Why Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is one of the greatest games ever made

Say what you want about the Call of Duty series, but the first Modern Warfare deserves to be listed as one of the greatest games ever made. Annual releases and franchise fatigue have turned many former fans away, and the series' popularity has made it so big with the supposed "dude-bro" crowds that more “sophisticated” gamers act as if they need to shy away from the multiplayer powerhouse. But before all of the sequels and popularity backlash came about, Modern Warfare was blowing us away with cinematic, interactive gameplay, highly polished mechanics, and some of the best competitive multiplayer available on consoles. Even today, the original Modern Warfare holds up as one of the best shooters of this generation.

But what makes Modern Warfare so great? Well, each of its parts can stand alone on their individual greatness. It had an engaging, cinematic single-player campaign, that delivered an emotional (not to mention thrilling) experience as you played out the dramatic events of the story from the characters’ perspective. But the campaign was small potatoes compared to the series’ premier multiplayer mode. The addictive online action couldn’t be beat, even standing up to the shooting genre juggernaut, Halo 3, and beating Bungie’s beloved series at its own game. Modern Warfare’s multiplayer revolutionized the way modern shooters would be played, with the introduction of new genre standards like perk bonuses and a progression system, and combined its innovations with peerless controls and polish. Modern Warfare was, and still is, the complete package.

The action in the campaign pushed beyond the normal shooter conventions of the time, and made a first-person cinematic experience that put players in the boots of a blockbuster-caliber action hero. Within the first level, you’re running through a flooding cargo ship as SAS operative Soap McTavish, with water splashing on your face, alarm lights flashing, and explosions shaking the ground out from under your feet. Later, you snap attack dogs’ necks with your bare hands. Things get even more intense when you’re chased by a helicopter as you fire rockets at your pursuers from a moving truck.

However, the action isn’t always so fast paced. The riveting shootouts were expertly balanced by dramatic sequences that let you enjoy the scenery. One of the most chilling moments is when you drag your body out of a helicopter crash after being enveloped by a nuclear explosion, and then you gaze wondrously at the nuclear fallout. Then there’s the level in which you man an AC-130 gunship and lob explosive rounds from your safe and secure eye-in-the-sky. It’s all incredibly engaging. Even the slower-paced stealth missions will have you sitting at the edge of your seat.

In the “All Ghillied Up” mission, you play as a rookie John (Captain) Price--at the side of his mentor Captain MacMillan--in one of the most engaging levels to grace a first person shooter. You hardly even squeeze a trigger--at least, not until all hell breaks loose after the failed assassination attempt. The first half of the level is relatively slow, but incredibly engrossing. At one point, you’re forced to lie in grass with a platoon of soldiers marching over a hill crest toward your direction. Before you know it, dozens of troops walk only a few feet from you, and your only protection is the camouflage from your ghillie suit. You’re helpless--and it’s awesome.

Lorenzo Veloria

Many years ago, Lorenzo Veloria was a Senior Editor here at GamesRadar+ helping to shape content strategy. Since then, Lorenzo has shifted his attention to Future Plc's broader video game portfolio, working as a Senior Brand Marketing Manager to oversee the development of advertising pitches and marketing strategies for the department. He might not have all that much time to write about games anymore, but he's still focused on making sure the latest and greatest end up in front of your eyes one way or another.