The latest episode in the Call of Duty series hits the gaming community, but has the move to modern warfare brought an improvement in the visceral experience or made it just another first person shooter?
Gone are the World War Two battlefields, the Russian stand at Stalingrad and holding on to the fields of northern France. In comes a global plot set against the background of Russian, the Middle East and your usual terror cell locations.
Like previous episodes, Call of Duty 4 is spilt across two storylines that slowly, but surely become intertwined. First off you play "Soap" MacTavish, a newbie SAS solider sent out in four man assault teams into hostile trouble spots. There is a lot of "Tango Down", get to the "LZ" and other military lingo to give you a great immersion into the world it's trying to project. The opening level set on a cargo ship (what is it about cargo ships?) is certainly a fantastic start to getting you into the action and plays out like the beginning of a Bond movie.
The other story thread sees you playing a marine in the US army and therefore a very different gaming experience. These levels see you getting more action and more support either from more men within your own troop or air support by a couple of helicopters now and then.
Gameplay and you are on your own, keeping with Call of Duty style you have to work in a team, but you never get to control anyone other than you. Those looking for the more tactical approach of the GRAW series will be disappointed. You can't even open doors for example.
While for the most part this plays out fine following orders, moving up the left side, enacting flanking manoeuvres, etc, it does have its limitations. Get ahead of the action and you're left waiting for the rest of your team, which you can't control remember, to catch up. For the most part this is admittedly unlikely to happen that often, but at the same time if you don't stick with the team because you fall behind you'll then miss most of the action as they clear and sweep the rooms ahead of you.
Get past this and the other grumble you are likely to have it the lack of openness to the gameplay. It is something that the Call of Duty series has suffered from before and unfortunately COD4 doesn't break the norm. The game follows, especially through the city levels, a narrow corridor that you can't vary from forcing you into skirmishes and key battles to keep the game moving. While it does keep you from wandering off and getting lost, it does mean that you're restricted into taking out machine gun nests the way the developers wanted you to rather than getting creative.
Move beyond the single player missions, and you've got a fully-fledged Xbox Live experience waiting for you online with plenty of engaging maps to challenge and keep you interested until Christmas at least.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is sure to please fans of the Call of Duty series, with the move to modern warfare bringing new elements to the game with new weapons, levels to master and foes to defeat.
Does it blend into the background against a barrage of other modern warfare first person shooters? While it is certainly a cracking game, bringing elements from the previous episodes in the series, and titles like Black Hawk Down, the Delta Force titles and GRAW into the mix there is an element of "We've seen it all before".
The graphics and sound on the Xbox 360 version will help to take those thoughts away and really help engage you into the COD world, the military realism is impressive, probably thanks to the developers using retired army personnel that have seen action similar to that in the game and the movie like storyline and approach is without a doubt really engaging.
That said, while it's a solid thumbs up, grumbles in gameplay and at times sloppy AI stop us giving it top marks.