Image: Call of Duty game from Activision
In "Call of Duty 4," you play an operative trying to stop militant regimes from seizing power in the Middle East.
By contributor
updated 11/9/2007 11:01:02 PM ET 2007-11-10T04:01:02

“Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” is simply one of the year’s best games.

The game, which shipped simultaneously for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, is one action-packed first-person shooter. It boasts straightforward controls that are easy to learn, a deep multiplayer mode and some seriously sweet graphics that may leave you wondering if you’re playing a game or watching the news.

You play an operative trying to stop militant regimes from seizing power in the Middle East and Russia. The story is told in familiar “Call of Duty” style: through the eyes of various characters in several locations around the world. But unlike previous games, which dealt solely with World War II, this story takes place in present day.

This was not a superficial change just to “mix things up.” The new setting allows for modern battle tactics with today’s high-powered weapons, resulting in a fast-paced and intense gaming experience.

Adding to this intensity is the enemy: they’re everywhere and they’re smart. “Call of Duty 4” has a sharp A.I., so if you’re not careful the enemy will find a weakness, sweep around and flank you. Even stealthier? They’re wearing army fatigues similar to what your fellow soldiers wear, which can make it difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Of course, you do get a bit of a clue when they start to shower you with bullets.

These enemies don’t just flop over and die at the sight of blood, either: They’ll fight hard until they draw their last breath. So you’ll have to make sure that they’re really dead — or you might just find them taking pot shots at you. It’s a cruel fate when you realize you’ve just been snuffed out by a guy you thought you wasted just seconds earlier. 

While the game’s single player campaign is good — albeit a tad short — its multiplayer is simply awesome. It has 16 diverse maps ranging from wide-open farmland to tight urban neighborhoods, making your choice of weaponry very important. As fun as sniper rifles can be, they’re simply not useful in close-quarter combat.

Group play includes, among others, the standard “every-man-for-himself” mode, as well as Team Deathmatch, where two groups go head-to-head and attempt to wipe each other out, and Domination, a team-based capture the flag game.

But if you’re looking for a something a little different, try the unlockable Sabotage mode. It pits two teams against each other in a race to locate a bomb and detonate it at rival headquarters. While finding the battle’s lone bomb is easy (it has a giant marker above it) ,trying to transport it to enemy HQ is most decidedly not. That’s because whoever is carrying the explosive has that marker placed on their head for all to see. Talk about attracting unwanted attention.

If (or more likely, when) the bomb holder is killed, the bomb is instantly dropped and anyone nearby can grab it, regardless of which team they’re on. And even if you do manage to reach your enemy’s headquarters with it and set the timer, the game is far from over. The bomb can be disarmed, and if it is, the battle starts all over again.

As you play these multiplayer games you’ll earn experience, get promoted up the military ranks, and be awarded perks. These perks can include simple items like new weapons and increased stamina for faster running. But there’s also spiteful perks to be earned, like Last Stand, which allows you one final shot after you die, and Martyrdom, which drops a grenade as soon as you keel over. Hey, just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you can’t take revenge on your killer.

But as good as “Call of Duty 4” is, the game is not perfect. While you can duck behind cover, you can’t blindly shoot out from under it. Instead you have to pop your head out in the open to aim and fire, leaving you prone to attacks. And though you can shoot right through a door, killing whoever is hiding behind it, you can’t open any doors yourself. These aren’t huge concerns, but it would be nice to be able to do them.

Then again, you’ll probably be having too much fun to care. After all, if war is hell, “Call of Duty 4” just might be heaven.

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