Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just what have I been up to?

Ok. I have a confession to make. I've been keeping another blog on the side. Relax. It's nothing serious. I bet I haven't even posted there 10 times yet.

Anyway, I thought I would re-print here, something I posted there last night.


I just finished "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare". It is the first game I have been motivated enough to finish all the way to the end for quite a while. I enjoyed it immensely even though military FPSes aren't my number one genre.


As I said, the game is a military FPS. You play through the game as two different characters. The first mission is played as Pvt. 'Soap' MacTavish, 22nd Special Air Service Regiment, Royal Army, along with your squadmates, Gaz, Griggs, and Captain Price, in Central Asia (Khazakhstan, perhaps?) where you are trying to rescue one of your assets from unfriendly hands all the way through pursuit and extraction.

I noticed that my squadmates took up intelligent stacking and defensive positions. However, early on, often they would be waiting for me and I would have missed Capt. Price's order. So, either listen carefully for Price, or check your objectives often. For some reason, I found myself forgetting to use my compass and waypoint indicators. I think it's because they weren't in their accustomed "rear view mirror" position. Minor interface quibble.

Next, you play a series of missions as Sgt. Paul Jackson, 1st Marine Force Recon. The setting is an unspecified (or fictitious) Middle Eastern setting. Your first mission is to try and capture a terrorist leader. He eludes your grasp. Next, you assist a stranded Abrams tank to safety.

I believe there are 18 full-on missions, although each mission will have several component goals. With a couple of notable excpetions, you switch back and forth between MacTavish and Jackson, pursuing parallel and complementary story lines. The Jackson story is pretty generic - to a point. You are pursuing a terrorist warlord who is trying to get his hands on nukes. As MacTavish and the Brits, you are pursuing a Russian, ultranationalist whacko who sold the nukes to the Middle Eastern nutjob. In my opinion, the British missions are more entertaining as they feature the stronger storyline and the better voice acting.

The real standout missions played from the Jackson side are the AC-130 Specter gunship support mission (that was fun!) and the nuke mission. As Jackson, you get a ringside seat to a nuclear bomb exploding. Unfortunately, it kills you. You "play" a one or two minute movie-mission where you witness the nuclear holocaust before keeling over and dying.

(Note: Throughout the course of the game, you run across bits of bonus intelligence. I only found something like 3/30 pieces of intelligence. Who knows? It may be possible to prevent the nuclear holocaust by playing the preceding missions skillfully enough. Or, the mushroom cloud sequence and Jackson's death may be unavoidable. I suspect it's the latter, but I don't know.)

From the MacTavish side, the two most memorable missions, by far, are played as flashback missions from the perspective of then-Lt. Price and his CO, Capt. MacMillan. Mission 13, "All Ghillied Up", have Price and MacMillan armed only with their sniper rifles and ghillie suits, sniping guards and evading patrols.

There was a particularly tough patch that I could not solve on my own. Price and MacMillan are caught in an open field by a patrol of close to twenty soldiers and two light armored vehicles. There are far too many 'tangos' to engage, so you have to crawl, ever-so-slowly, between lanes of soldiers and hope that they don't detect you. Oh, did I mention that this mission takes place in Pripyat, Ukraine? You've never heard of Pripyat? Perhaps not. But you've heard of the nearby nuclear reactor, Chernobyl, certainly. So, in addition, to dodging patrols, you have to listen for the sound of your radiation detector. Too many rads, and you're done.

As I said, I could not solve the open field patrol portion on my own. So I watched a walk through video on YouTube. Search for COD4 Walkthrough Attila16 and look for mission 13, "All Ghillied Up". Attila16 is able to masterfully negotiate the level, start to finish, in about 12:30 minutes.

I would also recommend watching the next mission, "One Shot, One Kill". This is the second mission you play as Price with MacMillan. In it, you appear to assassinate Imran Zarkaev as he is getting ready to sell stolen fissile material from the nearby, pilfered reactor. I know when I played the mission, I saw my shot hit, and heard MacMillan call the hit.

I say you appear to assassinate him, though, because he turns back up later on in the last mission of the game. I could not find any explanation for this. I need to do some checking on the 'net for any info on this. I hope there is an explanation. This was the only real serious continuity flaw I found in the game. The game and game play are still masterful, but this seems like a big event for devs Infinity Ward to have given no explanation.

From a performance standpoint, I had no real issues with running the game on my T7400 Core 2 Duo proc/Ge Force 8600 M GT 512 MB video-based rig. I did read the Game Spot COD4 tweak guide and did follow their suggestion to disable a few of the minor effects. Other than that, the game ran very well. Put it this way. It ran well enough that I was having a good enough time to finish the game.


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