Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Ever since iD's Wolfenstein 3D came out in 1992, World War II has inspired a long line of games.
Credit for several of the best can be claimed by the developers of Call of Duty 4, Infinity Ward. Many of the team worked on the legendary Medal of Honor games before they joined the company, and with the incredible Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2 under their own belt, there are few people better qualified to make a great war game.
Though it would have been all to easy to dust off the World War II theme for just one more game, Infinity Ward have instead brought the combat into the modern age. Gone are the mini-campaigns of previous games, replaced by an over-arching storyline that spans three cinematic 'acts'. A hardened cynic might be tempted to suggest they've simply swapped Nazis for terrorists and thrown in some nuclear-weapon-selling Russians for good measure. But, and we have to hand it to them, Infinity Ward's decision to bring the series bang up to date has been an unmitigated success.
The gripping plot that was so lacking in Call of Duty 4's predecessors provides some jaw-dropping set pieces, and whether you're shooting or sneaking your way through, Call of Duty 4 delivers an adrenaline rush that few games can match.
You witness the action first-hand through the eyes of two soldiers: Paul Jackson, a Middle East operative for the US Marine Corps 1st Force Recon, and the intriguingly monikered 'Soap' MacTavish, a soldier from the British 22nd SAS Regiment. What keeps things fresh is that each character delivers a different style of gameplay. Jackson's fate hurls you into the unsettling midst of street warfare, while the rough-spoken geezer Soap finds himself deep in the Russian countryside, locked into a more clandestine kind of battle.
The Call of Duty games have always excelled visually, and the fourth instalment is no exception. 'Stunning' is a word that's bandied about too often in the appreciation of game graphics, but there are few other words to describe the Call of Duty 4's visual splendour. Every nook and cranny of every environment is painstakingly detailed, and the realistic, smooth animation of allies and enemies is enough to make the action look frighteningly realistic at times. The soundtrack is equally fine -rarely has the cacophony of war sounded so impres-sively real - and you'll soon find your ears fearfully attuned to the nearby clunk of a live grenade.
It's the sum of Call of Duty 4's parts that raises Modern Warfare above the usual PC cannon fodder. The graphics and superb sound make the most of a plot that delivers genius moments of spine-tingling awe. The single-player missions may only last around seven hours for the adept gamer, but take into account the longevity offered by the similarly fine online multiplayer mode, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a must buy.