I'm a lucky, lucky guy.
I got to see Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back at E3. It blew my socks off. I've always been a fan of the Call of Duty series, and this one seemed to do it right.
Now I've gotten a chance to play it, admittedly in a context that I rarely play games — online deathmatches — and I can say that, in my opinion, it rocks.
This is just a first impression: I played a few matches last night, leveled up to rank 4, and played two matches this morning.
If you've played Call of Duty, you'll be immediately familiar with the controls for the most part, as well as the "feel" of the game. One new thing that took me some cursing to figure out was how to use the special weapon that some classes had — for instance, to use the underbarrel grenade launcher on my M16A4 (it's left on the d-pad).
Let's get to the basics. You log in, and pretty much immediately, you're faced with a choice as a lowly rank 1 — play a team deathmatch (6-12 players), play a "free for all" match, or play a small team deathmatch (teams of 2-3 players). Those won't be the only modes, but they were the only ones in the beta. (For instance, the "Intel" tips talk about a "Domination" game style.)
What do I mean by rank 1? Well, as you kill guys, you go up in rank. In a free for all, you might get five points for killing someone, and in a team deathmatch, you'd get 10. If you threw a grenade and stunned someone, you might get two of the points when the person who killed him got more.
At 30 points, you go up a level! Each rank has a real-world rank attached to it (such as private first class). In the beta, it means that you open up more options. In one rather short night, I hit level 4. Level 2 gave me access to the "Demolitions" class. Level 3 gave me the sniper class. And level 4 let me design my own class.
"But SeanMike," you say, "I want to do support! You know, heal people, give them ammo!"
No way, bunky. Not, at least, in what I've seen so far. You want ammo, you pick it up off the ground. You want healing, you take cover and don't get shot — much like regular Call of Duty. But keep in mind: This game is lethal. A shot or two, and you will be going down.
I started off in free for all, a rather frustrating experience as I got repeatedly wiped out. I managed approximately (and by approximately, I mean exactly) one kill for five points before logging out to finish my dinner. But I knew how the controls worked and went on to team deathmatch.
After picking out your game type, you'll enter the lobby. The game will automatically attempt to even out the teams and put you in an appropriate game. It's not perfect, and some games definitely came out to be slaughterfests, but it seems like the kind of thing that will hopefully even out a bit. It seems to "even" the teams by adding together the numbers of their ranks.
Then it's time to pick out your class. In the beginning, you have access to three classes:
Each class also has some perks attached to them. Perks do things like let you run farther, take more damage (not a lot more, though) or do more damage with bullets. They make a bit of a difference but not a huge difference (it seems — that might change).
Later, I opened up the Demolitions class. That gave me a shotgun and a pistol, plus an RPG with two rounds. The sniper has a sniper rifle and pistol, basically. Every class also has a knife that you use in melee combat. Later, at level 4, you can design your own class, picking out a primary weapon, secondary weapon, special weapon and perks.
Notice how few rounds you get. Ammo is fairly limited when you start. The SAW seemed to have enough ammo to basically reload twice. You only have a couple of grenades. You'll either be looting the dead or dead yourself and respawning.
Speaking of dying — when you get killed, you get a brief shot of the person who killed you. That way you know how he saw you, what he was using and what perks he had. Did he shoot through cover at you? Well, he had the bullet-penetration perk. Sorry, dude.
But either way, it's into the game. There were just a few maps available — one in a sort of farm setting, one in a vaguely Arabic town with a large crashed helicopter in the middle, and I believe one other one (though I could be wrong — I didn't write down the names of the maps, and I was busy running around blasting away). From there, it's simply team deathmatch — keep your eyes open, try to help your buddies and blast the enemies.
The combat was fast and furious. I never got a chance to, but some players would call in air strikes and helicopter strikes — I did get a chance to put an RPG round into a chopper, and when someone else did the same, it spiraled into the ground. Teams also can call in UAVs, which would show you where the enemies are on your GPS.
There were basically three sides you might play as. One was an Arabic sort of army, using a variety of weapons. Another was Russian Spetznaz, and the last were U.S. Marines. The weapons varied (though the Marines used RPGs like everyone else) but were mostly the same across the board, with small variations. The AK-47 was fully automatic while the M16A4, for instance, was limited to three round bursts — but the M16A4 was more accurate.
The quality of the graphics and the audio really combined to make an incredibly immersive experience. Soldiers would yell if a grenade came in, and learning when to crouch and when to rush made combatants look like someone out of a documentary about war zones. The whole thing had the feel of a movie like "Blackhawk Down."
Obviously, the game is still in beta. It opens up for public beta on Monday. So far, it's been a heck of a good time, even for someone who doesn't play a lot of online games like this — so I'll definitely be playing more over the weekend! And, of course, I'm still looking forward to the single-player version.