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    dkirschner's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC)

    [November 13, 2010 11:31:02 PM]
    I didn't expect to write about Call of Duty yet, but the single-player game is really small and I beat it in just three short sessions over a week. I bought the game over a year ago, maybe even a year and a half ago, and just never got around to it. I suppose I had some sort of expectation for CoD since it's insanely popular, high expectations. As I played the campaign, I was initially disappointed, but by the end I had experienced some shock and awe. It's clear that this is a multi-player game through and through. The single-player portion is all squad-based so you're never truly alone, and I feel like it just prepares you for online action. Of course, the AI is dumber than real players, but the teamwork, the tactics that work and don't work, you can practice offline. I found my teammates to be good role models. They take cover, they crouch and run, and sprint when it's appropriate, provide cover fire, toss grenades, etc. Having played multiplayer and being massacred, and then playing single-player, I feel relatively more prepared to step into the chaos online again.

    So why was I initially let down? The game is 100% action-packed, like riding a huge wave, the entire way. But the beginning felt like an action-packed shooter that I've played before. You run through some middle-eastern and eastern European extremist-infested cities. All the countries over there are unstable and going through regime change and power struggles, and they've all got lawless militaries that you've got to gun through to get to the leaders. So you and your squad, in both the characters you play as, one in Europe and one in the middle east, frantically perform mission objectives and kill bad guys. You have to listen to lots of military guys yelling in military jargon and watch a lot of cut scenes with technical parameters of weaponry and such, which is always what turns me off about war games. I don't care about the .22 caliber blah blah with the blah blah bullet rounds that fires x times per minute and can puncture steel with x depth penetration from x meters away in rain but not sleet, or the size engine of military planes and what bombs they all drop. Don't care and not interested. I also tend to dislike just the attitude of war games, which is hyper-masculine kill people, defend your honor and bravado, and always comes across as trying to sound noble and heroic in the face of tragedy and death. I mean, those hint at my views on war and violence and masculinity anyway, so war games can grate on me if they are too typical in that sense.

    Call of Duty 4 looked like it was going down that road, but then it took a nice turn toward the serious when the story picked up somewhere between the nuke going off and the helicopter mission to gun down the enemies using just some technology to detect them, not infrared, but something like that, not with simply sight. The story was heading toward typicality, but as you hunt down a warlord, a nuke goes off, and brings some drama and urgency to the whole thing. You then look to Russia to find out where the nuke came from, which leads you to this older Russian military badass guy with one arm (you get to blow it off in a visceral flashback mission where your commander missed assassinating him just barely). You have to go after his son, which you chase through a village/military complex, at the dead end of which he blows his brains out. In retaliation, the Russian general guy launches 2 nukes toward the east coast US and it's a race against the clock to abort the launches and escape the facility. The last missions, I'd say after the son's suicide, are just awesome. And there were a ton of awesome moments throughout the game too, mostly involving things getting blown up, like helicopters, tanks, and communications towers. The game looks phenomenal, and I was pleasantly surprised that after, what, 3 years maybe, it looks so amazing. It certainly made it more immersive, when it was already there. Even though I poke at the story and triviality of the early game, it was still completely engrossing, like, what it was doing, it was doing great. I actually saw my stepdad playing CoD4 a long time ago, years, and I kept wondering when I would get to the level I watched him being stuck at. Turns out it was the very end when you're racing the clock to abort the nukes. I wonder if he ever beat it.

    Perhaps the most exciting thing about CoD4 that I hope other people got out of it, was that it made me think about war, the media, and the world today. Games with nuclear weapons always tend to strike a little nerve because there's always some nuclear threat by some country, and it's like, yeah, someone could launch some nukes, and any other number of attacks, and obliterate a chunk of people. The majority of us actually not being dead is impressive to me. Peace is very precarious. We (in the US, Singapore, the West in general) are very lucky that we don't have to directly deal with, on a daily basis, war and the threat of war that so many less fortunate people do. In these places where our video game Marines are fighting, civilians are dying all the time, but we tend to forget that. CoD actually hide this from us, as it never (or hardly if I'm forgetting) shows civilians, alive or dead. They simply aren't there. We do know they've been killed by nuclear weapons, but we never SEE them or interact with them or have to deal with them in any way. This is where our media comes in. The media can reveal or hide events. I found it interesting at the end of the game after you abort the missiles and escape (and one of the most epic very last parts of a game ever), the news reporter reports on rumors of nuclear testing in Russia. Nothing happened, just rumors of testing. This is the official government line and the media has to report. I can assume that people soon will go do some investigative journalism and uncover some of what really happened, but in this case, the media relays the Russian government or military's assurance that it's all right, it's okay. And of course the player knows that, yeah, it's okay because the international and US special forces saved the say, and their accomplishments are going to go unrecognized by everyone on earth, but it's just part of their duty, and they love keeping the peace and taking out the bad guys. Oorah, right? Which should make you think if special forces can influence such events on the side of good, surely they can do so on the side of evil or moral ambiguity.

    This brings me back to that helicopter mission I talked about. It made me really uncomfortable. Why? Because I couldn't actually see who I was firing on. Looking down, I just see a lot of white and gray human-like figures running about, and I have to rely on orders to say who I'm to shoot and who I'm not to shoot. Some people below were flashing, and those were our allies. Others weren't flashing, didn't have tracers, and those were enemies. It was very impersonal, firing a gun hundreds of feet up from a helicopter picking off groups of enemies, or people I was told were enemies. We've all seen stories uncovered where gunners of this perspective and others have killed civilians, bombed churches, and so on, because they were acting on orders or thought they were firing on bad guys. Or worse, we've heard instances of soldiers killing civilians and committing other crimes just because they can. I wonder how many regular people I killed in that mission? All I know is whenever someone died, I got approval and praise from the officer radioing in my ear.

    Another point that I'm not sure whether it was a design intention or not, is that I was initially very, and still somewhat, easily confused by who is an enemy and who is a friendly. The enemy soldiers looked really similar to my teammates to me. The thing is, if you stop to look, you get killed, but if you just fire on a hunch, you can live. So what if you see someone who might be a soldier or a civilian? If you shoot, you live. If you don't shoot and it's a soldier you die, so what are you going to do? You do what I ended up doing because I got tired of dying to enemies that I thought were friends. You shoot first, think later. This caused me multiple game overs due to friendly fire, which I think is funny because it's a serious no-no, yet so easy to do! So bravo to the design team if they did that on purpose. I mean, obviously the guys with socks over their heads are enemies, but really, at least in the first half, I was having trouble telling who was who.

    And the most important question of all: Why do eastern European bad guys always wear track suits?
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    [August 7, 2010 01:42:11 PM]
    Wow. Decided to install this and make sure it worked today. Having had lots of multiplayer FPS experience in the past with various Unreal Tournament games mostly, though not recently, I decided to jump straight into online play. I went into a free-for-all in the Shipment level. This level is tiny with little cover. I randomly chose a team, though it didn't matter since this wasn't a team mode, and a weapon setup.

    As soon as I spawned, I was killed. Respawned and killed immediately. And again. And again. Realized that 15 players in a small, fairly open area meant that guns were firing everywhere, so I had to spawn and run out of the open. I chose some kind of automatic burst rifle and had very poor luck using it. The game is very fast-paced and I hate to admit that my FPS skills have gotten rusty. It took me 5 minutes or so before I killed anyone. I began spawning and running, and after I'd gotten a feel for the basic lay of the level, I began looking for safe spots. There aren't any truly safe spots in this level, which is good because it forces you into action, but there are some trailers scattered around that you can go inside to take a breath and maybe shoot a few people who run by. I found I was being killed by melee attacks quite often and think this was a combination of my not being fast enough on the trigger, not aiming well, and the other players being skilled at closing distance and knifing me. An early tactic of mine was to hide in a trailer and shoot anyone who came in. I shot at them, but rarely killed them, which means they killed me.

    When I die, I get to see the kill cam, showing me my death from the perspective of my killer. I learned that a lot of people, instead of camping a trailer, were constantly on the move, trying to stay out of anyone else's sight, sneaking up behind them or firing from the side. It's certainly harder to hit a moving target. So I started moving and this worked much better. I also switched to a shotgun, which I had more success with in this close-range level. I learned a lot of other tricks from rewatching my deaths. I began tossing more grenades. If I was about to die, I'd toss a grenade to maybe kill someone after I'd passed. I attempted to melee in certain situations, although not very successfully. By the end of the first round, I was somehow not in last place, only like 3rd from the bottom. I started a second round, but stopped playing because I had to go, and I was sadly at the bottom then.

    In CoD, I can gain ranks. This is like experience and leveling up, though I'm not exactly sure how the system works. Presumably, I get experience from killing people, maybe placing high, holding objectives, winning matches, etc. Who knows. I do like it though because I like leveling up, becoming more powerful, getting access to better equipment, all that. Ranks make me want to play the game more. They're also a sign of my improvement. I saw players with high (as far as I know) ranks of 40 or 50, and they were in the top of the pack, and then people with low ranks like me were nearer the bottom.

    The game is very intense thus far. My initial 20 minutes were very enjoyable and I would like to try out other game modes. I'm interested in CoD because it's been so popular and I've completely missed the bandwagon, and also because I wonder if by playing it, I can get a sense of how (if) popular FPSes have evolved since Unreal Tournament 2004 and the others I used to play on PC. This was only a few years later, and I realize I could buy an actual 2009 or 2010 game, but for cheapness's sake, I want to try this one.
    add a comment Add comment

    dkirschner's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Saturday 7 August, 2010

    GameLog closed on: Tuesday 25 January, 2011

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Fast, fast, fast. Single-player is really action-packed, but the gruff military men yelling about guns and stuff gets old to me. Also, some missions are disturbing and make me think about actual events going on in the world, which is probably a good thing, but still disturbing. Multiplayer I would like to toy with more, but I'd prefer to play other single player games and WoW instead as my persistent one.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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