Call of Duty 4 vs Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
I started out my playing of first person shooters with Castle Wolfenstein and moved my way through a lot of ID Software’s titles like the Doom Series, Heretic, and Quake etc. Eventually I stopped gaming due to lack of access to a PC and spent a few years in video game limbo, with the occasional Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Playstation etc. I finally got a computer good enough to play some games again and started playing Unreal and Unreal Tournament. I really got into the online play for a while then found a mod for it called Strike Force. Basically this mod redesigned the entire game, setting it in a modern warfare type setting. I really got into that, and after a while, started looking for other titles in the modern warfare FPS genre. Eventually I came across Ghost Recon and Rainbow 6 Blackthorn. I got both and played Blackthorn sparingly, it was pretty kewl, but didn’t hold my interest for all that long. Ghost Recon on the other hand had me playing for a few years. I got tons of player made campaigns, mods etc. The game got me into the stealthy, sneaking around and killing people, type of game play enough that I looked around for some other stuff along the same lines. I played through the Hitman series and quite enjoyed that too.
So I recently picked up playing Call of Duty 4 and both GRAW releases. I’ve been playing on a Dell Inspiron 530, with an Intel CoreDuo 2.66 GHz E6870, 2 gigs of ram at 800mhz, ATI Raedeon 2600XT with 256mb of ram and a 320 gig Western Digital SATA-300 drive, and a Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy 2ZS. Yeah, I know the card is like 5 years old, but it’s better than the XFI IMO, much more customizability and the EAX isn’t as buggy as I’ve seen reports of with the XFI Gaming soundcards from Creative. I had an XFI briefly, and the quality of the EAX and surround sound was much better with my Audigy. I usually spend a lot of time calibrating my speakers, and the XFI just did not give me the ability to do the normal calibration I do to get the surround sound and EAX working just right. I generally play both games at high graphic settings and am pretty happy with the performance of both on this system. I’m probably getting 40FPS+. (I haven’t actually looked at my FPS, but considering the quality of movement and how sharp everything is while moving, it looks like a good 40-60FPS.) This machine can do a x4 raid in EQ2 (24 players) with full effects and high quality (plus some tweaks to up the rendering quality) without a hitch, and get like around 30fps, so I know it’s a pretty good machine for decent graphic quality gaming. (and I only paid $500 for it after a $200 gift card) Here are some of my observations about them.
I always seem to come back to Ghost Recon. They did a good job with trying to get some realism to it. You could spend hours running missions and sneaking up on people, or setting up ambushes with your semi AI-controlled team mates. One of the best aspects of the Tom Clancy games around that time was the fact that you could control other teammates, or leave them to the AI. I used to setup ambushes in Ghost Recon, then switch to different members and take out incoming enemies. It was loads of fun, and kept the game play really lengthy. A whole campaign could take you a few weeks to complete or longer. One of the other great aspects of the early Ghost Recon games, players could design maps and entire campaigns. I downloaded a ton of campaigns and maps for Ghost Recon. I really liked the fact that you could play on all the maps in a single player mode and download full single player campaigns. But, eventually I started playing MMOs and left the whole single player realm for rainy days.
Recently I needed a break from MMOs and started mixing some single player FPS into my game time. I started playing Doom 3 again. It was a nice break, eventually it started to get a wee bit boring, so I wanted to see what else was out there. I was looking for something with more realistic graphics than what I was used to, and the same Ghost Recon type game play. So I checked up on Ghost Recon and found they put out Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter not too long ago. After watching some trailers etc, I ended up getting it. I was hoping for the same Ghost Recon game play and was a bit disappointed to find that you could only control one character. You could still issue orders to your teammates but you couldn’t directly play any of them. I got over that pretty quickly after I saw how the AI had improved, and some of the features of the order issuing system were revamped. Basically, if you have your reticule pointed somewhere you can bring up a menu to order an individual team member to move there, cover an area etc, or the entire team. I usually just stuck to entire team commands, too much of a pain to start trying to get each member doing something. Another thing I was disappointed in was the lack of rules of engagement commands. I usually set my team to recon unless there’s just a ton of enemies all alerted to us. The AI switches between the two ok, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. It is possible to control your team members in GRAW by going full screen on their video feed then issuing orders via the order menu, so there is some control, just not as much as I’d like :P GRAW 1 also didn’t have a quick save option. You basically had to play between save points. GRAW 2′s quick save worked sparingly…It got a little tiring playing the same 10 or 20 minute section over and over because you end up dying for one reason or another. Overall the realism of the graphics was pretty impressive to me, compared to the original Ghost Recon. The effects were pretty good, and most of the other aspects of game play held pretty true to the original. The tactical map was a pretty nice upgrade from the original, you can see enemy movement on it and zoom in really close. The drones were a nice addition too. With those you can scout ahead for enemy positions and get indicators on your screen for their position when in first person.
I played GRAW 1 for a bit then got sucked back into MMOs for a while. I eventually came back and finished the game. Overall it was a pretty good experience. After I finished it I was disappointed to find out there was very little on the internet for it except multi player maps. I didn’t really care to play online since I was taking a break from MMOs anyways by playing a single player game. So, I decided to get GRAW 2. It was a little different from the first, and a bit shorter, but nonetheless still a good experience. They added rules of engagement for your team, you can also give orders to other units that join you, like tanks, marines, airstrikes etc depending on the mission. The AI got a good upgrade too. Unfortunately the levels were much shorter, and there weren’t as many missions. They still didn’t do much in the way of allowing people to develop campaigns etc, most of the maps and mods for GRAW and GRAW2 are multiplayer oriented.
So, on July 4th, I decided to check out Call of Duty 4 after someone at work recommended it. I had some reservation about it from watching various trailers. It looked absolutely stunning, but wasn’t the sneaky-run-around-and-kill-people type game I was really looking for. CoD4 isn’t another WWII game, it’s all modern warfare based. The WWII theme sort of turned me off to the other Call of Duty titles, I was rather pleased to find one set in modern day combat. I decided to buy it anyways and downloaded it from Direct2Drive. I started it up and it looked ok to me, played the first “training level” and got myself familiar with the controls. I wasn’t terribly excited about the aiming reticule. I’m used to the Ghost Recon little circle with the fire dispersion indicators on around the circle. CoD4 has a cross hair that indicates firing dispersion. Aiming just felt a bit weird, but I got used to it. Using the sights on weapons was impressive, the surrounding environment will blur with proximity to what you’re focusing on through the sight. It was pretty realistic, and definitely was a step up from Ghost Recon. In GRAW, while there are some distance type effects when looking through a scope, the other end looks like you’re aiming at a photo. Then I went on the first mission, and once I entered the ship I was like, “Wow, this is intense!” The camera work was phenomenal, you totally could have gotten seasick from the rocking of the boat. It was pretty crazy when the ship started to sink in the script, and stuff was flying off the walls and pipes were bursting, spraying water everywhere. The whole ship was tossing side-to-side making it very disorienting. I swear, running around in there felt like you were actually on a sinking ship. So, I get past that little bit and am like “OK, so this is pretty good”.
I noticed all of the friendly NPCs in CoD4 were uncontrollable, but had a pretty decent AI. The enemies were also quite well scripted. They get to cover, throw frag grenades and flash bangs etc. The NPCs generally die if they’re random actors, there are a few main characters in the story line that follow you around and guide you through the levels that don’t die. I was pretty used to the Ghost Recon format, where your teammates could die, and I generally always played to ensure everyone survived a level. (Which means I did a lot of replays of some sections :P) The NPCs don’t trivialize the content though. It’s still quite difficult regardless of the undying teammates. They compensated for the abilities of the allied NPCs by the sheer volume of enemies to fight. All the NPC hostiles seemed to have a pretty good AI. The action between GRAW and CoD4 is quite different. In GRAW, while there may be an overwhelming force ahead of you, it’s still a manageable size, and the AI isn’t as reactive. The enemies are generally pretty slow to advance on you, or fire back much in comparison. The intensity of CoD4 is miles beyond GRAW. There are lots of situations (most of them) where you have waves upon waves of hostiles, all blowing crap up and spraying the area with bullets. The sheer pandemonium of combat in combination with the NPC combat voice-overs adds to the crazy, chaotic nature of CoD4. You have allies yelling things like “RPG ON THE ROOF!!” “HOSTILES TO THE EAST!” constantly. It’s all very accurate to what’s happening on the battlefield as well. If you pay attention to the voice-overs, you’ll kill a lot more of the more imminent threats. The hostile AI is quite different between the two. In CoD4 the enemies will hold their guns around corners or over obstacles and spray bullets at you, much more realistic than the mechanical leaning, standing, and aiming in GRAW. There’s much more of a desperation and determination to kill you from the hostiles in CoD4 for some reason in their behavior. GRAW also has a problem with the hostiles’ AI getting to cover, then if you keep the reticule over their position, they’ll never come back out, not peek, not fire, nothing. The hostiles in CoD4 will throw your grenades back at you and are much better about getting cover in reaction to grenades or gunfire. You alert one of them, and you pretty much are guaranteed to get everyone within hearing distance running after you LOL.
By GRAW2 the scripting of the cut scenes/storyline was getting a bit cheesy, plus I think the modeling done on the NPCs in your little video display was much more realistic looking and smoother in GRAW1 than GRAW2. I got the “money for nothing” video flashbacks watching the little story line stuff in the mini video feed window. There was one little video that popped up in GRAW2 on the last level that just made me roll my eyes, some guy is like “Scott, I know you’ve got a mess right now, but you have to hold your position.” or some crap, and he said it in such a passive aggressive, whiny voice, I just thought to myself, “OK, I’m not playing Nintendo and 13 years old anymore.” In CoD4 all of the cut scenes happened within normal game play, by the “actors” present on the level. There’s a bit of stuff played here and there between levels, but a lot of the cut scene stuff happens during the playing of a level. There’s no “nicety” and overacting wimpiness to the characters like GRAW2. GRAW1 wasn’t as bad as GRAW2 though. I found in CoD4 it quite interesting the way they insert you into different story lines as “one of the grunts,” and none of its nice and wimpy. It’s pretty kewl to be playing a member of an SAS team for a couple levels then end up playing a US Marine for a few. In GRAW, you’re pretty much stuck playing the same character throughout the game. The actors don’t “patronize” you and make you just want to turn off the little movies/cut scenes. It’s usually a lot of yelling and beating people in CoD4 LOL.
One thing that I sort of had some disappointment with CoD4 early on was the fact that you couldn’t kit yourself out before a mission. In CoD4 you end up with a standard kit for whatever the level was designed for. Usually the weapons met my personal preferences. In GRAW and the regular GR series, you could always customize your entire team’s equipment. I’ve been putting the ZEUS rocket launcher thing on my allies in GRAW just in case (unless I know there are no vehicles on the level that need to be destroyed). I got over my initial disappointment with CoD4′s lack of choice for weaponry before a level after playing a bit. You can pick up various weapons and ammo as you go, and most of the time you stay replenished with ammo for your weapons. GRAW 1 you could get ammo decently, but I don’t recall if it worked in GRAW2, I seem to remember wondering where all the ammo was in GRAW2. GRAW usually isn’t as crazy with action to the point where you’re going to run out of ammo anyways. I always hate getting a gun with iron sights on it LOL, so I try to keep my weapons loaded. The variety of weaponry dropped by NPCs is pretty wide ranging (well for CoD4) so it keeps it interesting. I usually drop my pistol for another rifle, either sniper or machine gun. I like the RPGs too :P GRAW you could swap your weapons out for enemy weapons after you kill them, but usually wasn’t worth it unless you ran out of ammo for some odd reason. CoD4 has a lot of opportunity to pick up explosive goodies too :) I generally can keep a steady supply of frag grenades handy, and on some levels keep my grenade launcher on my rifle well stocked (when I get one). The recoil on CoD4 is definitely more realistic than GRAW, the range of movement of the weapon while holding the trigger depends on what you weapon you have. GRAW’s recoil is about the same for any non-sniper rifle, and doesn’t move all that terribly much. The one thing I missed in CoD4 was the firing mode select. I usually go single shot in GRAW, and my secondary set to 3 round burst for close combat. In CoD4 there is no firing selector, so you basically have to get the rate of fire down with the mouse. It’s not very hard to get used to, and it’s actually a little easier to deal with in CoD4 than GRAW. There are periods where you start out shooting a single shot or short burst, but then just have to start spraying bullets everywhere due to the sheer numbers of hostiles coming at you.
The quality of the sound effects is quite good. They seem to be much fuller, louder and more realistic than GRAW. The gunfire seems more like an analog sample as opposed to something digitally edited like in GRAW. There’s a lot more depth to the sound effects in CoD4 which gives you a more immersive feel.
The camera movement in CoD4 is really good. The camera moves as you run, reload, and just about everything else. In GRAW, the camera behaves how most FPS do, where the weapon moves around while you’re running, but it’s very steady for the whole game. CoD4′s camera movement really adds to the immersion. It also makes a lot of the combat very chaotic with you getting bounced around, running, reloading and trying to aim at moving targets.
Overall, I think they really improved on the genre of modern warfare FPS with CoD4. The game is just so intense that you can’t stop playing it. I think I sat down and played straight through for almost 12 hours when I got it. GRAW, while still one of my favorites lacks the realism in CoD4. They were very meticulous in their design and game play experience. I highly recommend CoD4 for any GR/GRAW fans, and any that aren’t :P