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Instant death

Despite coming out last November, it has taken me this long to plug Call of Duty 4 in and get online to experience the game that is keeping Halo 3 off of the top spot of Xbox Live’s Most Played chart.

I was too engrossed in being a Spartan to switch to this more grounded combat but having seen my office-mate Errrm constantly play CoD at lunchtime, I thought now was the time.

And not a giant alien in sight.

At first I hated it. As is always the way when you switch from nice comfortable surroundings to somewhere a bit foreign, everything is out of place and just wrong: sound effects seemed as though they had no origin; you died every twenty seconds; maps were disorientating; and all the weapons seemed unresponsive.

The problem was obviously that I was bringing my adventurous Halo style of play into a game that required a bit more thinking before throwing yourself into harm’s way. Two bullets could easily send you to the respawn screen and once I had accepted that, things started to get better.

A good marksman will be able to pick you off very quickly in the open so camouflage and cover are key. You’ll never find a fire fight out in the open (or at least, one that lasts very long) and so it hearkens back to my Rainbow Six days of caution and constantly edging around looking down your sights.

Behind the main game you’ll also find and RPG. Not Rocket Propelled Grenade, as it could easily have been, but a Role Playing Game, because for every good thing you do, i.e. assists, kills, recon activation, you gain XP which will allow you to gain promotion through the ranks, unlocking guns and abilities as you go.

It feels slightly cheap that the better players will have the better guns when you first begin but, as with all XP games, even those less-than-average players will be able to grind their way to the top to gain some loot.

Some of the abilities just feel cheesy, like the ability to drop a live grenade just before you step into the light, but most allow you to balance of your stopping power with your own sturdiness.

Unfortunately, there are a couple too many “cheesy” ways to get kills; given a good enough kill streak players can actually call in attack helicopters and air strikes. It is certainly something to reward players but I can’t decide whether this is madness or genius on behalf of the designers. Sure it mixes a standard shooter up but the majority of the time it just feels cheap as you die at the hands of an unseen enemy.

Having said that, CoD does a lot more right than it does wrong. Whilst I didn’t think its more considered pace would be my cup of tea, the added extras of unlockables and the sheer challenge of adapting to the environement have won me over.

This may not replace my Halo, but it sure is a good compliment to it.