Let me forewarn all of you who will eventually read this review: I'm not a Modern Warfare fanboy. If anything, I much prefer Treyarch's World at War to Infinity Ward's overrated entry in the Call of Duty canon. But before I jump head-first into Modern Warfare, let me recap my experiences with you all.
I first purchased Modern Warfare's PC port just under two years ago. I played it to the conclusion and found myself really enjoying the time I spent with it. I began wondering what Infinity Ward's next move was going to be, as well as quietly hyping the game up to friends that had absolutely no idea what Call of Duty was. Now mind you, in late 2007 this game had not yet entered mainstream consciousness, not to mention the CoD series was largely PC-oriented. Maybe six months or so after I had played through the game, friends of mine (and it would seem people from just about every other country also) jumped on the Modern Warfare bandwagon and it was then that I began to truly loathe it. Sure, it's a great example of a fast-paced war shooter done right, but it irritated me to no end that my beloved Call of Duty series had become synonymous with Modern Warfare.
Allow me to elaborate a bit. I have no problem with Modern Warfare other than the fact that most fans of it aren't really Call of Duty fans. They have absolutely no want or desire to play the games that came before it and even then, have no interest in CoD 4's short but totally involving single-player campaign. I understand that multi-player gaming is the wave of the future, but I stand steadfast in my reviews and focus only on the single-player portion of each title. I could care less about meaningless game modes and heaps of perks that Infinity Ward introduced to their vast online community with this game. If anything, I'm more irritated at the fact that so many "CoD fans" have denounced Treyarch's far superior World at War when I'm fairly certain that if it had the Infinity Ward logo on it they would be commending them on a job well done.
But don't let this fool you. Before the fanboy love started turning me off to this particular entry in the franchise I couldn't get enough of it. As I briefly mentioned, the single-player story is inexcusably short. Your first playthrough will probably last you six or so hours, and subsequent playthroughs diminish that length considerably. I picked up a copy of the game for my PS3, yearning to have another CoD game on a console, and breezed through the single-player mode in roughly four-and-a-half hours. It comes as no surprise to me that most reviewers nagged on the game for having such a short single-player campaign, but I wouldn't want it any other way.
Modern Warfare is unapologetically repetitive. I'm not one to stick my nose up at games that abide by a formula, but there's really not much else to do here besides blow holes in Middle Easterners and Russians and set a few demo charges here and there. I firmly believe that some games benefit from a lengthy single-player campaign... if they manage to do more than routine shooting throughout. That's the problem I face. Too many people ignore what is an action-packed, well-paced, and well-told story simply for the fact that it has largely been regarded as "too brief." I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend 10-15 hours repeating the same actions over and over again ad nauseam. I really enjoyed Modern Warfare for the fact that it said what it had to say, did what it had to do, and then scrolled the end credits with nary a second glance. No matter how short it may be, I found myself enjoying nearly every second of it even on what is probably my fifth playthrough.
So why am I deducting half a star when World at War was awarded a perfect score? Simple. I thought World at War did so much more with the Modern Warfare engine and patented formula of the franchise. It looked better, played better, and seemed so much more refined as a result of that. I also really liked the fact that Treyarch weren't afraid to push some buttons with their oh-so-gruesome take on World War II. I thought to myself numerous times while playing World at War, 'Now this is how you make a war game.' I felt Modern Warfare could have been a bit grislier and more foul-mouthed in order to emulate a real-war situation. MW has the better plot, but WaW has such involving action that you barely notice its thin narrative.
I guess two years after MW's initial release and a year after the release of what I consider to be the best CoD game out of the bunch, I just don't look at Modern Warfare in the same light. It's still a great looking game and has many intense action sequences that have by and largely gone unrivaled, but a lot of that initial magic is gone. I've recently found myself impatiently wading through slower-paced missions with said impatience virtually non-existent while going through World at War. I'm also of the mindset that having CoD 4 take place in a modern setting reduced some of it’s charm. I'm probably one of the few who still loves WWII shooters and hasn't yet gotten over the change of setting. There are more gun and enemy variants, but something was lost when Infinity Ward made that awkward sidestep.
As for what worked then and still works now; the soundtrack is simply amazing, the graphics are still beautiful, and Captain Price's All Ghillied Up level is one of the best missions, bar none, in any Call of Duty game. Infinity Ward made sure to place as much emphasis on squad combat as possible, and by the end of the game you really feel as though you are a part of the unit you have just fought alongside for six hours. The ending is truly harrowing and one of the best closing acts to a video game in a long, long time. There's a lot of interactivity in Modern Warfare also. There are no cut-scenes and that makes for a highly involving campaign. Everything that's happening on your TV screen you play an active role in which really helps CoD 4 earn it's place in the upper-echelons of pure immersive action gaming.
So what's my point here? I don't think I really have one. This is just something that's been eating away at this seasoned CoD fan for going on two years now. I've been down with the series since it made its first appearance on the PC six years. I've even spent time with the mediocre handheld Call of Duty game, Roads to Victory, so with that said it's even harder for me to watch the days go by as more and more players ditch the previous games in favor of a massively overrated one. It really is a great game but not nearly as great as the fanboys would have you believe. If you don't already have a copy (which I think is not the case) seriously look into picking one up. No matter how overrated, it's still one hell of an experience. I do, however, recommend picking up World at War first. Just as Modern Warfare is criminally overrated, Treyarch's WaW is about as underrated as a CoD game can get.