It used to be that everyone's favorite pixilated plumber, Mario, was on the cutting edge of graphical power.
But today, while the Wii is pushing the game-play frontier to new levels, one must turn to the PC, the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360 for powerhouse graphics. The latest in interactive, pretty pictures goes by the name of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Call of Duty has traditionally been a World War II, first-person shooter game, and while the new addition to the series stays true to its roots, the story is now set in the modern-day Middle East and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Just as in past Call of Duty games, you'll play from several different viewpoints, this time as an American Marine and a British SAS special forces solider against the West's favorite enemies, terrorists and Russians.
The multiplayer pits you in class-based battle, where you'll pick primary and secondary weapons, as well as any attachments (e.g. grenade launchers) that fit your gaming style. You'll also pick from a list of perks that increase in number as you gain more multiplayer experience, including steady aim and martyrdom, where you drop a grenade as you die. The class-based approach to multiplayer gaming should be familiar to PC fans, but console gamers have had few titles that take advantage of this different multiplayer mechanic.
Of course, the real draw to Call of Duty 4 is its looks. The new generation of consoles promised the next level in visuals, and this game certainly delivers. If all you Halo 3 fanboys out there thought Master Chief was looking especially handsome these days, just wait until you see what Call of Duty 4 looks like in HD. Smoke looks like smoke, fire looks like fire and the sweat on the back of your enemy's neck glistens realistically as you sneak in for the kill.
Developers are figuring out just how to push their games to the very limits of realism. Games such as Crysis for the PC and Killzone 2 for the PS3 are looking even better and will make it even harder for one to distinguish between movies and video games. The days of photo-realistic games are fast approaching.