Whilst everybody else has been playing Call of Duty 4 on the big consoles… I’ve been working my way through the DS version. That’s not to say I haven’t played it’s bigger brother, I completed the XBox 360 version in a couple of evenings, it’s just that I was intrigued by the idea of playing it on a format that is traditionally not suited to first person shooters.
As already stated call of Duty 4 DS is the smaller brother to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and it shows. A lot of the concepts from the full size game have been carried across, surprisingly well I must say, to the smaller handheld platform.
The story follows that of the console version quiet closely, starting out on the ship and moving through the various missions ending on a battle on the bridge. Your role is to provide support for Captain Price and his team so you get to see a lot of the same/ similar locations only from different perspectives. I think this is a nice way to tie the two games together, and removes any direct comparisons between them whilst keeping the same feel.
As far as I can tell there are two concerns with first person shooters on the DS, the controls, and the graphics, and I’m pleased to say that both work incredibly well.
The controls and not dissimilar to those in Metroid Prime: Hunters. The touch screen controls where you look, and the d-pad controls where you walk (up and down move forward and back, left and right strafe). The shoulder buttons shoot and that’s pretty much it. There are a couple of smaller extras, double tap down on the d-pad and you crouch, and double tap on the touch screen to enter the rather handy aim/ zoom mode for the gun you are carrying.
The touch screen is also used to switch weapons, pick up items and, interestingly, for some mini games which I shall mention a little further on.
Obviously the DS is not designed as a graphical powerhouse so the game doesn’t look as nice as the full size version (which does look gorgeous) however it does remarkably well in it’s own right. I was incredibly surprised at how nice things looked and how well it all worked out. All the levels look different and you’re not given the simple boxy corridors of games like doom. I would say it looks nicer than it’s N64 equivalents, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark.
As well as the standard first person shooting sections there are some modes where you play the game in vehicles, either on the back of trucks, or up high in helicopters. In these modes you basically point and shoot, with little chance for failure, but they provide a more cinematic experience with bigger set pieces being allowed from the forced viewpoint.
There is also a mission, carried over from the full version, set at night, with you protecting your forces from a helicopter up high. Quite tense stuff, made harder because your forces look quite similar to the enemies (tiny white blobs).
Then there are the mini games I mentioned…
The mini games are a nice little addition to add some variety to proceedings. One of your roles within the Call of Duty 4 is as a demolitions specialist, so you get trained to arm and defuse bombs. These tasks take place on the touch screen through some simple games. They’re not particularly challenging but they are quite good fun. The bomb disarming one in particular can be a little nerve-wracking until you get the hang of it.
As well as the single player missions there are also multiplayer games. I have yet to try the online multiplayer as I have no doubt that it will be filled with 14 year olds who will beat me quite easily. I have however tried the local multiplayer and, like the rest of the game, it works very well.
Before playing a multiplayer game you have two options, single cart, and multi cart. Single cart play lets you play one of two levels with anybody who has a Nintendo DS, multi cart play gives you more levels to play.
The multiplayer game itself is essentially a death match shoot ’em up. There are a couple of little extras. Throughout the levels are laptops for you to find. Find the first and switch it on and you’re given a map to show you the level, find the second and you get to see your enemies locations on the map. This means that the battles often end up as a challenge to see who can get to the laptop first.
The enemy artificial intelligence is a little rubbish, with the bad guys basically just running to their assigned spot then standing still, although I wonder if this was a concious decision based upon the less accurate DS controls. You team mates are also a little slow, prefering to hang back and wait for you to clear out the upcoming areas before moving forward. This removes some of the intensity, but is understandable considering the hardware limitations.
I also noticed one helicopter mission where the textures got turned off halfway through. The developer in me found this quite interesting but I suspect gamers may get confused if it happens to them – I should probably play the mission again to see if it’s a recurring problem, but as of now I have yet to try.
Call of Duty 4 on the Nintendo DS is a wonderful little game making the most of pretty limited resources. With the exception of Metroid Prime: Hunters it is the best first person shooter on the system. I’m hoping there will be more versions in the future, that will improve on this solid ground work.