I've been a computer games player for a long time, going back to the old Apple IIe. My favourites are without doubt games in this first person shoot-'em ups genre with good graphics, and although I'm what you would call a casual games player (rather than hardened and dedicated) I think I can spot a good 'un. And this is a great one. I haven't finished it yet, and am not looking forward to doing so, I'm having such a good time.
I won't repeat what the other excellent reviewers have said, I'll just summarize the huge leap that this game has made over COD3.
The graphics are stunning; full use of HD widescreen TV has been made, and surround sound still very impressive.
The enemy AI is far better than COD3, and it's a real challenge to take them out or get past them. Any indiscretion will get you riddled with bullets, and now you can't throw back every grenade. Additionally, the COD3 'radar' with dots for the location of your enemy has gone, thank goodness. You have to use your eyes and ears to locate your adversary now.
Modern weapons have made the game play a real joy, with different cyclical firing rates, accuracy and reload times. In COD3 you could use a Bren as accurately as a sniper rifle over a distance of several hundred yards ... yeah, like that's realistic! In this the weapons have real limitations and advantages, and replacement ammunition is not waiting for you on every doorstep like it is in other games.
You are much freer to roam than in COD3, but of course there are limitations to where you can go in any game. But whereas in COD3 I used to yell in frustration 'Why can't I climb this bank and shoot from there?' you can make use of terrain in this game.
There are a couple of pleasing interludes where you are the gunner in a helicopter and a C130 Hercules gunship. I have no experience of either but I really felt as if the C130 episode was genuinely representative. I'd love to know if it is.
To me, the mark of a good computer game is whether it consistently makes you almost desperate to get back to it. COD3 didn't, I could play or not as the fancy took me, but this one is compelling and compulsive. No matter how many times I've 'died' in a mission I can't wait to get back. You know the scene, you've played until the early hours of the morning and your eyes are hanging on your cheeks and you really have to go to bed ... and the following day you can't wait to get home from work to have a go again. My wife is threatening to start a COD4 Widows' Society.
I do have a few beefs but they're minor, and no game is going to be absolutely perfect. My biggest beef so far is that on at least one mission, the play is impossible to beat unless you cheat, by which I mean adopt a strategy that would almost certainly have you court-martialled for apparent cowardice in the face of the enemy (Ferris Wheel veterans will know what I mean). This is unecessarily unrealistic - well, you could find yourself in that situation but then you would certainly die.
I thought Gears of War was the pinnacle ... it isn't any more in my book.
This is the most playable game of its kind I have ever encountered, and since online gaming holds no interest for me, I shall have to replay it when I finish until COD5 comes out. Or perhaps I'll just be kind to my wife and wait patiently for COD5.