I would say that I've been a casual appreciator of the Call Of Duty series for many years. Which is to say that I don't get on the hype train and feel the need to buy titles each year. Nor do I like to roll my snobby little eyes at each new COD announcement. I just fall somewhere in the middle. Some games in the series have interested me while others don't. It's just that plain and simple. And while I'm actual not a big fan of realistic war games to begin with, I've had fun playing the very first Call Of Duty which was certainly meant to display its realism. I've also had a blast with something like Advanced Warfare which was basically COD: The Halo Game or something along those lines. And this upcoming multiplayer game looks like the first time a battle royale has really interested me. So whatever.
But I've skipped more COD's than I've played. And I really had no interest in Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back when it launched in 2007. This was basically right around the time I had gotten heavily back into gaming after a bit of a hiatus in college, so mostly I was replying retro games a the time - on an endless hunt for the thrill of nostalgia. A game like Modern Warfare with its realistic take on the horrors of war and terrorism just wanted appealing to me at all. And to be totally honest, it wasn't appealing to me in 2018 either but I had been going through Game Informer's list of their Top 300 games of all time, and this one ranked rather high. When I came across a copy of it at Gamestop for a mere three dollars, I couldn't resist stepping slightly out of my comfort zone to give this one a try.
First of all this game still looks fucking great. I mean really. I know there's been some kind of remaster released for it since, but to my eyes the original 2007 release still looks pretty fantastic. Not bad for a $3 purchase! Right off the bat I'd say that the controls felt as smooth as butter, but I mean it's COD. This is what they do - and have done - for many years. So no surprises there. The opening mission grabbed me, though. It was a rather exciting attack on an ocean liner that ends up turning into a frantic escape as the ship goes down. Immediately the game shifts gears as the opening credits are overlaid upon you in the shoes of the subject of an execution. It's grim stuff, and yet I feel like the various roles you'll play in this game - some of which don't get to make it to the end credits - does a solid job of telling a compelling story rather than just being a throwaway narrative to justify shooting sections in between.
I must praise Infinity Ward for a couple of things - namely for respecting my time. Though it appears that players in 2007 were bummed at the brevity of the campaign, I for one really value a game that can tell a great story and offer great gameplay for seven solid hours and then bow out on a high note. I'll take that over a twenty or thirty hour game full of time-killing bullshit any day of the week. And given that the version of me in my thirties has a lot less free time than I used to, I actually prefer having these short single player experiences that I can knock out over a few nights in a single week and then move on to something else. Granted I did pay $3 rather than $60 for these seven hours, but I still hold my stance.
But it's not just the brevity of the campaign that Infinity Ward did so right. It's the pacing and the variance of it all. Those seven hours are spent constantly moving forward, making progress and seeing new and interesting things. It feels like each mission was a new and pleasant surprise. I was never really sure what I'd be doing. And no mission hung around longer than it needed to. Some missions are much longer than others, but that was refreshing. It's as if the developers asked "okay, how long does this REALLY need to be?" and just cut it off right there, making each feel like a perfect fit.
By cramming so much stuff into such a concise game, Modern Warfare really ends up feeling like a greatest hits of the series. And the result is that while I personally hate stealth, the one stealth mission didn't bother me because I knew it was only one out of eighteen and that it wasn't going to go on forever. I knew that it was only peppered in among missions where I'd be tasked with blowing up tanks, or dropping bombs via a computer terminal on a helicopter, or be playing an on rails shooter on the back of a speeding truck, or doing a sniper assassination mission, or... well, put it this way - even the one escort mission felt good because at least I could drop my wounded buddy and he'd still cover me. The missions are just that well thought out - so even the annoying stuff works.
Modern Warfare's vocal critics have also complained of how linear the game is. And that's whatever. Look, I love open world games too. But not everything has to be Breath Of The Wild, y'know? And I think a game like this that's attempting to tell such a tight story needs to be linear or else it chances losing that story in translation. For me personally I really enjoyed figuring out just how open I could force the game to be. You had clear objectives in each mission but I loved trying to see just HOW I could accomplish them. I'd often try to find backdoors that weren't obvious, or I'd just rush in and go full aggro when I wasn't supposed to. It was fun to just test the limits of the game, and surprisingly this super linear game never seemed to penalize me for trying something different.
All in all I had a really great time playing Modern Warfare. I'm in no rush to go out and seek all the others. And by the way, that numbering gets complicated, right? Like Modern Warfare 2 isn't Call Of Duty 5. But whatever. What I can say is that I'm totally pleased that I finally gave this game a chance. It's this kind of experience that makes me happy to randomly trust something as arbitrary as Game Informer's list of top games to force myself to try something I probably wouldn't have bothered with otherwise. Sure I'll play stuff that doesn't click in the process, but the feeling of discovery and success when something does click is awesome.