Moving on from the series' traditional setting of the Second World War, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare brings the series bang up to date with a searing tale of international counter-terrorism and intrigue set against the backdrop of a war-torn Middle East.
The game unfolds chronologically through a campaign mode that see you taking control of "Soap" MacTavish, a British SAS operative and Sergeant Paul Jackson, a member of the USMC 1st Force Recon, switching between the two soldiers as the levels progress. The characters are really bought to life by fantastic cutscenes that pepper the missions. From nervous soldiers joking around with each other in base camp to tense confrontations between commanding officers and soldiers in the heat of battle, the cutscenes are all brilliantly presented and really help you invest yourself emotionally in the story, as well as providing an extra layer of realism to the game.
Let slip the dogs of war
Speaking of realism, this is where Call of Duty 4 truly excels. Fire fights with the enemy are intense, frantic and often confusing, as you struggle to utilise whatever cover you can with bullets flying wildly all around you. The gameplay is virtually identical to the previous games in the series, with a damage indicator showing you from which direction you are taking fire, a grenade indicator that lets you know of any explosives that have landed anywhere near you, and the series' overshield damage system, whereby you can sustain a certain amount of damage before you must take cover for your defences to regenerate. You are also able to pick up and use any weapons you come across, be they enemy or ally, and you also have the ability to pick up unexploded grenades and let the enemy have them back, whether they want them or not. They probably don't.
First person shooters generally live or die by the intelligence of the opposition, and therefore the Artificial Intelligence in Call of Duty 4 is uniformly outstanding. Enemy troops will take cover, flank you, team up and fall back as you advance, and always react realistically to the way that you play. Your squad members are intelligent too and actually useful in a fight, providing covering and suppressing fire.
Top of the class
In addition to the excellent single player campaign, Call of Duty 4 boasts an impressive multiplayer mode, complete with a brand new class system. There are five preset classes for players, ranging from Assault to Sniper, and each class has its own unique weapon assignations and perks. Players can also create, name and save their own custom classes tailored to their playing style. Killing opposition players, or performing certain actions such as defusing bombs in-game earn the player experience points that are used to raise your rank, which in turn lets you access new perks such as causing more damage with your shots, or dropping a grenade automatically when you die.
You can also earn in-game perks by achieving streaks of three, five and seven kills, which include a UAV radar to help pinpoint the enemy, an airstrike to target a specific area of the map, and a deadly attack helicopter that is nothing but bad news for your opponents. There's ample incentive to keep playing to raise your rank, and online matches are always fun and frantic, particularly if you get a team of friends together.
In short, Call of Duty 4 is one of the most realistic and intense first-person shooter games you can find for PS3. Great graphics, a genuinely involving storyline, excellent online play and top notch single player mode add up to a brilliant game experience whether you're a fan of the genre or not.