Call of Duty 4 Preview
The venerable Call of Duty franchise continues the march of war with a change of scenery. No longer will players be arming themselves with M1 Garands, Lugers, and PPS42s. The war they will fight will not have been fought already once in the world and simulated in five thousand other games. No, those days are long behind us.
Instead, Infinity Ward places gamers in the shoes of a modern soldier, with all the tools of the trade. Weapons are deadlier, combat is more chaotic, and the graphics prettier and grittier. Despite that, there’s this feeling of instantly recognizing the blood lines of the title. Everything we’ve always loved about Call of Duty is immediately present – the way your character moves, the weapon feel, the advantages and disadvantages to firing from the hip. In fact, the similarities are so striking that we’re beginning to wonder if Infinity Ward is resting on its laurels or if, quite simply, there’s no room to improve.
The different settings were immediately obvious. Our hands-on demo started with an assault on a terrorist-controlled freighter. The familiar pacing and Call of Duty style far outweighed any alien experience from the change of era and combat. The relentless pressure to progress through the map gives a sense of urgency that no mission timer ever can. You progress to an area, enemies come at you. You can stay and endure wave after wave of them, or you can continue to press forward to ever tougher opposition. The setting merely provides the context for the intensity, it’s the style of play that drives you forward. Finally you fight your way to the objective, having absorbed a dozen AK-47 rounds in the process, and you find that the ship is to be bombed by incoming MiG fighters.
The missiles hit, you’re knocked down and the ship begins listing sharply and taking on water. Pipes are bursting as you run forth, trying to find your way up and out to a helo. Take a wrong turn, fall behind, miss a jump, and you fail. And that’s just the start for the game, the teaser mission.
The next stage took us to the desert environments of a Saudi Arabian port city. There the fight centered around reaching an immobilized M1 Abrams and protecting it from attackers. The fight is great deal more chaotic and open than the first map and most previous Call of Duty encounters. Attackers tend to come from several directions and between the darkness of the level as well as HDR lighting, spotting your attacker isn’t easy. Hitting him can be even trickier with the abundant cover available in urban terrain and the good AI use of it.
Multiple objectives are par for the course in a standard Call of Duty map, and protecting the tank only begins the job. Once it is secured, the source of the threat – a local stronghold – must be brought eliminated. This in itself involves several steps, including the taking down of an anti-aircraft AFV, which in turn permits a helo to be brought in for fire support. Of course, for that helo to know where friends and foes are, a beacon must be placed. The trade-off in realism and detail implies a great deal of linearity, but that is never glaring in a run through a mission. The objectives change often enough and are so varied as to give a feeling of unpredictability – the first time around, of course.