The military shooter is brought up to date with a bang
We used to love Second World War first-person shooters but it’s a genre of computer gaming that has been milked dry over the last few years.
So when we saw that there was a new Call of Duty game coming out, we weren’t particularly enthusiastic.
But, as the game’s subtitle suggests, the latest episode in the accomplished Call of Duty series makes use of a different setting to its Nazi-bashing forebears.
Taking place in the present day, the action flits between a former Soviet state and an unnamed Afghanistan-alike Middle Eastern country, with you serving as both a soldier in the US Marine Corps and a member of the SAS.
Retrofitting the series for the modern era may seem like a superficial change and, admittedly, the core gameplay hasn’t changed a lot since previous outings. But it's clear that a huge amount of thought and creativity has gone into making this game. Level design is tight and surprisingly varied - in fact, the game’s chapters play out more like a series of stunning set pieces from a big-budget war movie.
In one scene, for example, you’ll find yourself racing against time to extract your character from a sinking ship. In another section you’ll revisit the Cold War in a flashback sequence that finds you in full camouflage holding your breath in the long grass to avoid Soviet tank patrols.
Perhaps the game’s finest moment - visually at least - is a disturbingly photo-realistic recreation of an aerial assault by an AC130 gunship, replete with black and white targeting monitor. It looks like it was taken straight from CNN, except that you control the camera and unload the powerful weaponry on the enemies below.
The single-player storyline is a bit basic, but takes some thought-provoking twists to help raise it above the more exploitative games we’ve seen. Just as you’re beginning to think that all this war stuff is a laugh, a nagging feeling of repulsion appears and ultimately it reminds you just how bleak and devastating conflict can be.
Graphically, Call of Duty 4 is nothing short of stunning, particularly if your computer’s hardware is up to the higher quality settings. On top of that, the soundtrack music is powerful and immersive, redolent of better Hollywood compositions of recent years and adding to the game’s overall high production values.
The single-player campaign is a short but (bitter) sweet experience, though most of its exhilarating episodes cry out to be replayed again and again. On top of that, Call of Duty 4 brings with it one of the best multiplayer elements we’ve seen for a while.
Vista compatible: Yes
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Good points Stunning graphics and sound Breathtaking set pieces Strong multiplayer element provides lots of replay value Bad points The single-player campaign is a little short Overall An extremely high-quality game that will shock and awe at every turn. An essential purchase for first-person shooter fans.
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