Call of Duty 4: Vive La Revolution

I’ve been reviewing Call of Duty 4 over the weekend, a game we haven’t talked about much here as yet. It may have gotten a bit lost in the recent FPS deluge – though I suspect it’ll be a mega-hit on console – and I have to admit I hadn’t been paying a great deal of attention to it myself until now. Possibly because, having found GRAW 2 a bit dull, I wasn’t in much of a hurry to play any more thinly-veiled allusions to the Mess O’Potamia just yet. Discussion on the quality and content of the game I’ll save for once the review’s published, but kindly commissioning editors have given me the go-ahead to briefly mention one moment.

There’s a cutscene after the first mission, only a few minutes into the game, which dropped my jaw. There are no plot spoilers in the following, but if you’d rather experience than read about the inventive approach taken by one of the game’s earliest sequences, you may want to turn away now.

Until then, you’ve been playing as a fresh SAS recruit, in the company of some surprisingly charismatic veteran Brit commandos. Call of Duty traditionally jumps the player into various different characters throughout the course of the game, so I wasn’t surprised to find myself looking through someone else’s eyes all of a sudden. What was unusual was that, apparently, I was set to spend the next chapter of the game playing as the just-kidnapped President of a war-torn Middle Eastern nation. I’m being violently hauled off to a car by two burly men. Will I be rescued? Will I get a bit Harrison Ford in Air Force One any minute now and become Action-President? Is it all a trick? Or something else? I’m not saying – that’s for you to find out. I’m just going to describe what happens first.

Able to look around but not move – I’m a prisoner, after all – I’m taken on a five minute tour of a devastated city. There’s poverty and ruin all around, the constant sound of gunfire, men running from unseen threats, armed soldiers forcing civilians to the ground, a graffiti artist dropping his spray can in terror at the sight of the car I’m in – wait, was that a firing squad? Jets fly overhead, the tide crashes against a coastal wall, and heavy armour rumbles along distant side-streets. Throughout it all, the car radio bellows propaganda about revolution and overthrow, and an invisible crowd cheers after every firebrand sentence. The sneering guy in the passenger seat occasionally gestures at something outside the window, or turns to fix me with a murderous stare, waving his machine gun at me menacingly. I’m nervous, I’m awed – I’m even moved. It creates an incredible sense of place. Okay, so when do I get my gun and go fix this stuff? I am going to get my gun and go fix this stuff, right?

All through this sustained barrage of unique animations, names of the game’s creators blink across the bottom of the screen – this is a pure Hollywood title sequence. Better, I’d argue, than a Hollywood title sequence, as I feel that much more involved. Yeah, I can only move my head – I can’t talk or use anything, but I don’t really notice. I’m a prisoner, and I’m scared and overwhelmed. This is how I rather suspect I’d actually behave in that situation – nothing more than a wide-eyed spectator. It’s the legendary Half-Life train journey intro sequence, but in the midst of a bloody armed uprising.

Fascinating stuff happens beyond, and there are other, more interactive jawdroppers of similar cinematic panache later in the game, but unfortunately I can’t talk about any of that yet. Name me any other game, though, that features an interactive title sequence in which you’re given a guided tour of a revolution-in-progress.

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40 Comments

  1. Thiefsie says:

    Sounds pretty good to me. Infinity ward can do scripting well above and beyond anything else it seems :)

    Can’t wait to get my hands on this just for a quick action bash through the game. CoD always was an adrenaline shot to the arm!

  2. Chris R says:

    Hmmmmmmm….. I have to be honest, before reading this, I had NO inclination to check out COD4… but now my interest level has risen considerably.

  3. Thiefsie says:

    Also.. I think it might be prudent to put more of a spoiler warning on this as frankly… Definitely ruining that moment for anyone that reads this.

  4. Andrew says:

    Same, Chris. I played the demo and was underwhelmed (it was competent but nothing spectacular) but with this, and the PC Gamer review which I read recently, I’m thinking of getting it.

  5. Watcher95 says:

    Yerp, that was a spoiler, thanks a lot.

  6. drunkymonkey says:

    Oh deary me. Oh deary me. This game has now entered into my Christmas list. What an excellent sequence that is. COD seems to have grown up even more.

  7. Alec Meer says:

    Hey, I said there was a spoiler – you’ve only yourself to blame. But I’ve made the warning stronger, anyway.

  8. drunkymonkey says:

    Also lads, the spoiler warning was there from the start.

  9. Feet says:

    Damn it!

    I was happy to let CoD4 be one of the casualties of an awesome set of games that I could not afford to get in the lead up to Christmas (due to so many other awesome ones deserving my monies more on the 360 atleast). Now I’ve read this, I think I need to play it… Plus I really enjoyed the MP beta on the 360 too.

    ;.; I don’t know what to do now. -_-

  10. Thiefsie says:

    I’m not fussed at all about the spoiler, and I know you had a warning to start with, but just thought it should be stronger if that such moment is the best in the game.. even if it is near the start, may as well make it clear that people would enjoy it more without knowing ;)

    anyway back to the discussion… how is the multiplay on PC? I never bothered to try the 360 online. You probably can’t say much more than it’s worthwhile or not, or perhaps not even that under embargo ;)

    Having played the demo I am still a little annoyed at the health regeneration and grenade pointers but what can you do… Also, the scriptedness is typical tight Infinity ward stuff that is great to ride by the seat of your pants the first time with, but hardly worth while doing again :(

    Hopefully the campaign is aof a half decent length.

  11. Turin Turambar says:

    “Name me any other game that features an interactive sequence in which you’re given a guided tour of a revolution-in-progress.”

    So.. what part of the real time 3d movie was interactive? You could only look around. ;)

    I am old and jaded with videogames, i am not longer impressed with some scripts thrown at me. If all that awesomeness was interactive, like you can talk, or use or shoot or move or something, it would be different. But it’s only an elaborate set piece.

  12. Alec Meer says:

    Thiefsie – a) was responding to Watcher95 b) can’t talk about anything else yet, sorry

    Turin – I have as much cutscene intolerance as the next guy, but I was blown away by this. Also, it’s about context – you’re specifically placed in the situation of a guy who only can look around.

  13. Dave Johnston says:

    What about comments to this story when they appear in the ‘latest comments’ box on the right?

  14. Alec Meer says:

    Gah. That’s a horrifying point. I’m going to have to a) alter the story b) sit up all night catching comments. I choose a), so edit incoming… Apologies to anyone whose comment gets deleted in the crossfire, and to those of you who’ve read the piece already: ssh! It’s for the good of humanity.

  15. essell says:

    I’m usually one to almost totally ignore the CoD games, but that sounds really good. If there’s more like that throughout the game, I might actually end up buying it…

  16. Nir says:

    Reminds me of the beginning of The Darkness.

  17. roBurky says:

    Bloody hell. That’s not what I would have expected from what I thought was yet another world war 2 shooter.

  18. Cruz says:

    I wonder if this is indicative of a decent fleshed out story. If so, between CoD4 and what I anticipate Kain and Lynch providing in terms of story, it will be a good close to a year for story driven games. (I just beat Bioshock; I am a slacker)

    By the way, after playing the Crysis SP demo and CoD4 demo, is anyone else disillusioned with Crysis and more excited about the latter?

  19. Alec Meer says:

    Yeah, thought about mentioning the Darkness as there’s certainly some similar thinking, but elected not to because it’s not a PC title. The difference is that a) the sights you see here are waaaaay more interesting, and give you a palpable sense of the situation the world of this game is in, and b) I was hugely frustrated by not being able to move, and the ludicrousness of how slowly Jackie loads his shotgun, in The Darkness. Here I was just too taken aback by what I was seeing to care.

  20. Icupnimpn2 says:

    @Cruz & a little off topic

    You really expect a game with the name of “Kane and Lynch” to have a good story? Maybe I’m alone, but the title makes me cringe very hard. And if the name sucks, how great can the rest of the writing be? It’s like “Ecks vs. Sever” all over again. Let’s take two super cool nailbitingly edgy names and slam them together. Except, Kane and Lynch are more generic than Ecks and Sever. Then again, Max Payne was sorta cool at the time and you couldn’t possibly come up with a cornier name than that. Either way, Kain and Lynch sounds too much like a game for the “Dew Generation” for my liking.

  21. Drew says:

    Please spoiler this.

  22. Dracko says:

    @ Icupnimpn2

    You don’t know a thing about the game at all, do you?

  23. Cruz says:

    @lcupnimpn2
    Link: K&L Wiki

    Combine that with the trailers, and you have one excited Mexican here. The story might sound a tad hokey, what with secret organizations and prison rescues, but I like the character synopsis, and I think they could shine in a good story. Not to mention, isn’t it supposed to have co-op? I hope they keep that feature in PC. We need more PC co-op.

  24. mister slim says:

    Chronicles of Riddick had a similar credit sequence, though it was just a tour of a rather brutal prison. It’s a good technique to make the player feel the character’s helplessness and confinement, which is why the sequence in The Darkness was less effective.

  25. Icupnimpn2 says:

    @Dracko

    I know the name!

    @Cruz

    Well spoken & informative

  26. Messiah Complex says:

    News flash: the game is much, much better than I was expecting. Not nearly as plot-heavy as I was led to believe, it’s more of a “hardcore” shooter (meaning that the action is the juice).

  27. Rock, Paper, Shotgun - PC Gaming » Blog Archive » Assasinating Assasins Creed says:

    […] Call of Duty 4 was over-careful in its desire to offend, it at least tempered it with some genuinely powerful material. You have to wonder why anyone would make a game about a controversial topic without realising that […]

  28. Andrew says:

    Just to say that I bought CoD4 mostly on the strength of this article and loved it to bits. Certainly not just a retread of the previous games, which I’d feared from the lacklustre demo.

  29. Game on « Audent’s Weblog says:

    […] November 15th, 2007 First reviews of Call of Duty 4 (COD4) are out and boy, they look the business… […]

  30. Joonas says:

    All of the storytelling in COD4 is well beyond expected. They’ve managed to tell a story in a way that engages me without getting in the way of the action. The couple of surprises are very memorable; I was really impressed by the intro sequence, the epilogue and especially the bit in the middle after the “chopper down” mission. Great stuff, although entirely one-use.

  31. Alec Meer says:

    Yeah, it quietly and impressively rethinks what cutscenes can be. I’m burning to write about that jawdropping post-chopper moment, but I’ll need to leave it a few weeks or the Spoiler Nazis will lynch me.

  32. kadayi says:

    Just finished the game a thoroughly enjoyed it. It doesn’t aspire to be anything more than what it is (a shooter), but there are some great scenes throughout and very controversial bits to to the game. It’s certainly a game that you won’t easily forget, and will want to replay (something I’m just about to do). I was slightly taken aback at how abruptly it reached it’s conclusion, but definitely recommend it as a purchase. I know your pain Alec, I’ve been saying to all my friends simply buy this now’ because I want them to experience those scenes so I have someone to chat about it with. ;)

  33. Scum says:

    Can only say WOW. The multiplayer surpassed my expectations and went well beyond them. Have not had so much fun in MP for a long time. The intro scene led me to waffle excitedly to my girlfriend who sighed and nodded at me. Got to get my mates playing this, always an impossible task to wean them off TF2 and CSS.

  34. Rock, Paper, Shotgun: PC Gaming’s Beadiest Eyes » Blog Archive » Hooray For The Writer’s Strike says:

    […] from simply watching. As well as the obvious Valve and Irrational efforts, I was floored recently by Call of Duty 4’s interactive cutscenes, and The Darkness’ amazing watching telly on the sofa with your girlfriend moment. Even […]

  35. Rock, Paper, Shotgun: PC Gaming’s Ivoriest Tower » Blog Archive » RPS Advent Game-o-Calender: December 1st says:

    […] leaving them out, it actually tries to fix the form. I’ve already written about its first attempt here. Now I’m going to talk about another, and this means mega-spoilers. Read on if you’ve already […]

  36. Bakiratahn.t says:

    i like this game. i want play this game

  37. 111 » Blog Archive » Call of Duty 4 says:

    […] current objective should be. The game also has one of the most amazing credit sequences I’ve ever seen in a title before. It’s powerful on a visceral level, and […]

  38. ZenArcade says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the outro to the first mission on the boat. After doing that I was litterally stunned at how heart-pounding the whole thing was.

  39. Ghillies In The Mist - The Quixotic Engineer says:

    […] Rock, Paper, Shotgun recently profiled one such scene, in which you are put in the shoes of the kidnapped President of an anonymous war-torn Middle Eastern country. Men brandishing AK-47s push you violently into the back of a car without explanation and drive you through streets where firing squads murder civilians. The shift from being an armed soldier to a scared politician makes the sense of helplessness all the more palpable. This is a terrific scene, but today I would like to expand upon another sequence, one that I would easily rank as one of the most memorable video game experiences I’ve had in years. […]

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