Say goodbye to World War II and hello to stylus-controlled modern warfare.
An interview with Activision’s Vince Fennel revealed some interesting tidbits on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for the DS. Consisting of both multiplayer and single-player components, the game is set in modern times in various regions of the world, including the Middle East and Russia.
As for the plot, Activision couldn’t disclose much apart from the fact that events run in parallel to those found in the console versions. For example, when a captain and his squad are infiltrating a facility in the console version, you might provide the necessary helicopter support for that mission with your DS. The storylines intertwine.
The single-player mode is split into eleven different missions. Viewed from a first person perspective, some take place on foot, while others are based on vehicle combat. In the latter type of missions, you’re usually operating a turret in a helicopter or gunship following a predefined path. As of yet, the mix is about 50/50, but the ground missions might end up as the most prominent part of the game.
The build that Vince demoed features both types of gameplay. The first mission involves firing a gun from a helicopter. It very much feels like an on-rails shooter. The action is visible on the top screen while all the interface elements, including a compass, a map, and health supplies, occupy the bottom one. The L-trigger fires your weapon, while the touch screen takes care of aiming. The setup is deliberately simple:
“We wanted to keep it accessible to everybody. That is important for the DS. A lot of the gamers on the DS aren’t really hardcore gamers, so we wanted to be able to have them play the game intuitively." (Vince Fennel)
The first-person shooter portion that followed seems to require more attention and skill from the player. That is because N-Space, the developer, eagerly wants to find a way to convert all the actions you can perform on consoles to the DS control scheme. Their solution; to aim using the stylus like a mouse on a PC and move forward, backward, and strafe left and right with the control pad. With this control scheme, you can circle-strafe very easily. You can double-tap the touch screen to aim with the scope; crouching requires double-tapping down on the D-pad, and to sprint you double-tap up on the D-pad. The face buttons are never used. Even weapon-switching, grenade-wielding, and reloading are done via icons on the touch screen.
In the first-person shooter mission demonstrated, the player is abruptly thrown into the heat of battle with squad members by your side. Enemies storm towards the player, but fortunately allies will do most of the work. Apparently a lot of work went into AI development:
“We tried to simulate the AI by placing characters in different situations. The DS is very limited in this capacity, so we find ways to use shortcuts to make everything as clean and realistic as possible. Obviously we can’t have the same AI that we have on consoles, but we are trying to compensate as much as we can, and we are really happy with the results so far." (Vince Fennel)
Your allies are very proficient at defeating your first batch of enemies. Later on, you encounter a gun embankment, which can be flanked by moving into a small alleyway. Here you can stand relatively safe with a clear view of the battlefield ahead. Unfortunately, the demo ended here.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare appears to push the limits of the DS hardware. First of all, all the characters have voiceover, and lots of battle chatter can be heard during a mission. Squad members will tell you the whereabouts of nearby enemies or scream in agony when hit. Also, all the environments, geometry, and characters are fully modeled in 3d, and they blend convincingly with the giant explosions, smoke effects, dust clouds, and gunfire that fill up the screen. The game certainly looks like a promising addition to the limited library of first person shooters currently available on the DS – both from a technical standpoint and in terms of gameplay variety.