The Cast of Wolfenstein: The New Order

Each member of The Resistance has been burned by the evil in the world, and all of them want to do their part to end the menace of Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. Watching their stories unfold in cut scenes is just as riveting as the in-game gun play. You will get attached to these people before the story ends.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is one of my favorite games of all time. If I were to rank my favorite shooters, this would currently get my #2 spot. There’s a lot I love about this game; too much to fit into a single blog post. Therefore, consider this to be the first in a series. For the opener, I focus on the cast. 

Wolfenstein: The New Order is all about spectacle. The opening mission alone contains more shock and awe than the whole of many other shooters. You are William “BJ” Blaskowicz, American soldier on board an Allied bomber as the forces of good make their final assault against the cold Nazi regime. This is no ordinary bomber mission. In short succession you’ll be required to extinguish a fire in the fuel line, dump your cargo, and man the nose turret to take out enemy fighter planes. Then you jump off your plane onto the wing of another, only to crash land and participate in a beachhead assault on the Axis regime. By the time I was fighting in the trenches beneath a towering Nazi robot I thought it impossible to fit more over-the-top action sequences into a single mission. I was wrong. There’s quite a bit more in this opening mission, and heaps of it in the remainder of the game. It would be wrong of me to spoil it if you haven’t already experienced it for yourself. Except the Nazi moon base. I’ll spoil the moon base simply because you have to see it for yourself.

Spectacle is fine, but can be quite tiring if it isn’t grounded. A series of fantastic events will overload your perception of a game’s world. What’s the context for the things that are happening? How does it affect the people in this world? This is where the incredible cast of The New Order comes into play. Fergus is the foul-mouthed war veteran who has seen it all. Impossible assault on the enemy’s last stronghold? Just another day in the war.  On the other side of the coin stands Private Wyatt, the greenhorn who is new to the carnage of battle. Upon first meeting the young lad, you’ll be prompted to slap some sense into him. Yes, really. Later, BJ offers the young lad some practical advice about how to better deal with the horrors of war. Wyatt is obviously out of his comfort zone, but he’s doing the best he can for his country. By making the player focus on how the supporting characters are reacting to the events in the game, it takes pressure off of the player to be impressed by it all. We start to empathize with our squad mates instead of considering just how ridiculous it all is. It’s a great narrative trick that makes the main story beats resonate on an emotional level.

It is true that the characters I’ve just described fit the cookie cutter character stereotypes found in many war stories. What may be surprising is that none of them feel that way; they all feel completely genuine. Part of the reason for this is The New Order’s approach to storytelling. We’re not forced through a segment of exposition and backstory explaining why we should care about anyone. Instead, we’re shown how their personalities respond to the situations they’re in. Fergus knows there’s a job to do, but he still spares a moment to tell his squad mate to look after a wound. Wyatt refers to everyone as “sir” in an respectful tone of voice, even when he’s scared out of his wits. Even BJ will whisper some of his thoughts and motivations during quiet moments in the game. Amazingly, his soft-spoken demeanor doesn’t seem at odds with is proficiency for killing Nazis. By themselves, none of these elements would work. By all rights, none of them should work. But somehow, all the different elements work together to create one of the most memorable casts in gaming.

The New Order knows this, so the cast is thrust front and center throughout the game. The most prominent showcase is found in the Resistance headquarters. You’ll visit this location a few times over the course of the game. It’s used as a place of respite and safe haven from the hordes of evil foes. When BJ first arrives at Resistance HQ, he’s given a room to sleep in. Above the doorway is the nameplate for its former resident, their name now scratched out. A pillar in one of the upper room holds dozens of candles keeping silent vigil over portraits of the fallen. The entire space is an effective device to remind the player that BJ is in a world that’s much bigger than himself.

More than just a museum in which to passively read journal pages, the Resistance HQ offers some combat-light exploration missions that flesh out the personalities and backstories of your allies. Tekla is a young scientist obsessed with finding the equations to explain everything. J is a guitar virtuoso who would be world famous had history taken a different path. Set Roth is a Jewish scientist and a member of the secret Da’at Yichud society that provides hope for The Resistance. The New Order gets special notice for being the first game I’ve played with a portrayal of a mentally handicapped character: Max Haas. Max is a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, and possesses the mental capacity of a five year old. He was found on the streets and taken in by another member of the Resistance, Klaus Kreutz. Klaus is a former Nazi. He was turned from their cause when the Reich murdered his wife and son because of perceived impurity in the child. Klaus now looks after Max as if he were his own son.

Each member of The Resistance has been burned by the evil in the world, and all of them want to do their part to end the menace of Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. Watching their stories unfold in cut scenes is just as riveting as the in-game gun play. You will get attached to these people before the story ends. The last scene of the game is an emotional one, with one main character making a major sacrifice for the sake of the others. It’s sad, to be sure, but it feels right. It works because both the character and the player know there was no other choice to be made. Any time a video game can make players pause to reflect on the nature of sacrifice, it’s doing something right. Many games show characters beating impossible odds and saving the day without being touched by real danger. The New Order doubles down and digs deep into the trauma that comes with heroism. All of our heroes here are broken, but that’s what makes them so compelling. They stare into the face of evil and instead of giving into despair, they steel themselves for the fight against it. In a genre where so many characters demand your affection, the cast of The New Order earns it. I can’t wait to see what they’re up to in The New Colossus.

Exploding Gracefully in Multiplayer Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

Thinking I had a decent grasp of the basics, I loaded up the game and headed over to the multiplayer lobby. After a short wait the matchmaking service drops me into an arena with a foe named Sinistro. He begins the match with some friendly chat, “So how many online games have you played?” Knowing that my newness to the game will be exhibited in how poorly I play, I tell him, “Including this one… One.” He responds with a greeting of welcome, capped off with a smiley face. I take the gesture of politeness to mean I won’t be destroyed instantly.

While it can be intimidating to play any game online against real people for the first time, real-time strategy (RTS) games have a reputation for being more intimidating than most. This is partly because the difference between victory and defeat in an online RTS match comes down to efficiency. Knowing what to do and when to do it are the keys to victory. There is little margin for error, and mistakes are punished. Despite all of this I decided Friday evening to play my first ever online match of Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (DoK). The game’s developers were celebrating its one-year anniversary and broadcast an open invitation for people to come and play the game with them.

If you’re not familiar with it, DoK is a RTS game developed by Blackbird Interactive. It’s a ground-based prequel to 1999’s legendary space-bound Homeworld. The core elements of multiplayer matches are much like that of other RTS games, with a few special twists. Multiplayer consists of you and your army versus your opponent and their army. Each army has a “hero” unit called a carrier. The carrier houses resource processing, production facilities, and research labs. From it you construct new units and run your war campaign. Build an army and annihilate your enemy’s carrier to win the game. One of the fun twists of DoK is that games can also be won by what’s called artifact retrieval. On each map there are three central locations that house artifacts, glowing purple orbs of special significance that appear after a time limit is reached. If either player can retrieve five artifacts and transfer them to a designated extraction zone, that player wins the game. This is easier said than done since there’s only one type of unit, a Baserunner, that can pick up an artifact and carry it to the extraction zone. Baserunners are slow and fragile, and don’t offer any significant offensive or defensive capabilities. It takes skill and cunning to retrieve artifacts, but it can be done. To me, the thing that sets DoK apart from other games is its smaller-scale battles and highly strategic gameplay.

desertsofkharak64-2017-01-21-20-31-57-92
My home base is at the bottom in blue, my enemy up top in red. The artifacts are the three blue icons in a row across the center of the map. The two extraction zones are the right and left sides of the map.

Thinking I had a decent grasp of the basics, I loaded up the game and headed over to the multiplayer lobby. After a short wait the matchmaking service drops me into an arena with a foe named Sinistro. He begins the match with some friendly chat, “So how many online games have you played?” Knowing that my newness to the game will be exhibited in how well poorly I play, I tell him, “Including this one… One.” He responds with a greeting of welcome, capped off with a smiley face. I take the gesture of politeness to mean I won’t be destroyed instantly. Knowing that it’s my first online game ever, my opponent chats to check in on me a few minutes into our match. “Have you expanded yet?,” he asks. Expanded? Expanded what? I respond to confirm my ignorance, fully embracing the fact that I have no clue what I’m doing. Graciously, my opponent relays concise instructions about how to expand my resource gathering operation. More resources means I can build more units, and more units means I may be able to put up a fight. That makes sense. I do what he says. For the next couple of minutes I make a few groups of units and send them around the map to do their thing. None of them return to base. Each of them destroyed by my well-prepared adversary. For each mistake I make, Sinistro shares tips about how to do things better next time. He even lets me steal an artifact and blow up a few of his units so my pride has a chance to recover. But like the helpless mouse being played with by a hungry cat, I know my demise is coming. My expanded resourcing operation radios in a distress call, “Enemy units spotted!” I pan the camera over to it and see three dozen enemy land and air units pop into the edge of my sensor range. Explosions burst from every direction and my resourcing operation is laid to waste. Ninety seconds later my carrier explodes in a flash of white light, transformed into a smoldering pile of rubble. Game over.

desertsofkharak64-2017-01-21-20-57-13-61
See all of those ships with the red bars above them? Enemies! See the big ship with a giant explosion coming out of it? That’s mine… It’s not in good shape.

So went my introduction to the world of online play in DoK. My first match ever lasted twenty-three minutes and fifty seconds, though my opponent could have easily laid waste to me in half that time. Many thanks for Sinistro to being a class act and showing me the ropes!

My second and third matches of online DoK went much better than the first. I was able to play in team matches with employees from both Blackbird Interactive and Gearbox Software, as well as other gamers in the community. I blew up some enemy units. I recovered some artifacts. I didn’t die instantly. It was a good night. While my experience confirmed to me that the game is a blast to play, the bigger impression was left by the helpful and friendly community. They’re enthusiastic about a great game and very welcoming towards newcomers. Check out the links below if you’d like to check things out for yourself. If you’re looking for a smaller-scale RTS game to play online against some friendly folks, DoK might be the game for you.

NOTE: DoK has an excellent single-player campaign that shouldn’t be missed. I’ll be writing a feature about that sometime in the near future. 

Where to buy:

Steam – $49.99

Community Involvement:

Deserts of Kharak Subreddit

Unofficial Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak Discord

Screenshot Mini-Gallery

Star Wars: Battlefront – Beauty Without Soul?

After mulling it over for several hours I finally made the realization that the real failure of Battlefront isn’t how it looks, or how it plays: it’s how much I care about what’s going on. Yes, these are spectacular battles rendered with craftsmanship and fidelity never before seen in a Star Wars game, but I just have no reason to care about any of it. […] Having said all that, I’ll buy the game the next time it’s on sale for $20 or less.

I wanted to totally fall in love the new iteration of Star Wars Battlefront, I really did. Considering it combines two things I absolutely adore, Star Wars and action games, by any rights this game should be a perfect fit for me! And yet, in spite of having spent an entire weekend with the prerelease beta and another four hours with the full game this past weekend, it just hasn’t hooked me yet. After feeling somewhat disappointed by the beta I had hoped the newly-released skirmish mode for offline play would be enough to win me over. And yet, all the free trial managed to accomplish was to cement my sense of indecision. It comes down to the simple reality that Battlefront has no soul. And that makes me sad.

starwarsbattlefronttrial 2016-07-23 10-22-34-69
It looks like this moisture farm on Tatooine would have a lot of great stories to tell… but it doesn’t. It tells nothing.

On the surface, it has all the things that fans of Star Wars and of action games could ever want: dazzling graphics, phenomenal sound engineering, the rousing orchestral score from John Williams, all some of the planets, characters, vehicles, and weapons we know and love, and exquisitely detailed game environments. Make no mistake, Star Wars: Battlefront is the Star Wars-iest Star Wars game I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot of Star Wars games. The miracle workers at DICE are to be commended for creating what is, quite frankly, the most beautiful and most complete rendering of the Star Wars universe in a video game. Every pixel, every sound, every movement, every object, every environment is 100% certified Star Wars. But considering the cinematic inspiration for the game distinguished itself by imagining an imperfect and dirty universe, the perfect rendering of that world in a video game somehow feels shallow. The end result is that the game feels more like an impression of an experience than the genuine article.

starwarsbattlefronttrial 2016-07-23 20-53-01-11
Piloting speeder bikes is all fun and games until you crash into a tree. Which happens. A lot.

In spite of the beautiful and immersive environment, there’s something that just doesn’t feel right. Oddly enough, it’s not the gameplay – even though it is simplistic to a fault. The actual mechanics of the game are more than fine. Shooting feels good, navigation and movement is spot-on, the game modes feel like they’re taking place in a galaxy far, far away, and all of the different parts contribute to an escapist whole. After mulling it over for several hours I finally made the realization that the real failure of Battlefront isn’t how it looks, or how it plays: it’s how much I care about what’s going on. Yes, these are spectacular battles rendered with craftsmanship and fidelity never before seen in a Star Wars game, but I just have no reason to care about any of it.

starwarsbattlefronttrial 2016-07-23 10-39-15-91
Thermal Detonator makes stormtroopers go boom.

Battlefront puts you squarely into the shoes of a no-name soldier to show you a ground-level view of the war between the Rebellion and the Empire. From such a low perspective the morals and motives of either faction don’t matter. Survival is the name of the game. The Rebels are always ill-prepared and fighting against the odds, and the Empire is always a military superpower trying to quash dissent. There’s no real motivation to fight for either side other than the fact that this is the way it’s always been. In a sense this might be considered one of the game’s successes, that it replicates the experience of being a pawn in a large-scale galactic war; but I believe it’s also why the game feels so empty. For a franchise that was the catalyst for millions of people to imagine themselves as a hero in a galaxy far, far away, spending hours in a game as an ordinary foot soldier is a bit of a letdown. Focusing on the little guys and giving them repetitive and relatively small-scale objectives removes the context from the fight and turns what should be an epic clash into just another day on the battlefield. Star Wars has always been a grand space opera about ordinary people becoming extraordinary and then doing heroic things. Even though Battlefront allows players to “be the hero” with powerups, there’s no real justification for their presence on the battlefield and they end up feeling like nothing more than a fancy costume for the ordinary soldiers. In spite of how much you want your role to have a sense of significance to it, the game never gives you that empowerment. No matter what you do you’ll be just another pawn fighting in a war against other pawns. At the risk of mixing up my metaphors, Battlefront ends up feeling like playing checkers when you want to play chess.

Having said all that, I’ll buy the game the next time it’s on sale for $20 or less.

starwarsbattlefronttrial 2016-07-23 21-04-03-64

Wait, what? Yes, I’m going buy the game when it goes back on sale. There are two reasons why. The first of which is that, for all its shallowness, it is still genuinely fun to shoot at wave upon wave of stormtroopers. The second reason being that Star Wars Battlefront may be the proof that EA DICE has what it takes to do some incredible things with Star Wars games, and that’s something I want to support. The developers obviously care a great deal about the source material, packing the game full of details most players will miss. A prime example is on a map for Supremacy on Endor, which is set at nighttime. A few minutes into the game I approached the outer border of the map which happened to be the bed of a lake. As I turned my character to pan the camera around my jaw dropped slightly. Sprawled out before me was a tranquil lake with a cluster of teepee-like dwellings perched over the water. Looming ominously overhead was a pair of Star Destroyers while the uncompleted Death Star dominated the twilight sky. This in-game scene is obviously directly inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept paintings for The Return of the Jedi. This glimpse of the real Endor displays how much attention the development team paid attention to the details that make the Star Wars universe special, even if those details are subservient to a grander and more boring big picture. If DICE can do this as icing on the cake in a multiplayer shooter, I’d love to see what they’re capable of in a dedicated single-player experience!

In the meantime, I’m learning that even shallow games have their beautiful moments. It took me four hours before I noticed one on Endor, maybe Battlefront has more to discover?

starwarsbattlefronttrial 2016-07-23 17-48-16-90
I’m still trying to figure out why the Empire built those hangar bays into such a shallow rock face instead of just putting them aboveground.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Modern Warfare was a watershed title for first-person shooters. Both the single player campaign and multiplayer experience built on past titles in the series to create a new definitive first-person shooter experience. For better or for worse, games are still trying to copy what COD4 accomplished; and relatively few have been successful.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Release Date: November 5th, 2007

Developer: Infinity Ward

Publisher: Activision

Where to buy: Steam – $19.99

What’s the Premise?

In a fictional near-future, there’s a full-blown civil war within Russia and violent unrest in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country. You, the player, will alternate between controlling Sergeant John “Soap” McTavish of the British SAS and sergeant Paul Jackson of the USMC, with a few others sprinkled in. Through course of the game you take part in varied battles in different theaters of war, eventually discovering that the two separate conflicts are related. The story events of the game unfold over a period of 6 days.

By the time 2007 rolled around, Infinity Ward had gained a lot of experience making games based on wars. Some of their core staff used to work at 2015, Inc., which made Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. After that, the team at Infinity Ward started the Call of Duty franchise with two games set in World War II. Call of Duty 3 was made by another studio, Treyarch, giving Infinity Ward time to craft the game that took players into the contemporary field of war.

Why Should I Play This?

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Modern Warfare was a watershed title for first-person shooters. Both the single player campaign and multiplayer experience built on past titles in the series to create a new definitive first-person shooter experience. For better or for worse, games are still trying to copy what COD4 accomplished; and relatively few have been successful.

001

Your first clue that Modern Warfare is a special game comes in how the tutorial is handled; it does an excellent job of setting the stage for the whole game. The tutorial mission begins with a few minutes at a gun range, familiarizing the player with various combat controls, reloading, and simple movement. The training then shifts to a warehouse where the bridge of a cargo ship has been roughly built out of plywood, complete with pop-up shooting targets and instructions spray painted on the walls. Your objective here is to run through this seemingly innocuous course as fast as possible. Upon finishing the course, your time and accuracy ratings are displayed, as well as the recommended difficulty for the campaign.

Wouldn’t you know it: the plywood training mission was literally preparation for your first mission of the game: an assault on a cargo ship. It’s here that the stage for the entire game is set: loud, showy, action-packed, and constantly moving at a breakneck pace. Infinity Ward pulled out all the stops for this one; roiling seas, weather effects; rain, thunder, and lightning; and a ship that actually feels like it’s being tossed around by the seas outside. Much like the training mission, you begin by rappelling from your helicopter down in front of the ship’s bridge to engage hostiles inside. After [SPOILERS REDACTED] the mission ends with heart-pounding chase and a leap of faith, after which your view fades to black and the opening credits start rolling.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the rollercoaster that is Call of Duty.

06
This is one of the smaller explosions in the game. It was preceded and followed by larger explosions.

To be honest, I’ve been struggling as to whether or not I should use the term “roller coaster” when referring to the game because it implies a passive thrill ride in which the rider has no part in the proceedings. To think of it another way: If levels FPS games prior to COD4 were a playground, the player’s objective would be to experience each set of equipment on the playground (slides, swings, monkey bars, etc.) in order to progress to a new playground. In COD4, the player is given a timed, flashy, explosion-filled, guided tour of the playground with no control over which piece of equipment to check out next. While it may sound limiting and forced; like your parents trying to convince you that you were in fact, not terrified of the giant slide; the game is so masterfully executed that it is rarely anything other than exhilarating.

07
“Death From Above” is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. There’s a real sense of accomplishment in helping your allies survive. It’s terrifying to realize how technology can detach war from humanity.

In all honesty, I’m not going to write a lot about the gameplay because at its core it’s not very different from any other shooter ever made. Guns, run, jump, reload, shoot, grenade, etc.; in terms of basic gameplay mechanics it’s all very familiar. What wasn’t familiar at the time of release is the experience crafted around the player: you are now an agent in the middle of a larger, visceral conflict. Some of the highlights include fighting to protect a stranded tank from attackers using C4, chasing a fugitive through enemy territory, an eerie and tense calm between firefights, providing support for a ground team via aerial firepower of an AC-130 gunship, and the sniper mission. Not a sniper mission, the sniper mission. While technically they are two separate levels, “All Ghilled Up” and “One Shot, One Kill” have to be considered as a package and are widely regarded as one of the finest experiences in the history of first-person shooters.

04
“Don’t. Move.”

While a game that’s nothing but hours of adrenaline-fueled rollercoaster thrills might become exhausting to play, the pacing is spot on in that when the action gets a bit too frantic the scope shifts for just a little while before the game throws you back in the fire again.

01
The red everywhere means you need better cover. Immediately.

With one or two exceptions, the campaign plays just as well now as it did back in 2007.

What doesn’t work?

Those one or two exceptions will be things that you notice quite a lot once you start looking for them. One is the absolute absence of player choice. Being such a heavily scripted game, if the mission script determines that you are supposed to walk through a doorway, then you will walk through that doorway or else nothing else in that mission will progress.

In another mission the game tells you to fight your way to the bottom of a hill in order to reach the extraction point – and to do so in a limited amount of time. The game clearly wanted me to hustle down the middle of the hillside village, running through thickets of enemy bullets. Doing this caused me to die and restart the checkpoint at least a dozen times. Trying for an alternate route I worked around the edge of the level and found what should have been a spot to let me sneak past almost everyone, but I couldn’t progress because an invisible wall was blocking my way. Sergeant “Soap” MacTavish of the British SAS, stymied by an 18-inch tall bale of hay and the invisible wall on top of it.

Speaking of invisible walls: one thing the game relies heavily upon are “trigger points”. These are set points within the levels that you the player “trip”, usually by moving past a certain point, and will then cause some pre-determined event to happen. In COD4 these triggers will usually stop enemies from spawning and / or allow you and your friendly NPCs to proceed to the next point in the level. If you don’t pass that magic line, your friendly allies don’t move and the enemy troops just keep on coming, long after they should have stopped.

03
There’s an assembly line for baddies inside that 2-story building there. You could sit here and play shooting gallery for 20 minutes or more if you don’t storm forward and hit the invisible trigger to shut down the baddie factory.

What else doesn’t work?

Multiplayer. Yes, I am talking about the multiplayer entirely within the “what doesn’t work” section because, quite honestly, COD4 multiplayer can’t recapture the magic now that it had upon release. Parts of it are still fine. The map design is still flawless, the guns are still balanced and fun, and the system of unlocking better equipment is just as addicting as it was in 2007. In preparation for writing this retrospective I thought I’d fire up the multiplayer for a few rounds, just to remember what it was like. Before I knew what happened, I’d been promoted to rank 32 and spent 5 hours on team deathmatch. Oops.

But the overall gameplay is lacking, mainly because it’s hard to find a server on PC THAT STILL PLAYS THE GAME AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED [leaving the caps lock on there was a mistake, but I like how it helps emphasize my point so I’ll leave it as is – Joe]. Originally, the main game modes were meant to be played by two teams of 6, or in the case of ground war (the largest official game mode), two teams of 10. Matches of that size left enough space on the maps for small engagements to take place and for players to form some kind of strategy for use when they next encountered an enemy. Killstreaks, rewards given when a player got a 3, 5, or 7 kills without dying happened regularly but weren’t a constantly occurring thing. There was room to breathe during a match. It was still fast, but there was a tactical element to it – depending on what map it was.

Now, the vast majority of servers have a minimum of 18-24 players; simply too many. Every match with this many people turns into a unfun drudgery of spawn die spawn die spawn shoot die spawn score two kills die by airstrike spawn again die by same airstrike quit match in rageIt’s kind of like when you discovered records could be run faster than intended. Sure it was fun to make a record sound like the chipmunks album, but it got very annoying very quickly. And it certainly wasn’t anything that you went back and listened to on a regular basis.

Is it fair to judge a game if it’s not being played in the way the developers intended? Not necessarily, but if there’s only one way to experience a game almost nine years after its original release, I have to critique the current experience. If you can play with a group of friends, or find the rare server with a max capacity of 8-14 people, it’s still a lot of fun. Sadly, that’s a very rare thing to find and as things stand now I can’t recommend spending a lot of time on multiplayer gameplay.

05
Prepare to see this screen. A. Lot.

Tips for New Players:

  1. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, don’t play on a difficulty level higher than “normal”. This will give you the most enjoyment out of the thrill ride that is COD4.
  2. If you seem to be stuck at some point in a level, don’t underestimate the value of running forward blindly; you might cross one of those invisible lines that moves the mission forwards.
  3. Don’t forget that your bullets can shoot through walls.

The Final Raving – Full Endorsement

Anyone who plays video games should give this a try, even if this is a genre you’ve never been interested before. 

Let’s be honest: in 2016 the Call of Duty franchise is a bloated, overhyped monstrosity that probably just needs to be quietly put to rest, but this title from 2007 still deserves all the accolades the series has ever gotten. Don’t misjudge the original because the copies aren’t that good.

Good:

  • A finely crafted gaming experience that feels like an action movie
  • Tight gunplay is as responsive as any shooter has ever been
  • THE sniping mission, seriously

Bad:

  • Invisible trigger points are frustrating at times
  • Harder difficulty levels are punishing, rewarding twitch reactions instead of skill
  • While the sound design isn’t bad, it’s noticeably not as good as certain other games
  • $19.99 feels a bit steep for a 9-year-old 8-9 hour single-player campaign, but that’s more a con of Activision than the game itself

Ugly:

  • The way your view is “kicked” when hit by enemy fire will cause a significant amount of frustration

Compatibility Considerations: 

  • The only issue you might run into is trying to play online. COD4 uses an anti-cheat system called Punkbuster. Unfortunately, Infinity Ward stopped supporting Punkbuster in 2014 so you’ll have to update those files manually. This YouTube video contains full instructions on how to perform that update: How to Update Punkbuster COD4 – 2016 / 2015