The tail end of last month was filled with Call of Duty, mainly due to Modern Warfare 2's impressive arrival in a year filled with AAA game delays. No matter your stance on the series, it still captures millions with each title, thanks in no small part to a rigorous release schedule that usually manages to deliver fun and frantic first-person shooting. As hard as it is to remember, there was a time when Call of Duty wasn't the biggest thing in entertainment, and in the FPS world, other franchises managed to keep up. That all changed with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which launched 15 years ago today on Xbox 360.
This anniversary is a weird one to tackle; it simultaneously feels like CoD4 launched just a few years ago, but also like the mega popular era of CoD has been around forever? Either way, the first Modern Warfare was such a landmark title that it deserves to be remembered all these years later, even if the 2016 remaster has refreshed things a little bit since.
2007 was a big year in gaming and a massive year for Xbox 360. Looking back, we can't quite believe what we got back then, just two years after the console launched. BioShock, Mass Effect, Halo 3, Forza Motorsport 2, PGR4, and Crackdown were all 2007 Xbox exclusives, not to mention the pile of critically acclaimed cross-platform games that also dropped that year. It's high praise, then, that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare still rose up that list to be one of the most memorable games of '07.
Series creator Infinity Ward took a bold step in moving Call of Duty to the modern era; a risky move for a series that up to that point had always been set in World War 2. In fact, a lot of 'realistic' shooters back then stuck to historical theatres of war, and CoD4 really moved the needle forward in that respect. The modern time period allowed the team to create a more involved combat sandbox that worked hand-in-hand with Call of Duty's super fast-paced gameplay, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The game's campaign took players on a globe-trotting journey that introduced some of the series' most iconic characters, characters the franchise still deploys to this day. The Modern Warfare name is very much alive and well — it just delivered the series' best opening weekend ever — and MW2 characters like Soap and the legendary Captain Price were first introduced in Call of Duty 4. We all remember sliding down the chopper rope with Price at the very beginning of Modern Warfare, along with the still iconic 'All Ghillied Up' mission that remains one of the franchise's most memorable levels.
However, the vast majority of our CoD4 memories lie with the game's multiplayer component. Xbox Live friends lists back then were just full of people playing this game online (with the odd Halo 3 player sprinkled in there) and for good reason. Infinity Ward RPG-ified the game's online progression system, and at the time, it could often feel straight up addictive. Character levels, weapon unlocks, player 'Prestige', gun attachments, camouflage patterns; they all combined to create a multiplayer mode you just wanted to keep revisiting. Not to mention the game's revolutionary create-a-class system that made you feel really connected to your online loadouts.
All of this combined with industry-leading first-person shooting mechanics (at a smooth 60FPS on console no less) created something that still holds up to this very day. In fact, the series — and many other first-person shooters — still lend heavily from CoD4 in big ways; the game's fingerprints are all over the modern shooter landscape. Call of Duty 4 online was simply revolutionary, and you can't say that about many video games of the modern era.
The game also felt like it brought entire swathes of the Xbox Live community together. As we've previously mentioned, our friends lists back then were just full of Call of Duty 4 players, and it's rare you get that kind of community synergy with games these days. Every now and then a big hit dominates the conversation, like when battle royale games began to take over, but it feels less special in the era of modern social media and Twitch streaming. Xbox Live really was one of the early 'social media' platforms, and Call of Duty 4 was one of the big catalysts for Xbox Live's success.
Anyway, this game is now somehow 15 years old, so happy birthday to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. You had a bigger impact that any of us could have possibly imagined!
What are your fondest COD4 memories? Or did you miss out on this one? Sound off in the comments below.