Although past games in the series have been rooted in reality, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
sidesteps any awkward political landmines by following a made up conflict. The story unfolds through the eyes of a US Marine and British SAS agent and tells the story of a coup in the Middle East that eventually leads to the threat of nuclear annihilation. The only knock against the single-player campaign is that it is incredibly short; about 8 - 10 hours depending on the difficulty level.
Though short, the experience is well worth the purchase. Every level is packed with those great, "OMG" moments that make videogames such an enjoyable hobby in the first place. This is due in large part to the game's storytelling and the sense of agency it provides. Everything is told from a first person point of view that inserts you right into the thick of things. Unlike Halo 3, where you see some elements unfold through the Master Chief's eyes while others take a more cinematic approach, everything that happens in the game feels like it is happening to you. This builds to some incredibly intense moments, such as an escape from a sinking cargo ship where the camera literally begins to wildly sway to odd angles or the entire introduction where you witness the execution of a former leader through his eyes. Talk about effective.
As a game, Modern Warfare is pretty straightforward. You are rarely sent into a situation by yourself and your objectives are always really clear. Missions are laid out in a linear fashion where you move from point A to point B. However, you have a decent amount of wiggle room when it comes to actually traveling between points. It's not the "go anywhere" approach some games take, but you aren't limited to a set path. The mission selection is diverse. Building on scripted events, the game constantly shifts between fast, frantic combat situations to slow, methodical shoot-outs from cover. You'll also find yourself constantly shifting from offensive pushes to defensive stands. In one mission, you'll take part in a raid on a TV station while in another, you'll scour the Russian countryside in search of terrorists. One or two missions even have you using subterfuge by dressing up as the enemy or using camouflage.
Multiplayer is where Modern Warfare finds its longevity. The absolute coolest aspect of multiplayer is the ranking system. Even if you don't win games, the system rewards you with points for just about everything you do in the game. As you earn points, your player rank also improves, unlocking special perks. These are broken up into tiers that grant different abilities during the game. Tier 1 perks include things like flash bang grenades or rocket launchers. Eventually you'll unlock other traits like Juggernaut, which gives you a health boost. Some of the more entertaining perks let you get the last laugh on people who kill you; Last Stand lets you get off one shot from your pistol before dying, while with Martyr you drop a grenade.
Perks are really well balanced, so you never run into situations where one player has an advantage because of their level. While they offer certain advantages, your ability to aim and shoot is still the deciding factor. In-game kill counts also lead to special in-match perks. Shoot three opponents and you can use an UAV sweep to find everyone else on the map. Keep up your streak and you'll earn gunship support and even airstikes.