The measuring stick by which all other shooters are measured.
Easy and accessible. Very moreish (just one more game!)
Graphics still hold up today
Shrinking player base
No host migration
Players argue over which game established the modern first person shooter, but if Modern Warfare didn’t establish it, it certainly raised the bar here. Known by many simply as CoD4, it reminds us of a simpler time, with easy-to-navigate menus and no micro transactions.
Call of Duty is known for its insane, unrealistic campaigns, and by comparison this one is fairly tame. It throws players straight into the action on a cargo ship mission, and doesn’t slow down until the credits roll. It introduces us to Price, Soap, Gaz, and other cool characters, and to make players remember them means it’s doing something right. Of course, Modern Warfare’s story hosts perhaps the most famous single-player mission in shooters, All Ghillied Up, where stealth brings you tantalisingly close to hundreds of enemies (and almost stood on by them). This is Modern Warfare at its best, but it doesn’t ever fall below ‘very fun’. The only criticism I can level here is that the Chernobyl setting may be considered slightly distasteful.
What really made this franchise famous, in my opinion, is the epic handling, gunplay, and gameplay. Handling – the way you move the sticks and your player moves and turns smooth as butter, yet other games struggle to not give you motion sickness. The rich gunplay which takes just the right amount of bullets to kill an enemy, and not a full magazine (cough, Destiny). The realistic rather than arcade-y gun models, everything screams perfection, and makes for a very enjoyable, accessible gameplay experience.
Ah, multiplayer, the real selling point, and CoD4 doesn’t disappoint, as it brings the world-class gameplay and pits you against some very skilled enemies. Where to start? If you know anything about Call of Duty, you’ll feel so at home here, because it is the simplest yet most effective PvP mode to date. The create-a-class doesn’t use any complex ‘pick-13’ nonsense, just choose a couple guns, add three perks to suit your play style, and you’re set. The perks accommodate both a stealth approach and run and gun madness. There are enough maps and modes to keep things interesting, with small, boxed in areas for close-quarters firefights or 1v1 Cage Matches and large, spacious maps for sniping or 8v8 Ground War. Search and Destroy is tense, Free for All is frantic, ensuring something for everyone. When you hit level 55, you may prestige for a new icon and the delight of earning your weapons again, right up to 10th prestige.
And yet here, in multiplayer, lies the most glaring problem. Being over eight years old, and due to no fault of the game itself, every once in a while you’ll join a match ruined by hackers. I think this is Infinity Ward letting down the security of their older titles, perhaps to make you buy a newer one, but it’s not a deal-breaker yet. I very rarely join a match that has a fun hack, like making all players jump outrageously high, allowing them to battle atop the main buildings! When that happened to me, I soon realised I need larger magazines, so switched to the pre-made LMG class and owned everyone for a while.
The nitty gritty
For any console owners out there, the 360 and PS3 run Modern Warfare at 600p and around 45-60 frames per second, probably the best proof that resolution doesn’t matter, as it looks very pretty and has lots going on at once on-screen. The only criticism here is that the greenery doesn’t sway in the wind or anything, and can make the maps feel a little dead (especially noticeably while camping on multiplayer).
There is one pack of DLC available (unfortunately, as I despise charging for DLC), which adds four generally good maps. If you’re okay with paying, you will especially like Creek and Chinatown.
To sum up, Modern Warfare is quite simply a masterpiece in disguise, not packed full of content, but being so finely tuned it absolutely oozes class. This title has perhaps the smoothest, most effortless handling and deepest, richest gunplay ever seen, granting it near endless replayability, and will have you coming back for more time and time again.