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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare review

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[Editor's Note, Nov 9, 2007: We've changed this game's score from the original 9 up to a 10. The reason is simple: the more we play the game, especially against real people online, the more we grow to love it and the less we mind its few faults. It's still not perfect or even particularly evolved from the first three CoD games, but it's nonetheless one of the most finely-tuned, expertly crafted games we've ever played, and we would be wrong not to give it our highest recommendation.]

Nov 5, 2007

It’s funny how much has stayed the same from the WWII-based CoDs, given how much real war has changed in the last 60 years. With Modern Warfare, as usual, you spend most of your time ducking behind crates, barrels and pillars while shots thwack into the scenery around you, your CO screams orders and the grenade icon pops up to inform you that your cover is about to be covered in Soap. Your name is Soap, by the way, except when it’s Jackson.

Jackson is a US Marine, and Soap is a British SAS soldier under the command of the exuberantly mustachioed Captain Price, who is inexplicably alive, the same age and the same rank as he was 60 years earlier in the first two CoD games.

Working for a hairy old man slightly spoils the cool-factor of your new high-tech equipment: flashbangs, nightvision and silencers. But these things do mark CoD4 as a stealthier, more predatory game. You’re usually in control of the situation, rather than drowning in the chaos, and that feels good. Even better when you hit the melee button: instead of inelegantly bonking foes with your gun, you now draw a knife, lunge forward and fatally stab them in one swift, quiet stroke.



The climax is an extraordinary pair of missions playing as a sniper in Chernobyl, under the careful instruction of Scot-in-a-bush Captain MacMillan. You’re both wearing ghillie suits, you see - camouflage that essentially involves gluing a shrubbery to your head. This enables the two of you to race through an incredible sort of extreme-stealth assault course, dashing and ducking thrillingly close to ridiculous numbers of heavily armed hostiles without being detected. Lying in the tall grass and watching as a few men, then a squadron, then an army with tanks crest the hill towards you and nearly step on your fingers - it’s just magnificent.

But between these there’s still an awful lot of popping out from behind a crate to shoot someone when they pop out from behind theirs. It’s a fine mechanic, but the game sometimes rubs your face in its staged nature. Since you’re unable to open even unlocked doors, you’re always waiting for your AI comrades to let you progress. That’s silly enough in itself, but sometimes the only way to make them do this is to “clear” an area - keep killing enemies until new ones stop replacing them. Other times there’s a never-ending stream, and the only way to progress is to sprint past them to some invisible trigger that tells the AI you’re done here. Trying to work out which the game wants forces you to think of it in these artificial terms, and breaks the immersion.

If you don’t much care about plot or context - and that’s a perfectly valid mindset - CoD4 is a thrilling and dramatic ride. Every other mission features a magnificent setpiece or iconic sight: a fleet of helicopters cruising in over the coast of "the Middle East"; a lattice of infra-red beams cutting up the green sky when you flick your nightvision on in a city skirmish; and the bloody sniper massacre beneath the rusting Ferris wheel at Pripyat - firmly CoD4’s Pegasus Bridge moment.

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.”

The team-based multiplayer more than makes up for the typically brief running time of the singleplayer. The transplant to modernity has been embraced much better here. Kill-streaks earn you the right to call in support: radar coverage, air strikes and even AI-controlled helicopters to hunt down the enemy team. And all kills, damage, and objectives completed inch you closer to your next promotion, permanently unlocking new weapons and Perks. You use these to design your own custom classes: we favored a semi-auto sniper rifle, smoke grenades and the Juggernaut and Dead Silence perks. We developed a fondness for stabbing people, you see, so we needed to be tough and quiet, conceal ourselves and pick off the few people too far away to shiv.



This character progression is persistent across all servers - they don’t need to be special ranked ones. Infinity Ward figures any system will be hacked eventually, so they’re just trusting players to realize that it’s more fun if you progress fairly. And it is: the ranks come thick and fast, there are lots, and you unlock special challenges as you go.

The action is ridiculously fast and bloody. Every weapon is a more efficient killing machine than its WWII counterpart, and the frantic pace has the side-effect that you never feel pinned down or hopeless. Everyone goes down so easily that even the best player is killable, and respawn times are so fast that dying is never particularly frustrating. The previous games’ modes are all here, along with newcomer Domination, in which both teams try to hold three control points at once. Like the other modes, it draws everyone together into a messy melee, but is open enough to let you find ways around the usual chokepoints.

The two halves of CoD4 don’t have much to do with each other, but together they make a ripe bunch of gaming fruit to munch on. If you have no interest in multiplayer whatsoever, the seven-hour singleplayer campaign here is good fun but a little lightweight, at least at full price. For everyone else, the singleplayer provides a torrent of wow-moments while the multiplayer has lasting appeal. In a spectacularly good winter for games, it’s saying something that we still recommend splurging precious cash on this. Just don’t go in expecting an experience quite as potent as the original.

More Info

Release date: Nov 05 2007 - PS3, PC, Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Infinity Ward
Franchise: Call of Duty
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

We Recommend

23 comments

  • adge112 - October 8, 2010 1:45 a.m.

    i heard this game was really good .......
  • bovice - December 3, 2008 8:46 p.m.

    I didn't think the game would be that good... so I figured what the hell.. why not? So I buy it.. went home... been addicted to it since.. heck, I think I spend more time with this game than I do with my girlfriend.. ha.
  • crazyqazqaz - October 26, 2008 6 p.m.

    THIS GAME IS UNBELEAVABLE!!!! A MUST BUY!!!!!
  • oreomonkey - September 15, 2008 9:21 p.m.

    oops that didnt come out quite right it was supposed to say Call of Duty 4 rocks but i guess it got screwed up when i posted my bad
  • Vivapwnata - December 7, 2008 8:46 p.m.

    SO SICK OF PEOPLE WHO ARE OBSESSED WITH HALO THREE. This was my first game i got along with the 360 Elite, and i have to say that they have outdone theirselves. Graphics are awsome and i am hooked on the storyline, it's too bad that Sgt. Paul Jackson's helicopter had to be nuked...My fav. level is aftermath...no just kidding, probably all gillied up. Can anyone help me find all the intel pieces?
  • Cwf2008 - December 7, 2008 7:20 a.m.

    Unlike crap games like Gaylo 3, this game deserves its 10 rating. I predict most of us will still be playing this years from now...or until the next Modern Warefare comes out
  • DJContaras - November 5, 2008 4:45 p.m.

    This game is amazing. My first Shooter purchase for 360 and i am taken back by the graphics. My only problem is on "No Fighting in the War Room". I uploaded the codes and my next oblective is to follow Capt. Price, but he is just standing there. Can anyone help me with how to fix this? Thanx.
  • Drake98 - September 18, 2008 11:16 p.m.

    One of the few games that actually deserves its 10 rating.
  • oreomonkey - September 15, 2008 9:20 p.m.

    CA££ 0ƒ еT¥ 4 ®0K$
  • Dusty56 - September 3, 2008 2:41 a.m.

    This is probably one of my all time favorite games, if you love shooters like i do then you'll love this game too.
  • FluffyDestructo - August 25, 2009 8:37 p.m.

    I love this game it deserves a 10 but the campaign is probably one of the worst that i have ever played. But the LIVE multiplayer is fantastic, i can't wait for modern warfare 2 to coem out!
  • FineOoger - July 3, 2009 3:13 a.m.

    the first game i had ever gotten was CoD2 which was a opening title for the 360 i use to love that game but i reacently looked back at the game and noticed HOW FREAKING AMAZING CoD 4 IS its a must buy for fans of CoD
  • cubsfan101 - June 17, 2009 3:52 a.m.

    pretty good game. i loved everything about this game except the moment where we have to snipe some guy in a place full of armed men. i haven't played that game in six months so i can't really remember most of the details of that level.
  • Fudgeman511 - May 29, 2009 2:21 a.m.

    I would marry this game if I could... This game is Epic and definately needs to be brought to Heaven were God will love it...
  • Mythmaster4800 - April 7, 2009 4:02 p.m.

    Hello Gamers. I have only one point I would like to make. Some of you say you are sick of people who are obsessed with Halo 3. But after reading over comments from this game and Halo 3, it sounds like you people have the exact same obsession with this game, and some of them don't like it either. So if you're going to whine about them, then look at yourselves too. Both sides love their game. I respect that. They think its one of the best. I respect that too. Both games are by far some of the greatest FPS games to grace us with their release. If anyone agrees or disagrees with what I say, send me a message.
  • cohagan573 - April 6, 2009 1:40 p.m.

    The Best Game I Have Ever Played. On-line is Simply Pure Class! Campaign Is Brilliant. 10/10
  • gamer49 - January 11, 2009 10:29 p.m.

    this game is realy fun but can get you mad some times.
  • R38P3R - January 4, 2009 1:52 a.m.

    addicting
  • brassy14 - August 15, 2009 3:19 a.m.

    the greatest shooter game ever i recomend this game to all gamers. i give this game a 100000000000000000 out of 10! it is really realistict: the grenades, the guns, the explotions.the best part is xbox live.
  • freekingenius - April 27, 2009 11:24 p.m.

    amazing i love it and if anyone wants to play, add me ConiferousBver

Showing 1-20 of 23 comments

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