David Low
08 Sep, 2007

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Preview

360 Preview | We report to duty and go hands on with the multiplayer.
There was a lot of unexpected hype for the fourth main entry into Activision's Call of Duty series after it's debut at E3. Call of Duty 2 became the standout title from the Xbox 360's launch period, but for many players Call of Duty 3 was a high quality but unimaginative re-tread of the tired WWII formula. While the fourth installment returns the reigns of the series to creators Infinity Ward, the change of setting is hardly inspired (why change from the most overused setting to the second most overused setting?), the word was that with Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat Infinity Ward had risen above any expectations and delivered a promising demo. While there's a multiplayer beta floating around right now overseas (and coming soon to Australia), we recently had a chance to play the multiplayer part of the game in a more intimate setting, and we came away entertained, but with the impression that there's some way to go for this title to live up to the hype.

While we waited for the game session to be set up, we were able to fiddle around with the player-edit and set up features. While most options were locked, we could see that there were quite a few weapons and options available to 'create' a player class. The basic classes are still all there, and with a variety of modern looking and sounding shotguns, machine guns and rifles it started to feel like our old Counter Strike days then the Call of Duty we're used to. There were even options to customise your uniform and attachments, but play soon began, and we didn't have much time to check out all the options. You select your character class before spawning, and if you want to change mid-round you have to re-select before you're next killed. All the weapons seemed to have limited ammo, but of course you can pick up any weapons left on the battlefield by defeated friends or enemies. The menu systems seem to work well enough (as you'd hope) and while we only played two different game types, all the usual suspects were there, ready for the full game's release. There will also apparently be an experience system in the full release.

Krauts at 12 o-clock – no, wait...

Krauts at 12 o-clock – no, wait...
Upon entering battle, we were struck by a strange feeling. In terms of weight, movement, and in many ways graphics, this was clearly a Call of Duty game. A half destroyed brick building in 2007 looks very similar to a destroyed building circa 1944. The wall textures, grass modeling, particle effects, and geometry were all very reminiscent of the last two Xbox 360 games. And yet there in front of us was a modern car. And the gunfire sounded more like 'the Terminator' then the rat-a-tat-tat of mid century weaponry. After having been accustomed to associating this game engine with the forties, the 'modern combat elements' initially felt like anachronisms.

But soon enough we were into the battle, and after a few minutes we felt more like the American terrorist hunters in Rainbow Six: Vegas then the standard multi-national Hitler hunters of our previous calls to duty. One map in particular was seemingly 'Black Hawk Down' inspired, with the main skirmish point being a crashed helicopter site in the middle of a war ravaged modern village. For the basic game of team deathmatch we played, this map seemed pretty well designed, as we were always able to find some action quickly. Most of the camping spots had a clear weakness, allowing us to ambush anyone who tried the same tactic more then once. On the other hand, the haphazard spawning points meant that players always had to be on their toes, and flanking an enemy position always needed planning. We almost never felt safe on any point on this map, and while it may just have been the reasonably even skills of the journalists at the preview, nobody managed to dominate, and even the best players had a few deaths to their names.

Checking for survivors – or their dropped weapons?

Checking for survivors – or their dropped weapons?
The other map we played bore much more resemblance to the older Call of Duty games, and was set in what looked like an overgrown European village. Grassy, overgrown villages look pretty similar today to what they looked like in the forties, so apart from the rocket launchers we could have been playing the last game. This map was more open and sniper friendly, and well suited to the 'hold the key points' gameplay type we played on it. Play cycled around the map as both teams captured and lost the bases, and it almost became a race to run the circuit fastest. We found a few more dead ends and ambush spots on this map, and we're sure that with a little more communication then we partook in, this map could be played a lot more tactically then it was!

There was quite a bit of hype coming out of E3 about Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat's graphics, some going do far as to declare it a contender for best graphics of the year. Much of this has been based on the more controlled scenarios of the single player campaign, which we were not shown at this time. But in all honestly we couldn't see any claim the game to the graphics crown based on the multiplayer mode. While it still looks like a good Xbox 360 game, with well modeled characters and a solid environmental engine, we really didn't notice anything that made us say 'wow.' In fact, it seemed very much in line with the last two games graphically. Textures were still sometimes blurry when viewed up-close, and while it ran well, there weren't too many fancy effects, apart for the pretty decent looking smoke. One thing we did appreciate was the restraint the developers have shown in terms of normal mapping – unlike many next-gen games, the environments didn't all look like they were covered in leather. However, the modern setting really did help in terms of sound, as the more powerful weapons gave the game a lot more punch aurally then the historical settings of the prequels.

Smoking will kill you fellas!

Smoking will kill you fellas!
Overall, from our time with the multiplayer we definitely think Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat could become another favourite on Xbox Live (and the PlayStation Network). Whether it's got what it takes to be an all-time favourite, only time will tell. And we'll have to see the single player to make any judgments on the whole package
Another solid game in the series, but is the change of setting enough?

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6 years ago
Great write-up and very impartial as I'm well and truly tired of all the hype in other previews.
6 years ago
The trailers have definitely done a lot to hype the game. They do look very classy indeed. Perks look like they will help keep multiplayer fresh. I've never played more than a demo of the earlier COD games but I've signed up for the beta for this one. I don't think it will do anything revolutionary it'll just be a very finely tuned gaming experience I hope.
6 years ago
There graphics are defiantly not impressive, but I assume there will be many more layers to the single player game, just like FPS games.

This is seriously one of the best multiplayer experiences Ive had on my console though. There are many people participating in the beta that agree with me too.

Infact in games you hear people commenting on how there looking forward more to COD4 than Halo 3.
6 years ago
Well I'm looking forward to COD4 more than Halo3, but then I never got into the Halo Buzz.
6 years ago
This will be GOTY for me probably. It's made by the people that did COD2, which is still the best multiplayer game at the moment along with Gears. But i like many other people thought COD3 was absolute garbage and boring and unimaginative and did not capture the feel of WW2 anywhere near like what COD2 did.

This one from what i have heard feels alot more like COD2 and it is shaping up to be great.

I cant wait.
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Australian Release Date:
  7/11/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $109.95 AU
Year Made:

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