Gaming done right…

Last night my buddy stopped over with a copy of Call of Duty 4 for the Xbox 360.  Over the course of 4-5 hours, on “Recruit” we beat it.  Let it be said that COD4 is quite possibly the best game out for the Xbox 360 right now.  While the prior versions pigeonholed you into yet another World War II mission with World War II weapons and World War II tactics…  COD4 brings the franchise up to date and yet again establishes dominance in the FPS genre.

Now in previous reviews I have discounted the graphics of the games for the simple reason that in HD, even horrible games can look amazing.  I need to point out though that in COD4, the gameplay was so good that the graphics have to be mentioned.  Lighting effects, textures, terrain and models – all come together to provide total immersion in the COD4 universe.  The graphics in this game are second to none and IMHO there is not a single title out for the 360 right now that can compete, and I cannot pick out a single aspect of the audio/visual experience that was not nearly perfect.

As for gameplay – it’s a COD title, what do you expect?  There’s a solid plot line taking you to various locales in the middle east as well as Russia.  This time, instead of participating in a war of the past, you’re working to prevent the next big war.  The imagery is awe inspiring as it is shocking in many instances.  You’re also not just tied to the ground in this title.  You take control of various airborne weapons including the mighty AC-130 gunship.  That mission is a personal favorite of mine.  You’re endlessly circling a select areas, using infra-red to identify and remove bad guys – with prejudice.  Ever seen one of those night-vision war videos that’s occasionally leaked out?  Same concept – only you’re the one pulling the trigger.

The normal FPS combat is also outstanding.  It’s bloodier than I recall the other COD titles being, but it’s just the right amount of gore to keep it realistic without being cartoonish.  I did discover a flaw in the gameplay engine though.  Some people are tactical.  They take cover, and surgically eliminate each threat in turn.  I’m more of a kamikaze.  I’ll make sure my guns are loaded and then storm out into the field.  I found that in instances where my tactical buddy was held up by combat, I could clear the area in less than a minute by storming out and nailing each target with a 12 gauge.  I see it as a flaw as there’s a major difference in the difficulty.  Simply charging the field should have made me dead faster, instead it consistently resulted in pushing the game along rather quickly.  Flaw aside – it was still tons of fun.

Now I’ve read several reviews for this game which all say the same thing – it’s too short.  I would agree if not for several factors.  The plot is solid, the gameplay is linear, and really – you’re never doing the same thing twice.  Each level requires fresh tactics to proceed.  Where previous COD titles were long and tedious, COD4 is short and to the point.  Honestly, I prefer a game where the goal is in sight.  Added value is in the “arcade mode” which allows you to replay previous levels and earn points, allowing friends to try and beat eachother’s high score – a very welcome addition for those of us who don’t do much multiplayer.  The multiplayer angle is also outstanding – like I said, this game is almost perfectly balanced.

Is it worth $60?  Without question.  Best FPS of 2007.

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