If the whole game had been like that, or even just as inventive throughout, you’d find a frankly silly score at the end of this review. Instead it’s a more restrained one, because CoD4 spends too much of its seven-hour campaign mimicking the series’ former drama and glory in a context that doesn’t suit it. The setup for CoD4 amounts to: “There’s some kind of conflict in a Middle-Eastern country. LET’S GO!”
Your enemies are referred to as “Ultranationalists” but for a country that’s never even named. Hilariously, your pre-mission briefing screen keeps telling you you’re heading out to “THE MIDDLE EAST,” while news reportage yaks about fighting in “the capital.” The capital of THE MIDDLE EAST? There’s something cheap and cynical about this kind of nonspecific design: as if we’ll be happy to blast away at a generic Arab-looking country.
There’s one mission in particular that’s truly chilling. You’ve seen that video on the news, in black and white nightvision, of the people trying to scramble away as silent explosions fling them around like ragdolls, while servicemen laugh at them from behind the camera? This is the game of that.
You just click, and a second or two later a billowing cloud of white-hot death engulfs the target area, killing dozens of people and hurling them gracelessly across the ground. The slurred, grainy visual filter used to mimic a nightvision camera is perfect, as is the jargon text decorating the view and the dispassionate, cruel comments of your spotter. “Kaboom,” he deadpans after you kill four more people. “That’s a good kill - I’m seeing little pieces down there.”