Written by  :  D Michael (232)
Written on  :  Dec 13, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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Summary

Good, but still just shy of being legendary

The Good

Call of Duty is back! After an awesome introduction with CoD 1, a nice addition with CoD 2, and a rather forgettable third installment that missed the PC platform altogether (makes ya think, doesn't it?), CoD is back with the fourth installment subtitled, "Modern Warfare".

Instead of the tried and true (some at this point calling it cliche) WW2 environment, we're treated to, you guessed it, modern warfare with a rather plausible story. For example, in the single player campaign, you play as a Brit Special Air Service commando and as a US marine involved in foiling a terrorist organization's plans to be terrorists. Hmm, do you think this could take place in real life? Truth be told, I appreciate themes that coincide or at least resemble real life events, especially events that are currently underway. This adds a nice level of immersion.

About that single player campaign; it is VERY well thought out. You get only a little bit of story for a lot of action, but those little bits are well executed. The environments are completely awesome, and blow any other CoD installment out of the water. Graphics on the PC are very nice, and run at light speed. I appreciate that the level of detail can be very high, without much sacrifice in speed, even with a moderate system. The action is just beautiful, environments engaging, and story just so good I want to cry with excitement. People, this is good stuff!

Now having completed the single player (haha, and without giving you spoilers as well), let's talk about the multiplayer action; it's fast, low latency, and best of all you get to build a character (or as they call it, "class").

You see, fighting online gives you experience that goes towards leveling up. There are various things you can do to earn this experience such as killing your enemy, but also by winning matches you can add to your character's progression. Furthermore, there are challenges such as killing X number of people while crouching, or shooting down a helicopter that will allow for class progression. This experience goes towards unlocking more features in the game such as certain weapons and better still; perks!

Perks allow your character special abilities. For example, you may choose "extreme conditioning" as a perk which allows you to run further. Or perhaps you might choose, "martyrdom" which will drop a live grenade when you are killed, so if your attacker is close he will likely be taken out with you. If you've ever played a game in the Fallout series, then you'll know what I'm talking about.

Other unlockable features include special additions to certain weapons such as scopes and silencers. Completing various challenges and leveling up will open doors that allow you to design a fighter based on your playstyles and preferences. The result is that there is real incentive to play the game here. There are a plethora of full servers with players "grinding" to level themselves up. Even if you reach the maximum rank of level 55, there is still plenty to unlock in the way of weapon customizations. Never before has a first person shooter allowed for this MMORPG style character build up. One of the cool perks gives you added power for shootin through thin walls made of sheet metal and wooden fences.

The good thing is, even if you're just starting off, it will not be extraordinarily impossible to compete with the established players. Suffice it to say, the perks and customizations complement existing playstyles and add just a tiny advantage. They do not, as you might suspect, equate to a ridiculously unbalanced advantage that would occur when say, a level 55 warrior crushes a level 2 caster in an MMO. In other words, if you can aim straight and fire some bullets into your target, they're going to die regardless of their level.

Acquiring things like radar and airstrikes is based upon kill streaks i.e. number of enemies one can kill without dying. All in all, the multiplayer aspect is not only good mechanically speaking, but these are new concepts being implemented here, and with great success!

The Bad

Now comes the rants. There really isn't a big crippling flaw in the game, but there are a lot of little things that really piss me off. As good as it is, this game could have been better, and I personally believe that some of these "mistakes" were entirely intentional so that there is room for an expansion pack. Again, the practice of intentionally leaving out features to get to my wallet is happening, and this is seriously irritating.

For example, no vehicles and no CTF. WHY!? Why not allow server administrators or player votes decide if there were to be vehicles or not, and why not include CTF? I mean come on, other than deathmatch, CTF is the standard among FPS multiplayer options. The failure to include this could not simply have been oversight. This was on purpose!

Sound... ok the sound is decent, except for weapons sounds. The weapons all sound like little cap guns, it's disgusting. The heavier machine guns make decent noise but the rest are pathetic. The AK-47 sounds like a cork gun, and the M-16 sounds like those little snap pops that you get from the firework stand that "pop" when you throw them on a hard surface. Take an amazing story, throw in remarkable graphics, have the rumbling bass blow your windows out as bombs explode, and then put into the hand of our hero... a toy gun that makes cute little sounds. ARGH!!!!

No exclusive weapons. Any side can use any of the weapons, so it's hard to differentiate between unseen friend or foe based on weapon sounds (which seasoned players could do in the original CoD). Oh hey, that doesn't matter because now you can just use your radar to see where your team AND where your enemies are at (if they're firing)! This also means that all sides are identical and have no special traits! I mean, yeah we get to build our own class, but how about offer special strengths and weaknesses to the various teams? That isn't done here, so it doesn't matter if you play good guys or bad. Bummer.

Multiplayer environments are way too small and mostly look the same and not only that but extreme camping is rewarded and even REQUISITE for winning matches. The result is that you have these tiny maps with a million places to hide in them. Just as you've searched every nook and cranny for the enemy, you get gunned down from a position that looks impossible to hide in. Oh yeah, forgot to mention; the players blend in so well with the background that often times you can be looking square at an enemy and if they aren't moving, you can't see them. Because of this, it's just better to camp and look for movement.

In the cities, there is movement, sometimes in the form of a piece of paper, a newspaper, or some kind of trash that is blowing in the wind. I don't know exactly what it is, because it is a super low res. graphic imposed on a 3-d background. It's hard to explain, but imagine a Duke Nukem 3d sprite showing up in the middle of your high res, texture rich environment. WTF!?

There are a couple of technical issues as well. They haven't gotten the sound settings right (at least not for my rig, 7.1 might be ok, I don't know). For example, I have quadraphonic speakers. If I put the option to 4 speakers, sound only comes from the front two. If I set it to 5.1, I get sound on all speakers. One problem though; my speakers are not 5.1, and the voices echo and I'm missing sound on that setting. The answer? Set it to plain old "stereo", yep now I have sound on all four speakers, but it's not positional. Furthermore, the sounds are front heavy (loud in front, quiet in back). Boo.

I wasn't able to bind keys to the number pad. Sure, I can set certain functions to the number pad keys and I can get acknowledgment for doing so, but when hitting the bound keys in game, they are dead... regardless of the number lock position. Oh well.

Individual player skill comes down to who can hide/camp better. Often the result of a firefight favors who saw the other person first. In other words, luck is a major (perhaps the biggest) factor in multiplayer gaming.

Another think that irks me is that servers will randomly crash. First you think you're lagging or disconnecting, then a minute or so later you find out that the server went down. Happens everywhere. Do a /reconnect and you find that the server is empty. No, it's not you. Yes, it went down. Not to mention, sometimes servers that you regularly play on will simply not allow you to connect. Try 20 times in a row and watch it time out, then on try #21 you get in after 8 or 10 seconds of waiting, the whole while the server population being well below maximum. I believe this has something to do with punkbuster (and to date, PB has been such a pain in the ass for so many people that I think I speak for the majority when I say that us gamers would rather deal with the occasional cheater than deal with punkbuster).

Finally, the single player campaign is inexcusably short. It is, I'm sure, the shortest EVER for any FPS. Irritating to say the least.

The Bottom Line

Yes, CoD 4 is worth every penny, but it's not without flaw. Why can't I have cake AND ice cream? Removing good features to replace them with good features doesn't make sense, especially when the features in question can and should co-exist, but this is what happens when commercialism has its ugly hands in game design. Nevertheless, groundbreaking concepts being executed successfully are the shining points of this installment. It would behoove any FPS'er to show up for this one.