Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

in

0:00 I'm not usually one for war games (unless they're of the Advance Wars variety), but after hearing everybody and their cousin Fred praise this one, I decided to borrow a copy and see what the big deal was.

0:01 "50,000 people used to live here. Now it's a ghost town." We're in Pripykat, Ukraine. An old man complains about the West. A TV reporter talks over scenes of anarchy. "Just as they laid waste to our country, we shall lay waste to theirs." Some guy does a voiceover in... Russian? More scenes of firefights and chaos. I can't tell if this is still in the Ukraine... looks slightly more... American?

0:03 An S.A.S. login screen... not sure what that stands for. "Good news first. The world's in great shape." Civil wars, 15,000 nukes at stake. Great... Khaled Al-Asad is a bad guy. Soap is a new good guy... oh, that's me. And I'm already in control. Nice.

0:05 Basic two-stick controls: One moves, one aims. LT zooms in and RT shoots, or you can just shoot from the hip with RT.

0:07 I really like the auto-aim -- tap LT and it just snaps to a nearby target. I hate having to be a crack shot to succeed at these types of games. My fine thumb control is never good enough.

0:08 Some guy is teaching me about sidearms and knives, which are faster than reloading. I knife a watermelon. "Nice. Your fruit killing skills are remarkable." I chuckled.

0:09 Instead of a big red arrow, they put a subtle target and distance indicator on your compass near the bottom of the screen. The little things matter.

0:10 Captain Price is telling me to go through an obstacle course. His character model looks damn near perfect -- very believable mannerisms and mouth movement. In fact, everything looks incredibly smooth and detailed. The environment really grabs you.

0:13 Boy, I suck at this obstacle course. Between Price barking orders and my trying to find where to go next, I'm a mess. Plus, I blind myself with a flash grenade twice. I have no business being in the service. I want to go home. I want my mommy. Waah!

0:14 37.5 seconds my second time through! Now that I know what I'm doing, this is kind of fun. The game even recommends a difficulty based on my performance. I think I'll try again.

0:16 31.4 seconds "That was an improvement, but it's not hard to improve on garbage." OUCH! I like the note for Veteran difficulty: "You will not survive." I'll take that at its word.

0:17 Mission briefing: There's a package aboard an Estonian freighter. It has a small crew and security detail. "Crew expendable." So just shoot anything that moves, then? Gotcha.

0:18 Rushing through the ship... the dark, atmospheric lighting gives a high sense of tension right off the bat. Price shoots two guys in their sleep. I spare them a quick look, but I have to move on quickly. *sniff*

0:20 The environments are amazing, but more than anything, the noise of the sea really draws you into the experience.

0:21 We've got a good firefight going, then a helicopter comes in and absolutely slaughters the opposition. It's nice being technologically superior sometimes.

0:25 Well things have gone from easy to... not easy. We're pinned behind enemy fire and I'm badly wounded and ducking behind cover. MOMMY!

0:26 Oh, never mind. A few seconds ducking behind cover and I'm right as rain. ATTACK!

0:27 We got the "package." It's a box marked with a radioactive sticker and some Arabic. Well, that's not distressing at all. Now we have to get topside and off the ship.

0:28 Day ummm... not to spoil anything, but just as we're running for the top, a helicopter strike turns everything to fire and the ship starts sinking. Oh, crap.

0:29 My first death... I get caught on a piece of scenery and I'm not fast enough to make it off a crumbling catwalk. I'm sorry, but I'd have to think that, in real life, I would not get so easily trapped while running for my life.

0:30 Everything is tilted to the side. It's surprisingly off-putting... I'm used to first-person shooters with everything at nice right angles.

0:31 I have to jump for the helicopter but I make it just in time. I claw at the deck a bit before Price pulls me in. The title appears. You mean that was just a warm-up? Holy crap!

0:32 A cut scene shows satellite tracking of some president, who's being held captive, I guess? I'm more than a bit confused.

0:33 Now I'm the guy held captive. I'm the president, then? Maybe I should just wait to figure out what's going on.

0:34 We're riding in a car. I hear an Arabic voice booming in the distance: It's the new leader vilifying me as I ride to my execution. That's my best guess, at least. The introductory credits start rolling... a nice cinematic touch.

0:35 We pass people being lined up by a wall and shot. Gritty!

0:36 More scenes from around town: a guy spray-painting graffiti and another hiding in a dumpster. It's nice being able to turn my head and focus on bits that catch my attention.

0:37 I'm dragged out of the car and kicked in the face. More dragging... I'm fading in and out. We're in a palace of some sort? I hear chanting in the distance. "Just as they lay waste to our country, we shall lay waste to theirs." A gun gets pointed at my face. "This is how it begins," my character murmurs... and then I'm dead.

0:39 Meanwhile in Russia, one of our informants is about to be executed. We're going to get him out. Seems like an abrupt change, but I roll with it.

0:41 Note to self... look AWAY when my allies throw a flash grenade.

0:43 I'm laying claymores and setting them off while my teammates take out the people that get flushed from the houses. I feel like my computer-controlled teammates are carrying me a bit, but it's still early, and I don't really mind just watching them work.

0:45 We find a Russian ally and go to the top of the hill to provide sniper support for his troops.

0:47 I get quite lost trying to find the place from where I'm supposed to shoot. Price calls me over, but it sounds like he's right next to me when he's really about 50 meters away. I've got to remember to use the compass.

0:50 Sniping is done, now we're fighting on a hillside. I can barely see where the enemies are in the thick cover. Luckily, with the grenade launcher, it doesn't matter too much -- just aim near them and BOOM! Satisfying!

0:52 More sniping now. I preferred the grenade launcher, personally.

0:54 I snipe a guy in the leg, then hit him again in the back of the head as he crawls for cover. I disgust myself.

0:56 Outside, I find it nearly impossible to see where I'm supposed to be firing. Inside, it's a little bit easier, as enemies pop in from doorways like sitting ducks.

0:58 Night vision goggle time. The laser sights look really cool in the green tint.

0:59 Now I'm shooting guys that are cowering defenselessly in the dark. Man, I'm a horrible person.

1:00 We found our informant; now we just have to bust out. Too bad for you, the hour is up. I'm just gonna continue enjoying the game on my own, thanks very much.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.

Why? It's a refreshingly realistic take on war that doesn't get bogged down in minutiae or endless firefights.

This column is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 game borrowed from my friend Mike.

Want to know more about Games for Lunch? Check out the FAQ here.