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Developer: Infinity Ward
Minimum requirements: 2.6 GHz Pentium IV or equivalent; 1024 MB RAM; DirectX 9-compliant Shader 3.0 card with 128 MB of DDR Video Memory, AGP 8X or PCI-Express x16; 16-bit DirectX 9-compliant sound card; Windows XP or Vista
Release date: Available now
Review by: Jason Pitruzzello
I’m a skeptical person when it comes to advertising or previews for any product. Long before I became a reviewer for the Adrenaline Vault, I’d find myself furrowing my brow when reading about game features. Unless I played the demo or a respected reviewer gave the game a thumbs up, I was unlikely to purchase it. But my normal skepticism is always doubled anytime I see references to “modern warfare” or “…the most intense and cinematic action experience ever” because of my military background and the general quality of cinema coming out of Hollywood. And so, with a guarded expression, I installed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare onto my computer with its freshly formatted hard drive. Hours later, I found myself still playing and it was well past my bedtime, something I haven’t done with a FPS since I installed AVP in 1998. When the same thing happened the next night, there was no doubt in my mind that this may be one of the best first person shooters, worthy of being ranked alongside Doom.
In its single player game, COD4 is set in a fictional modern setting. I say fictional because half of the missions take place in a fictional Middle Eastern country that the United States invades, while the other half involve British SAS operatives conducting covert ops in Russia, something Vladimir Putin would probably have a big problem with in the real world. As for the modern aspect, all of the weapons, gear and associated fighting techniques are applicable to the contemporary world. Weapons ranging from the venerable MP5 to the ubiquitous AK-47, and equipment such as claymores, night vision devices, ghillie suits and even silencers are available. During the course of the single player campaign, you complete missions for both the SAS and Marine Force Reconnaissance in a two-tiered plot. While at first you might think that all of the missions are of the Hollywood covert operations variety, they are in fact far more varied. Several of the Marine missions involve conducting battlefield oriented urban warfare, while the SAS missions are of the more classical covert and deniable kind. There’s more than enough variation in objectives, terrain, equipment available and enemies so that none of the missions appear alike, and all of them require varied skills in order to complete.
If the varied terrain and missions don’t pique your interest, then the physics of the game engine will. And by physics, I’m not just talking about objects moving around or rag doll corpses. In perhaps the single most well executed portion of the game, walls are not the invincible bullet stoppers they are in some other titles. Instead, in imitation of the real world, it is possible to fire through walls to kill opponents. Different materials hinder bullets and explosives by varying amounts, and some weapon types perform better at shooting through walls than others. In situations where opponents are hiding behind walls, higher caliber weapons really shine. Of course, some structures are effectively bullet proof, but that’s why you also have an assortment of fragmentation grenades, flash bangs and grenade launchers to help take down those tough objectives. And all of the high caliber weapons in the world make little difference if you aren’t aware enough to figure out where enemies are hiding. With limitations on ammunition, you can’t just spray buildings with thousands of rounds and hope you get the bad guys.
Combining varied maps with a physics engine that allows you to shoot through walls creates a game environment that begs for tactical acumen and requires full use of your equipment. Claymores aren’t just tools for cheap kills; they are, much like night vision devices and C4, an integral part of your inventory and need to be used properly in order to achieve victory. Furthermore, air strikes are an option at some points, giving you the possibility of a combined arms edge over your enemies. Yet tactics isn’t just about equipment and gadgets; it’s also about coordinating with others. Surprisingly, in the single player parts of COD4, cooperation is important. You’re never alone in any of the missions, so following orders and relying on your fellow Marines and soldiers to do their part is vital to success. And since none of them can actually die during the mission, you’re not stuck with the problem of stupid AI or friendly fire removing all ten or so members of your squad, leaving you all alone to do the job of many.
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