Review: <I> Call of Duty 4 (consoles, PC) </i>

Intoxicating: great set pieces continue right through all three acts.
Intoxicating: great set pieces continue right through all three acts.

Once in a while, a game comes along that is so good that it captures your attention, and like a rabid dog that has attached itself to your throat, just won't let go. Call of Duty 4 is one of those games.

It engrossed me so much that I finished it pretty much in one sitting, the bulk during a five-hour session one Saturday afternoon. It's an exhilarating, cinematic experience that shooter fans just can't afford to miss.

The Call of Duty series has always been known for its atmospheric scene setting, but COD4 has eclipsed everything that has gone before it with its move from World War 2 to the modern combat setting. The game starts with an incredibly atmospheric opening - on a storm-lashed freighter - and the pace doesn't let up until the end.

The level of consistently great set pieces continues right through all three acts, throwing you car-based chases, sniper-based stealth, helicopter gunship duties, and all-out shoot-outs against the clock.

This is the most atmospheric war game I have played for a long, long time. The plot has almost a War on Terror leaning - involving deranged Russian and Middle Eastern foes with access to nuclear weapons, but the story has a consistently strong narrative to capture your attention from the start.

Traversing such locations as Russia, the Middle East and Chernobyl, the action swaps between a member of British 22 SAS Regiment and a soldier in the United States Marines 1st Force Recon.

The artificial intelligence of your fellow soldiers is much stronger than in previous COD games, but don't rely on them all the time - you'll still have to complete the objectives yourself.

Developer, Infinity Ward, has raised the bar visually, with fantastic explosions, lighting and particle effects. It's a visual symphony.

Memorable moments - and there are so many of them - include hiding in long grass while Russian soldiers patrol mere inches from where you lie and having to take out a target using a high-powered sniper rifle. There are also a couple of major moments that afterwards you'll say "Woah, I wasn't expecting that."

Any fears I had that COD4 was going to be another generic war-based shooter were quickly dispelled after the opening moments. Even the loading screens are inventively done, masquerading as high-tech mission briefings.

The multiplayer component is as solid as a rock, too, offering fast-paced action aplenty.

I had real trouble finding fault with Call of Duty 4, and this is being petty, but I wanted the single player campaign to continue, I enjoyed it that much.

Call of Duty 4 is worth buying just for the single-player campaign alone. It's the new king of the shooter hill.

The Press