Call of Duty 4 - single-player hands-on

We head back to the courtyard, grab the JAVELIN, and head back to the roof where we turn a few of the tanks into smoldering heaps. The enemy retreats, but we can track them easily - we just have to follow the trails from all the RPGs.

We round the corner into a meatgrinder. The Abrams is there, in a clearing littered with decaying masonry walls and the rusty husks of disabled cars, but its main gun doesn't work and its four-man crew is beset by a constant stream of terrorists determined to destroy both the tank and its guardians.

It takes us several moments (and deaths. We played on all four difficulties, and died plenty) to reach the tank, where we and the rest of our squad kill so many terrorists, we start to worry about running out of ammunition. Could we call in an air strike? Nope - there's an anti-aircraft gun nearby, so we'll have to take it out first.

So, off to the west we head, pausing to note that if a car catches fire, it will likely explode shortly - nice touch. After a marathon of gunplay and yet another clearing whose weather forecast apparently called for a bulletstorm, we reach the anti-aircraft gun. We inject searing lead into its operators and shake the whole block by strapping a lunchbox-sized chunk of C4 onto the gun and punching the detonator.

Now, finally, air support can come in - right after we make our way to the center of the battlefield and plant the infrared beacon for them to find us. But like angels with big, bloody gun strapped to their wings, two choppers then swoop in and blast away the entire side of the building where most of the enemy gunmen were holed up. They rip holes in every moving thing that isn't a US Marine, and as the end-of-level music swells, we make our way back to the now-safe tank, which the engineers can hopefully fix before the enemy regroups...

Beauty, intensity, realism, scale. There's no question Call of Duty 4 is set to deliver all of this. The only real question is: can you handle it? You may have read this kind of lame statement in other previews, but in this case, we're not being cliche or glib. This time, it's a legitimate question.