Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Reader Review
I have issues with COD 4. None of those issues relates to the actual game. Still, I will allow them to cloud my judgment. Go figure!
This season sees the release of Crysis, BioShock, Half Life 2 Ep 2, Halo 3, and-er, The Simpsons Game. All of these game-s developers/publishers have created an aura of mystique around these brands. Even before the release of each, you could tell that all of these would rule graphically and bring either excellent old wine in excellent new bottles, or new wine in new bottles.
Then we had COD4. By all accounts, this game is the peer of the elite titles I mentioned above. (Except for The Simpsons of course). Yet what do we see- Uninspired box artwork, and a clichéd subtitle: Modern Warfare. Yes we know, COD has been brought into present day - do they have to hammer it home- Also, that subtitle is styled in a least distinctive font, and in the ubiquitous radiation green color. The result is, you don-t feel anything special when you are holding the box. That-s a shame. Same goes for the title and the logos, down to the menus - everything is so generic 2007 shooter. The emotional trappings of the previous versions (however misguided they might be) are missing here.
Then there-s the story - a.k.a. an excuse to shoot humans so that you can hide your guilt. Guess what: it is set largely in the Middle East, and seems to be co-written by Tony Blair and Mr Bush. Every dogged cliché you can imagine from Fox TV you can imagine is present and correct: a VIP in danger, Muslim terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction. As a Muslim, I expected better from IW, being the guys who remind you of the sheer wrongness of war every time you die in-game. They have tried to give a geopolitical twist to the proceedings, but it remains the same: a US-appointed dictator is killed, his nemesis is wreaking havoc upon all and sundry, and it is upto the US and British troops (you play both) to save the world.
This whole idea deeply offends me. Peaceful coexistence is fundamental tenet of ORTHODOX Islam (something I like to believe I practice) and in no way violence endorsed therein. Revenge is allowed, but forgiveness is considered superior. That is true of every religion in the world and I feel great offense in tying the idea of violence to any one religion, let alone mine. Why does a terrorist have to be Muslim- Is history not filled with terrorists of every religion and race- I rest my case.
On top of that, the story also seems too derivative of the two Ghost Recon: AW games. That is certainly disappointing. The been-there-done-that feel continues to seep into every facet of the game - from the titles to the menus. I don-t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn-t déjà vu of the highest order.
Enough - let-s get to the game. I was surprised and pleased to learn that it is business as usual. The game is mostly set in derelict Mid Eastern towns, and that saves it from becoming a generic shooter set amongst indentikit city blocks. Everything is full of character, the signboards add real authenticity, and the landscaping is as usual brilliant, if a little shallow since the invisible walls are still very noticeable and up close the textures crack up. COD excels at giving a pleasing impression of reality without going the whole way and crippling your system. Character models are detailed and lifelike, and ultimately that-s what completes the authentic atmosphere.
The lighting remains hit and miss. Daytime levels are pretty brilliant, but at nighttime the sky is a little too dramatic and the moonlight is too bright. Why all games- nighttime levels take place at full moon-
The shooting action is intense and satisfying. You tend to be using more duck and cover than usual, something I feel Gears of War has infused in all shooters of late. That is no bad thing - in fact COD4 strikes the perfect balance between mindless shooting fun and deliberate strategic play by falling neatly between the two.
By necessity of being in an army, you have to fight in a squad. Squad play in games - any game - lets you appreciate the true meaning of -Hell is other people-. All your -mates- do is bump into you while you are trying to crouch, or get in your way while you attempt to sprint down a staircase. Sadly, COD4-s mates are no different, just a bit less irritating. Set pieces abound, though this time there is a creeping feel of familiarity around them. In fact I think the firefights and skirmishes take center stage in COD4, as opposed to previous games. The most memorable moment for me was the firefight in a TV station - desks toppling, windows shattering, LCD-s crashing to the ground (with their screens intact), bullets flying everywhere. It took me an hour to get out of that mess. The true strength of COD4 is how spectacular it manages to make every firefight. The game also throws a lot of variety at you. Initially there is a memorable sequence where your are seeing through the eyes of the beleaguered president as he is kidnapped and killed. That-s right - you will get thrown into a Mercedes, drive through an entire town full of slogan sounds and protesters, and finally get shot to death. Fun! Then there-s another sequence where you are told to shoot targets from a helicopter. Old news, right- The twist here is that you are not allowed to hit churches or civilians, or your squadmates. It is hard - you have a hard time not shooting the church because it is so large and enemies are using it for cover, and as for your squadmates - wasting such a golden opportunity to get rid of them is doubly painful.
So basically it-s just shooting, while somewhere a -story- is shaping up. Never mind - it is just there to lead to tasty encounters. One thing that I noticed was how the game insists on pushing you forward. You simply cannot sit in one place and snipe at leisure. You have MOVE FORWARD at all times, otherwise the game will kill you. I have experienced this numerous times.
Overall this is a solid triple-A title, but it doesn-t bring anything new to the table despite the drastic change in setting. Which is not a bad thing, given that it-s Call of Duty we are talking about. Wait - it-s not over yet. I have to mention the compass. This bloody, mindless concoction seems to be the result of several days of deliberation by IW which must have gone something like this: Boss: Steve, I thought the game was called -Modern Warfare- Steve: Er, ok - yes. Boss: So what is the bloody map doing here- The bloody map with oh-so-1950s pointers- Steve: Sir, because even today compasses are essentially the same Boss: Get rid of it. Bring in my new invention, the horizontal strip compass. It will occupy less screen and look cool in the process. NOW!
So you get a hideous strip at the bottom of the screen with a yellow emblem moving mindlessly to the left or right. This has the charming result that you could be facing exactly 180 degrees opposite from where you are supposed to go and still the pointer will be spot-on in the middle, because it has only three points to move to: left, right and centre. In practice this doesn-t happen - the pointer simply sticks to a corner until you turn in the right direction. Clumsy is the most cheritable word I can think for it.
The game ran well on my PC with everything maxed out (I have a Core 2 Duo 6300 with 2 GB RAM and an 8800 GTS 640). There were occasional hiccups but, and I kid you not, they only add to the drama.
Drama is here in spades. The sounds of firng, explosions and shouting are so authentic, you'll swear you have been on a battlefield before. The cutscenes, although depicting an uninspired story, are gorgeous and well acted.
So there you have it. Another stellar outing for the COD franchise, albeit not a life-changing experience mainly because it is so obviously derivative.
9 / 10