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Critical Reception: Activision's/Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a present-day take on the Call of Duty series that some critics regard as both "the best entry yet in the highly successful franchise," and
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, a present-day take on the Call of Duty series that some critics regard as both "the best entry yet in the highly successful franchise," and "one of the best war-based shooters ever." Already facing competition from well-received recent releases like Halo 3 and BioShock, this year's entry in developer Infinity Ward's Call of Duty franchise shoulders an even greater risk, thanks to its shift in setting from World War II to modern-day warfare. Though this significant change could have potentially put the series' quality in jeopardy, the end result earns an average score of 95 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Travis Moses at GamePro awards Call of Duty 4 with a score of 5 out of 5 in Fun Factor. "A prolific single-player campaign, full-featured multiplayer, and an intense photorealistic depiction of modern-day war, makes Call of Duty 4 the most solid first-person shooter I have ever played," he claims. "Yes, in my opinion, it's even better than Halo 3, Half-Life 2, and Bioshock. In fact, I'm declaring CoD4 as my choice for the one must-have game of 2007." "Taking Call of Duty out of the bastardized World War II videogame genre was a genius move on the part of developer Infinity Ward," praises Moses. "The game still retains the trademark Call of Duty style, however, and the two components combine to form a visceral and realistic experience that truly lives up to the high standard set by the original Call of Duty." Moses emphasizes that Call of Duty 4's single-player campaign length -- a facet that many speculated would be one of the title's problem areas -- should not be a concern. "Rumors had it pegged at five or six hours on the normal difficult, which is more or less accurate," he explains. "But what gets lost in all the noise is the fact that it is an intensely action-packed experience. I played through the game on the Hardened mode, which the developers feel is the most fulfilling setting, and it took me about eight hours." In Call of Duty 4's defense, Moses asks, "Would you rather play a mediocre game for twenty hours or play an amazing game for eight? I thought so." "And yet, as compelling as the single-player mode is, it's just the tip of the iceberg," Moses continues, citing the strength of Call of Duty 4's Arcade Mode and various unlockable cheats. "But my favorite mode in CoD4 has to be the multiplayer, which is so deep that it is practically a game in and of itself." "From the amazing graphics to the intense and compelling single-player campaign to the feature loaded and addictive multiplayer, this game has it all," concludes Moses. "The holiday season will be jammed pack with quality triple-A titles but this is one title I personally recommend you put at the top of your wishlist." GameZone's Steven Hopper feels that Call of Duty 4 is not just a great sequel, but one of the best of its kind. "To be sure, Call of Duty 4 can be considered the best entry yet in the highly-successful franchise," he assures in his 9.5 out of 10-rated review. "However, the game does so many great things and is executed so well that it could be considered one of the best war-based shooters ever." Hopper finds that Call of Duty 4 does a few things in particular exceptionally well. "Call of Duty 4’s level design is phenomenal," he writes. "You’ll go through several different areas, like an enemy cargo ship and a destroyed Middle-Eastern city, each with their own unique feel to them." Call of Duty 4's pacing is also noteworthy, according to Hopper's review. "The gameplay doesn’t stay at a high intensity level throughout, instead breaking up the combat a bit at points. That doesn’t mean that the situations won’t leave you white-knuckled, as these 'slower levels' have you doing anything from trying to take a town in the middle of the night to being a lone sniper in a field with 20 enemies sweeping for you," he explains. "The pacing in CoD 4 is fantastic, and there’s never a dull moment." Hopper also heaps praise upon Call of Duty 4's equal strength in both single-player and multiplayer, and describes its graphics and sound design as being up to the series' expected standard of quality. "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is one of those exceedingly rare games that manages to do everything right," he summarizes. "The graphics are fantastic, the gameplay is intense and well-paced, and the multiplayer elements are very deep. In a year filled with triple-A shooters, Call of Duty 4 actually manages to stay ahead of the pack." GameTap's Jason Allen feels similarly, and rates Call of Duty 4 at 9 out of 10. "If I ever had any doubt that Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4 would blow my mind, it's now as annihilated as the many enemy militia I met throughout this hardcore first-person shooter," he begins. "Experiencing five minutes of COD4 will immediately turn you into the most dedicated virtual soldier this country's ever seen." While Allen shares much of the same praise for Call of Duty 4 as other critics, he describes one particular situation that made gameplay especially intense. "The guns on the AC-130 gunship are some of my favorites," he says. "In one mission, you give air support to Soap's squad on the ground, and you're firing down 20mm, 40mm, and 105mm rounds (from the Vulcan, Bofors, and Howitzer cannons, respectively) at the bad guys." Allen continues: "What's so chilling about this simulation is that because you're so far up, it's hard to tell who the good and bad guys are. The game gives you some help by making all of the good guys flicker with a little light so that you know to avoid them. But I couldn't help but wonder how the real gunners accomplish this in real warfare. On one level you feel all powerful with such an amazing weapon, but on another, you're nervous because you don't want to hit your own guys." "It's moments like this that make COD4 great," Allen writes. "COD4 grips the imagination and finds a way to impact the player's emotions. And though we've seen a ton of games on similar subject matter, COD4 distinguishes itself with a washed-out gritty look and profound attention to detail." Thus far, no reviewer has scored Call of Duty 4 below 90 out of 100. There appears to be little question as to whether the title is a great experience in its own right, but critics also assert that as thematically different as it may be from its predecessors, Call of Duty 4 is a sequel worthy of the franchise.

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