The cinema of Call of Duty 4

November 28, 2007

The Call of Duty series has something going for it. It’s not stunning AI, it’s not solid replayability… in fact the whole series has really lacked those things. What is has is a very rich sense of cinematic feel.


As you play, you know the game is heavily (completely) scripted but you really just don’t care. In CoD4, like all the other games in the franchise, if you die and go back to a previous save you know full well the same enemy dude is going to pop out from behind the same wrecked car and shoot at you. This time though, you’re ready for the little bastard. That predictability is almost a part of it’s charm. You might find it frustrating that the enemy caught you out with a grenade the first time through, and the second time was even more frustrating… but by the third go through you are completely ready for him, and the little digital bugger doesn’t have a chance. Payback is a bitch.

Where other games put you in a free open area and give you many ways to get through a given encounter, CoD4 and the rest generally present you with a script that you get herded along to follow whether you like it or not. That doesn’t sound appealing, but it’s no different than a movie. You don’t go see the latest action flick and walk away disappointed that you didn’t get to choose how the hero killed his way through the plot. You’re presented with it, and you take it in as presented. CoD4 is exactly like that, but instead of watching you get to take part. Yes, it’s scripted but if done properly it doesn’t feel like you’re being told what to do so much as it feels like your actions are advancing the action movie along. When you talk about it with friends who’ve played you don’t ask what happened to them in the game, you know what happened… the conversations are more about “I liked the part when…” just like a film. That’s not a bad thing at all.

Sometimes it’s nice to be presented with an open ended sort of game where choices abound, but honestly sometimes you just want to sit and take part in an action movie. CoD4 is the latest in the franchise to provide just that, and it does so surprisingly well.


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