Bioshock Review

Posted: June 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

Welcome to Rapture.....

Bioshock, designed by Ken Levine, was developed by Irrational Games and released on August 21, 2007. Bioshock is a linear first-person-shooter with some role-playing-game aspects mixed into the gameplay, which takes 15 to 20 hours to beat depending on skill level.  Bioshock is more than just another FPS; it’s a symbol, a timeless monument to what the FPS section of the medium can accomplish as art. Bioshock is now on display at the Smithsonian Video Game Art exhibit, and with good reason. This is one for the history books. This is one for the ages. This is Bioshock.

The story is Bioshock’s biggest draw. The story of Bioshock is told through voice-acting and in-game atmosphere. There is only one cutscene in the game, and it comes at the very end.   Bioshock’s story borrows heavily from Ayn Rand’s philosophy, so if you are familiar with Rand’s work, you are guaranteed to get much more out of this game then those who are not familiar with her writing.

You play as a mostly-silent protagonist named Jack. The opening scene shows that Jack is a passenger on a plane flying over The Atlantic in the year 1960. The plane crashes and Jack swims free of the wreckage and stumbles upon a lighthouse in the middle of the ocean. Within the first 20 seconds of the game, small questions immediately crop up. Who is Jack? Why did the plane crash? Why is there a lighthouse in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?  Jack seeks refuge in the lighthouse and soon takes a bathysphere down under the ocean to the underwater city of Rapture. The story of Bioshock is not about Jack, but instead centers on Rapture’s creator- Andrew Ryan.

Ryan (Armin Shimerman) is the driving force in Bioshock’s tale. He is the main villain in Bioshock and is far above the generic line-spewing-villains that permeate this medium. His ambition, ideas, creativity, and passion are imbued in every inch of the world he created.  At times, Ryan is a sympathetic character (something that most video game villains rarely are).   Why he decided to build Rapture is a mystery that is almost immediately answered by a prerecorded speech given by Ryan while Jack is in the bathysphere (a small pod used to travel from one part of the city to another) for the first time.

“A city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small.”  –Andrew Ryan

As soon as Jack arrives in Rapture, it becomes clear that Ryan’s vision has gone horrible wrong. Most of the inhabitants of Rapture have gone insane due to genetic experimentation. Splicer’s, genetic freaks, travel franticly through Rapture searching for ADAM, the genetic modifier that the scientists of Rapture created.  ADAM, is an extremely powerful and unstable drug  that is one of the central reasons for Raptures’s fall. ADAM can be used to rewrite a human’s genetic code giving the humans modified a variety of powers.

Bioshock is centered largely on a moral choice. Little girls who were living in Rapture have been genetically modified to find and recover ADAM from corpses. Jack can use ADAM to give himself genetic powers (he needs these powers in order to survive in Rapture). The “little sisters” are the key masters, possessing what Jack needs to survive. The gate keepers, “big daddys,” are massively-modified humans, who have been repurposed to protect the Little Sisters. If you want to survive you will have to forcibly remove the ADAM from the Little Sisters.

This is where the key moral choice comes into play.

So I ask you, my friend. If your life was priced, would you kill the innocent? Would you sacrifice your humanity? We all make choices, but in the end our choices make…. us.”       Andrew Ryan

Once you kill a big daddy, you are presented with a choice. If you choose to free a little sister from her genetic modifications then she will be free and back to normal, but if you do then you will only get a little ADAM. If you decided to drain her of her ADAM then she will die, but you will receive a lot of ADAM. It’s a fantastic moral choice, but it is slightly bungled by the gameplay portion of Bioshock.  There are three different endings to Bioshock depending on how you interact with the Little Sisters.

Armin Shimerman deserved an Oscar......

A large part of Bioshock’s success was riding on Shimerman’s performance and he did not disappoint. Shimerman gives the performance of his career and if Oscars were given out for voice acting performances, then Shimerman would certainly have gotten one. The presence that Shimerman imbues in Ryan is comparable only to the presence that Orson Welles gave to Charles Foster Kane in the 1941 classic, Citizen Kane. Ryan’s presence is felt at all times in the utopian City that he created. The world of Rapture is a huge force in conveying the philosophy and ideas behind Bioshock. Look closely at each section of the game. Every meticulously crafted environment works to tell the tale of Rapture’s rise and fall. By the time Jack arrives, Rapture has fallen, but the environments will show Raptures former glory as well as its present misery.  The story is a mystery that’s slowly revealed as the narrative reaches its conclusion.  Because this game is a mystery I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot for risk of spoiling the game for you.

The characters and voice acting is fantastic. Shimerman is a standout, but every cast member turns in legendary performances: Anne Bobby as Dr. Brigit Tenenbaum, Greg Baldwin, as Atlas, Stephen Stanton as Sander Cohen, Peter Francis James as J. S Steinman, James Yaegashi as Dr. Yi Suchong.  All of these characters are fully dimensional and expertly crafted. It’s surprising how memorable and dynamic the characters are considering the extremely limited screen time each one is given. The characters and story are also developed through fascinating and sometimes extremely disturbing audio logs scattered throughout the levels as well as radio communication between characters.  The story aspect of Bioshock stands as tall and proud as the Statue of Andrew Ryan that you will find in the lighthouse. It’s almost without flaw and will certainly be talked about for years to come.

The technical design in Bioshock is also fantastic.  Irrational Games designed Bioshock using the Unreal Engine 3. Rapture’s technical and artistic design are almost flawless.  The game designers crafted one of the most incredible and memorable game worlds ever made.  You will be seeing a lot of water (which is expected in a game that takes place in an underwater city) which is still some of the best water in all of video games. The details are amazing. If you decide to drink a bottle of whiskey that you found on a table, prepare to have blurred vision while drunk. The soundtrack is also incredible and memorable. It’s a mix of classics like Bobby Darin’s “Beyond The Sea” and original compositions. The one minor flaw in the technical design is that by today’s standards some of the facial animation’s can be choppy, but that’s really not a fair criticism.

The enemy artificial intelligence consists of five types of mentally imbalanced splicers. All five splicers have different attack patterns and are pretty competent.   They were once scientists and artists willing to live in Rapture, now they are crazed ADAM-craving addicts.  They will say things in frantic panicked tones, most of which has no bearing on the current state of Rapture, but are rather clues to the lives they once had. They are sympathetic enemies.  A large focus of Bioshock is on the father daughter relationship between the big daddys and the little sisters. They both seem to genuinely care about each other. The cries of sadness and horror the little sisters emit when you kill their big daddys will probably make you feel like a monster even if you decide to free them. The big daddys will leave you alone if you leave them and their sister alone. This might make you reluctant to fight them.  It can be pretty upsetting to see a Big Daddy run past you searching desperately for his Little Sister, that you just moments ago decided to harvest.  There are some great boss battles too, but I won’t go into detail because they are story related.

The gameplay section of Bioshock is great, but not quite up to par with the other magnificent aspects of Bioshock. The guns in Bioshock are limited and mostly underpowered. As the game progresses the enemies get tougher, which makes the guns seem to get weaker as the game progresses. Jack can use a wrench, a pistol, a machine gun, a shotgun and a few more interesting guns.  All of the firearms have different ammo types and can be upgraded and modified by buying upgrades from vending machines with money obtained from corpses.

Jack also obtains a camera in Rapture. This camera can be used to take pictures of the AI which can be used to reveal information and weaknesses about Rapture’s residents.  The weapons aren’t outstanding, but they work for the most part. Plasmids are basic genetic modifier tools that can be used to give Jack special powers. You need EVE, a liquid variant of ADAM, to use Plasmids. This is where the gameplay truly shines.  Long use or long exposure to Plasmids caused Raptures inhabitants to lose their minds and their physical well being.  Jack can use plasmids to create a cyclone, shoot electricity, and many other things. The way the Plasmids are used is similar to something you might find in a role playing game. The game allows Jack to activate only a few plasmids, so you have to choose carefully which plasmids you want to have directly available.  There are also tonics for Jack to use which allow him to take more physical damage among other things. How you choose to use and experiment with the Plasmids and Tonics is up to you.

Jack also has the ability to hack the vending machines, automated turrets, and annoying flying sentries with a pipe dream mini game. Hacking is fun if you like pipe dream, but if you don’t like the repetitive mini game, then you can choose to avoid this mechanic altogether. It’s satisfying to turn hostile turrets and the flying sentries against the splicers.

A rather irksome flaw with the gameplay is how the moral choice is handled. If you save the Little Sisters, a prominent character will reward you with a large quantity of EVE, so that you end up with same amount you would have had if you decide to kill them. This negates any sort of real moral drama and is rather disappointing. Another problem is there is no death penalty in Bioshock. If you die you revive in one of Raptures vita chambers with full health and all your equipment.  This makes just running headfirst into enemies guns blazing a viable option, because when you respawn the damage you inflicted with your previous life carries over. You can play Bioshock really sloppily and still win.  There’s also an arrow on the screen almost for the entire game telling the player where to go. This discourages any independent exploration which is necessary to find most of the Audio logs.

Despite a few gameplay flaws, Bioshock is an amazing game that no one should miss out on.

9.4 out of 10

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Dead Space Review

Posted: May 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
Dead Space

Dr. Terrence Kyne "God works in mysterious ways."

Dead Space, developed by Visceral Games, was unleashed on the world on October 14, 2008. It can be beaten in about 15 to 20 hours, depending on player skill level.  Dead Space is perhaps the last great survival horror game. It’s certainly the defining survival horror game of this generation, much in the same way that Resident Evil 4 was the definitive survival horror game of the previous generation. Dead Space is very much a spirit successor to RE4, but it also takes inspiration from classic horror films like Alien. Dead Space also pays homage to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke , two classic ScFi writers, by naming their silent protagonist Isaac Clarke.

Almost immediately, Dead Space gives off a somewhat subtle save the environment message that’s fairly common in SciFi movies and games. Dead Space is set far in the future. Humans have consumed all the natural resources on Earth and now have to send ships into space to mine other planets for resources and bring them back to Earth. Enter Isaac Clarke, Hammond and Miss Daniels and a few no-name extras that are doomed to die horribly in the opening scenes. This small team, piloting the Kellion, are working for the Concordance Extraction Corporation (CEC).  The Kellion is sent to investigate the USG Ishimura, a planet cracker or mining ship which sent an SOS signal while mining Aegis 7, a mineral planet.  There’s just one tiny problem. The Ishimura isn’t responding to any of the Kellion’s transmissions .

It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.  This is a classic SciFi horror movie setup.  Isaac Clake is an engineer serving on the Kellion. His job is to assist Hammond and Daniels in getting the Ishimura up and running again, but he also has a personal reason for coming along on this mission. He’s searching for a woman named Nicole (after receiving a strange message from her; it’s implied that they are in a relationship and have a history together.)  Once Isaac and his team arrive on board the Ishimura, they are almost immediately attacked by hideous monsters.  The monsters, or Necromorphs, come in many different breeds, some of which are human alien hybrids.

The game’s early sense of dread and impending doom is quickly replaced by all-out horror.

Overall, despite a predictable setup and the fact that Visceral throws almost every single horror movie cliché at the player, the story manages to be quite good due to the in game HUD setup and the creepy, atmospheric levels. Horrible monsters, crazy scientists, religious zealots, a disturbing new religion, an ancient artifact, etc…. You get the idea.

Another thing that helps make the story rather memorable is a twist that is revealed at the end of the game. I don’t want to give anything away, but after the twist is revealed, you will see that Visceral was parading it right in front of you the whole time.  The characters are good, but nothing exceptional or particularly memorable. Isaac has a chance to be an interesting character in future games, but that’s about it. Nothing stands out with the voice acting either. Everyone involved does a solid job with the material they’re given.

The visuals in Dead space are absolutely beautiful and detailed. (The levels are designed so that Isaac has a good deal of backtracking to do throughout the game, so it’s good that each dimly light corridor looks as good as they do.)  Dead Space has a bone-chilling atmosphere. You get to see messages written on the walls of the Ishimura from people who had lost their minds, some written in blood. You will also find text logs that will serve to explain what happened to the Ishimura.  A strong sense of isolation, mutilated dead bodies, dismembered limbs, disgusting alien tissue growing on some walls of the ship, space itself, and horrible monsters make the bloody visual presentation of Dead Space unforgettable.

The audio is even better.  The disturbing audio and video logs that have been left from the Ishimura’s crew do their part to make the game that much more disturbing. The sounds of the Ishimura’s hull creaking, the little drops of water you might hear above you from a little pipe that sprung a leak, the sound of the Necromorphs using the ship’s ventilation system to scurry around the ship, the individual sounds that each different type of Necromorph makes, sounds of crewmembers who have gone insane screaming in the darkness or laughing manically, and the sounds of Isaac’s engineering tools are expertly done. The most noteworthy thing Visceral did with the audio is noticeable when Isaac is floating through a zero gravity section of the ship. The sounds of Isaac breathing and screaming in pain are amplified, while all external sounds are muffled. It’s an incredible sound design choice that audio director Don Veca should certainly be commended for.

“As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark,—
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”

 

The gameplay is built around a system Visceral calls “strategic dismemberment.” Necromorphs aren’t killed by the typical headshot. (Oh no! That wouldn’t be graphic enough for visceral.) A disturbing message written in blood that you encounter early on explains what you need to do. “Cut off their limbs”  Ironically while some of the characters that accompany Isaac brought guns, their guns won’t be very useful against the Necromorphs. Isaac’s engineering tools are designed primarily for cutting. You can probably figure out the rest.

The Necromorphs come in a variety of grotesque forms. These are my two favorite types of Necromorphs.  The Lurker is an alien fused with a human infant. (Yes, it is as horrific as it sounds.)  The Lurker’s hunt in packs and they have three tentacles growing out of their backs. They shoot sharp projectiles out of their tentacles and can also use their tentacles as melee weapons.  They are small, agile, quick, and deadly. The Leaper is an alien/ human hybrid. They are one of the fastest Necromorphs Isaac will encounter. They have no lower torso, they just have a tail that they use to attack with.  They are dangerous because of their incredible leaping ability.  As a whole, the AI is varied, intelligent, wonderfully animated, and very dangerous.

Another thing that ensures that Dead Space is a true survival horror and not just another scary action game is that Isaac’s weapons are tools being used as weapons. There is the 211-V Plasma Cutter, SWS Motorized Pulse Rifle, RC-DS Remote Control Disc Ripper, PFM-100 Hydrogen Torch Flamethrower, M-822 Handheld Ore Line Gun, C99 Supercollider Contact Beam, and the Force Gun.  The Pulse Rifle is the only weapon in Isaac’s inventory that’s actually a gun. The true stand out tool, however, is The Ripper. It’s as brutle as it sounds. It’s literally a remote controlled buzz saw blade that can be used to dismember the Necromorphs.

Issac also has two more tools to assist him– his Kinesis and Stasis modules.  His Kinesis module can be used for moving objects out of Isaac’s path, to solve Dead Space’s few puzzles, or just to hurl objects at the Necromorphs if you run out of ammo.  The Stasis module is used to solve puzzles, slow down fast moving hazards so that Isaac can pass safely through them, and to bring fast moving Necromorphs to a crawl so Isaac can kill them easier. The Stasis module, unlike the Kenisis module needs to be recharged and needs to be used sparingly.

The most unique thing about Dead Space’s in game design is that every facet is designed to keep you immersed in the moment.  The game is played from a third person over the shoulder view. Isaac’s remote contact with Hammond and Daniels is handled in game through a TV screen that will appear directly in front of his face via his rig or suit. Being able to continue moving forward while in communication with your crew is a huge asset to Dead Space. Isaac’s health is prominently displayed by a blue line running down his back. His ammo for his current weapon is displayed right on the tool model itself.  These may seem like small things, but they are all invaluable assets in making Dead Space an incredibly immersive experience.

Because the Necromorphs were once human, some will be carrying credits, the in-game form of currency. This can be used to upgrade Isaac’s suit, weapons, and gear through automated stores and work benches scattered liberally throughout the game.  It will take multiple play-throughs to fully upgrade everything. (Trust me, it took me four playthroughs. )

Dead Space is a bloody and scary game. Because of all the in-game nuances, you will always feel vulnerable. You will find ammo and gear throughout the game, but never enough to feel safe. Necromorphs can and will attack you in places that would be safe spots in other games. You might see a save station on the wall and go up to save your game, only to be attacked from behind. Elevator rides and narrow corridors are also not safe. You never know when or where the enemy will attack and this uncertainty adds fear to an already scary game.

Now, there are a few flaws in the gameplay:

1) The camera has a tendency to lock in the zero gravity levels, and there is a ridiculous amount of backtracking.

2) During the game, you have the ability to illuminate a blue line on the ground of the ship, showing your character which way to go. This can mess you up as it sometimes leads you in the completely wrong direction.

3) Isaac stomps on boxes to get ammo and items. This feature can be very imprecise and lead to the occasional visual oddity.

4) All of your weapons and equipment carry over if you start the game again, but you are restricted to playing with the difficulty that you chose the first time.

5)  Slowdown sometimes occurs when things get frantic and some of the visuals can get a bit pixilated at times.  There are some loading times when you open a door. The game has to load the next room before the door opens. This isn’t always a problem, but when you are in a zero gravity room, running out of air, running out of ammo, and watching Necromorphs closing in on you– you will not appreciate that you are going to die because the game wasn’t finished loading the next room.

This game is the last great survival horror game to come out on consoles. If you are a horror movie fan or you just want to get scared out of your mind, do not miss out on this great game.

8.9 out of 10

Assassin’s Creed Review

Posted: May 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Nothing is true, everything is permitted..

Assassin’s Creed, released November 14, 2007, was developed by Ubisoft. It’s a 10 to 12 hour game depending on the player’s skill level. Assassin’s Creed is a great, but somewhat flawed, game that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.  The world of Assassin’s Creed is  the game’s biggest draw. The game takes place mostly in the Holy Land 12 centuries after the birth of Christ. As Altair, you will be able to explore Jerusalem, Damascus, Acre, and several other locations. Each city is, in and of itself, a work of art. They are beautiful and teaming with citizens going about their business.  The city drunks might attack you if you bother them, beggars will ask for money, city guards will harass civilians just because they can, and preachers will preach about God, religion, and the Third Crusade.

Each city is huge and you can fully explore each one. You can travel on horseback from one city to the next without visual hiccups. Graphically, everything is gorgeous, but there are a few instances of pop-in (texture movement) and some frame rate issues. One major disappointment about the world is that all bodies of water contain man-killing acid. If Altair puts just one little toenail into these bodies of doom—INSTANT DEATH! There is also no Day/Night cycles and no weather.

The animation is excellent.  During combat, the fluid animations are jaw dropping and while Altair is climbing the meticulously-crafted buildings, the animations are used to their fullest extent. Pay close attention to Altair’s hands and feet when he is climbing and you will notice that his hands and feet will almost always have a grip and a foothold. The sounds you hear are also incredible.  The sounds of the citizens and guards talking, the sounds of swords clashing, and the sounds of birds chirping are excellent.  There are however stock comments throughout the game that you will hear, mostly from the guards who will shout at you and the civilians constant cries for help might get on your nerves.  (“You dare disrespect me? That will cost you your life!”) One sound effect worth special mention is the sound Altair’s hidden blade makes when Altair assassinates someone. A bell goes off simultaneously when the blade makes contact with the victim. (Perhaps a “For Whom The Bell Tolls” reference.)  The voice acting and the soundtrack are both top notch, but ironically Philip Shahbaz (Altair), is the weak link in the cast.

Assassin’s Creed’s storytelling is a little uneven. Some parts are fantastic while other parts are just bad and the ending is a confusing cliffhanger. All in all, Assassin’s Creed manages to pull an exceptional tale.  Altair’s 12th century tale is a memory that is being forcibly extracted from a modern day bartender, Desmond Miles, by a team of Abstergo scientists.  Desmond experiences the past through his ancestor, Altair’s, memories. The Abstergo scientists are searching for a piece of Eden that Altair supposedly found sometime in his lifetime. It is never fully explained 1) what the pieces of Eden are, 2) why Abstergo wants them, and 3) who exactly Abstergo is. All Desmond knows is that the Piece of Eden is a powerful artifact.  In the world of Assassin’s Creed, Desmond’s DNA stores the memories of his ancestors. It’s an interesting idea, but the sections where you play as Desmond are terrible because Desmond and his captors are boring and uninteresting characters.  Altair, his story, and the characters that inhabit it, however, are much more fascinating.  Altair is a member of an Assassin group (the historical Hashshashin group that was fully operational at the time the game is set in). This fact adds a special wrinkle of depth to the world and story of Assassin’s Creed.

The story starts off with Altair, a high ranking member of the Assassin’s order, in Solomon’s Temple searching for a piece of Eden for his master, Al Mualim (the excellent Peter Renaday). Al Mualim is the head of the Assassin order.  While on his mission Altair breaks several of the order’s codes, including killing an innocent civilian. Altair confronts a crusader named Robert de Sable and is defeated and shamed by de Sable.  For his irresponsible actions, Al Mualim strips him of his weapons and his rank. In order to redeem himself, Mualim sends Altair on a journey across the Holy land to kill nine people. Who they are and why Mualim wants them dead is revealed as the story progresses.  Because of his callous actions Altair is unlikable at first, but as the narrative reaches its conclusion Altair has made a character arc. He’s not the same man he is at the beginning of the game.

Ubisoft feigns a cop out when it comes to the assassinations of these nine men. When Altair tracks a target down in whatever city they are living in, a cutscene will take place where Altair’s target will do something evil and brutal. This serves to temporarily negate moral conflict, but when the characters are on death’s door, their final words  will reveal that they weren’t evil and/or they thought what they were doing was the correct moral choice. These characters are interesting. Some are guided by their various religions, while others are motivated by their own moral compass or their greed. This moral uncertainty eats away at Altair as the narrative progresses. His conversations with Mualim about the morality of their actions are the best parts of the game.  Another interesting fact about the nine men that Altair is tasked with assassinating is that they’re all real people that disappeared at the time that this game takes place. Ubisoft’s tactful blending of fact with fiction serves to create an excellent tale that is only slightly hampered by Philip Shahbaz’s voice-acting, the sections with Desmond, and a confusing ending.

Assassin’s Creed’s gameplay also has its share of ups and downs. The story is very linear and controlled and is set in a beautiful open world. The world is gorgeous to look at, but there is very little interaction outside of the story elements. The gameplay is broken down into three pillars. There is stealth, combat, and platforming. The story forces you to fight more often than not, so if you were planning to play this game as a stealth game you will probably be disappointed. (The enemy artificial intelligence isn’t good enough for Assassin’s Creed to have been a stealth-only game anyway.) The combat is fantastic and Altair’s animations during combat are superb. Altair has a sword, throwing knives, a short knife, his fists, and a hidden blade. The hidden blade is unique, versatile and can be used in stealth and combat.  Ubisoft created unique animations for each weapon Altair uses in combat, so you probably won’t get tired of combat in Assassin’s Creed.

Combat never gets old.

Platforming (the climbing and jumping from roof-to-roof) is where Assassin’s Creed truly shines. It’s smooth, fun, and never gets old.  In order to track down each target in the story, Altair must rely on three (and only three) things to get the job done. Altair can pickpocket, sit on a bench (to eavesdrop), and beat up targets. He does these three things in order to gain information about his main target. These three methods of acquiring information can get boring quickly considering that you must do these things over and over again in order to get to the main target. Also, beating people up with fists is just embarrassing in Assassin’s Creed. Ubisoft designed Altair to only be able to punch with his right hand. It looks as awkward as it sounds. Having this awful gameplay mechanic was a huge misstep by Ubisoft.

Outside of story missions the only three things you can do are climb to the top of tall buildings to develop your map of the world, collect flags, and rescue civilians from obnoxious city guards. When you rescue citizens, they will form into a group and do their best to assist you the next time you have a run in with the enemy AI. The gameplay in Assassin’s Creed is fun, but severely lacking in variety.

Assassin’s Creed is an immersive, fascinating game that no gamer should miss out on despite it’s many flaws.

8.4 out 10

Call of Duty 4 was released on November 5, 2007 and was developed by Infinity Ward.  It’s now May 19, 2011.

Why am I reviewing the single player portion of the game now? Well I’m bored, so let’s get cracking!

The single player journey is intense and packs in a ton of unexpected stuff in what is ultimately a shockingly short game. It can be wrapped up in about 5 hours. In this case, however, it’s quality over quantity. The quality of the single player experience will make you forgive how short the story is.

terrorists

The game was made when 9/11 was still hot in everyone’s minds. Infinity Ward took a risk and made this Call of Duty game in modern times, hence the name Modern Warfare. They also decided to stop making World War 2 games because people were just sick of them (Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, Medal of Honor: Spearhead, Battlefield 1942, etc.) These things made Infinity Ward decide to make the events in  Cod 4 take place mostly in the Middle East (while certain events take place in Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine).

If you have ever played a Call of Duty game before, then you’re probably familiar with how the story will be told. The story is told in linear, polished story missions. You take control of six different characters, mostly playing as a US Marine, John “Soap” MacTavish, and a British SAS operative, John Price. Rather than two  separate stories, the narrative is one continuous story that’s pushed forward by two different characters in two different places with two different perspectives. In 2011, a Russian ultranationalist named Imran Zakhaev is attempting to get Mother Russia to return to her Soviet ways. In order to do this, he organizes an uprising in the Middle East with the help of Khaled Al Asad, a military commander in the Middle East. MacTavish and Price work to stop the terrorists from using nuclear weapons on America.

You get the idea.

There is no stopping to smell the roses here. The game looks especially good because you are forced to play at such a frantic pace. The graphics don’t quite hold up to close scrutiny, but Cod 4 still looks great in motion.  The use of light and shadow combine to make a great presentation.

Another thing that adds to Cod 4’s presentation is the use of a real location as the basis for a mission in the game.

The city of Prypiat, built in 1970 with a population of about 50,000 people, was abandoned in 1986 after the Chernobyl disaster. Using this creepy setting for a mission deeply enriched the atmosphere of Cod 4.

There are no real twists or turns in the story, but rather the special moments are just plain shocking.  For instance, one moment in Cod 4 has now become a legendary scene in gaming history.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The “nuke scene” is not really a twist in the context of the story, but it’s downright shocking to witnessing the devastation of a nuclear weapon. Throughout the game, there are many moments that leave you spellbound.

Infinity Ward uses their standard shell-shocked, slow motion gameplay that they’ve used in previous Cod games to trigger and highlight these impressive moments. The gameplay is really just a refinement and perfection of the original Cod gameplay.   While it is a linear “go-from-point-A-to-point-B-game,” Infinity Ward does a good job dressing up the linearity with expert level design and, on occasion, infinitely respawning artificial intelligence that force you forward. Tricks like that will keep you from really noticing or being annoyed by the linearity of this game.  The AI, while pretty weak by today’s standards was dynamic and intelligent back in 2007.

The friendly and enemy AI were a significant step forward from what AI had been in previous first person shooters like Rainbow Six Vegas. The friendly squad AI will think efficiently and act and flank enemies on their own. The friendly fire in this game is effective, and I accidentally killed a few of my team in the fray of combat during the course of the campaign.  The mission you are currently playing will restart if you go crazy and start gunning down your own team like a madman. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish friend from foe, but war is chaos so it isn’t much of an issue.  Infinity Ward also threw attack dogs into the game that make one sneaking mission particularly terrifying.

The attack dogs are some of the most vicious enemy AIs that you will ever encounter. They attack in packs and they don’t fear death like their human  counterparts.  If you can’t shoot them before they lunge at you, they will knock you to ground and attempt to rip your throat out. You have about two seconds to break the dog’s neck before it manages to kill you.  Needless to say, dogs make things scary and frantic. It won’t be long before your hairs stand up on end when you hear the sound of dogs barking.

Cod 4 also attempts to make bullet physics work fairly realistically. Bullets will go through some walls realistically, and in a long distance sniping mission, the player must take into account the wind direction and strength when making a shot.  The attention to detail shown in the gun models and the sound design are both still pretty impressive even by today’s standards.  You will quite easily be able to identify weapons by their sounds alone.  Although the soundtrack is nothing special and none of the characters ever become anything more than two dimensional.

The single player portion of Cod 4 was short, but at the same time, the frantic gameplay makes it a lot fun. It’s still the most intense FPS I’ve played to date, and is the best CoD ever.

9.2 out of 10