Ahh, the COD comparisons.
Four years ago this would have suffered from Halo comparisons. That killed the original Area 51, another game undeserving of such criticism. So let's get those out of the way straight away . . . It's a first person, story driven shooter. It has (one level) of war based action. There the comparisons end. So let's hear no more of "it's not as good as COD". Because COD isn't as good as Half Life 2, and neither is this.
What it is, however, is one of the most beautifully striking games on the 360. No game since Bioshock has created a sense of "place" as well as this. This is a living world, utterly believable and a character in it's own right. Not quite open world, but expansive enough to cleverly disguise it's linearity.
This sense of place extends to some fantastic voice acting with the two main protagonists, plus an excellent supporting cast. Characters you actually care about, but not in the way COD attempts to make you "care". This is slow burn, building tension gradually and letting you empathise with their decisions. This to me is more next gen than shiny vistas and 100's of people on screen at once. And the storyline never strays from being personal, in the best traditions of the Western, so irrespective of which character you control it manages to stay an affecting experience.
Control is tight, and the meat of the game, while doing nothing new, never outreaches itself. I can't ever say I felt "if only they'd done this" whilst playing it, and that's testament to the confidence of the developers. The one-on-one shoot outs that happen through the games are brilliantly tense, but never attempt to dumb the game down - there's a trick to doing these well, but it's up to you to find it. I applaud the developers for that.
Of course there's a few issues. It's screaming out for co-op, and I would rather have had that over the purely functional multi-player. The story is fairly short, but it's so well told that's only a value for money issue. I'd suggest renting if this would bother you.
Purely niggles though. This deserves to be sitting with Bioshock and Half Life 2 as the 360's FPS shining lights. But, as with those two, it'll get buried under Halo and COD. Me ? I'll keep an eye on Techland - they have the potential to deliver something truly great with their next game.