By Eric T. Baker
A new entry in the Call of Duty series of games usually gets reviewed in WWII History, but this time Infinity Ward and Activison have changed the time period of their popular franchise. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is set in the present day, but it is still a “look down the barrel” first-person shooter that tries to get the details of the weapons, uniforms, vehicles, and setting right. Available on the PC, Xbox 360, and the PS3, CoD4 is basically two games: a single-player campaign, and a multiplayer Internet shoot fest.
In the single-player campaign, the story unfolds over a series of missions. In each mission the player takes the role of either an SAS commando (one modern day, one in a flashblack mission) or a 1st Force Recon Marine. In addition the player has missions where he will take on the “cameo” roles such as an airship gunner or a sniper. Most of the time the player will fight along side numerous computer-controlled allies. Unlike some games, the player doesn’t command these squad and platoon mates, but they do defer so that the player is always the focus of the story.
Whereas the player’s character’s load-outs and special abilities in the single-player campaign are based on the mission, in the multiplayer game, the player chooses from two base load-outs at the start, and then unlocks more as he plays matches and accumulates experience. Eventually players can build and save their own load-outs. There are multiple single and team game modes for play over the Internet. In either mode, players get an exciting feel for modern combat at the man to man level.
A look at modern combat from approximately a company level is provided by World in Conflict, by Massive Entertainment and from Sierra for the PC and the Xbox 360. This is an alternate history game set in a 1989 where the Soviet Union did not fall. Instead, the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies invaded Western Europe through the Fulda Gap. U.S. and NATO forces manage to halt the Soviet advance in France, but the Soviets then launch surprise invasions of Seattle and a smaller one of New York. The single-player game puts the player on the ground for all these battles and more.
In the game, the player commands individual vehicles and infantry squads in the manner of a real-time strategy game. There is no resource gathering or building. The player gets points to buy reinforcements automatically. The player moves his viewpoint around the map, clicking on and issuing orders to his units or groups of his units. In the single-player game, the computer controls both the allied and enemy units. In the multiplayer game, up to 16 players, acting in teams, can each control units in matches against each other.
WiC is more fast paced that CoD4 because there is so much more for the player to do. Each unit has at least one special ability, and while the computer has the units fight while carrying out the player’s orders, their special abilities have to be triggered manually by the player. This makes combat very hands on and very busy. All of the models are good, and the units behave in realistic ways. The terrain and scenarios are varied and interesting, and the difficulty can be set to the level of challenge the player wants.
The third product is not a stand- alone game, but rather an add-on to Microsoft’s Flight Simumlator X. Flight Deck 4 from Abacus Software for the PC continues the theme of modern warefare simulations. FD4 allows players to experience launching from the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in (for example) an F/A-18E Super Hornet in the Bay of Bengal. It also lets players experience the much more nerve-racking task of landing on the carrier’s deck. And, of course, it lets the players pilot the jets to their hearts content (or at least the limit of the plane’s fuel) in between take-off and landing.
Besides the Super Hornet, FD4 comes with six other planes with dozens of programmed flights for each. Besides the Bay of Bengal, the Ronald Reagan can be placed in three other settings, so there is a variety in what the flights show off. Because this is a FSX add-on, there is no actual combat, but FD4 does add in extra sounds and special effects to better model the sound and look of carrier operations. This is simply the closest players can come to flying off a modern carrier without leaving their PC.