For characters in the rest of the franchise see: Call of Duty.
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United Kingdom Special Air Service
Members of the UK SAS appear in the first Modern Warfare game, conducting a number of covert counter-terror operations that connect to the larger conflict in Al-Asad's nation and the Ultranationalist's civil war in Russia. SAS members appear in Modern Warfare 2, but primarily as part of Task Force 141. In the third, they are tasked with containing an apparent terrorist threat in London.
Captain John Price
The humorless, straightforward and unflappable leader of the SAS units in Modern Warfare 1. Suffers severe injuries at the climax of the first game. Captured by the Ultranationalists and locked up in a gulag during casevac, and spends five years being tortured, which leaves him a bit....off, when rescued in Modern Warfare 2. Voiced by Billy Murray (not that Bill Murray).
Badass And how. Watch almost any scene in the series with him and you'll immediately realize why.
Et Tu, Shepherd?: Definitely his reaction in "Loose Ends" when he is attacked by the General's forces.
He Who Fights Monsters: In Modern Warfare 2, 5 years in a gulag turned Price into a borderline psycho not much different from the bad guys. His first act upon release is hijacking a Russian nuclear submarine, launching a nuclear missile and detonating it above Washington DC to knock out Russian equipment.
Possibly subverted in Modern Warfare 3, he is shown to be aware of the wider context and not just blindly charging after Makarov. In the end he repeats Makarov's quote "it takes the will of one man to change the world" in more positive light, in the same way Makarov twisted his quoting "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"
Heroic BSOD: Experiences one when Soap dies. Fortunately, it doesn't last long.
Never Bareheaded: Price does not go anywhere without some kind of hat. Even in the gulag, he has a nifty wool hat on, and after he removes his bomb disposal suit, he's shown wearing his boonie hat underneath.
Except in "Crew Expendable" in Modern Warfare 1, he is balding.
Warrior Poet: His impossibly awesome intro to Just Like Old Times.
You Owe Me: Price uses it on a reluctant MacMillan in order to twist his arm into helping him in MW3.
Captain (previously Sgt.) John "Soap" MacTavish
"What the hell kind of name is Soap, eh? How'd a muppet like you pass Selection?"
- Captain John Price
One of the player characters from the first Modern Warfare and general protagonist of the Modern Warfare series. Begins the game as a newly recruited SAS trooper, but after surviving the events of the first game, is placed in command of Task Force 141. Voiced by Kevin McKidd,
Anyone Can Die: We all knew this trope was played straight in this series, but it's still a surprise when Soap dies.
Lodged Blade Recycling: Does being stabbed in the chest with a knife the size of his forearm stop Soap from killing the bad guy? Hell no. However, said wound does eventually kill him. It just takes a massive army and continuous fighting for weeks to make it stick.
Made of Iron: He got shot a bajillion times, blown up by an oil tanker, fell off a waterfall, stabbed in the chest, facestomped, pulled out said knife and used it to shank the guy who put it in him.
Deconstructed in 3. The knife wound doesn't close properly and eventually helps to kill him.
My Greatest Failure: He considers Gaz and Griggs' deaths and Price's apparent death to be these, according to his journal.
Made of Iron: Is involved in a crash between two trucks and a tube train inside the London underground, but then gets up and carries on fighting after blacking out for several minutes. Also survives the chemical attack, unless the player opts to skip "Davis Family Vacation".
Rule of Three: Third character to be voiced by Craig Fairbrass. Also the only one not to die horribly.
United States Military
Members of the United States military appear throughout the Modern Warfare games, usually from different branches. US Marines form the primary American forces in Modern Warfare 1 with US Air Force and US Navy supporting them during the invasion of al-Asad's country. Modern Warfare 2 primarily focuses on the US Army Rangers, with Air Force and Marines supporting them. Modern Warfare 3 has special operations unit Delta Force in the lead role, who are supported by regular Army, Air Force, and Navy.
1st Force Recon, United States Marine Corps
Leader of Sergeant Jackson's Marine Force recon unit in the first Modern Warfare game.
Determinator: In Scorched Earth, Overlord repeatedly advises Team Metal to abandon the search for Alena, but Sandman insists on carrying through. Even after the Russians drop a damn building on them and Berlin slowly falls, he continues to try and rescue her and end the war. They don't succeed, but not from lack of trying.
Made of Iron: Up until the penultimate level, anyway. He takes a booby-trapped door bomb to the face and still has the presence of mind to wave the squad down from shooting at the escaping kidnappers ten seconds later.
Remember the New Guy: He's revealed to be an old friend of Price, whom he met back in 2013 when they, Ghost, and Soap embarked on Operation Kingfish, the first mission to find Makarov.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Captain Price is considered a terrorist in MW3. Sandman listens to his intel, and works with him to save the President. This is probably because they are old friends.
Staff Sergeant Derek "Frost" Westbrook
An American Delta Force soldier and playable character for several missions in Modern Warfare 3.
Shaggy Dog Story: At the end of the mission, "Scorched Earth", he fails to rescue Alena, daughter of the Russian President.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Frost does not accompany his Delta Force teammates in "Down The Rabbit Hole", nor does he accompany Price and Yuri on their mission to eliminate Makarov. His absence is never explained.
Sergeant 1st Class "Grinch"
Another member of Team Metal, who accompanies Frost and Sandman on their missions. Seems to serve as Sandman's right hand.
Callsign "Warhammer" is an AC-130 gunship that first appears in Modern Warfare to support an extraction of Price's team. Warhammer can be overheard in radio transmissions in Modern Warfare 2, providing fire support around Washington DC. Later on in Modern Warfare 3, they support Team Metal's extraction of Volk from Paris. The names of the crew are never specified beyond their roles in the crew, i.e. "AC-130 TV Operator."
BFG: All three of the guns on the plane: the 25mm gatling gun, the Bofors 40mm autocannon, and the 105mm howitzer.
Casual Danger Dialogue: Though in the first game, they're not in immediate danger, in the third they actually get shot at by ground fire and Russian planes, but manage to keep their cool.
The Squadette: The Flight Control Officer in Modern Warfare 3 is female.
Task Force 141
A multinational special operations unit formed after the events of the first game, Task Force 141 conducts a number of high-risk counter-terror special operations across the globe, with particular emphasis on containing the threat presented by Ultranationalist Russia.
Simon "Ghost" Riley
British soldier in Task Force 141, who prefers to wear a skull-faced ski mask. His face is never shown, and name is never stated in-game, though the tie-in comic centered on him revealed that it's Lt. Simon "Ghost" Riley. Has a suspiciously similar voice to Gaz.
Et Tu, Shepherd?: He had this reaction when Shepherd shoots Roach, moments before he was killed by the General.
The Faceless: Never seen without his trademark skull mask and sunglasses. Ever. Except in the comic book.
Freak Out: When the nuclear submarine's missile doors open and the missile launches. Justified, as he didn't know what Price was up to.
Good Is Not Soft: Given his experiences, he will use any means necessary to takedown the enemy and protect the peace of the world, even torturing the bad guys for important info. He stops at betraying his own band of brothers to start a world war, unlike Shepard.
Meaningful Name: Roach survives a lot of crap, even for a Call Of DutyPlayer Character. It takes him being clipped by a mortar, shot at point blank range with a revolver, and then SET ON FIRE while bleeding out to finally kill him.
The whole Shadow company, though far more competent than other in-game enemies, failed to stop Price and Soap. Shepherd nearly takes them down in one-on-two combat, after surviving a helicopter crash.
Badass Grandpa: Falls down a waterfall after his helicopter crashes and explodes, but it doesn't seem to phase him. After this, he proceeds to beat two highly trained commandos who are much younger than him in hand to hand combat.
Colonel Kilgore: He sees the war as a time for heroes and legends and he brags all the time about how good the United States Armed Forces are… but then we see how much of a warmonger he actually is and it ain't pretty.
General Ripper: Pretty much to the letter. Extends to, possibly even exemplified, after his Face-Heel Turn. The causes and reasons that he wants the war to continue are magnified after we find out what role he really played in the game's events.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: At the end of Loose Ends, he briefly enjoys a smoke...just before using it to light Ghost and Roach on fire.
Made of Iron: Soap and Price, two highly trained SAS agents, fall off a waterfall and end up barley being able to stand. Shepherd falls off a waterfall and gets blown up in a helicopter, and he's fine.
Praetorian Guard: He has them in the form of the American Shadow Company, which are more competent than the Russian soldiers you usually fight. It's not really explained whether they're a black ops unit or a Private Military Contractor.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: He wants American citizens to know how much is sacrificed for the freedom and safety that they took for granted. Saying that he used extreme measures to achieve this is like saying tsunami victims are wetter than other people.
Members of the Pro-West Russian government/military fighting against the Ultranationalists. They ultimately lose the war, with the Ultranationalists coming into power by the events of the second game. By the third, Loyalist soldiers form a sort of La Résistance aimed at stopping Makarov.
Russian informant and mercenary who works with Price and Soap. Appears in the first Modern Warfare game as a spy inside the Ultranationalist camp. By the events of the second game, he is a support asset for Task Force 141, who is frequently called in as for emergency extractions, but the third game reveals that he is in command of an entire PMC made up of former Loyalist soldiers dedicated to stopping Makarov.
Nikolai: My friend, from up here, it looks like the whole village is trying to kill you!
Captain MacTavish: Tell me something I don't know! Just get ready to pick us up!
In ''The Enemy of My Enemy"
Nikolai: ''(witnessing the massive three-way fight between Task-Force 141, Makarov's men, and Shadow Company Price, I am approaching the boneyard. I see you do not have situation under control. Very unsafe to land. It looks like when I was in Afghanistan with the Soviets!
Captain Price: Nikolai! Just shut up and land the bloody plane! We're on our way!
Escort Mission: Averted. In "Hunted", he is invincible and carries an AKS-74U.
The Load: He really gets in the way of the SAS in his first appearance, to the point where Gaz holds him over a ledge and threatens to drop him if he won't stop it. They all get along much better in his next 3 appearances, though Soap lampshades this when he doesn't respond on the radio.
La Résistance: Leader of the Prague resistance forces against Ultranationalist occupation.
Manly Tears: "You're going to be all right, my friend!"
Reverse Mole: Infiltrated Makarov's inner circle to help Price in Modern Warfare 3. Unfortunately, Makarov already knew he was a mole working against him.
Former Spetsnaz who thoroughly hates Makarov and his organization, and serves as the player character for the Task Force 141 mission in Modern Warfare 3. Was a former member of Makarov's inner circle, until his opposition to Makarov's increasing insanity led to his former boss shooting him and leaving him for dead.
Defector from Decadence: Defected from the Ultranationalists when he saw how increasingly insane Makarov has become. Gets shot in the gut for his trouble.
Determinator: Getting shot in the stomach by Makarov doesn't stop him from grabbing a gun and trying to stop the massacre at the airport.
Gray Eyes: Considering how much detail the designers give characters, the color choice was likely on purpose. Yuri's entire color scheme is gray, a neutral color. He was with Task Force 141 only to get revenge on Makarov and never tries to gain Price's favor, but he isn't a villain, either. He also starts out "young and patriotic", fitting with Type 3 as well.
He got shot in the stomach with a Desert Eagle and survived. Note that he is the only person in the entire series to have pulled this off.
In "Dust To Dust" he is impaled on a spike of iron rebar when he tells Price to go after Makarov. After Price crashes Makarov's helicopter, he comes charging in to save the day, pistol blazing, and Makarov has to shoot him three more times to actually put him down.
Revenge: One of his driving motivations for opposing Makarov.
Indeed, it is stated that he is the one man in the world who hates Makarov even more than Price does.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Yuri wants Makarov dead. That's all that motivates him by the point in the story that he joins Price's group. It eventually culminates in the two-man assault on the Oasis Hotel in Juggernaut armor.
Russian Guy Suffers Most: Out of all of the series' protagonists, he probably suffers the most beatings across a single game, including getting dumped off a cliff into a river, shot repeatedly in the stomach, impaled by a piece of rebar, knocked senseless in the mining complex, thrown down a flight of stairs by Price and eventually getting shot in the head by Makarov.
True Companions: Averted. Of all of the Modern Warfare characters who work with Price, Yuri is distinct in that he never truly ingratiates himself with Price, Nikolai, or Soap. When Price learns that Yuri was once one of Makarov's trusted lieutenants, he makes it clear afterwards that he doesn't care if Yuri lives or dies, and that Yuri has to "keep up or be left behind." Price does eventually warm to Yuri, but never to the same degree as he did to Soap, Nikolai, MacMillian, Sandman, Griggs, or Gaz.
The primary opposition across all three games, made up of three primary factions: The Ultranationalists, OPFOR, and the Inner Circle. The Ultranationalists are hardcore nationalists dedicated to rebuilding Russia's power and turning it against perceived enemies, and formed a loose alliance with Al-Asad's revolutionaries (simply referred to as OPFOR or "Opposing Force") to draw US attention away from the war in Russia and to inflict as much damage as possible on the West. By the second game, the Ultranationalists were split by Zakhaev's death, with Boris Vorshevsky controlling the more moderate elements of the Ultranationalist government and Vladimir Makarov heading up the much more violent and radical elements, with Makarov's personal army becoming known as the Inner Circle. The conflict between Vorshevsky's regime and Makarov's private army comes to a head in Modern Warfare 3.
Starter Villain: al-Asad lasts only halfway through the first game, and the remnants of his forces comprise the opposition in a single mission in the second game.
Unwitting Pawn: Really, his entire role was to draw the US's attention away from the civil war in Russia. The nuclear bomb that he used on the Marines was actually set off by Makarov, to both kill American troops and keep the blame pinned on al-Asad.
The very first moment that you see him in the flesh confirms al-Asad's status as a pathetic puppet of the Ultranationalists. Al-Asad, in his own country, surrounded by his own men, walks up to Zakhaev, who points a pistol in his face, and al-Asad stops like a deer trapped in the headlights. Zakhaev then casually spins the pistol around and hands it to al-Asad, as if saying "now go kill al-Fulani like a good dog." And he does as the master commands.
"Our so-called leaders prostituted us to the West. Destroyed our cultures, our economies, our honour."
Leader of the Ultranationalists in the first Modern Warfare. The SAS attempted to assassinate him in 1996 at Chernobyl because he was dealing spent nuclear fuel rods to terrorists; during the assassination attempt his arm was blown off by Price, though he survived thanks to Makarov and Yuri. Soap eventually kills him at the end of the first game. Becomes a martyr after his death and serves as a rallying point for the Ultranationalist Russians.
Bald of Evil: Might be caused by his tendency to hang around radioactive areas.
Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Played straight in the first game, when Soap shoots him on the bridge. Deconstructed in the second, where the Ultranationalists portrays him as a martyr gunned down by evil Americans while fighting the corrupt government.
Imran Zakhaev's son, and a major Ultranationalist leader.
Russian terrorist who supports the Ultranationalists. Described by Shepherd as a "whore" who sells himself to the highest bidder. Heads up the False Flag Operation that triggers the Russian invasion of the US.
Bad Ass: Subverted, he can plan attacks and hold his own in combat; but he doesn't stand a chance once Price gets his hands on him.
Badass in a Nice Suit: The only time he's not seen in a nice suit are in the flashbacks before he becomes the Ultranationalists' new leader. He seems to hate ties though.
Big Bad: Of 3, but he'd been a major (if unseen) player much earlier. He saved Zakhaev after he was shot, he personally triggered the nuclear detonation in al-Asad's capital, and he masterminded the entire Russian invasion of Europe.
Dragon Ascendant/Mook Promotion: In Modern Warfare 3 it's shown that Makarov was just one of Zakhaev's many Mooks attending the Chernobyl arms deal in 1996. He and Yuri end up saving Zakhaev's life after his arm is shot off by Price, which leads to Makarov gaining Zakhaev's favor and rapidly ascending the ranks of the Ultranationalists, making him a Dragon, albeit under Co-Dragons in chief Al-Asad and Victor Zakhaev. After Al-Asad's and both Zakhaevs' deaths he becomes the leader of the extremist wing of the Ultranationalists, and by the time of Modern Warfare 3, he's secretly controlling a large portion of the Russian military from behind the scenes.
Dragon with an Agenda: Considering the fact his apparently main safehouse gets raided and all his data is in American hands, he somehow manages to control nearly every major asset in the Russian military in 3 which shows that he had a much bigger and better equipped facility elsewhere, meaning he's probably been feeding lies to Shepherd since the start.
Enemy Mine: In the level "The Enemy of My Enemy", he gives away the location of Shepherd's hideout to Price and Soap to save his own arse from inevitable destruction by Shepherd's forces.
Famous-Named Foreigner: Named after the former Soviet Union's standard issue pistol. Becomes a case of Hilarious in Hindsight for some when said pistol appears in Black Ops. "Wait, what do you mean the guard was trying to beat you with Makarov's butt ?" Though, in fairness, Makarov is among the commonest Russian surnames, so it's not like his surname would be immediately confused with the pistol designer (well, not to native Russians, at least).
From Nobody to Nightmare: He was just an ordinary soldier with dreams of patriotism. Then he rose through the ranks, and became the world's greatest terrorist.
Hero Killer: Every time he is encountered in the flesh, Makarov ends up killing or critically wounding a Player Character. Allen, Harkov, Soap, and Yuri (twice!). The only time that doesn't happen is in the Hotel Oasis, as Price, though Price is still wounded.
Though he doesn't personally encounter them he also kills Jackson and Mr. Davis.
Noose Catch: Receives one in Modern Warfare 3, courtesy of Captain Price.
Older Than He Looks: Appears in MW3 to be in his early 30's, but is seen in the Chernobyl flashback 20 years ago as an adult driving Zakhaev's Jeep, making him in his early 40's at the youngest.
Psycho for Hire: Shepherd explicitly states that he works for money. Subverted, though. Makarov has an agenda, though said agenda involves plunging the world into a massive world war in which Russia conquers Europe.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once he's no longer useful to Shepherd, the General tries to kill him. Makarov survives and continues on to inflict even greater tragedy.
Might be a subversion, Modern Warfare 3 clearly shows he had to have had some major plans going on in the background and that he may have been doing this to Shepherd. If the infamous safehouse level is compared to his actions in 3 then its likely that Makarov was at least feeding false information to Shepherd's intelligence assets and probably was intending to kill Shepherd anyway, sending Price and Soap was probably just seizing an opportunity.
President of Russia and leader of the mainstream Ultranationalists after the civil war.
I Have Your Wife: Makarov kidnaps his daughter to get him to give up the nuclear launch codes.
Reasonable Authority Figure: He decides to pursue peace so more Russians won't die. One wonders how much control he has over the Russian military, given that they launched the massive invasion of Europe even though he wanted peace.
It should be noted that several members of his staff, and possibly his Cabinet, were with him on his plane. They were presumably loyal to him, but were all killed when Makarov's men attacked it.
Made of Iron: It takes a point-blank shot to drop him, then once more before he grabs his gun.
And if it's him in the Special Ops Mission "Hostage Taker," he doesn't even go down after that.
Commander of an Ultranationalist airbase in Modern Warfare 2.
Department of Redundancy Department: "...surrender now or your comrade dies! Put your hands in the air and surrender to us or your comrade dies!" "You have five seconds to comply!" "Very well, we give you five seconds to comply!"