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  • Actor Allusion:
    • "The Vet and the N00b" trailer is both this and a Call-Back. Sam Worthington plays the "Vet," after previously appearing as the commando Alex Mason in Call of Duty: Black Ops. The commercial also calls back to the Black Ops advertising twice. First, with the tagline "There's a soldier in all of us." Second, having NBA star Dwight Howard appear toting an M16 with a grenade launcher. NBA star Kobe Bryant appeared with the same gun in ads for Black Ops.
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    • Master Sgt. Sandman of MW3 was voiced by William Fichtner, who also played a Delta operator in Black Hawk Down.
    • During Grinch's Heroic Sacrifice, he's briefly seen using a pair of pistols to fight off Makarov's soldiers. Not unlike another video game character that Timothy Olyphant was known for playing.
  • All-Star Cast: Almost all of the new characters in Modern Warfare 3 are played by prominent Hollywood actors, even though most of them are not major characters at all and are relatively small supporting roles who don't even appear in cutscenes or close-ups. Unless you saw the IMDB page, you might be surprised to learn that William Fichtner, Idris Elba, Timothy Olyphant, Bruce Greenwood, Barry Pepper, and several other well-known actors played characters in the game.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!:
    • The famous line "Fifty thousand people used to live here... now it's a ghost town." was not spoken by MacMillan. It was actually spoken by Gaz in the intro. MacMillan's line in the game is "Fifty thousand people used to live in this city. Now it's a ghost town... I've never seen anything like it." Oddly, MacMillan does say that line in the Wii port.
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    • There's a form of this in-series: part of Zakhaev's speech from "Ultimatum" in 1 is reproduced in the introduction for 2 - "My son's blood, on their hands." The original speech didn't include the word "son".
  • Cash Cow Franchise: In spades. 2 had the largest first-day gross in entertainment history. Not just video games — all of entertainment, including movies and music... that was then beaten by Call of Duty: Black Ops... that was also beaten by Modern Warfare 3, which managed to smash MW2's record by over a hundred million dollars. Say what you like about the quality of the games, they certainly can sell them. The developers certainly said they would want to continuously make more games even after Modern Warfare 3 in a live interview. And they certainly did.
  • Cowboy BeBop at His Computer:
    • Zakhaev is often stated to have a gold-plated Desert Eagle. The golden weapons are all multiplayer-only, but apparently some people conflate the existence of the golden Deagle (being the only one unlocked just by ranking up, rather than accomplishing every challenge for every weapon in a class) with the fact that Zakhaev is the only named character in the campaign to make use of a Deagle; that or they assume "bright and shiny", which the regular Deagle in-game is, to automatically mean "gold-plated".
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    • A lot of people also seem to believe that the smallest weapon on the AC-130 used in "Death from Above" is a pair of 20mm Vulcan cannons. Nevermind that if they'd actually paid attention when playing the game, they would see that the information in the loading screen says it's a single 25mm cannon note , and in the actual gameplay there is only the one cannon, which is explicitly labeled on the HUD and referred to in dialogue as the 25mm Equalizer.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • The game was hit with this from the get-go, as Infinity Ward wanted to make this sort of jump to the modern day after the very first Call of Duty. Activision was convinced It Will Never Catch On, however, and in particular only agreed to give the team access to development kits for the Xbox 360 if they agreed to do at least one more WWII-based CoD before making a modern-day one.
    • When the first game turned into a hit in defiance of Activision's expectations, they demanded that Infinity Ward start on a sequel immediately, when Infinity Ward did not initially plan to follow up the series at all. Rumors were abound at the time that Infinity Ward was interested in making a sci-fi game instead.
    • Activision CEO Bobby Kotick broke up the Infinity Ward development team after development of the second game due to drama over royalty payments, and gave co-development of MW3 to series newcomer Sledgehammer Games. Many of the former IW staff members would take the aforementioned sci-fi concept with them, as the next game they would make was Titanfall. The remaining original IW members would slowly leave in the aftermath of MW3 as well, particularly when Activision brought up the idea of releasing DLC packs consisting of MW2 maps ported to MW3, and Robert Bowling loudly complained at the idea considering most people who would buy the throwback packs had already paid for the game they actually came from; the resulting fight only came to an end after Bowling left, and of the original idea, only Terminal was ported over - in a free update.
  • Fake American: Cpl. Dunn and Sgt. Truck are voiced by the Canadian Barry Pepper and the British Idris Elba, respectively.
  • Fan Nickname:
    • "Grenade of Grenade: Grenade Grenade" and "Stay Frosty Oscar Mike: Ramirez Do Everything!"
    • "Dead Man's Dick" for the Dead Man's Hand death streak in MW3, courtesy of YouTuber TheShwantz27.
  • Follow the Leader:
    • Changed the gaming world's idea of a "generic shooter setting" from World War II to the modern day with the release of Call of Duty 4.
    • The game's multiplayer mechanics, like the deep progression system, customizable loadouts and perks have been frequently imitated by other shooters, to the point that it's considered unusual for a shooter to not have these features.
  • Genre-Killer: For WWII games, despite not actually being one. It inspired a wave of similar modern series or modern updates of formerly WWII series like Medal of Honor.
  • I Knew It!: Theories that Vladimir Makarov was the First Horseman were correct.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Infinity Ward wanted to take Call of Duty into the modern day as early as the second game in the series, but Activision was strongly against it and insisted the series stay in World War II. Even during development of Modern Warfare, Activision was quick to remind Infinity Ward that it didn't expect the game to succeed.
  • Name's the Same:
    • One of the randomly-generated names for the FSO agents in the MW3 level "Turbulence" is, minus a single I, the exact same as that of World at War's Russian Player Character.
    • There's a Pvt. Allen in "The Bog" in Modern Warfare 1. Pelayo, the name of the Super Cobra pilot from the last MW1 Marine mission, can likewise end up attached to random Rangers in MW2.
    • Gaz is not to be confused with Dib's perpetually angry pizza-loving world-hating younger sister.
  • Prop Recycling:
    • Closer looks can reveal where Infinity Ward re-used various models to fill out levels. Of note are crashed technicals in Washington D.C. (oh, those crazy Virginia rednecks), and American police cars on the tarmac at the Russian airport.
    • Hidden in plain sight during Modern Warfare 3's campaign: There's a warehouse that you fight through which is a literal shot-for-shot recycle of a warehouse from CoD4's multiplayer; even the crates are the same. Various weapons also reuse their MW2 models in the campaign - most noticeably, despite a decent chunk of missions starting the player off with a USP as their secondary weapon, the new USP model for the game never shows up outside of Spec Ops and multiplayer.
  • The Red Stapler: Many manufacturers of airsoft replicas have become absolutely drained because of these games. KWA, a former specialist in gas-powered pistols, has stated that their entire stock of Beretta 93R pistols flew out the door in record time, with the reason "thanks to MW2, these things go quick like hotcakes."
  • Relationship Voice Actor: Sgt. Foley and General Shepherd are Admirals David Anderson and Steven Hackett. They're even from the same series as a protagonist with the same name as Modern Warfare 2's antagonist, albeit spelt differently ("Shepard" against "Shepherd".)
  • Star-Making Role: Unless he's still remembered for his roles in Cliffhanger and Prime Suspect earlier before the games, Craig Fairbrass really found recognition for himself through his voice-acting talents in this trilogy, however Fairbrass' fandom and fame really peaked when he donned the mask of Ghost in Modern Warfare 2. It also helped Fairbrass' previous gig, the aforementioned Cliffhanger, to find a new recent gaggle of fans (due to Modern Warfare 2 referencing the film through a name of an early level and Fairbrass' presence in both projects) with the same able to be said for Fairbrass' film debut For Queen and Country and Prime Suspect as well as any other project featuring the actor for any gamer who is curious of badass Brit Fairbrass' resume outside and before his COD roles.
  • Technology Marches On:
    • One of the main complaints over MW2's inclusion of the TAR-21 among gun circles was that the real gun did not come with unpowered ironsights. This has since changed.
    • This is also the case for several of the guns featured which at the time were cool new rising stars, expected to become big hits in the military, only to end production before leaving the prototype phase, including the FMG-9 (only technically produced for real as an airsoft gun) and ACR (never adopted).
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