"A genre-influencing shooter that will not soon be forgotten"
First-person shooters are often criticized for being stale, cookie-cutter games with little effort put into them, and oftentimes, this is true. However, once in a while a gem in the genre pops up-and Call of Duty 4 is one of them. The Call of Duty series has always taken place in World War II-how does the new, modern-day combat hold up to the tried and true gameplay of the predecessors?
Gameplay: Multiplayer: As an FPS, Call of Duty 4 doesn't do much different than other shooters-the key is that it does it better. There are over a dozen different multiplayer maps to pick from, and a large amount of game types. Unlike many shooters, which face the “sniper problem”-the overpowering of snipers on maps-Call of Duty 4's maps feature a large amount of cover and buildings to protect yourself from snipers while still providing large open spaces for snipers to pick off easy prey. The weapons are also possibly the most balanced of any FPS-with a few exceptions, it's rare to play a large match in which every weapon isn't being used by someone. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and can be customized to fit your style, with various sights and scopes, grips, silencers, grenade launchers, and colorful unlockable camo for every gun.
The major feature that sets Call of Duty 4 apart from other shooters is the level up system. Every time you gain points through a match-whether it's simply killing enemies in deathmatch or capturing an area in Headquarters-you gain equivalent experience points. Experience points can also be earned through completing challenges, which are criteria-based accomplishments with varying rewards, such as new scopes and camouflage. Every time you level up, you earn new challenges, “perks,” and even new weapons. The perfect balance between the weapons means that lower level players aren't disadvantaged with their weapon choices-I've seen many servers where the first place player is a lower level than the others.
Perks are a key feature in multiplayer-they're special abilities that help you mold your own fighting style. For example, the Iron Lungs perk lets you hold in your breath for a longer time-entirely useless to a shotgun user, but quite useful for a sniper. Other perks allow you to customize your loadout with various explosives, or give you other options with which to create your own strategies. For example, combining a silenced weapon with the UAV Jammer perk, which shields you from radar sweeps, forms the ultimate stealth kit. These varying ways to play help customize gameplay in ways you never thought possible, and makes the multiplayer enjoyable, and most importantly, exciting. You won't get bored fast.
Gameplay: Singleplayer: The singleplayer mode revolves around two different wars in two different countries-the British SAS versus Russian ultranationalists, and the US Marines versus Middle Eastern rebels from an intentionally unnamed country. Both villainous sides are working together for a common goal-wipe the west's influence off the map.
The singleplayer missions involve goal-based tactics combined with standard run-and-gun fare. One second you'll be protecting a tank as it rolls through the streets of a ravaged Middle Eastern city, the next you'll be hiding from search helicopters after being shot down in Russia. The characters are not that fleshed out, but their distinct personalities make them memorable and recognizable. The story is believable to the point that you sometimes wonder if a similar situation could erupt tomorrow. The singleplayer clearly wasn't thrown in randomly, unlike many multiplayer-focused games, and the only issue is that it's relatively short-but still rather lengthy for an FPS.
Graphics: Call of Duty 4's graphics are top notch and some of the best seen on the current generation of consoles. Explosions cause dust clouds that distort your view, rockets create trails of smoke, flames burn realistically, and bulletholes are created in realtime. Realistic lighting effects make maps set in different lighting conditions more interesting and force you to adapt to a different style of fighting. The graphical power leaves nothing to be desired and truly makes the game look and feel like modern warfare.
Music: Call of Duty 4's soundtrack is simply incredible. Although no music is played in multiplayer matches, the game's immersive soundtrack can be heard throughout singleplayer, and every level has its own individual song. The intense music really gets in you in the mood and feels appropriate no matter if you're fighting in Russia or the Middle East. Even the menu music is eerily calm as you prepare to join a match and start killing.
Replayability: Replayability is Call of Duty 4's strong point. With so many options for customization, and so many challenges and unlockables for every gun, it'll be hard for you to be left with nothing to do. Even the singleplayer is replayable, with many unlockable “cheats” that change up the game in fun, and often humorous ways.
TOTAL: Call of Duty 4 is one of the best games available for any console today. Fun both by yourself and with others, the infinite amount of replayability and customization breaks it from the mold of other shooters, turning it into a unique and highly enjoyable game in its own right. Like many pioneering shooters before it, Call of Duty 4 will be remembered as a step forward for the genre.
Release date: November 5, 2007
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Originally written for GameFAQs