I dare say that Call of Duty 4’s singleplayer campaign is better than Halo 3’s.
The mainstream masses claw and howl at my doorstep as I say that, but it’s true. I don’t think there is a game that is more seat-of-your-pants intense than CoD4. Halo 3 is awesome by all means, for sure, but even hardcore Master Chief fanboys have to admit that all the backtracking sucks. And for all the cool gunplay in Halo 3, none of it truly feels like war. Not like all those Halo “Believe” ads will have you…well, believe. In the end, you’re still a one-man army (or four-man, if you’re going in with some buddies for co-op), and your AI teammates tend to do ridiculously retarded things, leaving you to fend for yourself as the Flood feast upon your less intellectually inclined friends.
Not in CoD4. Here, it truly feels like war, with your dudes swarming all over the place, breaching and clearing and taking out the bad guys without a second thought. Your soldiers actually feel like real, thinking, breathing human beings instead of strings of really smart code. Never do you have to command your teammates in CoD4, because they can take pretty good care of themselves—and pretty good care of you, too. Often they’ll take out enemies that you can’t even see, and they’ll certainly save your ass more than once by the time the campaign is over.
It’s refreshing to finally have a game where you don’t have to babysit the A.I.—in fact, it tends to babysit you more often than not. Once in a while this can create minor frustrations, such as when you’re going for that “three knife kills in a row” achievement and your friendlies keep taking out the enemy before you can even get close enough for a melee, but overall, this is a good thing, because, really, once you get that silly little achievement, you’ll want smart dudes guarding your six, not morons that prefer staring at walls instead of aiming at heads.
The campaign itself is a rollercoaster of pure awesome—developer Infinity Ward smartly cut out any and all dead time/backtracking/garbage you might have to go through in other games, and they ultimately boiled down the singleplayer into an exciting, hardcore, cinematic experience that I believe no other FPSes offer save for other entries in the CoD series. “Holy sh—!” moments come fast and often, and you never know what lies around the next corner, keeping you on your toes at all times. Things might look clear one moment, but then the next you’ll find yourself in a morass of bullets, grenades, and RPGs (the enemy really seems to like using those), and you’ll be scrabbling for cover faster than you can say, “oh crap.”
Jets will fly overhead, helicopters will track you through the night, and dogs will tear after your ass while you furiously backpedal and try to take them down before they rip out your throat. It’s an intense, breathtaking experience, and it’ll leave you hungering for more. And that’s not even counting the multiplayer aspect, which deserves a whole other blog in and of itself. It, too, is spellbinding.
This year has been a good one for FPS fans, with the holy trifecta of BioShock-Halo 3-Call of Duty 4 creating a holiday season unlike any other. Each game offers its own highlights, and each one is excellent in its own way. But if there’s one game that’ll keep your eyes open and your heart pounding in sheer, raw excitement and awe, it’ll be Call of Duty 4. It’s short, but it’s sweet, and I’ll take a quick rollercoaster ride over a long, boring drive any day.
The Call has been sent. Now it’s up to you to answer it.