Monday, October 29, 2007

Hands-on preview: Get locked and loaded with 'Call of Duty 4'

For all you FPS lovers on the Xbox 360 tired of battling 'Big Daddies' on the runaway hit, "Bioshock," check out "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" on the 360 and the Sony PS3.

The real followup to the Xbox 360 hit, "Call of Duty 2," "Call of Duty 4"was developed by Infinity Ward, and published by Activision. After making "Call of Duty 2," Activision enlisted Infinity Ward to make this game - handing off *yawn* "Call of Duty 3" to developers Treyarch / Pi Studios. Behind the scenes, Infinity Ward was crafting one of the sweetest FPS to see the light of day on the 360.

I was fortunate to get an early pass from Infinity Ward into their uber secret beta and I downloaded the beta Tuesday. You get a chance to play as a U.S. Marine, a British Special Air Service member or a member of the Russian Spetnaz. The beta includes a class system, which assigns a standard weapons list for players. The classes are: Assault, Spec Ops, Heavy Gunner, Demolitions and Sniper. As you amass points, you increase in rank and perks. (The beta is limited to Sergeant)

Perks are extra benefits players earn for kills. Some of the perks include steady aim, last stand (which is one of the coolest - you pull out your pistol right before you die), deep impact (increased stopping power) and martyrdom (drop a live grenade after you die). There are three Perk groups.

You choose your class and your match - there were four modes in the beta, including free-for-all, team deathmatch, team objective and team tactical.

There are also 3 maps in the beta - one of them in a farm village (Overgrown), another in a warehouse (Vacant) and my favorite, Crash, which feels a lot like a scene in the movie, "Black Hawk Down." You get paired into groups and the match starts. It's very similar in feel to "Battlefield 2," with the classes and respawns, but controls are tight and responsive.

My first match, I didn't kill anyone, yet I got blasted more times than I care to share. When I settled down during the next matches, I found myself atop a couple leaderboards with kills.

Some very cool features are calling in a UAV - this drone-like robot that reveals the enemy's location - after 3 consecutive kills, and calling in airstrikes with 5 kills. Sometimes, you can call in a friendly helo to lay waste. Be careful - the helos, since they fly low and slow, pack a punch, but can be shot down.

The action is always intense, especially against other gamers via Live.

Visuals are pretty slick - not as sweet as "Bioshock," but they are excellent.

Sound is killer - I use a 5.1 system, so surround sound rocks.

Overall, this is a beta you have to check out, if you love FPS. It won kudos at the E3 conference, and was the talk of the show, according to Game Informer magazine.

Your sitrep - wait patiently to get your orders for "Call of Duty 4."

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