I’ve been playing Call of Duty 4 for a few days. I played Call of Duty 2, but did not play Call of Duty 3 (since it was only available for consoles).
In a nutshell, most of my thoughts about CoD 2 still apply to CoD 4. On the plus side, the sound effects and graphics are awesome (you’ll need a beefy computer, of course). The story and characters are great (if somewhat overused — it’s basically like watching a British episode of 24, with an unusual amount of dialog stolen from the movie Aliens (“I like to keep this for close encounters,” “check those corners,” etc.)).
Now for the negatives.
I finished the single player campaign in four days. And that was not four days of continuous playing, either. Two of those days I barely played it at all. I’ll say I spent a total of maybe 12 hours, tops, on it. That is a ridiculously short playing time for a $50 game. It’s pretty close to a complete rip-off, in fact. Casual gamers should not be able to finish a game that fast, even on the relatively low “normal” difficulty. (For comparison, it took me weeks to finish Doom 3 and Quake 4.)
As with CoD 2, it’s almost entirely scripted gameplay. You’re a subordinate in the story, so you spend a lot of your time following the main characters around and listening to them chat and order you to do things to complete the mission. This is punctuated by intense episodes of shooting hordes of attacking enemy soldiers. (And I do mean hordes — expect to be heavily outnumbered.) Replay value is basically zero, because once you memorize where and when the bad guys pop out at you, it’s exactly the same every time.
One notable change between CoD 2 and 4 — they made the game harder. I thought CoD 2 was too easy, so I started CoD 4 on the highest difficulty, the ”you will not survive” setting. That was a mistake. Apparently, on the highest difficulty, the enemies aim for your head and hit about 95% of the time. On the 3rd mission it became completely impossible to dodge the dozens of enemies surrounding me and shooting at me, so I had to restart on the normal difficulty. (By the way, it kind of sucked having to sit through the entire opening credits again when I restarted.) Because of the rather high death rate, CoD 4 can get pretty frustrating at times – dying and repeating the same piece of scripted gameplay over and over and over again is not very fun, and I walked away from it in disgust several times. Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck when you make it through a mission.
Here is another complaint I have with all modern shooters, not just CoD 4: Part of the reason the game is harder is that it’s impossible to see the enemies. I guess this is supposed to be part of the “realism,” but it’s hard to pick out the enemies from the surrounding environment. The color and texture of the enemy models blends in exactly with the color and texture of the buildings. (Yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be like that in real life, but hey, this is supposed to be a game.) Not to mention that the enemies and friendlies look almost exactly alike, so you sometimes end up shooting your own squad by mistake (especially when they inexplicably circle around and pop out in front of you).
I also have to mention a few words about the much-hyped game engine features. I don’t find that “bullet penetration” does much to improve the fun of the game. What’s the point of hiding when you can shoot through the walls? It’s actually rather annoying that you can’t hide behind a lot of the landscape because the enemy bullets still kill you. (And don’t even think about hiding behind a car, because they tend to randomly explode and kill you — and unlike grenades, you don’t get any warning when a car is about the explode.) Also, depth of field doesn’t do much to improve gameplay. It looks great in screenshots, but I just find it annoying when some of the screen goes blurry.. it’s especially annoying if you’re down in the grass. It’s like a constantly changing auto-focus effect. Basically these are two features that only a geeked-out game engine programmer could love.
I’ve only played one map of a multi-player game, but it was pretty fun. I’ll probably have more to say about multi-player later.
All in all, it’s a fun game to pass the time, but I deducted points because it’s basically the same as CoD 2 and the microscopically short single player campaign is a big disappointment. I give it a three… out of five.