Call of Duty 4 is simultaneously one of the best games of all time and one of the worst games of all time. The main reason being that damn near every title that was released after this one tried to hard to bank on its success.
The Call Of Duty franchise has always been solid up until this point (with the possible exception of 3). It became truly amazing with number 4. When it first came out in early November of 2007 I was 14 years old. I had hardly ever touched a shooter other than a few of my old PS2 titles and had no idea what I was getting myself into. Little could I imagine that I had started to play a role in one of the most important turning points in FPS history.
After diving into the single-player campaign, you’ll be amazed at how diverse the environments look. You’ll see how far one title could push the envelope on gaming as a whole. At the time this was the best looking game I had ever seen. It absolutely deserves in every regard to display the phrase “The most photo realistic game ever made” on the back of the box. The NPC’s are just as incredibly interesting and serve a key role in making this game the beloved masterpiece that it turned out to be.
Instead of shoehorning in as many missions where you are tasked as an American marine kicking in doors blowing things up and screaming “Oorah!”, the majority of this game has you playing as the stealthy British SAS.
The game puts you in the shoes of newly recruited John “Soap” MacTavish who will see more hell in the next two weeks than most people have probably seen in their lives.
After the first half of the game where everything seems like an excellently well-paced shooter, the story quickly takes a different approach to how it wants to be handled as everything intensifies to the point of absurdity. This is where the water cooler moments start to show. For example, when you trying to shoot a target in a post-nuclear fallout Ukraine from over 300 yards away with an M82-50 caliber sniper rifle or barely surviving the explosion of a nuke.
With a rich amount of content and diversity, the first time you play this game is like experiencing the FPS genre for the first time. You can see just how far one game could elevate the playing field for games to come. All the while being true to its roots and doing everything that a shooter should do right.
While veterans of the series may have a hard time adjusting to the two weapon limit regenerating health formula, there was almost never a time when I felt that the game was limiting you from being as creative as possible. One level that I remember had tasked me with defending a position until a helicopter arrived to pick me and my buddy up. This was also the first game in the series that had heavily scripted sequences where bad guys would not spawn on some occasions until I had progressed to a certain point.Though I’m not a fan of scripted sequences per say COD 4 seems to have gotten it right. I loved setting up traps and waiting for bad guys to show up, while I moved from cover to cover and took on an entire brigade of Russian soldiers all by myself.
Though for me I thought the stealth sections were some of the most well designed. Though they don’t match up to the standards set by games like Metal Gear, getting exposed will hardly if ever set off a domino chain of events that will make you rethink how to progress. It is nice to see stealth being implemented in a game that rarely feels like it needs it.
Also, this game doesn’t try to sell itself to you with its gore factor. There was one level where guys left arm gets blown off, and one brief torture sequence dealing with an Islamic terrorist. However, unlike games that came afterward, it never tried to go for shock value, i.e. committing mass murder at an airport, or blowing up a little girl while you’re hopeless to watch. The only thing in this game that constitutes as shock value is when a nuclear bomb goes off. However, this scene was very tasteful and only done to further the plot, not to have the shock for the purpose of shock.
You can also pick up enemy Intel throughout each stage that allows you cheats once you’ve collected enough of them. Top this off with an unlockable arcade mode and you have a single-player campaign with insane replay value.
The last mission though is one of the most important and symbolic gestures I’ve seen an FPS thus far. After witnessing your team get brutally murdered by an evil Russian general, you play alongside people whose faces are covered by masks. Who have the same voice actors, and don’t have their names mentioned through the entirety of the mission. This is where the game struck gold. It feels like it’s trying to speak to you and say, although they might be dead, your teammates will always live on with you.
Until this day I can hardly think of any game with the storytelling potential to top that.
The multiplayer is also an incredible accomplishment and this was where all the fanaticism started. You started off a match with basic equipment and could, later on, add attachments to your guns unlock perks and even customize your loadouts. The multiplayer has 3 basic killstreaks. You could scramble your opponent’s radar with a signal Jammer, call in an airstrike, and unleash a helicopter on all your unsuspecting foes which will kill them instantly.
While many others have tried to emulate it, COD 4 stands tall as one of the biggest and most innovative games of all time. No matter what direction „Infinity Ward“ takes from here, this game will forever stand as a monument to what an ambitious company can pull off when they don’t let controversy get in the way of making what they want. „Infinity Ward“ strived for the top and they broke through the ceiling.