I used to be an armchair general. From my fireside, I moved vast armies across continents and crushed my enemies with strategic genius and ruthless aggression. Now I’m an armchair operative … hell, I’ve moved up in the world! I can now cut a swathe through enemies with tactical genius and near surgical precision.
Samuel Johnson once remarked: “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier.” The truth is all boys dream of being warriors and having firepower – some never grow out of it – but thankfully, many of us will never experience the real thing.
With Call of Duty 4, from Infinity Ward and available on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows, you can get as close to the real thing as imaginable and in the worst hellholes imaginable and still tuck yourself soundly back in your bed at night with a cup of Horlicks at your bedside (if you like that kind of thing).
I’m a faithful follower of the Call of Duty franchise, mostly on the PlayStation 2 format, and have fought from the deserts of North Africa to the streets of Stalingrad and the beaches of Normandy – and still had time to boil the kettle. The franchise has given me infinite enjoyment, satisfaction and heart-pounding fear.
The latest installment in the franchise, Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, which I played on the Xbox 360 platform, leaves World War II firmly in the history books and drags you kicking and screaming by foot, helicopter and tank into the confusing battlefield of the 21st century.
You can take on the personas of a number of characters, but mostly an SAS operative called ‘Soap’ McTavish and Sergeant Paul Jackson, a US Marine.
The geo-political battlefields range from the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation where you take on breakaway Russian ultra-nationalists attempting to launch stolen nuclear missiles against the US, to a civil war scenario in the Middle East where terrorists known as Al-Asad are working in collaboration with the Russian dissidents to unleash full-scale nuclear terror.
From SAS training in Hertfordshire, where you rehearse the eventual storming of a ship in the Bering Sea, the cinematic graphics become immediately apparent thanks to the extensive use of motion capture animation which gives the protagonists true-to-life characteristics.
“What’s the DVD?,” was the question my partner asked when she entered the room as tracer fire rent the sky and I prepared to snipe a machine-gunner through a wall with a high-powered rifle.
The action is truly breath-taking and because there is so much going on around you, expect to have heart palpitations as you will yourself into a state of calm and avoid getting shot to pieces. Watch out for rabid dogs that want to rip your throat out and be sure to dispatch them quickly and efficiently.
The physics engine is truly extraordinary as you watch objects ranging from windows, cars and wooden fences virtually smash and disintegrate amidst a hail of fire.
Compared with other games in the Call of Duty franchise, another bonus with the latest version is the sheer arsenal at your disposal. Instead of the standard rifle or machine gun offering in the first three games in the series, Call of Duty 4 offers over 75 weapons, ranging from assault rifles like the M16 or AK-47 with grenade launchers to Javelin surface-to-air missiles.
Other cool features include night-vision goggles and Claymore anti-personnel mines which you can deploy as booby traps to slow down enemies. You can even attack ground targets from an AC-130 Spectre gunship 6,000 feet in the sky with an arsenal of weapons from howitzers to Gatling guns.
The interesting thing about Call of Duty 4 is it endeavours to prove that despite the technological sophistication of modern weapons, when it comes to fighting, the reality of warfare is that it is as bloody, intense and up close and personal as the trenches in the First World War.
The game is a must-have for thrill junkies and arm-chair operatives everywhere. My one criticism, however, is that despite its intensity and richness, it is actually quite short with three main acts and an epilogue. You finish still wanting to continue the fight.
The good news is the Infinity Ward team has put a lot of effort into additional online and offline game modes, ranging from team deathmatches, search and destroy missions and tactical team missions.
I have to admit I was initially concerned when I heard the Call of Duty franchise was to depart from its World War II comfort zone. I expected maybe a move to the Pacific Theatre or maybe to the Korean or Vietnam wars, but modern warfare in a world full of Tom Clancy Splinter Cell knock-offs?
Suffice to say, with Call of Duty 4 Infinity Ward has covered itself with glory and created something really special, a truly mesmerising experience of a game on its way to achieving legendary status.
Pros: Realistic, frightening firefight action; extraordinary cinematic graphics
Cons: Expect to suffer post-traumatic stress
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
By John Kennedy