Saturday, December 8, 2007

Column- Dec. 8, 2007

‘Call 4’ in need of medic

“Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” for Sony’s PlayStation 3, holds valuable life lessons.

The most important one is: There are 14-year-olds out there who do nothing but play this game all day.

They are out of school for Christmas break.

And they’re coming to kill you.

I should be gushing praise on “Call of Duty 4,” but I have a bone to pick with game publisher Activision. This week, the company announced a multi-billion dollar merger with Blizzard, the makers of “World of Warcraft.” The newly formed Activision Blizzard will be a force to be reckoned with.

So now is a hell of a time to cheap out on us.

“Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” does not have a cooperative campaign mode, which would allow two players to work together to beat the game’s story mode. It’s not an uncommon feature in first-person shooters (“Gears of War” had it; “Star Wars Battlefront II” did, too.) It’s a great learning tool for new players (noobs) who aren’t ready to jump into the online fray.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes: You just put up $60 for a game. You want to give it a whirl with your buddy, your brother or whoever. Can’t do it. Yeah, you should’ve checked the box, read the reviews. But the idea that a new, hot title wouldn’t have this very standard feature doesn’t cross your mind.

Activision Blizzard should start the merger off right by offering a downloadable patch (for free), giving players this mode. It can’t possibly cost that much and would increase the replay value tremendously.

The much-touted online play is as good as they say — with one not-so-tiny hitch. The online rankings system, which adds points for kills and completing objectives, needs work. Apparently it sometimes doesn’t save ranks when players log-off. Ranks mean everything in online play. They determine what kinds of guns you have, how powerful you are.

People who lost their ranks because of the glitch are justifiably irate.

I have not had this problem so far, so maybe it’s been fixed. If not, I hope it happens before a large number of players chuck this thing out the window in frustration.

So why will people endure all of the glaring flaws in “Call of Duty 4”? Because the online play, when it works, is nearly flawless. It’s a fast-paced, smack-talking good time. I encountered no problems with lag, and I didn’t wait long for matches.

The game looks and sounds incredible. I haven’t fooled with the campaign mode much, but it looks fine from what I’ve seen. I hear it’s short. That’s par for the course these days; just make it co-op.

I’m glad this wasn’t around in college or I may never have graduated. I hope my brother does. He plays it frequently.

“Call of Duty 4” gets three and one-half buttons. It’s a good game on its way to being great, if Activision Blizzard can get it together.

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