Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a 2007 first-person shooter video game, developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii. A handheld game was made for the Nintendo DS. The game was released in North America, Australia, and Europe in November 2007 for video game consoles and Microsoft Windows. It was released for the Mac in September 2008, then released for the Wii in November 2009, given the subtitle Reflex Edition. It is the fourth installment in the Call of Duty video game series, excluding expansion packs, and is the first in the Modern Warfare line of the franchise, followed by a direct sequel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as well as the first game in the series to have a Mature rating. The game breaks away from the World War II setting of previous games in the series and is instead set in modern times. Call of Duty 4 was in development for two years. It uses a proprietary game engine. On September 10, 2009, it was re-released in Japan by Square Enix.
The story takes place in the year 2011, where a radical leader has executed the president of an unnamed country in the Middle East, and an ultranationalist movement starts a civil war in Russia. The conflicts are seen from the perspectives of a U.S. Force Reconnaissance Marine and a British SAS commando, and are set in various locales, such as the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. The multiplayer portion of the game features various game modes, and contains a leveling system that allows the player to unlock additional weapons, weapon attachments, and camouflage schemes as they advance.
Critically acclaimed, the game received an aggregated score of 94% from both GameRankings and Metacritic, and is considered by many to be the best Call of Duty in the series. The gameplay and story received particular praise, while criticism targeted the failure of the game to substantially innovate the first-person shooter genre. The game won numerous awards from gaming websites, including IGN’s Best Xbox 360 Game. It was the top-selling game worldwide for 2007, selling around seven million copies by January 19 and over thirteen million by May 2009.
As opposed to earlier games in the Call of Duty series, the game features modern equipment and new features, many exclusive to the multiplayer part of the game, such as “killstreaks”; killing a number of enemies without the player dying in between kills allows access to various assets including airstrikes and helicopter support. A character can be positioned in one of three stances: standing, crouching, or prone; each affecting the character’s rate of movement, accuracy, and stealth. Using cover helps the player avoid enemy fire or recover health after taking significant damage. As such, there are no armor or health power ups. When the character has taken damage, the edges of the screen glow red and the character’s heartbeat increases. If the character stays out of fire, the character can recover. When the character is within the blast radius of a live grenade, a marker indicates the direction of the grenade, helping the player to either flee or toss it back to the enemy.
The player takes on the role of various characters during a single-player campaign. The characters’ involvement in the plot occurs simultaneously and overlaps the events in the game. As such, the player’s perspective changes from one character to another between missions. Each mission features a series of objectives; the player is led to each objective with the heads up display, which marks its direction and distance. Some objectives require that the player arrives at a checkpoint, while other objectives require the player to eliminate enemies in a specified location, stand their ground to defend an objective, or plant explosive charges on an enemy installation. After the credits, a special epilogue mission is unlocked for play, featuring a four-man squad retrieving a VIP from terrorists who have hijacked an airliner. The SAS rescue the VIP and escape before the plane is destroyed.
Call of Duty 4 features team-based and deathmatch-based multiplayer modes on various maps. Each mode has an objective that requires unique strategies to complete. Players can call in UAV reconnaissance scans, air strikes, and attack helicopters, when they achieve three-, five-, and seven-enemy kill streaks respectively. A game ends when either a team or player has reached a predefined number of points, or the allotted time expires in which case the team or player with the most points wins. If the points are even when the time expires, Sudden Death mode is activated in which there is no re-spawning and the team who either has the last man standing, or achieves the objective first are the winners. If the player is in either of the two matches, then there is an Overtime match, in which the next team to win is rewarded the victory.
The player’s performance in the multiplayer mode is tracked with experience points, which can be earned by killing opposing players, completing challenges, completing objectives, or by completing a round or match. As the player gains experience, they advance in level, unlocking new weapons, perks, challenges, and gameplay modes. The highest obtainable level is 55, but on the console versions of the game, the player has the option to enter “Prestige” mode, which returns their level to one and removes all accumulated unlockables. This process can be repeated up to 10 times with a different insignia being given each time.
Completing a challenge grants experience points and may unlock weapon attachments. As a player’s level increases by gaining experience points within online games, it unlocks new weapons, perks, or challenges. As the player advances in levels, they earn the ability to customize their classes; this includes selecting their main weapon, side arm and special grenade type. Additionally, the player can select 3 perks, one from each of the three “Tiers”, that can customize their character further. Perk effects include, but are not limited to, extra ammunition, increasing bullet damage by the player, or dropping a live grenade when the player is killed. The player is also given the choice to complete challenges in order to receive even more experience points; challenges include achieving a certain number of kills with a specific weapon, shooting down a helicopter or performing a number of head shots. Additionally, when the player attains a certain amount of headshots with a specific weapon, excluding sidearms, the player unlocks extra weapon “camos”, or camouflage, to use for that specific weapon.
During the single player campaign, the player controls six different characters from a first-person perspective. The player assumes the role of recent British Special Air Service (SAS) recruit Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish for most of the game, starting with his enrollment in the 22nd SAS Regiment. Sergeant Paul Jackson is part of USMC 1st Force Recon deployed to the Middle East, and the player controls Jackson’s character during five levels of Act 1. Captain John Price (voiced by actor Billy Murray) is an SAS officer who is playable in two flashback missions from 1996 in which he is still Lieutenant. The player also assumes the role of an American thermal-imaging TV operator aboard a Lockheed AC-130 gunship during one level, and a British SAS operative infiltrating a hijacked airliner to save a VIP in a secret level titled “Mile High Club”. Finally, the player may control Yasir Al-Fulani, the president of the unnamed Middle Eastern country in the game before he is executed, although he has no freedom of action beyond turning his head.
The game’s non-playable characters (NPCs) feature prominently in the story: Captain Price and his right-hand man, Gaz (voiced by Craig Fairbrass), serve as mentors to Soap. Jackson’s USMC platoon is led by Lieutenant Vasquez (voiced by David Sobolov) and Staff Sergeant Griggs (voiced by and modeled after Infinity Ward lead animator Mark Grigsby); Griggs later accompanies Soap in Russia. Sergeant Kamarov leads the Russian loyalists that aid SAS and USMC forces. “Nikolai” is a Russian informant who helps the SAS. Captain MacMillan is Price’s mentor and commanding officer during the flashback to the assassination attempt on Zakhaev.
The antagonists in the story include Imran Zakhaev, the leader of the Russian ultranationalist party and the main antagonist of the game; Khaled Al-Asad, the commander of the revolutionary forces in the Middle East and an ally of Imran Zakhaev; and Victor Zakhaev, the son of Imran Zakhaev and a priority figure in the ultranationalist party.
In 2011, a civil war has broken out in Russia between its government and ultranationalists who seek to restore Russia to its Soviet-era glamor. Meanwhile, a separatist group lead by Khaled Al-Asad seizes power in a “small but oil-rich” country in the Middle East through a coup d’état. Al-Asad is ruthless and has extreme anti-Western views. Afterwards, the United States invades the country. In the afternoon of the second day of invasion, a platoon of USMC 1st Force Recon is sent to capture Al-Asad. The platoon attacks a TV station in which Al-Asad was thought to be broadcasting live and then engages in urban combat in an unnamed city south of the capital. In the meantime, the British Special Air Service (SAS) conducts two important operations, one on a ship in the Bering Strait and one in Russia.
Intelligence gathered from the two missions indicates that Al-Asad may be in possession of a Russian nuclear device.
In evening of the third day, the U.S. launches a full-scale assault on Al-Asad’s presidential palace in spite of the SAS warning about the nuclear device. As U.S. Navy SEALs invade the palace, the Marines engage Al-Asad’s ground forces. The assault, however, ends in catastrophe when the nuclear device suddenly detonates, wiping out most of the city along with everyone in it.
Refusing to assume that Al-Asad fled his country, the SAS attacks a potential safe house in a village in Azerbaijan. SAS forces, led by Captain Price, clear the village of the occupying Russian forces with the help of loyalist Russian forces and capture Al-Asad. Shortly into the interrogation, Al-Asad’s phone rings. After hearing the voice of the caller, Captain Price executes Al-Asad and reveals that the caller was the leader of the ultranationalists: Imran Zakhaev.
Captain Price tells the story of a mission in Pripyat, Ukraine fifteen years earlier. In the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Zakhaev took advantage of the turmoil to profit from nuclear proliferation and used his new wealth to lure soldiers from the Soviet Army to form his ultranationalist party. In 1996, Price was sent on a black operation to assassinate Zakhaev. Price set up a vantage point on the top floor of an abandoned hotel and shot Zakhaev with a Barrett M82 sniper rifle, but the shot only severed Zakhaev’s arm. Price barely escaped the scene.
SAS, the Marines and loyalist Russians attempt to capture Zakhaev’s son, Victor, to learn Zakhaev’s whereabouts but as they corner him on the roof of an apartment building, Victor commits suicide. Enraged, Zakhaev plans to retaliate by launching nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles at the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, which could kill 41 million people. A joint force of SAS and Marines are too late stop the launch of the missiles; however, they manage to seize the launch facility’s command room and remotely defuse the missiles over the Atlantic Ocean. They escape the facility in military trucks with Zakhaev’s forces in hot pursuit.
An ultranationalist Mi-24 Hind helicopter destroys a bridge while the joint force is about to cross it. The destruction of the bridge and the ensuing fight with ultranationalists leaves everyone in the joint force either dead or severely wounded. Zakhaev himself arrives and begins killing wounded soldiers when suddenly loyalists destroy his Mi-24 Hind and join the fray. Zakhaev is shot dead. When the dust settles, loyalist forces start tending to the wounded.
In the outro, the missiles incident and the ultranationalists’ support of Al-Asad are hushed up, thus causing the events of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Call of Duty 4 was developed by a team of a hundred people, over the course of two years. After Call of Duty 2, the Infinity Ward team decided to move away from the World War II environment of previous games in the series. This resulted in three game concepts: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. While developing the story for Call of Duty 4, Infinity Ward chose to avoid referencing current, real-life wars, and keep the series’ common theme of two opposing forces of similar strength. To enhance the realistic feel of the game, the development team attended a live-fire exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, a training facility in the California desert. This helped the developers to simulate the effects of being near an Abrams tank when it fires. The team also talked with U.S. Marines who were recently in combat to get a feel for the background, emotions, and attitude of Marines in combat. Veterans were also recruited to supervise motion capture sessions and the artificial intelligence design of the game.
The development team designed the online multiplayer component to be balanced and rewarding for new players while still offering something for experienced players. An early idea to implement air support (air strikes and attack helicopters) involved players fighting over special zones to access a trigger for air support against enemies. This idea was discarded because it discouraged the type of deathmatch gameplay they intended. The kill streak reward system was put in its place to encourage the improvement of player skills. Players were allowed to select weapons before matches to get accustomed to weapons more easily and minimize weapon hunting. Maps were designed primarily for deathmatch games—the developers felt such designs suited other types of gameplay as well. Map layouts were designed to minimize locations players could hide from enemy gunfire.
Most of the music for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was written by British composer Stephen Barton, who had also contributed to film scores by Harry Gregson-Williams. Gregson-Williams also composed music for the game, such as the main theme. Several music tracks from the game are available on Infinity Ward’s “7 Days of Modern Warfare” website, and some are available at Barton’s own web site. The rap song played during the end credits is performed by Call of Duty 4’s lead animator, Mark Grigsby.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare runs on the IW engine, specifically IW 3.0, featuring true world-dynamic lighting, HDR lighting effects, dynamic shadows and depth of field. Bullet penetration is calculated by the engine, taking into account factors such as surface type and entity thickness. The game runs in a native resolution of 600p on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Certain objects, such as cars and some buildings, are destructible. This makes distinguishing cover from concealment important, as the protection provided by objects such as wooden fences and thin walls do not completely protect players from harm. Bullet stopping power is decreased after penetrating an object, and the decrease is dependent on the thickness and surface type of the object. The game makes use of a dynamic physics engine, not implemented in previous Call of Duty titles. Death animations are a combination of pre-set animations and ragdoll physics. Console versions of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare run at a consistent 60 frames per second, and the Wii version runs at 30 frames per second. Code was included to determine spawning points based on the nearby weapons and the relationship between enemy positions and line of sight to the points. The various criteria are meant to minimize players dying immediately after rejoining a match, or being “spawn-killed” due to players simply waiting for others to “respawn”. However, enemies may still respawn infinitely, a notable feature in Call of Duty game engines.
The game engine has also been used for the development of two other Activision games. An enhanced version of the original engine was used in Call of Duty: World at War, the fifth installment in the Call of Duty series after Call of Duty 4, while a slightly altered version has been used for the James Bond video game Quantum of Solace as well as GoldenEye 007 using a heavily modified version.