Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the game Infinity Ward wanted to make for a while, president Grant Collier told us. During work on previous games a number of ideas were floating around it wanted to see realised in a future title in the series, ideas about the delivery of storyline and mechanisms to propel plot forward. It also wanted to create memorable characters.
To this end, the developer ditched the campaign system seen in previous COD games and replaced it with two storylines - one from the viewpoint of an SAS trooper and one from a member of US elite fighting force Force Recon - that interweave during the course of the game and reach a climax in Russia.
"We're able to have continuous characters throughout the game while being able to change locations," Collier explained. Infinity really wants CoD 4 "to play out like an episode of 24", and to this end it's been working with TV scriptwriters "who understand how to get a strong, episodic storyline going".
ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY?
But what is the story in CoD 4? Here's the deal. At the cornerstone of the plot lurks Zakhaev, a Russian ultra-nationalist with aims to bring the Soviet Union back into existence and in the style of his idol, Stalin. Zakhaev initiates civil war in the Mother Land and, aware that other world powers will attempt to intervene, hatches a trap to tie-down US forces in Middle Eastern country.
British intelligence, meanwhile, has been working with loyal Russians in tracking Zakhaev, and eventually manages to convince the US of the true reason for the Middle East conflict.Cue war, a war though which Infinity Ward explains it wants to take the player on a rollercoaster ride of conflict.
It's varying the pace far more than we've witnessed in CoD before, introducing more stealth-orientated operations to accompany the frantic assault on the senses that we've experienced in the developer's portrayal of firefights in previous entries in the series.
LET'S GO TO WAR
the developer opened proceedings by showing a nail-biting SAS assault on cargo ship during a storm spawned by very Satan himself. A deluge of rain poured from a pitch-black sky, lit up by flashes of lightning as the four-man SAS squad deployed from helicopter and landed on a deck awash with water. Huge waves crashed against the side of the ship forcing spumes of sea spray into the air. Intense stuff.
And the intensity of the environment was echoed in the ensuing firefight. Supported by the helicopter mini-gun hosing down the bridge in a spray of bullets, the SAS team proceeded into the bowels of the boat and neutralised enemies. Constant situation updates given by the team via voice comms added a subtle yet important element to the ambience, and AI comrades would kick doors down and open the way for us to storm rooms.
We had to feel a tang of pity for the enemies killed while asleep in their bunks, who realistically tumbled to the floor thanks to Infinity Ward's proprietary physics system. But this is war, we guess.
It was an impressive introduction to Call of Duty 4, but Collier hadn't shot Modern Warfare's bolt in one glorious SAS assault. Bringing that to a close, he fired up US mission Charlie Don't Surf, the opening of which has surely been designed as a homage to the famous helicopter attack from Apocalypse Now.
Dark, stormy sea was left behind and replaced by a sun-kissed Middle-East and a wave of Black Hawks closing in on a town eye-brow raising in detail.