain corridors, so I think right now it's a fad, and the fad will pass, we're not going to be bite on in it - we want the game to be fun first, and destructibility comes second." While this seems at odds with any number of next-gen games in development it's refreshing to see Infinity Ward staying focused on what it does best - tight, fast-paced cinematic action.

No one was quite sure what to expect from Call of Duty's move to modern warfare. No one should be worried that Infinity Ward has lost its magic. While the switch to a modern setting changes some aspects of the series, those changes will most certainly be for the better. Modern Warfare lets you feel the rattle of a machinegun in your hands and hear the frenzy of war at a higher fidelity than previous CODs. Over the past few years, Infinity Ward has made a habit of not unveiling its games too far in advance so we won't have too long to wait for Call of Duty 4. The game is due for release in late 2007, and if it's anything like the company's last few games, it should shape up as one of the year's best titles.

Source: IGN, GameSpy

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