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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Score: 96%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 18 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

It would be far too easy to spend time praising Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's presentation. The graphics are amazing and give the Xbox 360 another visual showpiece - especially if you have a hi-def screen. Environments aren't wide open, but big enough that you feel like you're in a much larger area than you really are. Soldiers on both sides of the conflict look and move perfectly and are appropriately varied. However, all of these things aren't what make Modern Warfare work as game; instead it is the consistency of it all.

Mise-en-scène is a term used in film and theater to describe everything that makes up a shot, including the lighting, framing and set design. This is an area that the Call of Duty series has always excelled at and something Modern Warfare is particularly good at. Perspective is kept in first person at all times, which gives the story an excellent sense of agency - but more on that later. All of the areas you go through also have a nice sense of history behind them. It's rare that you go through an area and don't gawk at something. Sometimes it is something simple, like lighting, while at others it is the sheer scope. Although all of the environments are built as videogame levels, there's still a sense that these could be real working environments. Nothing feels out of place and looks just as it should.

Sound adds another dimension to the presentation. There's hours of dialogue in the game, ranging from important story-driven dialogue to background chatter. The dialogue is important, but the background stuff, like the extra visual details, are what really help to ground the game and make it feel... or should I say, sound like it should. Gunfire sounds realistic and packs just the right amount of impact. A theatrical score compliments the rest of the audio presentation.


Although past games in the series have been rooted in reality, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare sidesteps any awkward political landmines by following a made up conflict. The story unfolds through the eyes of a US Marine and British SAS agent and tells the story of a coup in the Middle East that eventually leads to the threat of nuclear annihilation. The only knock against the single-player campaign is that it is incredibly short; about 8 - 10 hours depending on the difficulty level.

Though short, the experience is well worth the purchase. Every level is packed with those great, "OMG" moments that make videogames such an enjoyable hobby in the first place. This is due in large part to the game's storytelling and the sense of agency it provides. Everything is told from a first person point of view that inserts you right into the thick of things. Unlike Halo 3, where you see some elements unfold through the Master Chief's eyes while others take a more cinematic approach, everything that happens in the game feels like it is happening to you. This builds to some incredibly intense moments, such as an escape from a sinking cargo ship where the camera literally begins to wildly sway to odd angles or the entire introduction where you witness the execution of a former leader through his eyes. Talk about effective.

As a game, Modern Warfare is pretty straightforward. You are rarely sent into a situation by yourself and your objectives are always really clear. Missions are laid out in a linear fashion where you move from point A to point B. However, you have a decent amount of wiggle room when it comes to actually traveling between points. It's not the "go anywhere" approach some games take, but you aren't limited to a set path. The mission selection is diverse. Building on scripted events, the game constantly shifts between fast, frantic combat situations to slow, methodical shoot-outs from cover. You'll also find yourself constantly shifting from offensive pushes to defensive stands. In one mission, you'll take part in a raid on a TV station while in another, you'll scour the Russian countryside in search of terrorists. One or two missions even have you using subterfuge by dressing up as the enemy or using camouflage.

Multiplayer is where Modern Warfare finds its longevity. The absolute coolest aspect of multiplayer is the ranking system. Even if you don't win games, the system rewards you with points for just about everything you do in the game. As you earn points, your player rank also improves, unlocking special perks. These are broken up into tiers that grant different abilities during the game. Tier 1 perks include things like flash bang grenades or rocket launchers. Eventually you'll unlock other traits like Juggernaut, which gives you a health boost. Some of the more entertaining perks let you get the last laugh on people who kill you; Last Stand lets you get off one shot from your pistol before dying, while with Martyr you drop a grenade.

Perks are really well balanced, so you never run into situations where one player has an advantage because of their level. While they offer certain advantages, your ability to aim and shoot is still the deciding factor. In-game kill counts also lead to special in-match perks. Shoot three opponents and you can use an UAV sweep to find everyone else on the map. Keep up your streak and you'll earn gunship support and even airstikes.


Getting between points isn't as easy as it sounds; enemies are aggressive even on lower difficulty levels and you are forced to think about situations. As has been the case for the series, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare really isn't a run-and-gun type game. You'll do plenty of shooting, though you'll have to pay a little more attention. Enemy A.I. is extremely aggressive and pretty smart as well. While some do stick to scripted sequences, others will adapt to the situation. Enemy troops don't just run into a hail of gunfire, but will instead assess how you're approaching the situation and adapt, sometimes even outflanking or sneaking up behind you. You'll also come across numerous snipers, who can bring a quick end to any mission. Still, the gameplay is enjoyable, especially once you learn to lean on your A.I. controlled teammates.

Another of the game's few missteps involves mission pacing. Though not always the case, some areas will continue to spawn enemies until you reach a certain spot in the area. Sure it gives you a lot of targets, but it also means that you're the target for more enemies. Considering how aggressive and smart enemies are, this can lead to some mildly frustrating situations where you keep replaying certain parts of a level.

Game Mechanics:

In addition to the perks, multiplayer also uses an interesting class system. There are five preset classes to choose from, each with their own kits. These include a primary weapon, sidearm, attachments, grenades and up to three perks (provided you've earned them). You can also build your own custom class if you want to mix-and-match different elements of each. As with the perks, each class is balanced enough that it never feels like one is better than another, even if it is custom designed.

As far as controls go, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare feels and plays like past games in the series. There are multiple control layouts and each feels just as good and tight as the last. Since patience is a big part of gameplay, you are rewarded for taking your time and aiming down your scope rather than blindly shooting in the direction of an enemy. You also have a one-click, quick-access melee attack for when guys sneak up on you (or vice versa). Of course, you can also throw live grenades back at people. One warning about grenades though; flash bangs can blind you just as well as they blind enemies, so it is best to not look in their direction once thrown.

If the single-player game wasn't so short, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare would be perfect. Even with that small flaw, it is easily the best FPS available on the 360, topping even Halo 3 (Yeah, I said it). Unless you completely despise multiplayer, there's little reason Modern Warfare shouldn't be on your "Must Have" list. Even if you only go for single-player games, it is worth at least a rental just for the experience. Who knows, you may even decide to give the multiplayer mode a try and discover that there's something to this whole "social" aspect of playing games.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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