Hurricane force winds and heavy rain beats down on your helicopter as it circles around a cargo ship. Your commander calmly puffs on a cigar as you survey the deck of the ship, which is crawling with a crew that is transporting a frightening nuclear device. The helicopter hovers over the deck as you and your squad put on you masks and slide down a rope onto the slippery deck below. Your mission begins.
As you and your squad navigate the claustrophobic corridors of the cargo ship you're taking out both sleeping and drunken crew, and some that are armed and ready for battle. Eventually, you reach the belly of the ship and come across a nuclear weapon in a cargo container. As soon as you grab the manifest clipboard from the container, a pair of MiG fighter jets attacks the ship, and it begins to sink. What follows is a desperate sprint back up to the deck as the ship is overturning onto its side. You have to watch your footing as the ship is breaking apart and rolling over right before your very eyes. As you reach the deck, your helicopter out is already leaving as you make a desperate leap from the deck to the open ramp on the helicopter...
So begins the latest chapter in Infinity Ward's supremely popular shooter franchise, Call of Duty. Call of Duty 4 takes the series out from its World War II roots and places it in modern day. But make no mistake; this is a Call of Duty game, through and through. The all-angles intense action, fast gameplay, co-operative AI fighting alongside you, and as-close-to-war as you'd ever want to get atmosphere is all present and accounted for in this installment.
The ship sinking sequence in particular highlights many of the things that Infinity Ward has gotten right with this game. The physics engine shines through as many items like boxes and weapons slide around the ship, pipes explode with steam pressure, and the catwalks break apart realistically. Infinity Ward has built a brand new physics engine from the ground up, and COD4 is one of the few titles that doesn't depend upon the Havok engine for its physics. It seems to have been a good decision.
Vince Fennel, 25, the product coordinator for Activision and Call of Duty 4 talked up the physics engine, and pointed out a few things that weren't apparent in the demo. In the final game, you'll be able to shoot enemies through walls, depending on what weapon and what range away from the target you are. It's another impressive example of the superb physics engine at work.
This time around, instead of M1 Garands and Springfield Sniper Rifles you're loaded with lots of real world weaponry like the MP5 submachine gun, flashbang grenades, AK-47s, and Uzis to name a few.
Controls are solid, and you'll be right at home if you've played any other Call of Duty title or nearly any other console first person shooter. Hey, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. The controls are polished, and are extremely functional.
I also quite enjoyed the many in-game references to James Cameron's Sci-Fi classic, Aliens. The film was directly quoted in the first level at least three times, including a solider that pulls out a shotgun that he always keeps nearby "for close encounters." The references add a bit of subtle humor to a game that otherwise maintains very serious and business like atmosphere.
The graphics in the demo were nothing short of orgasmic. The demo begins with some outstanding weather effects, as the harsh rain contrasts heavily with the thundering waves of the ocean that is rocking the ocean liner back and forth. Thunder crashes and the clouds move realistically. Rain beats down on the deck, and bounces off your enemies and squad mates with astonishing detail. The lighting effects are also out in full force, as is evidenced by the great lighting effects on your squad leader's face as he puffs on his cigar which lights up his face convincingly. This could very well be the best looking PS3 game to date.
Thank the gods (or the folks at Sony), for setting up the demo booth with a powerful 5.1 surround system, because this game is a bombastic acoustic assault on the senses. I hope you've got a good subwoofer, because this game will give it one hell of a workout. From the low creaking of the ship, to the wisecracks from your squad mates, to the sounds of your powerful weaponry, everything in the games sounds phenomenal. The 5.1 effects are out in full force, and surround you with frightening accuracy.
Fennel also informed us of a multiplayer "perks" system. The perk system allows you to customize your online avatar in unique ways. Similar to the upgrade system in BioShock, but more limited, you can now improve things like accuracy, bullet penetration, speed, and the like. Fennel assured us that all the different skills are balanced, and each player will have to choose wisely, as there are only three equippable upgrades at a time.
Call of Duty 4 roars into battle on November 5th for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and Nintendo DS.