Summary: With Call of Duty 4 set to debut in a little over a month, Jakub sits down with a recent build of the game and provides his thoughts. What is the multi like, and how do the single-player missions play out? Read on soldier!
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.
Combat classes are now present and also three customizable slots. The classes aren’t wildly different, mostly with some modest bonuses of various kinds and different starting weapons. The combat balance does really revolve around those weapons, as always, and that is of course startlingly obvious when someone with an SMG finds himself looking across the map at a sniper. The combat bonuses do come in handy but they never dominate the style of a character. If you began as a sniper and find yourself picking up an SMG or assault rifle, you won’t feel gimped, but you do feel more effective with a sniper rifle in hand. That’s a tough balance to reach and we applaud IW for achieving it.
Speaking of achievements, the game tracks them persistently throughout your career, unlocking various weapons. Not unlike Battlefield 2, these weapons become available on any server you play on. The unlockables tend to be more meaningful than in BF2 as well, since the game is based around infantry combat.
Call of Duty 4 has of course deathmatch, team deathmatch, objective based gameplay (rather like Counterstrike), and a domination mode. We played all three extensively and found them to work quite well on the maps available to us at the event. Of course, there was some imbalance as any team with a FiringSquad member on it tended to win! Actually, it’s rather amazing how well Call of Duty and CoD2 skills translate to the game, the consistency in the feel among the various versions of the game is remarkable. The game has a very high skill cap and though nobody will be going 100-0 like in NetQuake, it was painfully obvious when someone who’d played a lot of Call of Duty got warmed up.
On an interesting note, the Infinity Ward staff have the [IW] tag reserved and if previous meetings with them on public servers are any indication, expect a good challenge. They die hard.
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