For several years now, Activision has been releasing annual installments of the Call of Duty franchise. What makes this year’s installment so drastically different than the others is that it takes place during modern conflicts as opposed to the classic World War 2 era that originally propelled the series to fame. With improved graphics, gameplay, and the same amazing sound that has graced every title in the series Call of Duty is once again spot on. Although through all of the perks and highlights of the game it still does have several short-comings with online play.
Call of Duty 4 comes in two completely different facets, one single player and one online. The main difference is that during online play “perks” are unlocked, this coupled with repeated play allow the character to run farther, withstand more damage, or have bullets which wreck even greater havoc. While this does allow for a greater degree of customization in online play it quickly becomes obvious, not all perks are created equal. Perks that are rewarded for people who have played longer, such as two main weapons instead of one or dropping a grenade when killed, are vastly better the early ones, namely running farther.
One of the more useful perks in the game allows bullets to pass through various amounts of cover. This is always on in the single player game, but doesn’t always manage to shoot through objects consistently. In one mission, a VIP needs to be captured from a television station. Passing directly in front of the building reveals that it is all glass, repeatedly trying to shoot through it yield no result. The game then pushing the player through the back of the building, down respawning enemy laden halls, all the way to the glass enclosed front where several enemies are more than happy to shoot through the glass at the player.
All multiplayer maps are taken from the single player game which, for those who choose to play through the single player first, means that they will have an the added experience of those maps before the they travel online. The disadvantage to this is that the only parts of single player maps that ever feel like they have any depth or multiple ways to play through them are the ones that are used in multiplayer. All other maps have hallways that abruptly end or paths that the player is forced down with no choice but to follow.
The real disadvantage of single player comes when the game is taken in a different direction then it was designed for. The few maps that were designed with multiple paths have bad AI that only guards one of the many tracks through, meaning that if any exploration is taken through these maps the game simply breaks and no enemies appear allowing the immortal computer controlled allies to simply sprint through the enemies and catch up with the player the moment a check point is reached.
While parts of the single player do at times feel broken the game does consistently redeem itself with memorable moments in the single player. The plot does an amazing job of allowing the player to get to know the other members of his squad through snippets of dialog during cut-scenes and in the heat of battle. When a member of the team falls through a story arch the impact can be felt, when the game changes pace because of a major event it is shocking.
Call of Duty has all of this tied together in a graphically impressive package. When playing in the busted up ruins of former Chernobyl the decaying buildings are impressively detailed, all of the rooms are furnished with the dregs of furniture that is overturned in unique ways for each room. When outside the wind blows the tall grass back and forth which helps hide gamers sporting the ghillie suit (camouflage covered in grass) so when the player moves slowly enough they simply look like swaying grass. Each change of camouflage is detailed and different, allowing the player to change the appearance of even his main gun.
Enriching the graphics, Call of Duty falls back on its now renowned audio abilities. When playing the game in full surround bullets can be heard whizzing inches away from your head, with a good subwoofer air support dropping bombs in an air sounds and feels like it could really be happening. The disadvantage is that when played on a simple stereo TV the sound is only impressive but not game changing. The bullets sound detailed, the bombs sound intense, but none of it changes the entire gameplay experience. The game appears essentially designed from the ground up for a surround sound system, but seems to have forgotten about everyone else.
The game does appear to have some problems with the entire multiplayer matching system. The game player matches correspond with the best connection as opposed to the closest ranks. When a game is found the player is allowed to stay partied with that group of people after the game finishes if they choose to do so. The problem comes up when the person who was hosting the game leaves as the entire group is dumped back to an empty lobby. This can also be an issue if low ranks friends join a group and a game style is selected that the lower ranked player hasn’t unlocked as the entire group is dumped back to an empty lobby again.
While the single player game might be short and have several broken areas and mechanics, the multiplayer game is more than enough to keep every hardcore player coming back, but new players may find the grind up to unlocking the better skills and equipment to be long and difficult. With great graphics, a good story, and wonderful sound Call of Duty 4 is a solid game for any shooter fan.