I purchased twenty fluid ounces of Halo 3 "Limited Edition Mountain Dew Game Fuel" in the hopes that it would taste so horrible that we'd get a strip out of it. Before I read the ingredients in preparation for this post, I often found myself desirous of this strange liquid - a liquid the precise color of tubercular sputum. I would trip over to Seven Eleven to obtain it, tipping a small portion onto the concrete for the Spartans we lost at Reach. Once I discovered that the soda contained a compound called "Brominated Vegetable Oil," my ardor was diminished for some reason. The flavor of the beverage is not unpleasant, especially if you like bromide. The almost oppressive campaign that surrounds the product is, perhaps, more bitter.
It's one slice (or, perhaps, sip) of a ten hojillion dollar marketing campaign designed to project one of gaming's biggest brands to people who already know about it. There is no way to escape the Goddamn thing. Over ninety percent of the surveyed crustaceans were "aware of the launch" and held a "strong desire to purchase," even though their massive claws and aquatic habitat make using the product impossible. Lemurs are less bullish, but then lemurs are a notoriously tough demo.
It took a third night of playing the Call of Duty 4 Beta for everything to sink in, but it's pretty much official: they know what the fuck they're doing. A shooter can't merely be great to come out this holiday, and even amazing might be insufficient. To go against the previously described fucking unstoppable media phalanx - to say nothing of Halo 3 itself, whose multiplayer offering is so broad on every axis that it must be called round - you need to drop something that be off the cheazy.
There are shooters that play with progression to varying degrees. Battlefield 2142 does, but the infantry experience is one part of a whole. Rainbow Six: Vegas does, but its reward scheme is largely cosmetic in nature, and takes place outside of the game proper - between rounds, in austere menus. CoD4's leveling has the sharp inhalation of a WoW ding. It takes place right there at the moment you earn the XP from a kill, with an onscreen celebration of the fact. The reward structure earns you new playmodes, new weapons, new slottable abilities, the right to build custom classes, the right to wear a clan tag. You don't need to wait long to earn them, the schedule is not cruel, but you need to put in your dues. It's not an onerous process: in order to level up, you must simply play Call of Duty 4. Trust me when I say this is something you will want to do.
I feel as though my knowledge of the game should be richer, so let me crack a few more levels and get back to you. Hopefully a beta code will have dripped out to you by then, and you will know what I mean with visceral certainty.
Oh, and also: if you want to tumble down some fissure in the earth and wake up in the Japanese Madness Caverns, take a look at this video for Puzzle de Harvest Moon. I watched it hours ago, and I am still haunted.