Call of Duty 4 Multiplayer Hands-on Preview - High-Def Digest Forums
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Old 08-08-2007, 12:29 PM
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Default Call of Duty 4 Multiplayer Hands-on Preview
As you might have gathered from our recent E3 Awards, we here at TeamXbox are looking forward to Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare just a little bit. It’s not like we didn’t appreciate the job that Treyarch did developing Call of Duty 3, it’s just that it’s impossible for anyone to live up to the lofty expectations that were created when the original Call of Duty took the gaming world by storm in 2003. On a recent trip to the company’s headquarters in sunny Encino, we learned that the development team actually began work on the latest game as soon as they got their Xbox 360 dev kits, and we were happy to report that it shows. Amazingly, the game has come a long way since we saw the game in the weeks leading up to E3, and we (myself, IGN’s Hilary Goldstein, and GameSpy’s Bryn Williams and Gerald Villoria ) recently had the opportunity for a second visit to play the upcoming multiplayer beta.

After being given a quick tour of the studio (oh, if only I could tell you of the things I’ve seen…) we were lead into the company’s cozy theater, where we sat down with Studio Heads Grant Collier and Vince Zampella for a brief overview of the game’s multiplayer mode. As many of you already know, Call of Duty 4 is a class-based multiplayer game, and although it doesn’t feature as many classes as a game like Team Fortress 2, it brings a lot of intriguing features to the proverbial table. When you start playing the multiplayer mode for the first time, you’ll only be able to choose from five different default classes: Assault, Spec Ops, Sniper, Demolitions, and Heavy Gunner. Each of those has a unique loadout and set of perks (more on those later!), and you won’t be able to edit them in any way.

Once you’ve been playing the game for a little while (specifically, once you hit level 4, or Private), you’ll be given the ability to create your own custom class. This is when the multiplayer action really kicks into high gear, as it will give you a seemingly infinite number of options when it comes to customizing your digital soldier. Players will have the ability to choose the weapons and gear that they bring into battle, and the fact that you can save up to 5 custom classes means that you can customize them for particular maps or gametypes is a major plus. It’s a great system, and it seems like the development team has done a bang-up job at ensuring that everything is fair and balanced. You’ll also have the ability to see what class the foe that kills you is using, giving you an opportunity to learn the tricks of their murderous trade.

While swapping out weapons and attachments are all well and good, it’s the perks that really make the multiplayer mode interesting. When you’re creating a custom class, you’ll have the ability to give your character three perks that will improve his abilities or loadout in a particular way. The first perk slot revolves around explosives, as it will give you access to stuff like RPGs and C4 charges, as well as increase your capacity for your chosen special grenade (flash or stun, for example). Although the first perk slot is more like an added bonus, it’s the second and third perks that will really change the way you play the game. They’ll give you character an advantage in a particular area, and smart players will quickly figure out which combinations best suit their style of play.

The second and third tiers of perks help give the player the upper hand in certain circumstances, particularly when they are using a weapon or piece of gear that has a disadvantage. For instance, if you’re using the SAW machine gun (which has a very long reload time), you might want to give yourself the Sleight of Hand perk, giving you the ability to reload much faster. Extreme Conditioning, on the hand, gives you the ability to sprint for a longer period of time. One of the most entertaining is Last Stand, which allows the player to pull out a pistol after being “killed” and squeeze off a few rounds in an attempt to kill nearby enemies. Alas, you won’t start with all of these perks, but it won’t be long before they are unlocked through solid play.

Basically, the ability to create a custom class (did we mention that you can give your custom class its own name?) means that each game will play out differently, and we’re sure that some players will come up with some off-the-wall combinations. One of the developers was telling us about some of the perks that won’t be in the multiplayer beta. He mentioned that he created a “Ghost” class that doesn’t show up on enemy radar (thanks to a jammer and a silenced weapon) and has the ability to walk almost silently. Basically, he spends all of his time skulking through hallways and stabbing people in the back. Sounds like fun, huh? Of course, if one wanted to be a bit more offensive, he or she could just create a class with a powerful weapon and perks that enhance it.

Here’s a list of second and third perks that will be in the upcoming multiplayer beta:

Juggernaut: Increased health.
Sleight of Hand: Faster reload time.
Sonic Boom: Higher explosive weapon damage.
Stopping Power: Increased Bullet Damage.
UAV Jammer: Undetectable on renemy radar.

Deep Impact: Deeper bullet penetration.
Last Stand: Pull out your pistold before dying.
Steady Aim: Increased hip-fire accuracy.
Extreme Conditioning: Sprint for longer distances.
Martyrdom: Drop a line grenade when killed.

The main hub of the multiplayer mode is the Barracks, through which you’ll be able to access the online leaderboards, challenges, and other relevant information. The Xbox Live leaderboards are incredibly detailed, offering up stats on everything from the total time you’ve played, how many wins you’ve racked up, kill ratios, and on and on. As far as the challenges go, you’ll be given XP (experience will help you to level up) bumps for hitting certain milestones. Many of these will be weapon-based (killing X number of enemies with a particular weapon), and you’ll earn special features like scopes and camouflage when you’re successful. There are also some that are related to the gameplay itself, as you’ll be rewarded for killing foes, calling in airstrikes, or winning games.

When we learned that we’d be spending our time playing the very multiplayer beta that everyone would be experiencing in the coming days (and, hopefully, weeks), one of our first questions was regarding the maps that we’d be seeing. We had a chance to check out three maps, each of which was loosely based on levels from the single-player campaign. While all of the maps were created to maximize the intensity, we found that Vacant had us on the edge of our seats during our playtest. This was largely due to the fact that the abandoned Russian office complex was comprised of tight, dark hallways and plenty of desks to hide behind.

In contrast to the small, intimate Vacant, Overgrown is a sprawling map that is split down the middle by what appears to be a dried-up riverbed. On one side of the river is one of the small, abandoned villages that is common to the Russian countryside, while the other side has a small farmhouse and a large barn. The tall grass in this level is perfect for snipers, as they will automatically be outfitted with the ghillie suits that we all saw (well, not at first) during Microsoft’s E3 press conference. Finally, there’s Crash, a map that is set somewhere in the Middle East and features a downed chopper as its centerpiece. Each of the maps works flawlessly for each of the gametypes, something that can’t be said for many multiplayer games.

Speaking of gametypes, we had a chance to check out a handful of them, although we were told that the final game will support more. Team Deathmatch and Free-for-All are fairly self-explanatory, as you’ll be tasked with either taking down the opposing team or…well, everyone. As you might expect, the Team Objective gametype will feature objective-based games, either Search and Destroy or Domination. In the former, the offensive team will have to plant a bomb and keep the enemy team from disarming it, while the latter will require the teams to fight over three points. The more you hold at any given moment, the faster your score will go up. We were happy to learn that there will be a dearth of customization options, from leaving out the HUD to playing “hardcore” (read: one hit, one kill).

For the most part, the controls in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare will be instantly familiar to fans of first-person shooters. The right and left triggers will fire your weapon and bring up your iron sights, respectively, while the right bumper throws frag grenades (which can be cooked for quicker explosions) and the left tosses your special greande. The A button will allow you to jump or mantle obstacles, B lets the player crouch or go prone (when you hold it down), and the Y button is used to switch amongst your weapons. When it’s time to reload, just hit the X button. Two of our favorite features are the sprint ability and the brutal, knife attack, both of which are mapped to the analog sticks. Clicking the left analog once will make your character sprint (you gotta love not having to hold it down!), while clicking the right will let you stab a nearby enemy.

The first thing that was evident when we started playing the game was how jaw-droppingly excellent it looks. Call of Duty 4 runs at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, and it really makes a huge difference during multiplayer games. Everything runs along very smoothly, even when there’s a ton of action on-screen, which is amazing given the insane level of detail on everything from the soldiers to the buildings. Given the fact that this is an Infinity Ward title, it’s probably not surprising that the game sounds absolutely awesome, with bullets whizzing through the air and grenades leaving a ringing in your ears. If it sounds like I’m throwing some serious hyperbole around, it’s probably because the game warrants it.

We began our time with the game playing a standard Team Deathmatch mode. This probably wasn’t be best idea, as we had decided to party up and take on the testers. Suicide, right? Well, it actually wasn’t as bad as one might expect, as we managed to “hold our own” (their words, not ours) during the many battles we played. It definitely took a while to get used to the ins and outs of the gunplay, as it’s quite realistic in many ways. Just a few shots will take you down, and while you can regain your health while taking cover, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t even have time to get away.

When playing in the multiplayer arena, you’ll be a member of one of four different organzations: the Russian Spetsnaz, the British SAS, the Middle Eastern “Opposing Force,” or the American Marine Force Recon. There’s really no difference between the factions, aside from the way that they look. You won’t have the ability to customize your avatar, aside from switching your weapon loadout (which includes the gun’s camo paintjob). Your teammates will have a small indicator over their heads to let you know who was who but, thankfully, we had friendly fire turned off, so we didn’t have to worry about accidentally capping a teammate.

While we were playing the Team Deathmatch games, we really didn’t get much of a chance to check out the bonuses that come with taking down your enemies. However, once we started playing the objective-based games, we had a chance to really cause some serious damage. When you get 3 kills in a row (trust us, this isn’t as easy as it sounds), you’ll gain the ability to call in a UAV, which will allow you to see all of your opponents on the radar. If you manage to stay alive even longer and reach a 5 kill streak, you can call in an airstrike. As jets roar overhead, bombs will be dropped all over the outdoor areas, so you’d better take cover if your opponent calls one in. Finally, 7 kills will net you the aid of an attack chopper.

It's easy to focus on the immediate action and stuff like gametypes and customization, many multiplayer games get their staying power by doing the little things right. The small on-screen radar comes in handy during combat, as your opponents will show up when they fire their weapons. There is a lot of debris lining the streets, and we found that while the beat-up old cars that made for good cover, they had a nasty tendency to, well, explode when they took damage. Even flashbangs can kill, as they will do a slight bit of damage and can finish off a wounded foe. All in all, this game is quite a bit deeper than it might initially seem.

The game's experience system is simple (yet elegant), as you'll be rewarded for just about everything you do while you're in the game. Kills will earn you 5 or 10 points depending on the gametype, while you'll earn more points for doing stuff like planting bombs and capturing critical positions. You'll also get a good bunch of experience points for completing challenges (like the aforemention weapon-centric ones). In a nice touch, you'll learn when other players move up a rank, giving you a chance to congratulate them. Once the match is done, you'll get to find out what rewards you've earned.

Although my interest in the game was really high heading into our day at Infinity Ward, it’s off the charts right now. The game’s multiplayer mode is intense, addictive, gorgeous, noisy, and innovative, and those are just the adjectives that I can come up with off the top of my head at this late hour. We were all hooting and hollering from the get-go, and it wasn’t long before I felt totally comfortable with the game. Simply put, this is going to be one of the best multiplayer games on the Xbox 360, if not all-time.
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