If it's crap ... We'll tell you
So many people do movie reviews on here, so I'm doing something different - game reviews.
For my first review, I'm going to become a consumerist suck-up and review a game that everyone knows and loves so people will pay attention in future reviews that I do. Honestly, don't you think you'll get more recognition from a Call of Duty review than one for, say, System Shock 2 (which is apparently a fantastic game, though I have never had the pleasure of playing it and almost no one cares about it anymore anyways)? Anywhoo -
Now, when this game first came out it was praised as the video game incarnation of Jesus or something and a lot of people still do so, especially those such as myself who believe we should be looking to it as an example of how to design a game, because there's a lot of things COD4 did right that subsequent games who tried to copy it - including its own successors- did not. That said, the game was massively hyped and there were a few problems that became apparent in hindsight. This game was hyped, but not to the extent of newer COD's as Call of Duty wasn't a "big" like it is now - it was just an evolutionary WWII FPS that was better than any other WWII FPS, but still wasn't that "awesome" really. Then this came out and people were so used to having generic crap shoved down their throats that reviewers became intoxicated with it and gave it scores it shouldn't have gotten. This leads to the first of the dents I will make in the fan-created-seemingly-impenetrable-armor that surrounds Call of Duty 4, and that is the graphics.
Now, the doesn't really matter as far as the overall score is concerned because I judge games almost entirely on gameplay, so this is more just for information purposes. Now most reviews give this game like 9/10 on graphics, which implies it is only slightly worse graphics-wise than Crysis, which we all know is bullshit. But the general Call of Duty bias in professional game review circles leads to them giving near-perfect graphics scores if the game has average or just good graphics, whereas a less well-known game tends to get scrutinized for the slightest graphical imperfection. This game does not have bad graphics, but they are not spectacular either. They're just...good.
While we're on the superficial, non-critical technical side of things I might as well address the sound design, and I will sum it up succinctly: it's fine. It's not perfect, it's not 9.5/10 like everyone else gives it, it's just fine - it works.
And now we delve into the actual gameplay, and this is where I really take a chunk out this armour this game wears, because a common but blindly accepted mis-truth is that this game somehow revolutionized first person shooters, which it did not. Anyone who played COD2 will find that COD4 is just COD2 with modern weapons and settings and a sprint function. It is not revolutionary, it is evolutionary - Call of Duty always has been, right from the first game, which was made by the original designers of Medal of Honor and was basically an improvement on that game.
This is not to say that it is bad at all - far from it. The combat it refined, intense and enjoyable, and is not overly difficult or overly easy. What really sets it apart though is its presentation, and I don't mean the plot because anyone who regularly watches action movies knows that this game is basically a collage of different elements, senarios and characters from different action movies put into one story. I mean the epicly realistic way in which the action, events and plot play out. Now "epic" and "realistic" don't usually go in the same sentence but it's very much like Saving Private Ryan in this respect: it is very realistic in it's weaponry, equipment and scenarios (well, for the most part), but you experience things that are one of a kind, and accomplish something truely special that you feel not every soldier would get to take part in, let alone live through. "Epic" is the one word I choose to describe this game's singleplayer with - it is truely an awesome adventure to experience.
The multiplayer is the other big part of this game and it did, without a doubt, change multiplayer FPSs forever because of two things: perks and killstreaks. Even Crysis 2 had these things for god's sake! Everyone is so in love with the idea of unrealistic special abilities that it makes you wonder how games like Battlefield survive (although it's not like reviving a man who's been shot multiple times to perfect health by using a defibrilator is exactly realistic). The multiplayer was a bit arcadey but still retained a lot of tactical elements that encourage teamwork between users of different weapons, most of which has seen stripped away in the personal-glory-focused sequels. The thing that COD4 did that the others didn't was to balance the perks and weapons so there was no "automatic pwnage loadout" that everyone uses. Every weapon has a use and purpose, and you are not significantly disadvantaged if you know what you're doing. I do take issue with the 3-grenade perk though, as most deaths ended up being by frag grenade and anyone who didn't have that perk was at a disadvantage, though this did depend on the map. Luckily it didn't screw things up too much to prevent it from being an thoroughly enjoyable multiplayer experience, though still not as refined as the SP.
Despite my criticisms of the holy grail of shooters for many, I don't think these minor complaints of mine have even torn pieces from its armor, only dented it in spots, and so it should be. The singleplayer is a highly refined, epic, action-packed adventure and the multiplayer is almost perfectly balanced except for that one perk, and so despite my negative feelings toward the series overall I cannot degrade this game any more than to say that it is not the God of FPSs, just a really great one, and one that I highly recommend, if for some weird reason you don't already own it. You don't know what you're missing!
Rating: Enthusiastic double thumbs up