Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Infinity Ward
Mac Port: Aspyr Studios
Mac Publisher: Aspyr
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5.4, 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1GB RAM, 128MB ATI Radeon X1600 or Nvidia GeForce FX 7300 graphics card, 8.0GB free hard disk space plus 1GB swap file, mouse and keyboard
Review Computer: 2.4GHz 24″ Intel Core 2 Duo iMac, 2GB RAM, 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600
Network Feature: Internet (TCP/IP) or LAN (TCP/IP) multiplayer supported
Processor Compatibility: Intel only
ESRB Rating: M (intense violence, strong language, blood and gore)
Availability: Out now
Official Website: www.callofduty.com
As has been noted numerous times here at Appletell and throughout the gaming world, there are three things you can kill in computer games without fear of reproach: Nazis, zombies and Nazi zombies. If you like, you can lump aliens in with the zombies, and you can lump robots in with the Nazis. But you can’t use cops, hookers, marching bands or video game reviewers without expecting to eventually stand before Arlen Specter to explain why the downfall of modern civilization is not because of your little video game.
And yet, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (CoD4) is set in a realistic, timely world in which the battles you’re fighting don’t really stray from those you might hear about on “All Things Considered.” The developers get away with this for two reasons. First, then invent militant organizations to serve as their bad guys. Second, this game is a brutal depiction of war. Brutal to an unsettling degree. It doesn’t glorify war, and it doesn’t even really lionize soldiers. If this were a movie script, John Wayne and Chuck Norris would run from it in terror.
Is that the appeal of CoD4? Not entirely. It’s the gameplay itself that drives CoD4 to the upper echelon of first-person shooters. More specifically, the multiplayer gameplay, because although the single player are varied and intense, they never really feel like more than a training session for the multiplayer game.
In CoD4, you play the role of a United States Marine and a British S.A.S. operative. As with other Call of Duty games, you’re sent on different missions in which you will have different roles, usually assigned to you by your commanding NPC. Sometimes you’ll snipe, sometimes you’ll lead an attack, but almost always you’ll be accompanied by a squad of fellow soldiers who help you in your quest. Keeping your comrades alive can make things easier for you, but there’s never really an emotional involvement with them. You don’t get to know the bulk of them, you just see their names over the head as they run in front of you. Although there are some powerful story elements that make this game smarter than most war games, a little more care with the story leading up to these moments would have greatly improved their emotional impact. But, the developers made the decision—and probably correctly—that a combat-based game should focus on combat.
Here, CoD4 delivers. You thought previous Call of Duty games were wild? Huh uh. The action on many of these levels is just insane, with enemies attacking you from all angles and using terrain and weapons better than any AI characters I’ve ever seen. Yes, they’ll occasionally poke their head out from around the wall to give you a chance to shoot them, but by the time they do, you’ve already been killed by a grenade that seemed to come from nowhere. Even a lot of the cover provided in the game won’t protect you long. In CoD4, bullets can travel through items such as wood, so it’s no longer enough to hunker down behind a table and wait for your shot. You’ve got to create your shot by making better use of the terrain and your weapons. This makes CoD4 quite difficult. In many cases, you’ll have to die multiple times before you can even figure out who’s killing you, let alone develop a strategy for killing him/them. It’s frustrating in that matter, and I anticipate that some gamers will be turned away early. Those who stick around, however, will be rewarded with a satisfying gaming experience, and the practice necessary to compete in the multiplayer game.
Thankfully, there’s a lot there to satisfy. Mac users can play PC users online, first of all. And, unlike most multiplayer first-person shooters, CoD4 is somewhat RPG-like in its approach; the character you create is rewarded for kills, assists and such, allowing you to accrue experience points that unlock further levels. These, in turn, unlock new weapons, accessories and abilities. My favorites are “Martyrdom,” in which a dying character can go all Jennifer-Grey-in-Red Dawn by blowing up the enemy with a grenade, and “Last Stand,” in which a dying character will be able to get off a few more shots before dying. It’s all very Hollywood. I expect it won’t be long before they release the “I can’t move my legs, go on without me” mod or the “Tell my wife I was thinking about her” extension.
What brings all of this together, of course, are the visual and audio effects. If you’ve got the system for it, CoD4 looks fantastic, even when the action is at its most intense. The smoke and particle effects are especially amazing, and really do become strategic elements. The audio is equally stunning, totally immersing you in the action in a way that graphics alone couldn’t accomplish. Using just my iMac’s speakers, I was impressed. Playing the game with headphones, I was floored. If you’ve got a decent set of speakers, your neighbors will be hiding in their basements.
Of course, all of this comes at a price. My test computer is at the high end of the system requirements, and I still couldn’t max out the graphics. My home computer, which is my normal test system, is at the bottom end, and I had to dumb things down to the point where I knew I wasn’t doing the game justice. The game still plays, but it looses a lot of its punch.
I’ve read numerous reports/reviews that claim Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the greatest first-person shooter of all time. I attribute that more to the emotional impact of the surprising turns along the way, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an amazing game. The single player game seems shorter than previous Call of Duty games (setting aside all the restarts, of course), but flows well and serves as excellent training for the multiplayer version. There, you’ll be able to kill hours at a time, if you’re inclined to do so. You could also pop in and out within half an hour and still have plenty of fun.
Well, as much fun as one can have in a game without zombies and robots.
Buy Call of Duty 4