I’m really torn here. On one level, I’m desperate to share the best bits with you and give you concrete examples of what I’m talking about, but on another I’d hate to spoil a single, bloody great big moment. Suffice to say, there are bits here where the tension is almost unbearable, bits where the odds seem ridiculously overwhelming, and bits where you’ll be so gobsmacked by what’s going on in the background that you might actually forget who you’re meant to be shooting at. It’s the big gung-ho, all-action war movie of your dreams, except you’re playing it instead of watching it. If CoD2 set the standard for epic FPS spectacle circa 2005, CoD4 does the same for the class of 2007.
Thanks to a new dynamic lighting engine complete with beautiful HDR effects and some brilliant use of depth of field, it’s a serious contender for the title of most gorgeous FPS on the current console formats (in a different sort of way to Bioshock, of course). The audio, meanwhile, is just magnificent. CoD has always made excellent use of music, chatter and explosive effects to overwhelm the player, and CoD4 is the series at its zenith. If you can play through this game without your pulse racing, then check it carefully – you’re probably dead.
Now, I hate to say it but the game’s not quite perfect. I’m not going to moan about the length of the single-player campaign. The game actually suggests a difficulty level for you after the first tutorial, and if you play it at the right setting then I really don’t think that you’ll sweep through it in the five or six hours some have claimed. Personally, I’d rather have eight to ten hours of ‘all killer, no filler’ than a game of great bits padded out with studied mediocrity. No. My one complaint is more to do with the way that a few of the big action set pieces seem needlessly prolonged. Say hello to an old friend of the modern FPS: those miserable sections you have to repeat over and over again until you finally get a lucky break.