Sunday, December 09, 2007

Call of Duty 4

I’m not exactly sure at what point I realized I had stepped out of my normal “I’ve-been-a-developer-so-I-know-the-tricks” mind-set but I think it was at the end of the sniper level when I had to carry my wounded comrade to a Ferris wheel in Chernobyl to be picked up by our covert friends all the while being hunted by wild rabid contaminated German Sheppard’s and Eastern European soldiers from a renegade faction of some former soviet army led by a guy just trying to get his hands on a nuke that I realized how much fun I was having. I was totally into the game and not trying to figure out how they spawned the last set of enemies or used some trick to make sure I sequenced in to a cut scene correctly. By this time (or was it later?) I had been through a ship mission, a fairly accurate representation of a “Spectre” gunship mission, a rail-ride as the fictional president of a Middle Eastern country on his way to his fate, and, well…there’s just much too much to describe without putting it all together and saying it was a great ride.

Call of Duty 4 is the equivalent of a seven course meal. Perhaps each individual meal, on its own, would be considered good or above average, and a few would get a four-star ‘bon appétit” review, but together they weave as compelling a story as I’ve played since Half-Life 2. CoD4’s story is bound in the here-and-now; it’s both engaging and plausible in the real, and the best game in a series that has always been good.

In true Call of Duty fashion, you play one of several characters, the foremost being a British Special Air Services soldier, you also play a USMC enlisted man in various combat scenarios and as the aforementioned gunner on board a C-130 Spectre and in one long tracking shot reminiscent of the combat scene in Children-of-Men and the initial train ride in Half-Life, you play a disposed dictator being forced into a car and driven through the streets of a deteriorating city while violence and death plays a backdrop as the game introduction credits roll. In all these sequences there’s a real sense of place, a real sense of what appears before your eyes could happen and there are certain game sequences that both shock and disturb you. Not only do you get the standard Call of Duty car ride, you blow up tanks, you snipe, you run a mission on a sinking ship, you have to save a wounded Cobra Pilot, you have to infiltrate by stealth across an open field being patrolled by the bad guys and you witness a nuclear blast and have to deal with the aftermath. It’s like this throughout the game and more; you go from one mission type to the next and they do a great job of making it feel fresh and new.

By the end of the game I wanted to continue playing, not because of game time, and although there’s a logical conclusion to the game, I just wanted the story to continue. This is a game that pulls you in and never lets you down.