Activision held a hands on demonstration of Call of Duty 4 last week and I was lucky enough to visit the folks in San Francisco for some up close action with the game. Since I’m a PC gamer at heart, I was very happy to hear that the game was coming back to the PC side of things after the third one by Treyarch only made it to the consoles. Setup in a meeting room was numerous PCs linked together for both single player and multiplayer action.
As with the other Call of Duty games, a good deal of research was done to bring the series to the modern era of warfare. They made sure the tactics, equipment used, and uniforms worn were accurate to the smallest detail. With the help of Veteran Hank Keirsey, the fine folks at Infinity Ward have done their homework and received great information to deliver an authentic looking game.
The music in the game can help set the mood and Harry Gregson-Williams is back to provide the score. Harry is also known for composing music for Metal Gear Solid, the TV show Lost, and motion pictures such as The Chronicles of Narnia.
So let’s get into what was demoed. Two single player levels were on hand for me to try it out and if you were at E3 in Santa Monica, the levels were the same shown there. I was a little disappointed that no new single player levels were available to test out but at least I was able to play the levels rather than watch from a distance.
The first level I tried out was what will be the introduction level where you drop down on a sea barge from a helicopter, take out the crew, and retrieve a manifest. The barge rocked back and forth swaying with the current of the ocean while a heavy rain fell on us. The water effects were stunning with a lot of particle like splashing effects as the water hit the side of the boat and splashed up onto the deck.
You start out in a nice scripted sequence and get briefed on what needs to be done deeming the crew to be expendable. Infinity Ward has always had a knack for displaying team work well as I was lead by the rest of my team through the bowels of the ship with the lead whispering to check corners at every turn. When movement is detected and the firefight ensues, you’ll see your teammates take up certain positions to achieve the most effective angles at taking out the enemy. There’s a lot of dynamic lighting coming from the guns as you open fire and are opened fire upon.
To really demonstrate how the levels can change, the ship starts to sink after you recover the cargo. The entire screen tilts in one direction and I found myself tilting my head as though I was on the ship trying to keep upright. Even after numerous times through the level I always found my head eventually tilted to the opposite side of the boat that was sinking as I made my run out from the inside of the ship to the awaiting helicopter. Pipes burst, water rushes in, and parts of the ship fall around as you race up to the deck from underneath making for an exciting and pulse pounding escape.
The second level played was a land based desert scenario showing off the night vision and close quarters combat. Call of Duty 4 does night vision really well and the visuals of seeing all the lasers from your squad’s guns as they race through buildings trying to take out the enemy is great eye candy. I really liked the scene as you climb to the second floor and see all these lasers pointing inside to where you are from the windows as you call out to your squad to hold fire so that you can pass through. Bullets kick up a lot of dust so you get nice visual effects that do obscure your view with a lot of gunfire. The smoke and dust dissipate smoothly but it’s an impressive visual reminder of how hectic firefights can be in dirty conditions.
The city demo level also demonstrates Infinity Ward’s impressive design skills with architecting realistic environments. Various broken down furniture scattered inside buildings give you a realistic sense of running through a once normal inhabited building. As you run through the streets, you’ll encounter broken down cars that can explode with enough gunfire so you don’t want to stand by them too long. The decaying structures offer a war torn battlefield with many spots to hide behind such as broken down walls, sheet metal, and mounds of rock.
It was this level that offered more team work AI being demonstrated. A few times you’ll wait for one of your squad members to kick down a door so you can race in with your gun drawn to take down any tangos. I also helped save one of my team members from an enemy struggling to get the upper hand on him. Fun and exciting scripted events is one of Infinity Ward’s signature features and the ones in the two levels of Call of Duty 4 demonstrate they haven’t lost their knack to deliver an intense single player experience through this technique.
While the single player mode was fun, I was able to play a long time with the multiplayer feature. I didn’t participate in the beta so I was in for a treat. There were three game modes that I played through with capturing points and the Counterstrike like bomb or defend the target being my two favorites. Team deathmatch was fun as well. We were treated to one new map that wasn’t in the beta too named Ambush that takes place in the Middle East. The game rewards you for getting kill streaks with 3 letting you call up a UAV, 5 kills in a row allowing you to call in an air strike, and 7 in a row lets you call in helicopter support.
After each level and if you have earned enough experience you can use new equipment as well as create a class that’s tailored to your style of play by designating the types of weapon and equipment they start with. You have about 30 seconds between levels to design this class but after a few rounds I was able to do it quickly enough so that I was able to use them in the next round.
I liked the kill cam giving you a replay from about 10 seconds before you die from the eye of the one that took you down. You get to see where he’s at so if you’re a sniper you don’t want to stay in one spot too long if you’re taking down a few people.
As for the game being back on the PC, it looked really well done and I was happy to be back in my natural mouse and keyboard control scheme for a Call of Duty game. From the two levels and multiplayer experience, I didn’t see anything that showed the game was still in beta. It looked extremely polished for a game that’s a few weeks from being done. I’ve played betas where the game was a few weeks away that still had many problems but there was nothing here that showed up in my few hours of playing. Granted it was only two levels and four multiplayer maps but from my viewpoint everything looks and plays perfectly.
Call of Duty has been one of my favorite series on the PC and it looks like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare will deliver again with an intense single player experience and fun multiplayer components. It’s coming out at a crowded time but I have a feeling the game’s going to be one of the big sellers of that time frame. Infinity Ward looks like they have another winner on their hands and I for one can’t wait to play it on the PC again.
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