Note: This is a review of the Campaign mode only. This is also the review for the XB360 version.

Ahhh, you again, First Person Shooter. How we’ve flirted with each other, and yet toed the line between lukewarm love and redhot hate. I’ve been annoyed with your limited perspective and the difficulty orienting oneself in the midst of screaming chaos. How I’ve felt so separated from the gameplay – countering your very purpose for existing! How I’ve struggled to come to terms with your lack of peripheral vision, and you’ve managed to barely keep me satisfied over our long diseased relationship.

Yet you have found a way to redeem yourself.

Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4 ( 2008 ) is a fast-paced heart-racing first person shooter (FPS). The game allows you to play two different characters – Special Air Service (SAS) Sgt. “Soap” MacTavish and United States Marine Corps (USMC) Sgt. Paul Jackson. The story features a near-future setting, complete with terrorists, ICBM threats, “Ultranationalists,” and secret world-saving missions. The story begins with MacTavish and SAS finding a nuclear device on a ship with ties to the Ultranationalists. Imran Zakhaev, ultranationalist extraordinaire, stages a global set-up and finances a rebel leader named Khaled Al-Asad to kill the president in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country – all to draw attention away from his elaborate plan to steal Russian warheads. The USMC is called in to take Asad, but soon find out that they’re after the wrong man. Thus the SAS and the USMC engage in a desperate team operation to bring down Zakhaev and live another day.

The story is engaging, if short, Switching between SAS and USMC brings a welcomed variety to the gameplay and story, giving simultaneous perspectives and action on two sides of the conflict. The whole game capitalizes on its cinematic pedigree (World War II games Call of Duty 1-3), and gives quite a few moments that make the experience all the more realistic.

While it’s hard to bring the reality of World War II home to the player, whether it’s because it’s already in the history books or just too far removed. Call of Duty 1-3 were all successful at this approach, but Call of Duty 4 makes the reality of war much more tangible (this probably is in due part to the locales of rural Russia and the Middle East – battlegrounds many of us know of and even remember). One might clear a building and come out in the open, but the enemy soldiers might go in the back door, giving them the ability to pick the player off as a lesson. The chaos of battle makes Call of Duty 4 difficult and sometimes frustrating, but it makes it that much more of a fair representation of the true horrors and confusion of war.

The details of the game are beautiful too. The rendering of the trees, scrub, and buildings are all beautifully done. However, it is also in the details of the game that some ground is lost. While even Grand Theft Auto has evolved to the one-button cover solution that makes the difference between realistic combat and easy pickings, Call of Duty doesn’t give the luxury of magnetic wall cover. Instead, the three positions (stand, crouch, and prone) are all that the player gets. Often, this leaves the player vulnerable when a one-button cover would have been a bit more realistic as well as less frustrating (especially when it seems that the normal positions can’t really help in extreme hostile situations). Another conspicuously missing detail was the map, or rather a lack of one. Well, the game actually does have a map, but it’s on the start menu. It seems far-fetched to suggest that the soldiers of the future would not have some sort of constant GPS with them – especially SAS and the Marines. Probably the most troubling detail is in the length. The game seems superficially long because of its frustrating learning curve, which spurs a lot of do-overs. However, my core gameplay was still around 10 to 12 hours, if that. I realize that the mileage is in the multiplayer, but it seems like Infinity Ward could have thrown us non-Onliners a bone.

Overall, there aren’t that many complaints to be had. To be perfectly honest with the reader, I have only played segments of Call of Duty 2 or 3. Because of my relatively little experience with the series, I can’t really say if Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a wholly new or different game (or at least an improvement). I can say that it’s an amazing game at least worth a good rent, if not a buy for its multiplayer action. But if you like going solo, a good rent’s all it will take to save the world.