With no more famous conflicts of old, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare delivers what the title promises: battles straight out of today's war zones, as seen on TV, and weapons used on those battlefields. Media warfare has shaped the single player campaign, and many of the scenes are instantly recognizable from news coverage: Middle Eastern streets, infrared targeting cameras, extremist broadcasts. The setting is so true to life that you almost feel guilty you're having so much fun.
COD4: Behind the Scenes MP
You start the story as a British Special Air Service operative, Sergeant John "Soap" McTavish. "Soap" is straight out of SAS Selection and gets picked for a clandestine operation in the Bering strait. First up, though, is an excellent basic weapons and movement tutorial, where you run through a plywood mock-up course of the cargo ship you're about to assault in the first mission, and get taught the ropes of COD4 in the process. Then it's straight into the fire.
Weapons of war, as seen on CNN
Call of Duty 4 is a versatile shooter. All the first-person functionality you'd expect is there: leaning to peek around corners, crouch and prone positions, aiming through weapon sights and so on - plus you can do cool moves that many new FPS games still don't have. When you see an action prompt, you can press a key to climb through windows, vault over obstacles and slide across car hoods John Woo style. You can pick up enemy grenades and throw them where you want, a risky move that requires both finesse and a bit of luck. Other than that, the game's all about shooting different guns. The armory is mostly standard fare: small arms from pistols to light machine guns, grenades of the fragmentation, stun and flash flavors, mounted machine guns and remotely detonated explosives.
On a couple of occasions, you'll even pick up Stinger anti-air and Javelin anti-tank guided missiles to take out bigger targets. Infinity Ward hired expert consultants to assist in the mission and weapons design, and it shows. Pretty much the whole scope of modern infantry warfare is covered, and some support roles are visited for good measure. Sgt. Jackson has a stint as the Grenade MG gunner on a Chinook helicopter, and one SAS mission segment is shown from a surprising angle - through the thermal imaging monitor of an AC-130 gunship airplane.
True to recent Call of Duty tradition, COD4 doesn't have a health meter. If you take damage that doesn't kill you outright, the screen gets a red tint and simulates tunnel vision. In this state, a single hit will kill you, but if you find cover you will fully recover in a short while. While this health system has divided gamers' and critics' opinions since its introduction, I find it a perfect match for COD4's single player campaign and good for the multiplayer as well. Worrying about health is often an unwanted distraction from the action; medikits and other contrived miracle cures strain the suspension of disbelief, and level design is much more challenging when the player can enter an area with 1% or 100% health.
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