Beginning with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the Modern Warfare franchise is a critically acclaimed franchise of first-person shooters, developed by Infinity Ward (creators of the Call of Duty franchise) and published by Activision. Initially an offshoot of the Call of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare has turned into a recognizable brand name of its own, with two of the highest selling video games in entertainment history. The games are among the most well-received games of all time, with both Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 receiving scores in the 95% to 100% range.
Commercially, the franchise is among the highest grossing video games off all time. The first game sold over 13 million copies across all platforms worldwide, and was near the top selling game for every platform it was released on. The release of Modern Warfare 2 is arguably the top grossing entertainment launch to date, surpassing even Spider-Man 3. Modern Warfare 2 has since sold 14 million copies worldwide across all platforms. This ranks Modern Warfare 2 as the third best-selling game in the United States, ranking below the original Super Mario Bros. and Wii Sports.
Other games in the franchise have been released as a result of the games' popularity, including ports to the Nintendo DS ( Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Mobilized) and the Nintendo Wii ( Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition). Not developed by Infinity Ward, these games are altered versions of the games they are based on, lowering graphical detail and adding features specific to the platform on which it appears.
Initially conceived by Infinity Ward as Call of Duty 3 (before Treyarch began helping with development of the franchise), Call of Duty 4 was the result of a desire to shift from the World War II setting that the Call of Duty franchise had used previously. The team decided to make the game as close to modern combat as possibly, hiring United States Marines as supervisors as well as participating in a live-fire exercise in order to make the environment as realistic as possible (particularly, one segment in the game where the player is next to an Abrams tank).
Officially announced as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on February 11, 2009, Modern Warfare 2 was initially referred to as Call of Duty 6. However, Infinity Ward opted to distance themselves from the Call of Duty branding, by initially excluding the Call of Duty logo from artwork and the box art (although the Call of Duty logo was included, it is much smaller in scale).
The IW Engine used in Call of Duty 4 is a heavily modified version of Id Tech 3, later used in Call of Duty: World at War and Quantum of Solace. The engine allows for minor destructibility (e.g. cars), calculation of bullet penetration (taking factors such as thin walls into account, slowing the bullet speed), ragdoll physics, and predetermined spawn points (which were heavily criticized, due to infinitely respawning enemies, making the game incredibly difficult on higher levels).
Utilizing IW 4.0, Modern Warfare 2 is an altered version of Call of Duty 4's engine, allowing for higher graphical detail, larger levels, and dynamic artificial intelligence. The dynamic artificial intelligence is Infinity Ward's answer to complaints about the predetermined spawn points of Call of Duty 4. Instead, the dynamic artificial intelligence allows for a preset amount of enemies that are much smarter than Call of Duty 4's enemies. These new, smarter enemies try to move the player forward in the level, altering their behavior each time (making it so that enemies are not in the same spot every time).
The music of the Modern Warfare franchise has been composed by well-known composers, prominent in other areas of entertainment (specifically, the film industry). While most of Call of Duty 4's soundtrack was composed by Stephen Barton, the main theme was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, who has worked on a variety of films and other video games (such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater). Modern Warfare 2's music is mostly composed by Lorne Balfe, although Hans Zimmer (who has worked on The Lion King, Gladiator, and The Dark Knight, among others) composed the game's main theme.
The series has been subject to some amount of controversy, particularly Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. When Infinity Ward announced the "No Russian" mission, a level where the player takes control of an undercover agent who is infiltrating a terrorist organization and has the option to kill innocent Russians in an airport, there was a tremendous outcry against the violence in the level. This caused the level to be removed from several versions of the game, altered in some territories (where shooting the civilians causes instant death), and caused players to be given the option to either play the mission or view a brief cutscene describing the actions to move the plot onwards.
Additionally, the marketing of Modern Warfare 2 receiving some level of controversy, particularly the F.A.G.S. video. In the F.A.G.S. video, Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies pitcher) talks about the Fight Against Grenade Spam, the acronym from the video. This caused many critics to call the video pointless and poorly executed. In response, competing company DICE created a marketing video for Battlefield: Bad Company 2, titled F.R.A.G.S. (Friends Really Against Grenade Spam).
The game did receive a large backlash from the PC community upon the announcement that Infinity Ward would not be supporting mods or dedicated servers. This caused an outcry from PC gamers, as well as several petitions for the inclusion of dedicated servers. On the Xbox 360, the game has been subject to a wide variety of glitches, including the Javelin glitch (which causes players to instantly be blown up when killed), private servers glitch (dumping players searching for a public game into a private game), infinite ammo, slow motion, fast motion, among many others.
Upon the release of Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella were fired after an investigation for "breaches of contract and insubordination" from their publisher, Activision. While the true reasons of the termination are unknown to the public, West and Zampella sued Activision for $36 million, claiming unpaid bonuses and seeking to reacquire the Modern Warfare brand. In response, Activision countersued West and Zampella, claiming that they are trying to hijack the Call of Duty brand. While little other information has currently been released about the situation, other employees of Infinity Ward and Activision have reported unrest, and some have even quit in light of recent events.
The Modern Warfare franchise follows a variety of characters through the single player campaign, similar to other games in the Call of Duty franchise. Through these characters, important events can occur, with all of the characters' views eventually overlapping in the final scenes of the game. Although sometimes the player will stay on the same character for two missions, typically the game will switch characters after a single mission (depending on where the plot will progress from there).
The goal of each mission is displayed on a small bar at the bottom of the heads up display, indicating where the player's next goal is. The objective varies here; sometimes the marker indicates a checkpoint, a specific action, or elimination of all enemies in the immediate vicinity. Along the way are a variety of friendly characters (if shot by the player, the mission ends) who assist the player character in eliminating enemies, finishing objectives, and piloting vehicles.
A typical first person shooter, the Modern Warfare franchise centers around conflicts involving fictional Middle Eastern countries and terrorist organizations. Players have a variety of weapons at their disposal, all of which are based off of modern weapons (e.g. M4A1, AA-12, MP5, etc). These weapons are accompanied by a variety of attachments, including scopes and sights, grenade launchers, and silencers (these can be modified in multiplayer). Additionally, players can use C4, claymores, night vision goggles, and a variety of other equipment types in both single player and multiplayer.
Instead of having a set amount of health, players have regenerating health in the Modern Warfare franchise. Health is regenerated when the player manages to stay hidden for some time, utilizing cover to the player's benefit. In order to take full advantage of cover, the player is able to stand, crouch, or lie down, losing mobility the closer to the ground the character gets. Staying behind cover completely regenerates the character's health, although there are a variety of one-hit kill weapons, such as being knifed or blown up (either by grenade, grenade launcher, or another form of explosive).
The multiplayer of Call of Duty 4 introduced a variety of concepts which are now considered standard in first person shooters. The general concept remains the same; players fight across a variety of modes over certain objectives, facing off in several maps based off of the campaign. The Modern Warfare franchise features typical deathmatch, team objective (e.g. capture the flag, search and destroy), and free for all game types.
Introduced in Call of Duty 4, the player is able to earn experience points as they play multiplayer, earning experience for a variety of actions (expanded in Modern Warfare 2, by including many more experience gaining actions), including kills, captures (in Headquarters and capture the flag modes), and round completion bonuses. Experience causes the player to level up, with the final goal of level 56 (level 70 in Modern Warfare 2). Each level unlocks something, such as a new game mode, a new weapon, a new perk, or a new challenge. After reaching level 56, the player has the option to Prestige, which gives the player a new insignia, but forces the player to completely start over at level one. The option to Prestige is only open ten times, allowing the player to level up a grand total of 560 times (700 times in Modern Warfare 2).
Killstreaks are another feature of the Modern Warfare 2 franchise. Call of Duty 4 featured only three killstreaks; a UAV recon scan at three kills, an air strike at five kills, and an attack helicopter at seven kills. Modern Warfare 2 expanded this idea with customizable killstreaks (all the way up to a 25 killstreak, which is a tactical nuclear missile, killing all players on the map) and death streaks (which allow players who are dying repeatedly to get a short health boost, drop a grenade upon dying, etc).
Player customization is very extensive in the multiplayer of the Modern Warfare franchise, allowing players to not only customize their weaponry, but also equipment and perks (which give a variety of bonuses). Weapon loadouts can be customized, as well as the attachments (e.g. red dot sights, grenade launchers, etc), as well as equipment such as claymores, C4, frag grenades, etc. Perks allow for a variety of bonuses, including invisibility on the enemy radar, increasing sprint distance, or increased bullet damage. In Modern Warfare 2, Perks can be ranked up to a "Pro" version of the Perk, which add a new effect of maximize the effect of the initial bonus.
Three other games have been released in the Modern Warfare franchise, although these have all been ports of the main games in the series. Both Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2 had versions released for the Nintendo DS, each of which were developed by n-Space. Borrowing the plot of the games they are based on, they allow players to aim using the touch screen, move using the D-pad, and control specific actions using other buttons. The games also add touch screen actions such as hacking, disarming bombs, and inventory.
A version of Call of Duty 4 was released for the Nintendo Wii, titled Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex Edition. This game is essentially a port of Call of Duty 4, with altered controls (taking advantage of the Wii's motion controller) and graphics. The game was developed by Treyarch.
In addition to the other three releases, both Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2 have had downloadable content released. Call of Duty 4 had the Variety Map pack, which included four new maps (Killhouse, Creek, Chinatown, and Broadcast). These were released for $10, and was purchased by over one million users. Modern Warfare 2 has had the Stimulus Package map pack, which was released for $15 including five maps (Storm, Bailout, Salvage, Crash, and Overgrown); two of which are maps from Call of Duty 4. Another map pack has since been announced for Modern Warfare 2, although nothing is known about it as of now.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The game opens with Sergeant John "Soap" MacTavish, a rookie in the British Special Air Service. He begins his training under the command of Captain John Price. Their first mission involves a ship in the Bering Sea, where the team (consisting of Soap, Price, Gaz, and several other SAS members) must find a nuclear device which is believed to be on board of the ship. As they fight their way across the ship, it is attacked by several Russian MiGs, which causes the ship to start sinking. They barely escape with the manifest in hand.
The manifest found on the ship reveals that the Russian Ultranationalist rebels are working with a terrorist group from the Middle East. Initially, Khaled Al-Asad is believed to be the perpetrator behind the Ultranationalist Party, after he murders President Al-Fulani of an unnamed Middle Eastern country. The team is then sent to rescue Nikolai, a compromised Russian informant, while the search for Al-Asad continues. In the search for Al-Asad, the United States Marine Corps (with the player controlling Sergeant Paul Jackson) search an area where Al-Asad is believed to be, but only find an abandoned television station.
As the USMC's operation comes to an end, the existence of a nuclear weapon in the country is revealed. While the team continues the operation, a team is sent to disarm the nuclear device. However, the nuclear weapon goes off while they are trying to deactivate it, killing everyone within the vicinity (including the player character, Paul Jackson).
Meanwhile, the SAS team manages to track Al-Asad to Azerbaijan, where they find him hidden in his safehouse. It is there that he reveals that Imran Zakhaev is behind the nuclear attack. Imran Zakhaev had survived an assassination attempt shortly after the Chernobyl disaster in the late 1980s, in which Captain Price failed to kill him, destroying his arm instead.
In a joint task force, the SAS, USMC, and Russian military work together to capture both Zakhaev and his son, Victor Zakhaev. Although Victor commits suicide before interrogation, the team manages to prevent a nuclear launch towards the United States. Escaping from the destroyed base, the team is pursued by Zakhaev's men, who stop them at a destroyed bridge. Here, Zakhaev arrives in a helicopter, shooting Gaz and Sergeant Griggs (an American soldier), and injuring MacTavish and Price. As Zakhaev is distracted, Price slides his pistol to MacTavish, who shoots and kills Zakhaev. In the final scene, Russian helicopters arrive and take the two survivors to safety.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Set five years after the events of Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2 centers around Vladimir Makarov, a Russian Ultranationalist who has assisted the party in seizing control of Russia, as well as committing various acts of terrorism against Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, Private First Class Joseph Allen impresses Lieutenant General Shepherd with his abilities in Afghanistan, who recruits him to Task Force 141, a counter-terrorist unit. After working with Captain John "Soap" MacTavish and Sergeant Gary "Roach" Sanderson to recover an ACS module, Allen is sent on an undercover mission with the CIA to Russia.
Now undercover in Vladimir Makarov's terrorist organization, Allen assists Makarov in the slaughter of civilians in Moscow. After the massacre, it is revealed that Makarov was aware that Allen is part of the CIA, and kills him before escaping. This frames the United States for the attack, triggering retaliation from the Russian military. The player then takes control of a group of United States Army Rangers in Virginia, where Russians are attacking, as well as Washington, D.C. After an electromagnetic pulse causes the city to black out, the team heads towards the White House to avert an air strike on it.
Task Force 141 is working to search for evidence against Makarov during this, meeting with a contact in Rio de Janeiro and learning about Prisoner 627, supposedly Makarov's worst enemy. The team is sent to a Russian gulag to rescue Prisoner 627, whose identity is revealed to be Captain John Price. He agrees to work with the team.
Roach and Ghost (another member of Task Force 141) search Makarov's safehouse, gathering important intelligence and equipment. After requesting extraction, General Shepherd personally comes and kills them himself, shooting them and burning their bodies. When Soap and Price learn of this betrayal, they narrowly escape a firefight between Makarov and Shepherd's soldiers, after being rescued by Nikolai (the Russian contact they worked with in Call of Duty 4). They manage to learn Shepherd's location after making contact with Makarov, and set out to kill him.
Infiltrating Shepherd's base, Soap and Price manage to pursue Shepherd to a dock, where a boat chase begins. After managing to ramp his boat into a helicopter, Shepherd is shot down by Price, right before their own boat goes off a waterfall. Recovering from the fall, all three men are badly injured. Soap tries to stab Shepherd, although he fails and is kicked to the ground. In the final scenes, Price and Shepherd struggle while Soap helplessly watches, with a knife in the chest. However, he manages to pull it out of his chest and throw the knife directly at Shepherd, killing him. The game ends as the two are extracted by Nikolai, their Russian informant from Call of Duty 4, who remains an ally.
Modern Warfare 2: Ghost
Modern Warfare 2: Ghost is a comic book following the character Ghost from Modern Warfare 2. The events in the comic book follow Ghost before he becomes a member of Task Force 141, describing the origins of the character. The comic book's first issue was released in November of 2009, published by WildStorm, with art by Kevin West and Federico Dallocchio, and written by David Lapham. The first issue covers Ghost's recruitment into the Special Air Service, as well as an operation where Ghost's team has to eliminate a drug lord.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
The third game in the franchise picks up right where the second game left off. Captain Price, Soap MacTavish and Nikolai are now pursuing Vladimir Makarov. America and Russia continue their war against each other, while a large majority of the world is now engulfed in conflict. Russia is in the process of invading Europe, while Makarov plans his own attacks on Paris, France and England.