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300 Word Review – Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Single Player)

One of my favorite things about Toshiro Mifune’s performance in Yojimbo is that its sheer physicality convinces you that his character would be more than a match for 30 armed warriors.

In the same way Call of Duty 4 convinces you that the technological edge and organization of the western military forces is what allows a relatively small group of soldiers to take on an entire city. At the same time the narrative of Call of Duty is about the helplessness of a single soldier in the face of borderless geo-political warfare.

Perhaps the most talked about moment in the game is when you watch a nuclear explosion go off in the city you just fought your way through. From the chopper that’s carrying you away you watch the blast tear apart the other helicopters before crashing yours. For the next several minutes the only thing you’ll be able to do is crawl out of the wreckage, past the dead bodies of your comrades, and watch the enormous mushroom cloud as you die.

More interesting however is the passage where you sneak silently through an abandoned Russian city, past the feet of armed guards and rolling tank treads. The whispers of the soldier who is escorting you and the quiet of the large, empty city contrasts with the climax of the level, which is loud, violent, and short.

Probably the most affecting stage is when you become the gunner of a AC-130. Invulnerable, you calmly mow down fleeing soldiers on the ground far below you, following the advice of a disembodied, matter-of-fact voice overlooking the carnage with you.

They say that all war movies are anti-war movies. With its striking contrasts of power and impotence, courage and violence, Modern Warfare comes close to being the first anti-war FPS.


  1. Bob wrote:

    Francois Truffaut once said that it’s impossible to make a truly anti-war movie– no matter what your intentions are when you showing armed conflict on the screen, you’re presenting something that’s visually exciting, and that’s always going to make war attractive to some people, pacifist-sentiments or not. That’s even more true with interactive content, although a commonality between war and games does yield some potential– both can be won or lost, and in games, that’s where the message has to be.

    Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  2. Frank wrote:

    I wish I hadn’t hated the first few levels so much that I never got to the big set pieces. Also: SPOILERS!

    Friday, May 23, 2008 at 7:44 am | Permalink
  3. Charles Joseph wrote:

    I actually really liked the moment-to-moment play of the game. Something about how slowly your character moved combined with zooming-in to take out an enemy created a rhythm that felt pretty good.

    So what is the statute of limitations on spoilers? Three months? Six?

    Monday, May 26, 2008 at 2:49 am | Permalink

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