Game Review | Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Game summary: In 2011, Khaled Al-Asad begins a coup in the Middle East, and Russia is in the midst of a civil war between the government and Ultranationalists. Meanwhile Gaz informs Captain John Price, leader of Bravo Team, that a new recruit to the SAS, Sergeant John "Soap" MacTavish, is joining their squad. (Call of Duty Wiki)
I'll admit to not being a fan of first-person shooters in general, with only top tier titles like the first Deus Ex game or the Half Life series proving especially enjoyable. Then the first Call of Duty was released and introduced a more cinematic style of shooter, but even that didn't really hold my interest once the game was over and I didn't play either of Call of Duty 2 or 3.
Then, in 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released, completely redefining the genre and laying the foundations of almost every similar game to have been released since. That might sound like hyperbole, but it's true - Modern Warfare took the movie-style elements that were slowly creeping into the genre and dialled them up to eleven, while tying it in with incredible gameplay.
Not even the Call of Duty series could hope to live up to this game and it has arguably never reached these heights again in terms of just how revolutionary Modern Warfare would prove to be. It might not seem quite as incredible by today's standards, but it's plain to see where most modern games get their DNA from - even if it has been refined over and over since.
All the style in the world would be pointless without anything to back it up, but Modern Warfare is still amazing to play despite being over a decade old. The range of weapons and equipment is just as varied as you'd hope and expect, and still better implemented than any number of more recent titles too - more satisfying to use too.
It's probably not as complex as modern titles in terms of game mechanics, but I think that actually works as a point in the game's favour. You tend to only be given one thing to do at a time and this simplicity allows you to focus on achieving those objectives and enjoying it rather than having to juggle multiple aims at the same time and struggling with conflicting styles of play.
There is one thing that does date Modern Warfare a little and is something that later titles have probably improved on the most, and that's hiding the trigger points to start the next 'phase' of a particular sequence or scenario. There are a number of occasions here where you don't even need to really fight - just sprint and trigger the next 'checkpoint', where the game will re-start you even if you die.
To balance it out though, it does have some of the more helpful support characters in any game I've played, even if their effectiveness is reduced as you progress further into the game and the game places a greater burden on the player to make their way through. It's a great help for starting out though, even if it does sometimes leave you feeling like a passenger to begin with.
The visuals haven't aged as well as the gameplay, but they aren't something to complain about - they're just a victim of technology improving over time rather than any fault of the game and still don't really detract from the experience, perfectly conveying all the visual information the player needs in an easy to understand manner without going over the top.
Then there's the sound design, which is still masterful and I would definitely advise playing with either a great sound system or at least a decent pair of headphones to really enjoy just how good this game is to listen to. I was genuinely surprised playing through this game again to re-discover just how many incidental noises there are that never intrude or interrupt vital information you need.
As for the story, the highest praise I can give it is that it feels very James Cameron in nature: it might not be particularly original (although it definitely was at the time, standing out amid a crowded field of World War II games), but it's almost flawless in its execution. There have been so many copycats since that you might roll your eyes at times, but just keep in mind that this came first.
The other narrative point worth discussing is just how anti-war Modern Warfare is - and it's pretty hard to miss too, despite what a lot of people might think. The images I've used for this post should make it clear, but the game does pretty much spell out just how senseless these events are and how pathetic and/or nasty everyone involved is.
It might not be as obvious about it as Spec Ops: The Line, but Modern Warfare really does point out that, while there are unquestionable villains here - including a madman detonating a nuke in his own country - that the callous nature of the 'heroes' and their almost-enjoyment of killing their enemies hardly makes them any better.
I'm still not a huge fan of the Call of Duty games, having played only the original and the Modern Warfare trilogy, but this game is right up there as one of the most influential titles of the 21st Century so far. Aside from obvious checkpoints and less-impressive visuals (by modern standards), Modern Warfare is still a great game by any standards.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare redefined what a first-person shooter could be from both a gameplay and story point of view. Thanks to the sequels and other developers taking the wrong lessons, Modern Warfare still stands out even today thanks to its strong anti-war theme and outstanding set-pieces that many have tried and (mostly) failed to imitate since.