Call of Duty 4 may have taken us by surprise this past E3 (2007, if you're reading this years from now for some reason), thanks to one of the prettiest, most tension-filled demos in gaming history. But going into a recent all-day play session with publisher Activision, we knew what to expect: cutting-edge visuals and the most intense military action this side of actual deployment. But even with our expectations sky high, it blew us away. We'll talk about the hours spent squeezing the trigger of the multiplayer modes in another story; first, we're going to give you a verbal guided tour through the two single-player missions we were lucky enough to experience.
This mission cast us as a member of the 22nd SAS Regiment - essentially, a British spec-ops badass - participating in a far-from-routine "steal the package" mission. We get the briefing as you sit in a troop transport helicopter flying toward the target: a massive cargo ship in the Bering Strait, where there just happens to be a nighttime typhoon, with driving rain pounding the deck and storm winds kicking up massive waves that rock the entire ship to and fro.
Lightning crackling across the sky, we rappel from the copter onto the ship's deck along with five other SAS soldiers. We pause for a moment to admire the visual splendor on display - there are towering waves rolling toward the boat, and the water effects, from the wind-driven rain to the streams that wash down the edge of a catwalk, leaving the deck slick - except for the still-dry area the catwalk protects from above - are superb.
However, this reverie is quickly shattered as our squadmates perforate the ship's navigators through the glass windows of the control room, then enter the hallways to execute first a drunken enemy sailor who stumbles around the corner and then two terrorist soldiers asleep in their bunks. Make no mistake: these are hard, hard men, trained to kill the crap out of anything that gets in the way of their mission.