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PLATFORM: XBox360, PC, PS3
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: Infinity Ward
It’s Call of Duty, finally free of its WWII shooter roots!
The Call of Duty series has always been known for giving you an incredibly immersive experience, filling the screen with hundreds of soldiers, taking you through all sorts of incredibly memorable battle scenes, and having one of the best aiming systems around. This one doesn’t disappoint… right from the start you’ll know you’re in for something special.
The first level, a prologue, is quite possibly the most action packed, pulse pounding experience you’ve ever played. That ain’t hyperbole, folks. It’s short, sweet, and gets you fucking PUMPED. And then the credits kick in. The game is cinematic in that way, sometimes throwing you right into the action at the start of a level, or even containing sequences where you see what’s going on through the eyes of someone else in the world.
The gameplay has been refined to a serious degree. It has everything you’d want from a war-time shooter, with the added benefit this time of a singular story. Whereas in Call of Duty 2 (the last great, Infinity Ward-created COD game) you played different factions fighting the same war in completely different areas, in this one you play two different teams fighting the same battles, helping each other out and eventually teaming up to finish it.
As you might’ve guessed from the Modern Warfare moniker, this is up-to-date, realistic stuff. It’s set in Russia and the Middle East, and feels like a certain war going on right now, if the opposing side actually had a chance. Here, things are evened somewhat by the bad guys having all sorts of goodies, like helicopters, tanks, and nukes. Yes, nukes.
One of my favorite levels has you aboard an AC-130 gunship, taking out all enemy targets below you through the infared targeting screen. It’s very reminiscent of the video of an operation in Afghanistan that made its way online a few years ago, to the point where it’s obvious that they used it as a basis. Dropping 105mm bombs on people has never been so fun.
The controls are exactly what you’d expect from a shooter, and there’s no real big surprises this time. The controls are as tight as ever and it’s fun as hell playing with modern weapons this time. You get quite an assortment.
The "HOLY SHIT!" moments that made the original COD games so great are here, in full effect. Each level has that one part that’ll stick in your brain, and you’ll relate them to your poor friends that don’t own next generation systems yet as they weep in shame. Or maybe that’s just me.
Dear god is this game beautiful. The first level alone will bring tears to your eyes, as you fight your way aboard a ship in the middle of a storm and drink deeply of the beautiful lighting and water effects. You’ve never seen better smoke in a game, either. Every explosion, every gunshot will throw debris into the air and obstruct your view. It makes for a scarier time as you’re dodging bullets, and makes you think more as you hide behind cover and try to reload.
And speaking of scary- wait until you see one huge moment, something that hasn’t been done as well in a game yet, and will just about make you go wee-wee in your pants.
The sound is just as good, pumping you as needed for the more exciting parts. It’s a necessity to keep your ears open, in multiplayer especially, as even someone crawling on the ground makes a sound. I feel bad for anyone without surround sound, cause they’re fighting at a disadvantage.
The biggest problem with the game itself is that it’s way too short. You can blast through it in about 5-6 hours if you take a lower difficulty, although of course at the hardest setting (Veteran) you’ll be dying a whole helluva lot. There’s a lot of achievements to get by doing nifty things during the game, and once you beat the campaign you unlock an Arcade mode, which is interesting (it scores you points depending on how fast and well you kill people) but not much of a reason to play through it all again. This is the kind of game that you will want to go through just to experience all the thrills (yes, thrills) once again, but not for a while.
But honestly, what most people will be playing this game for is the multiplayer. And it’s a doozy.
For starters, it takes the Halo ranking system and ups it, considerably. Now you’re only able to unlock certain weapons and game modes after attaining a higher rank, which thankfully is not too hard. Play enough and you can choose your own starting weapons, with your own custom attachments. You can choose to equip various upgrades, such as bullets that penetrate structures more deeply, or a last stand mode where if you get injured you can keep firing from the floor with your firearm. It’s something to strive for, and makes the game a helluva lot more enticing for those of us who have to suffer playing with the standard internet douchebags. There are no achievements to be found online in the Xbox 360 version, but you know what? You don’t need it when you have all these incentives in place. The more you play, the more potential things there are to unlock. It’s an incredibly smart system.
As as for the games themselves- they’re fantastic, every level a joy. The greatest thing about it is that you can play it any way you like. Choose a shotgun to start with and go for close quarter blasting. Choose a sniper rifle and hang back on the top of a building. The game can turn from intense firefight to camping grounds in the blink of an eye, and it’s stronger for it. Add in the option to launch airstrikes, helicopter attacks and more, and you’ve got one of the best multiplayer games around. A deep and satisfying experience, it’s obvious they took as much time to fine-tune it as they did the single player game.
Any other year, any other time, and this would be an absolute must-buy. But with this season of amazing games being released left and right, things get trickier. If you need fantastic multiplayer fun, you can get it from Halo 3 or The Orange Box. If you need a stronger, longer campaign, you can get it from Bioshock.
It’s a fantastic game, but for someone like me multiplayer only holds so much fun, generally losing it around the point in time when everyone knows every bit of every level. The lack of a meatier single player mode (or co-op) keeps me from completely recommending it. But for someone who likes their shooters modern, gritty, and fun, you can’t go wrong with this game.