Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare review
Ditching its original World War II setting for the war on terror might seem like a faddish misfire, but Call of Duty 4 is more 24 than Gulf War.
An impressively cinematic narrative adds purpose to the fighting, and is packed with outrageous twists and stunning set pieces. You'll find yourself in an interactive flashback mission in Chernobyl, caught up in a national revolution, racing to prevent nuclear war and other scenarios that we won't spoil for you.
The single-player game is absolutely linear, but it has so much panache and momentum that you'll rarely notice your lack of choices. There are a few drab moments, but CoD4 changes the surroundings and your challenges often. You'll never feel that you're going down yet another identical corridor full of identical men. It's fairly short, though - it won't last much more than a weekend - but there's no dead weight here, just tightly focused fun.
Once you have finished the campaign, the multiplayer mode steps ably in. It's heavier on stealth than many of its rivals, and excels at encouraging team play. The more you win, the more weapons and abilities you unlock. The idea isn't novel, but the implementation is: you customise your character with your preferred perks, rather than those dictated by the game. So you might choose an ability that lets you listen in on enemy chatter for one game, and then swap for greater bullet penetration in the next. Chasing the unlocks gives you a reason to play, and makes you feel as if you're doing your own thing rather than just following the game's rules.
It's very much a traditional shooter with some modern clothing, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. There might not be a lot of brain work or experimentation here, but it's an expertly realised rollercoaster ride.