THRILL OF THE CHASE
There are also helicopter gunship missions - one of which lets you tear a city apart with a heavy duty cannon - and a thermal imaging camera level where you chase helpless enemy soldiers through a village at night. They've even added a physics
system that lets you shoot through flimsy surfaces - plywood, plasterboard, etc - to get at entrenched enemies. But why is it so short? We played it on Normal and ploughed through it in three non-stop nights. The first chapter is
lengthy, but the last two are half its size. But here's our top tip - play it on Hardened. Here, you absolutely must stay covered otherwise you die almost instantly. The ever-present threat of dying makes it approximately 400 times more exciting. Trust us, don't bother with Normal mode if you want your money's worth. It's a moot point, since online multi-player is a game in itself, with near-limitless lifespan. Unlike the solo missions, the pace is absolutely breakneck and you'll spend a lot of your time dead when you first start out. But as you play, you earn RPG-style experience points which can be used to
upgrade your character and assign them specific skills (called Perks). You can choose three of these, the best of which include being able to sprint faster, shoot through walls and use your dying breaths to fire your pistol and score a sneaky revenge kill. In fact, a lot of these are taken from the single-player mode - it's not rare to assume a soldier is dead then see him
drag himself away, firing at you. CoD4's multi-player is worth ?40 alone - in fact, if you're not online yet, it's almost worth the extra ?70 odd to sign up. There are a few extras, though, if you plan to remain offline, like pieces of 'enemy intel' scattered around the game - 30 in total - which unlock bonus cheats. Some of these are useless, but some are priceless. Our favourite is 'Ragtime Warfare' which turns the game into a '30s silent movie.
It's so good - essential, even - that we'll be staggered if Killzone 2 matches this level of calibrated chaos. COD4s so polished, play-tested and designed, it makes almost everything on PS3 look foolish in comparison - humbling given its multi-platform status. It's as linear as a tape measure, and you'll probably only play it through twice - if that - but the invigorating, chaotic thrill of your first time will leave a such a dramatic footprint, all FPS's to follow will have to work extremely hard just to scuff its tracks.
A triumph of set-piece design, special effects and impeccable FPS action. Mindblowing.