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Video Game / Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

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"How'd a muppet like you pass selection?"

Our noble crusade has begun. Just as they lay waste to our country, we shall lay waste to theirs. (holds up a gun) This is how it begins.
Khaled Al-Asad

The one that modernised the FPS genre.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a 2007 First-Person Shooter video game, made by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. It is the fourth main game in the Call of Duty franchise, and unlike the previous games, which were set in World War II, it is set in modern times.

In the year 2011, a civil war breaks out in Russia between its government and Ultranationalists led by Imran Zakhaev, who seek to restore Russia to its Soviet-era glamor. At the same time, a separatist group seizes control of a Middle Eastern country through a coup d'état. You play as two characters; a U.S. Marine named Paul Jackson and a British Special Air Service operative named John "Soap" MacTavish, taking part in these conflicts.

The game's success spawned two sequels and kickstarted the Modern Warfare subseries that dominated the Call of Duty franchise durinng the mid-2000s and early 2010s.

A Wii version of the game, titled Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - Reflex Edition, was released in 2009. A remastered version of the game for modern consoles, developed by Raven Software, was initially released as part of a bundle with orders of Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare in 2016, and later as a standalone game in 2017.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The game takes place in 2011, four years after its real-world release date.
  • Action Prologue: "Crew Expendable" serves as this. The game's Title Card is placed right after it, and it is a relatively plot-irrelevant mission aside from providing Foreshadowing for Al-Asad's attempts to obtain a nuke.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: In most missions the player controls either SAS operative John "Soap" MacTavish or US Marine Paul Jackson. Additionally, there are two flashback missions in which the player controls Captain Price, one mission in which the player controls an AC-130 operator, and one mission in which the player controls the recently deposed President al-Fulani (although for this last one the player can do nothing other than look around). In the bonus mission "Mile High Club", the player controls an unnamed SAS operative.
  • A Nuclear Error: In the last few levels, two RT-2UTTH Topol-M ballistic missiles are launched from a facility in southern Russia in the Caucasus Mountains, and the SAS and USMC race against time to disable the missiles in flight before they impact targets in the U.S. and kill 41 million people. However, by the time the abort codes are entered, the missiles have already jettisoned their first rocket stages and the delivery vehicle has already split into their individual warheads, with each warhead already in the terminal phase. The nature of ballistic missiles does not allow them to be disabled or aborted once launched; once the authorization codes have been entered, launch protocols executed and missiles have launched from their silos, all communications are automatically cut off in order to prevent hacking or disabling by enemy forces; there is no way to transmit abort codes or self-destruct orders. The only way to stop an ICBM once it has launched is to intercept with fighter aircraft and destroy it before it hits the boost phase. Since the Topol-Ms have already long exited boost phase and have entered the terminal phase of their launch sequence, there is nothing stopping those 12 550kt MIRV warheads from striking their targets.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The missile facility is stated to be in the Altay Mountains in Russia. The real life Altai Mountains are located on the border with Kazakhstan and Mongolia, hundreds of miles from where the game suggests it is. The actual location of the facility is in the Caucasus Mountains, on the border with Georgia and Russia.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The game ends with the death of Zakhaev. However this comes with the knowledge that countless citizens in Al-Asad's country and American forces were lost when the nuke couldn't have been stopped and Zakhaev himself kills off most of what remains of Soap's squadron before the killing blow is landed.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: In "Crew Expendable", there's a lone crewman armed with a Desert Eagle camping in the cargo hold. He can kill you in just a few shots even on Normal difficulty, and can easily get the jump on you if you don't check your corners. In the remaster, there's even an achievement for taking his weapon and killing 5 enemies with it.
  • Brass Balls: You can have your player character be regarded as this during "All Ghillied Up"; the player character has the opportunity to slip into an area guarded by three Mooks to retrieve a collectible. If the player succeeds, MacMillan notes that they have "the minerals".
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Mile High Club, a cut mid game mission unlocked through completing the game, where the SAS has some two minutes to get from one end of an airplane to the other to rescue a VIP. Remember the Iranian embassy siege that made the real team famous? You need to be at least as good as those guys to stand a chance.
  • Car Chase Shoot-Out: The game ends in one where after the protagonists manage to stop a nuclear missile strike, they have to escape the compound in a stolen truck with enemy forces hot on their tail.
  • Controllable Helplessness:
    • During the mission "The Coup", you're tied up and thrown into the backseat of a car. The only control you actually have over your character is the ability to look around. The twist? You're playing the President of Unspecifiedistan, on his way to his execution. And you do get executed by one of the Big Bads, sparking the events of the rest of the game.
    • In the mission "Aftermath", in which all you can do is limp across a burned-out wasteland until Sgt. Jackson dies horribly from radiation poisoning and/or internal injuries.
  • Death by Disfigurement: Subverted with Zakhaev's assassination attempt. Turns out, "shock and blood loss" didn't take care of him as expected.
  • Developer's Foresight: During "One Shot, One Kill" in the remastered version of the game, you are able to kill Vladimir Makarov at the deal, which causes a time paradox. However, if you hit the person in the back seat, you get a message stating 'Friendly fire will not be tolerated'. That's because you shot Yuri, whose character model replaces the original Mook in the original version of the game.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Al-Asad. The first half of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has you trying to overthrow his new regime in an unknown Middle Eastern country, which is destroyed by a nuke. Then, after you kill him, you find out that he is a pawn of the real villain, Imran Zakhaev.
  • Disposable Pilot: In "Hunted", both pilots are always killed, though most of your squad survives.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • CoD4 is noticeably different from the later two games, the last bit of refinement before Modern Warfare 2. Most obviously, it was sold under the title Call of Duty 4, which was later mostly phased out due to the franchise's split between Treyarch and Infinity Ward. Its campaign switches between little more than the Russian countryside and a hostile, unnamed Islamic country, with a single instance taking place in a well-known real-world location (that being the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone), as opposed to the more varied environments of the series' later two installments, where every other mission takes place in a recognizable real-world location like Rio de Janeiro, a bombed-out Washington DC, or Paris. This, combined with their heavy use of Rule of Cool, may explain why some of CoD4's gritty realism feels lost in its sequels. It also featured "Arcade Mode" and unlockable campaign cheats, which were nowhere to be found in later installments.
    • The game's multiplayer experience is also heavily modified in its sequels. It features three fixed killstreaks (UAV, bombing run from jets, and attack helicopter), equippable night vision goggles, a pre-set voice message system, and an equipment system that was heavily reworked in sequels (the first perk in Call of Duty 4 just gives you extra equipment like an RPG or claymores, for example). The system for attachments is also much more bare-bones, with much fewer options than later games (the only options are any one from the list of a red dot sight, ACOG, suppressor, foregrip, or Grenade Launcher), many restricted from certain weapon types (only machine guns and shotguns can get the foregrip, while neither can use the suppressor and sniper rifles can't use anything except the ACOG) or even game modes (multiplayer never lets you use stuff like a unique red dot scope, while the ACOG is completely missing from the campaign in favor of making an EOTech holosight share its function) and some reacting with the perk system in ways they don't in later games (the grenade launcher and grip are counted as extra equipment, thus taking away your first perk). Maps also tend to be more directly based on singleplayer levels, with the most obvious unique maps themselves tending to be borrowed from earlier games with a new coat of paint (e.g. Chinatown is a Chinese-themed redo of Carentan), compared to later games where multiplayer maps bear almost no resemblance to singleplayer levels beyond the overall aesthetic. Calling in a killstreak requires you to put away your weapon as in later games, but this is accomplished by having your character just pull out the detonator used for C4 before bringing their gun up again - World at War would replace it with a period-appropriate radio handset, but though Modern Warfare 2 added a tactical laptop used for killstreaks that you control in some manner, the C4 detonator would keep being used for the "generic" killstreak animation until Modern Warfare 3. Also, the AK-47 is one of the first guns unlocked, rather than being restricted until hitting the final rank - here, that honor goes to the Golden Desert Eagle.
      • The PC version's multiplayer has its own set of oddities. Most notably, it uses PunkBuster as its anticheat service, making things difficult to set up after Even Balance dropped support for the game a few years later. There's also no Prestige system, and, thanks to a sponsorship deal with nVidia, all of the post-release maps and content console players had to buy with the Variety map pack were added as free updates to the PC version, including a Christmas-themed version of a map that console players only get when it's actually Christmas. By Modern Warfare 2, the publishers would realize the implications of selling the PC version over Steam, and were able to implement Prestiging, use Valve's anti-cheat system, and sell map packs.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Our playable characters Jackson and Soap are members of the US Marine Corps' Force Recon and the British SAS, respectively.
  • Escort Mission:
    • In "Hunted," the informant Nikolai will have to be escorted through a wilderness; fortunately, he's good enough at defending himself with his AK-74u and gains Gameplay Ally Immortality (not too shabby for an emaciated guy captured for God-knows-how-long). In the "One Shot, One Kill" mission an injured Captain's support fire is quite effective... however, he can be killed, and he is immobile; he can't move around unless you carry him, leaving you unable to do anything except walk around (no sprinting) and putting him down.
    • Additionally, there's the mission where you "escort" Soap's team... at the controls of an AC-130 gunship.
  • Excuse Plot: The entire directive of the Marines' side of the campaign is a bunch of tangential skirmishes in their hunt for Al-Asad. It's never explained why they're effectively invading an entire nation for one man besides his coup d'état that executed an allied leader on national television. This is intentional; Griggs openly mocks their lack of solid intel going into the operation, it's meant to invoke Ripped from the Headlines conflicts at the time in the Middle East, and Al-Asad was never present to begin with, allowing him to kill 30,000 Marines and devastate the region while rendering their entire sub-plot tragically All for Nothing. The SAS are the ones pursuing the real plotline the entire time.
  • Fade to White: Happens twice: at the end of "Aftermath" when Sgt. Paul Jackson dies, and once Soap loses consciousness in the final mission, "Game Over", while being lifted into a helicopter.
  • Fatal Family Photo: After completing the "Mile High Club" mission, a photo depicting Vasquez, Price, Gaz, and Griggs is shown. With the exception of Price, everyone in the photo is dead by the time you see it.
  • Foreshadowing: At the end of "Blackout", Nikolai has some choice words to say at the very end that highlight how the entire Marine part of the campaign you're about to experience isn't going to go as everyone had hoped. He's right; Captain Price will be the one to do the deed, while all of the Marines were chasing bad info that gets them nuked.
    Nikolai: Have the Americans already attacked Al-Asad?
    Captain Price: No, their invasion begins in a few hours! Why?
    Nikolai: The Americans are making a mistake. They will never take Al-Asad alive!
  • Forced Tutorial: The first playable campaign level, "F.N.G.", has Soap run through some basic skill checks then tackle an a short assault course before Price gathers the crew to lay out the upcoming mission. This is noteworthy because Soap is a new recruit to the Special Air Service, which is considered the British military's most elite operations group and presumably would have been introduced to firing a rifle sometime before Selection. At least it could be justified as a way to just get a quick look at how Soap handles equipment and his reaction times before everyone gears up for a real operation, as the assault course in question is based on clearing a cargo ship. Later installments change the context of the first mission to remove this dissonance (2 has Joseph Allen demonstrating weapon and equipment handling for Afghani soldiers for his C.O. then runs an assault course so Shepherd can evaluate his capability to join TF 141, and 3 skips the tutorial altogether and thrusts the player directly into an ongoing conflict in New York City, simply giving prompts for in-game commands rather than framing the level around them).
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: In the last act of the game, you save at least 15 million people, kill a major international figure, and watch your friends die. It's written off as missile tests and minor skirmishes between the Russian government and the ultranationalist faction. Only you and a handful of others, either in the highest echelons of NATO or other on-site survivors, know the truth.
  • Harmless Luminescence: The nuke scene, where Paul Jackson can stare directly into the resulting flash and still see just fine. Of course, blindness would be the least of his problems at that point.
  • Helicopter Blender: "One Shot, One Kill" has a helicopter being shot down and digging itself into the ground while sliding towards Price (the player) and MacMillan. The former manages to avoid it, the latter frantically tries to get away from the blades, which come to a stop just before hitting him. He's still injured in the process, though, and you have to carry him around for the rest of the level.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: Russian fighters on both sides of the civil war use the original AK, which would make some sense for the Ultranationalist rebels (who are presumably fighting with whatever weapons they have on hand) but less so for the Loyalist forces, for whom the AK-74 should be standard issue; instead, the -74 is only present in its rarer but much more famous carbine variant, which is used by all of the NPC factions except for the Loyalists. The Ultranationalists' loadout also includes some far-reaching Western rifles that would probably be a lot harder to get their hands on than a Russian equivalent, including MP5 submachine guns, G3 and G36C rifles, and Beretta 92 handguns, which ends up being the only handgun used by anyone in the campaign save for the SAS (who prefer .45 handguns, Price with his personal 1911 and Soap starting several levels with a USP) and Zakhaev (who packs a Desert Eagle).
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: After capturing him, Price beats the crap out of Al-Asad for info. This is the only time in the series the technique doesn't yield information, as Al-Asad simply repeats (in un-subtitled Arabic) that he doesn't want to tell him anything; but Price learns what he needs to know when Zakhaev calls anyway, so he just executes Al-Asad.
  • Just Plane Wrong:
    • Zakhaev's forces use the N variant of the Mi-28 Havoc for air cover in the Chernobyl missions, despite them taking place in 1996, a few months before the prototype for that variant saw its first flight. Strangely, in the rest of the game where the Havoc actually existed in enough numbers for the Ultranationalists to have a few, they're the only non-playable faction that doesn't have them.
    • Chernobyl's vehicle graveyards are also depicted as having Mi-24 Hinds in them, which aren't present in the real graveyards; it's likely that this is an intentional goof to mirror the then-still-in-development S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, which prominently made the same error.
    • The opening sequence of "Charlie Don't Surf" depicts US Marines flying into combat aboard Black Hawk helicopters, however the Marine Corps is the only branch of the the US military that does not operate any version of the Blackhawk. To make it stranger, if one looks closely, you can see that the Black Hawks are marked United States Army, meaning that they apparently decided to take Army helicopters rather than their own. Interestingly, later levels depict them using CH-46 Sea Knights, the actual helicopter used for troop transport by the Marines at the time the game was released.
    • The SAS are also shown riding in Black Hawks piloted by the Royal Air Force. No branch of the British military uses the Black Hawk, and the Royal Air Force does not operate utility helicopters outside of three they use for Search and Rescue duties at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. The RAF pilots the heavier transport helicopters like the Chinook and Puma, while the utility helicopters are piloted by the British Army Air Corps.
    • Air strikes for both the Marines and SAS in multiplayer are performed by F-15s, which neither faction uses. Particularly odd in that the campaign properly depicts the Marines getting such air support from AV-8B Harriers.
    • "Death from Above"'s intro cutscene shows a wireframe model of the AC-130H "Spectre", as seen by the depiction of two 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons, which is also what the Title In for the level identifies it as; however, the listed info for the weapons, as well as what you're actually given to work with in the mission proper, is for a single 25mm GAU-12, used by the AC-130U "Spooky" variant.
  • Level in Reverse: "Heat" uses the same level data as the previous "Safehouse", only during daytime and for the most part played backwards.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Averted. When the nuclear warhead in Al-Asad's headquarters is detonated, the US Marines are unable to outfly the resulting blast in their helicopters — let alone outrun it — and they all die in the process.
  • Qurac: The "small but oil-rich" country" in the Middle East Al-Asad takes over. The pre-mission briefings show where in the Middle East various missions take place, but they take care to spread them over the geographic locations of several different real-life countries. For example, the unnamed capital city that you spend much of the first half of the game fighting in is either on the west coast of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain (on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula), near Riyadh in central Arabia, or the Iran-Iraq border. Its overthrown president, Al-Fulani, is named the Arabic equivalent of "John Doe".
  • Shoot the Television: "Charlie Don't Surf" has an achievement called "Your Show Sucks" for shooting or otherwise destroying all the televisions showing Al-Asad's speech.
  • Short-Lived Aerial Escape: Has it twice for the heroes. First, the SAS's extraction chopper gets shot down in the Russian countryside after rescuing Nikolai, then the Marine protagonist's heli gets knocked out of the sky by a nuclear blast wave, killing everyone on board including the player character and the pilot they just rescued.
  • Shot-for-Shot Remake: The 2016 recreation is called a "Remaster", but is more of a complete remake, given that it was completely rebuilt from the ground up with new code and assets but remaining completely faithful to the original's story and gameplay. Improvements include modern graphics, support for modern features such as 4k and ultrawide resolutions, gameplay improvements such as the addition of (optional) hit markers, and the addition of certain subtle details tying into the plot of later games in the series, such as the ability to kill Makarov and create a Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater-style Time Paradox in Pripyat.
  • Sinking Ship Scenario: In the first real mission, the cargo ship you're raiding is bombed by enemy planes and you have to run through the flooding and collapsing cargo hold to get topside, where you must make a Leap of Faith to a helicopter.
  • Sniping the Cockpit: You'll have to do this a couple of times in the Pripyat flashback missions. Then Captain MacMillan does it to another one. Which almost crashes on top of him.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: "All Ghillied Up". The level is focused on strategically taking out enemies without alerting their comrades, or outright avoiding them, since triggering an alert will likely get you/your commanding officer killed quickly.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: "All Ghillied Up" and "Death from Above". The former is largely a Stealth-Based Mission where going in guns-a-blazing will quickly get you killed, the latter has you controlling the weapons of an AC-130 gunship.
  • War Is Hell: The part where you play as a soldier crawling around just before dying from the aftereffects of a nuclear explosion to show just how terrible war can be. The worst part of that one scene hits so much harder because of the level before, and the reason you're not at a safe distance. You stick around to rescue a downed pilot, because "No One Gets Left Behind", and it seems like things will turn out well. And then NUKE, ruining any hopes of a happy ending. Despair hits so much harder when it has hope to contrast with. There are stories of players repeatedly restarting the checkpoint because they thought they were supposed to survive the nuke and just did something wrong - nope.
  • Weapon Running Time:
    • The first scene of the mission "One Shot, One Kill" is a sniping mission. The target is so far away that the bullet will take over a second to reach him and your CO tells you that you need to account for the Coriolis effect in your aim.
    • Later, during "Ultimatum," the bad guys launch ICBMs toward the Eastern Seaboard. "No Fighting in the War Room" becomes a Timed Mission to take the control room and enter the missiles' destruct codes.
  • Zee Rust: In the years since its release, many things in the game are not so "Modern Warfare" anymore, such as the CH-46 Sea Knight, which has since been retired by the USMC, and the Interceptor Body Armor vest worn by the USMC in game was succeeded by the Modular Tactical Vest the very year after the game's release.


Video Example(s):


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The mission "Shock and Awe", and to an extent the American campaign, ends with a nuclear warhead setting off immediately as U.S. troops are evacuating the city to get away from the blast zone.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / NukeEm

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