PlayStation Universe has recently had the distinct pleasure to attend the "First to Play" event in Los Angeles. This event, hosted by Activision and Infinity Ward, was held to promote Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat, and to allow the press, along with a select few contest winners, to get hands on time with the Xbox 360 multiplayer beta. A single player demonstration was shown behind curtains as well, playable on the PlayStation 3. We got our hands on both with the 360's multiplayer as well as the PlayStation 3's single player, and have lots to tell you, so let's get to it!
The Call of Duty series has long since been famous for being the most well known WWII shooter. In a slew of war games, Call of Duty has always stood out as being not only an immersive and well told single player campaign, but also as offering one of the best multiplayer experiences across the entire shooter genre. In COD4: Modern Combat, Infinity Ward is stepping into new grounds, leaving WWII behind and focusing on, as the title suggests, slightly newer times. Also of note, is the fact that this game is not based on true events, as its predecessors. COD4 will take place in a fictional conflict against an overseas threat that feels very much real all the same.
The game has been in development for almost two years, having been started shortly after Call of Duty 2 was released in late 2005. Call of Duty 3 was handled by Treyarch, leaving Infinity Ward wide open to work on Modern Combat. Their hard work definitely shows, as we were presented with stunning graphics, smooth animations, and well balanced game play.
The team built the game from the ground up with multiplayer in mind, and with strict goals and expectations. The game is running great at a steady 60 frames per second. When asked about the frame rate, they we very clear on the importance of the subject, quoting "If it doesn't run 60 fps, it doesn't happen." This is the mind set that has driven the team to creating what is sure to be one of the best shooters of 2007. When asked about resolution, no official statement was given, but at the event, it was running at 720p and looked fantastic.
While still in beta build, the game was visually impressive, and the animations were fantastic. The team has hired several stunt actors to be motion captured in the studio to create realistic and varying death sequences and movements. This, coupled with the work of animators who filled in any gaps has added a new degree of realism that has never before been seen in the series.
All of the games multiplayer maps are taken directly from the single player campaign, and have been designed from the ground up. A team of photographers and level designers did a tour of Europe to take photographs and create a realistic looking European setting. Every level, both online and off, will have interactive qualities. Cars can be blown up, walls can be shot through, and other goodies have been seen.
The single player demonstration was brief, but gave us an insight on how hectic this game can be. Enemies show improved ai, and will take cover, distract, and flank you if you allow them to. The level that was shown involved blowing up enemy tanks, or defending your own as dozens of enemy combatants pour in from all angles.
As for multiplayer, there is so much to cover. There were three maps present in the beta, all seemingly balanced and each having its highlights. A wide variety of weapons start to unlock as you level up in much the same way as in Rainbow Six: Vegas, giving the game a slight rpg element. In the beta, there were 20 levels attainable, but in the retail product, that number will be closer to 60. Each time you level up, your rank changes and new items are unlocked. These unlockables range from new weapons, clan tags unlocked at level 5, and new perks.
The perk system is the innovative highlight in Call of Duty 4. There are five base classes in the game: Assault, Demolitions, Heavy Gunner, Sniper, and Special Ops. Each class offers a different starting weapon, handgun, and fully customizable thanks to perks. Perks are, in one way of describing them, class mods. Earned by leveling up, perks come in three categories. You are able to have up to three perks at a time, one from each category. The categories were grouped by the developers to provide balance to the game, by limiting which combinations you could choose. The three categories are: Perks 1, Perks 2, and Perks 3.
The first group of perks is largely demolition based, including:
Bomb Squad - Ability to seek out enemy explosives.
C4 x 2 - Remote detonation explosives.
Claymore x 2 - Trip activated explosive mines.
Special Grenades x 3 - Three special grenades, but cannot be smoke grenades.
RPG x 2 - Rocket launcher with 2 rockets.
Group 2 perks are character oriented, including:
Juggernaut - Increased health.
Sonic Boom - Higher explosive weapon damage.
UAV Jammer - Undetectable on enemy radar.
Sleight of Hand - Faster reloading.
Stopping Power - Increased bullet damage.
The third and final group of perks are for the most part grouped together mostly to provide balance:
Deep Impact - Deeper bullet penetration.
Last Stand - Pull out your pistol before dying.
Steady Aim - Increased hip-fire accuracy.
Extreme Conditioning - Spring for longer distances.
Maryrdom - Drop a live grenade when killed.
These perks come in handy and provide a fresh game play mechanic. They tie in very well with the classes, and the ability to create a custom class and use the perks gives the player a wide array of approaching the game.
The games weapons are all based on real technology, and have been modeled after the real things, as have the kick back animations and the particle effects of the muzzle flash and explosions. Also, reloading animations have been tweaked, taking a bit longer to reload, but making the game that much more real. The sleight of hand perk does well with slower reloading weapons.
The team was tight lipped on final map counts, or total weapons, and, at the time of the event, were doing research to finalize how many people will be able to play eachother online at one time. During the event, the game was running with 12 players with no lag. The online multiplayer will have leaderboards and stat tracking, as well as clan tags (unlocked at lvl 5). The team is working with Microsoft to get the multiplayer on Live as soon as possible, and has no plans on doing a PlayStation beta.
That being said, the team reassures us that the difference on platforms will be minimal. The only real differences will be the lack of rumble and six-axis control for the PlayStation 3 controller. The guys at Infinity Ward preferred the 360 controller for shooters, but said that the PlayStation 3 controller was easier to target enemies with, which gave it a slight edge for multiplayer.
For being in Beta build, the game is looking fantastic, and very complete. This title is almost certainly going to be a must have for all consoles, and is set to release this November. Be sure to check back for more updates as well as a full review later on, along with more beta impressions.