The latest Call of Duty title makes a break from the slightly tired procession of WWII games they were churning out and breaks tracks in a bold new direction, in this the fourth game in the series, based on contemporary battles in the ongoing War on Terror.
PC Authority recently played two levels from the Xbox 360 single-player game, where you fight as either the British SAS (Special Air Service), or the US Force Recon group, who respectively operate covertly or overtly, against fictional terrorist personalities. Mr “Zakiev” and “Al-Assad”, are creating havoc in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, hence the story thread takes you through various battles in each locale.
In the first mission we played, your character is part of an intense SAS raid on a container ship, which is riddled with terrorists. As usual, you’re given a verbal briefing as you travel into the battle location, in dim red lights on board a helicopter, the officer shouting to compete with the background noise. Fast-roping down to the slippery decks, the squad moves silently and efficiently to clear nearby rooms. The graphics look really polished and exhibit excellent textures, sound, normal-mapping, character animation, and advanced lighting effects. The game levels we saw were extremely visceral and atmospheric due to the excellent production values and presentation aspects in every dimension. Smoke, mist and fog all looked spectacular.
Set on a stormy, moonless night, the boiling seas and bucking decks add to the intensity of the close-range battles with the ship’s crew, who are rather well organised, except for some. In one scene, you burst into a room where enemies are sleeping in bunks. It’s possible to simply shoot them, which we did as an experiment, but we imagined that it’d be more humane to simply disarm and restrain them. (Still, at the end of the scenario the entire ship explodes, so taking the time to carefully tie people up is a little bit pointless in this case.) It’s a grim view into so-called “black ops” and probably an exaggerated depiction of completely merciless Special Forces soldiers. Player mobility is improved, you can crouch, go prone, and now “sprint” for a limited time by clicking in the left analogue stick.
Moving across the heaving decks, under blinding flourescent lights, a number of gunmen open up with AK-47 rifles from the bridge. As the squad of SAS troopers moves between stacks of shipping containers for cover, bullets zinging off the steel walls and drumming on the deck, intermittent waves crash over the railing. These momentarily blind you in a burst of wash and spray. Soon, the team has moved through the bridge, shooting with extreme prejudice, and starts surgically exterminating enemies on their way down to the engine room.
Starting with a silenced MP5 submachine gun and USP pistol, you can pick up enemy AK-47 rifles and RPK machine guns, as well as the Mini-Uzi, with its (realistic) outrageous rate of fire. That weapon is perfect for close quarter fighting in the game, delivering a hellish “bullet-hose” effect into doorways or close enemy positions.
Having shot and blasted our way through the ship’s doors and corridors, a bomb goes off, causing the ship to start sinking, and the squad discovers that another bomb is rigged to explode. Following this, it’s an exciting running race through flaming gantries and corridors, with gravity canting over to an alarming sideways perspective, to escape to the upper deck, now at a forty-five degree angle, make a run to the “top” and make a desperate leap off the railing onto a hovering Chinook helicopter. As we plunged to our death the first time, a cheeky message on screen says “Nobody makes their first jump”. We weren’t too discouraged though, as the checkpoint only puts you back about 100 metres from that spot. Next: Urban operations mission