Modern War was the pinnacle of the Call Of Duty series. It followed on from the previous highly successful but niche WWII games, opening the series up to a brand new audience.
This was in part, due to the bang upto date setting for the game in the Modern era. Gone was the Western and Eastern fronts, crushing Nazi blitzkreig and limited historically accurate weapons. Replaced with Russian Ultra-national terrorist cells, Middle East black ops and hi-tech equipment.
Using the Infinity Ward’s own developed Proprietary (IW 3) game engine, COD 4 employed advanced graphical features, while maintaining an average of 60 frames per second, which ran the action on screen pleasingly smooth, with little drag.
COD 4 covered all of its bases on the US & UK fronts too, sporting 21 missions involving US troops and SAS, set in different locations around the world. Missions in the Middle East, on board a ship in the Bering Straits, Azerbaijan and Pripyat in the Ukraine (the iconic ghost city in the shadow of Chernobyl).
The Pripyat mission especially – was fun, dressed in a ghillie suit and sneaking around the ruined city. The 2 mile Barrat 50 cal. sniper shot you had to take was also fun, especially as the shot curved away with the Earth’s gravity at the last minute, making it harder.
Most controversial at the time, was the AC-130H Spectre flying mission in which you strafed enemies on the ground as your team retreated, with night vision view.
This mission was a bit too realistic. – just like all of the real war footage which had become so common on the news at that time.
Of course what really made COD 4 tick, was not its one player mode but its online multiplayer.
And the solo mode really just served as a training warmup for COD 4 multiplayer, arguably the greatest online multiplayer – ever!
The multiplayer was first provided with the ability to assign themselves a character class, which came with a preset selection of weapons; always one large assault weapon and a handgun as backup. The classes were :
Assault, Special Ops, Light Machine Gunner, Demolitions, and Sniper class.
Multiplayer featured a number of different game modes including, solo games, team games and team games with objectives i.e. protect the base, disarm the bomb, they were called :
Cage Match, Domination, Free-for-All · Ground War, Headquarters, Mercenary Team Deathmatch, Old School, Sabotage, Search and Destroy, Team Deathmatch, Team Tactical and a “Hardcore mode” – in which all players health is decreased, the heads-up display is removed and friendly fire is enabled :
Search and Destroy (Hardcore), · Team Deathmatch (Hardcore), · Headquarters (Hardcore).
Another first in the COD series, was the arcadey introduction of different angle
killcam highlights – following your death, killstreak rewards, which included : 3 kills for a UAV recon scan (enemy positions appear on your map), 5 kills for an airstrike or 7 kills for a circling Helicopter Gunship. These were always handy to build up a few extra no risk to youself kills.
Following a multiplayer match, the user would gain a football league table style – Win, Loss, Draw profile and receive experience points (XP) which would build up over time and unlock higher ranks, better weapons and “perks”. The “perks” which were mods/tweaks for your character, included :
C4 Charge x2 · Claymore x2 · RPG-7 rockets x2 · Flash Bang Grenades x3 · Frag Grenades x3
Bandolier – Extra ammunition.
Bomb Squad- Bomb detection.
Stopping Power – Enhanced damage.
Juggernaut – Enhanced health.
Sleight of Hand – Faster reload
Double Tap – Enhanced fire rate.
Overkill – Two assault weapons instead of a handgun.
UAV Jammer – Hidden from enemy UAV.
Sonic Boom – Enhanced explosive damage.
Extreme Conditioning – Enhanced sprinting.
Steady Aim – Steady hip fire action.
Last Stand – Last gasp pistol attack when dying.
Martyrdom – Drop a grenade when killed.
Deep Impact – Even more enhanced damage.
Iron Lungs – Hold breath longer for steadier sniper shot
Dead Silence – Enhanced stealth mode.
Eavesdrop – Pickup other teams conversations.
The user, following enough XP build up, would then have the option to “Prestige” up to the next level and begin to build up there XP again. This would involve re-unlocking all of the same ranks, guns and perks again. There was no real point to this, other than a prestige badge gained, which looked cooler on the league table.
“Prestiging” up could happen upto 10 times, which would have been alot of online gameplay. At the time, I can remember the world no.1 on the world leader board, had 60 days straight of gametime hours!
COD 4 had just the right edge in terms of its maps, which were just the right mixture of short, medium & long range locations – each with their own advantages and disadvantages depending on whether you chose short or long range weapons.
That said, some people got too good running around shooting people with a sniper rifle from the hip, as it hadD excellent stopping power but you had to be one-shot accurate.
But for the rest of us, who didn’t have the time to play the game 24 hours a day – it was better to improve your chances, by creating some long, medium and close range classes – and picking the right guns and perks to suit.
For instance, it was no good picking a close in weapon like a shotgun for a large open area – like “bog”. Similarly, it was no good picking a cumbersome M249 Saw machine rifle for a close in level like “killhouse” or “container”.
In terms of the perks, ‘juggernaut’ and ‘stopping power’ or ‘deep impact’ were pretty good along with shot guns, or desert eagle for close encounters. ‘Iron Lungs’ and ‘Dead Silence’ along with a silenced sniper rifle were good for long encounters. So you had to rotate your classes to give yourself maximum advantage.
Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games all of the time. COD 4 did – at times, suffer from a horrendous lag, especially here in the UK when playing against our American cousins. Sometimes you would be dead before you even seen your foe coming. And only following the killcam highlight would you see an enemy skipping towards you in a bizarre “half invisible” look.
This was helped in part by ensuring that you joined local UK games and the option for this could be toggled in the multiplayer setup.
Also, the glitches in this game became some of the most well known. On some levels, you could literally climb up on top of the map and run across the sky, such as ‘Crossfire’. Or jump right out of the gamezone altogether. They weren’t too annoying, more mild curiosities. It was the sequel MW2 were the glitches were so numerous and advantageous to the player – that they ruined the game.
In summary, I have never felt that same buzz of excitement, playing any of the later COD games, that I got with COD 4. Modern War 2 & 3 were big unbelievable boombastic attempts to better it, but they failed.
Black Op’s games were interesting garnishes to the series, because of the time they were set in but themselves, never really set the gaming world on fire.
Some of this might be that, as each game has gone on, they have kept pretty much a very similar game engine (bar a few tweaks), similar controls and missions. So some of the wow sheen has worn off. But I have another theory.
COD 4 is fondly remembered partly because it was the first Modern shooter in the series and partly because it tipped the balance so finely between arcade and realism.
Something the later games went overboard with, was the arcade-yness. Hordes of regenerating enemies, over the top missions (Russia invade America in MW2?) and don’t get me started on Black Ops II – (the futuristic one) which meant the series finally turned into Ghost Recon. All in all, COD 4 kept the arcade-yness at just the right level to make it fun but not spoil or detract from it. (MW2’s unlimited regenerating enemies and awful visually incapitating blood splatter across the screen, upon being shot are examples).
This does show that whilst Infinity Ward/Treyach & Sledgehammer games cooked up the same COD 4 ingredients for future games; they all missed the mark with the other angle that made COD 4 the classic that it is – believability.
Small scale wars in the Middle East and black op’s in Russia – felt like a nice fit for the modern world. Not this invading America or London nonsense, from the sequels!
Back to COD4, I always come back to it and I can’t be the only one, as millions still frequent the COD 4 online mode. That many people can’t be wrong!
COD4 can be picked up for a few quid in any second hand collection – in a games shop.