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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Package Art

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Metroid Prime: Hunters proved Nintendo DS could handle first-person shooters better than any other handhelds (and most consoles), but it seems as though developers have ignored that fact. First-person games have been few and far between on DS and quality is never guaranteed. All of a sudden two games have shown up on the scene to show that somebody has been paying attention. Dementium offered pulse-pounding production values but what makes Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare special? The pedigree is definitely there.

Call of Duty revitalized war shooters with outstanding gameplay and a cinematic flair that allowed gamers to experience the breathtaking and heartbreaking brutality of war through the eyes of a common soldier. Activision tasked n-Space, the folks behind Geist, to squeeze an exhilarating experience out of DS, and boy, did they come close to something brilliant.


Developers have produced plenty of 3D games for DS, but most utilize primitive engines that do nothing more than distract from the core gameplay, Call of Duty 4 is one of the few third-party titles that overcomes these limitations. Levels are large and detailed, while the allies and enemies who populate them move with smooth animations. It would have been nice to have more enemy models to serve as your lead receptacles though. All the more amazing is the simple fact that there is no slowdown to speak of, though the short draw distances on some of the larger environments could have something to do with that. The best eye candy comes during the gameís on-rails sequences when you take on the role of a gunner on a humvee, helicopter or specter gunship; the draw distance is increased, the environments become larger and more varied, and the number and variety of enemies increases. There are also some outstanding scripted moments that are sure to shock and awe during these levels.


Call of Duty games often praised for outstanding audio design and the latest entry continues the trend. CoD4 is easily one of the best sounding games on DS. Gunshots sound percussive and powerful, the musical score is rousing, and there is an astounding amount of voice acting throughout the entire game. How all these sounds come together is what will truly impress you: your fellow soldiers bark orders over the gunfire and enemies warn each other when you chuck a grenade their way. The music also comes in at just the right moments to add to the drama of the Clancy-esque story. The only problem is not all that bad: some of the guns sound a little too similar so it would have been nice of more could have been done to give the guns more individuality. Overall, though, plug in some headphones and turn up the volume.


CoD4 plays exactly like you would expect an FPS to play on DS. The top screen shows all the action, while the lower screen displays the map as well as the current weapons you have selected. Moving your stylus on the touch screen aims your reticule, while pressing the gun or grenade buttons on the screen will change your weapon. When you come across a gun you can pick up or a place to plant a bomb, a hand icon will appear on both screens; pressing it on the bottom screen will interact with the object. Moving is controlled by the D-pad or A,B,X and Y buttons should you so choose. With regards to gunplay you shoot with the R Button, or L for the latter control scheme, and double tap on the bottom screen to aim through the iron sight or scope of your gun. It all feels smooth and natural, though double tapping is sometimes unresponsive. The touch screen also comes into play when you have to set or defuse a bomb by playing through a quick, albeit fun, minigame.

With the controls down you can jump into the meat of the game -- the campaign. To put it as simply as possible: US Marines are invading an unnamed Middle East country that has fallen to a terrorist revolution, while British special forces are hunting down a former Russian general, who is working with the terrorists. You spend most of the game as a Marine or Spec-Ops team member. The story will not win any awards, but there are a few exciting twists that make up for the rather bland, story board presentation. Naturally this is a decent enough set up to give you a reason to run through levels and blast terrorists.

Many of the levels ultimately do feel a bit disappointing. While console outings in the acclaimed series often encourage you to take a tactical approach, the DS version is more on the mindless side. Levels are strictly linear, and enemies never give you a chance to flex your brains, as they always spawn in the same spots and show no interest in taking cover. Sometimes they do run from a grenade or throw it back, but most of the time, they prefer to stand around and eat your shrapnel. Perhaps, in an attempt to add some challenge, the developers decided to make enemies rather resilient; you can either fill them with half a clip from an AK-47 or aim down the sights and put one round between the eyes.

The levels offer plenty of variety, both in the aesthetics and the gameplay. You might start out battling in the dusty streets of a war-torn Middle East city, but it wonít be long until you are raiding a cargo ship on choppy seas or infiltrating a Russian military complex in the dead of winter. You might only get 10 hours out of the campaign, but you can expect to see a lot in that time. The level that most stands out is when you take on the role of a gunner on a specter gunship as it provides fire support for a special forces team attacking a military research facility. Blasting away at little bad guy heat signatures with chain guns and cannons from thousands of feet in the air is more fun than should be legal.

Like most games CoD4 offers your choice of difficulty: easy, normal and hard. Normal is really the only one worth playing. Easy makes your soldier bullet proof, effectively removing the need for quick reflects to get that headshot or run away from the grenade at your feet. Hard, on the other hand, is quite the opposite: enemies are invulnerable to everything but headshots, and going toe to toe with more than one enemy at a time will leave you on the verge of death. The hardest difficulties in all the PC and console CoD iterations made enemies smarter and more accurate, not inhuman juggernauts. Normal difficulty forces you to make your shots quickly without making the bad guys unreasonable.


CoD4 offers a competent multiplayer experience with solid gameplay, a slew of well-designed maps and single-card download play; but there is a major omission Ė- online play. When you consider how the PC and console versions of CoD4 have redefined online shooters, the lack of any such support for DS is made all the more disheartening. Activision has thoroughly embraced Nintendo Wi-Fi in the past with the Tony Hawk series, why not here? If you want to play with your DS buddies, CoD4 offers a fine game of deathmatch. But ff you were hoping for a title to rival Hunterís outstanding Wi-Fi support, then you will be disappointed.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare really is a difficult title to attach a number to; some parts will blow you away, but you will always have a sinking feeling that something is off. The presentation fully embraces the ingenuity and commitment to quality that has allowed the series to flourish in a genre that has largely stagnated, but much of the gameplay largely feels old. Most of the game boils down to running through linear levels while blasting moronic enemies. Still, the controls are smooth and there are enough outstanding moments to keep you interested and really make experience entertaining.

Dementium is definitely the more ambitious and all-around better game, but if horror isnít your style and you have played Metroid to death, then CoD4 is definitely the way to go for your handheld FPS fix.

final score 7.8/10

Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"

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