Replay: Call of Duty 4 Multiplayer

cod4

With the Call of Duty 4 (COD4) remaster tantalisingly close to release I thought to myself “What better a time to revisit the original game and see if it still holds up”. Actually, that’s a complete lie; I was installing a Minecraft update for my daughter, noticed COD4 was still in the disc drive and fancied having a go. Whatever.

Anyway, COD4 is just around the corner and I’m pleased to confirm that, for those that haven’t played it in years, the multiplayer is as good as you probably remember it.

The first thing that struck me, before even getting into an actual game, was how concise everything is. It’s still a very comprehensive package, but without the bloat of later games. It actually seems to nail that sweet spot of providing depth and variety, but without getting bogged down in meaningless filler. For example, creating a custom class/loudout takes seconds, not minutes like in recent games. This might not sound like much, but from a gameplay point of view, it means the 30 second interval between rounds gives you ample time to tweak your classes and fits with the flow nicely. There’s none of this “backing out of the lobby to fiddle with your setup” nonsense.

Another aspect of this concise approach is that your choices have a bit more weight to them and there’s more of a noticeable trade off. Pick an assault rifle, you get an assault rifle, and if you want that grenade launch attachment, you’re gonna have to lose the red dot sight. There’s no crazy Swiss-army knife guns to be had here, with shotgun attachments, hybrid sights and FM radio.

That goes for the “perk” system as well; you pick your three perks from the predefined lists, they each perform a clear unique function and you get on with it. There’s no perk modifying perks, or any of the crap found in later games. If you want UAV jammer, you’re going to have to lose stopping power, and if you want steady aim, you’re going to have to give up deep impact. Simple profound choices.

Once the match begins the action kicks in almost straight away and rarely relents the entire game. There’s a constant rattle of machine gun fire as rounds zip past before slamming into walls and buildings. The sound of explosions from grenades and flashbangs are never far away. The key to this intense action seems to be largely down to the well designed maps. They are small enough to keep the action flowing, but not to the point that it ever feels cramped. The moving spawns react to the flow of the battle and, other than the occasional mishap, elevate the problem of spawn camping. The abundance of cover and flanking routes keeps everything moving along nicely.

The static kill-streak rewards (UAV > Airstrike > Chopper) keep things balanced and fair, with none of them being overly intrusive or overpowered. They’re a handy little bonus that work well in conjunction with the gunplay, but won’t preoccupy your mind as you play. It’s not like in later games where people desperately hold out for a match winning nuke, or get pulled out of the gameplay to remotely pilot a gunship.

Guns feel weighty and powerful, with satisfying hit markers letting you know when you’ve found your mark. It’s gunplay at its finest, even if the aim assist probably does make you feel a bit more awesome than you truly are. The only real gripe to be found is with the peer to peer hosting system. The game generally does a decent job at selecting the best host, but with such lightning fast gameplay, your performance can be impacted by your connection to that host. The split second difference in connection speed can often decide the outcome of a particular exchange, even if it’s not always noticeable. It’s far from game breaking, but is obviously frustrating if you do happen to notice it occurring. Luckily, finding a new game will generally fix the issue.

The XP, unlocks and challenges are all as addictive as ever. Most of the challenges don’t really impact on the way you play, they just encourage you to use different weapons and try different game modes – which is great; there’s nothing worse that witnessing your team mates doing dumb shit because they are blatantly just trying to complete a challenge. With each new level you reach, a new perk or gun gets unlocked –  this keeps things interesting and is a system that can really get its hooks into you. It’s not uncommon to have a few extra rounds simply because you notice you’re a few XP away from the next level.

Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer is still, in my opinion, peak Call of Duty. Though some will see it as basic by today’s standards, others will appreciate it for its more focused approach. Rather than showing its age, I think it shows what an unbeatable bench mark it set.

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2 Comments

  1. Totally agree, and this is why I think it was the last COD game I bought.

    Reply

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