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Modern Warfare: A brief history

How Call of Duty became a pop-culture phenomenon

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Modern Warfare 2

Two years later, Modern Warfare 2 arrived, this time with a fanfare as noisy as any ever made by Hollywood. Which was entirely justified, as it set a new opening worldwide sales record by generating a staggering $550 million during its first five days in the shops.

It sold 4.7 million copies on its opening day, and generated more than twice as much money then as the then-biggest film, The Dark Knight, generated in its first three days on release. In your face, Hollywood.

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Plot

Modern Warfare 2 stuck to the blueprint established by Modern Warfare - and why not, since that game went down so well? Its relatively short single-player component took up the story shortly after where Modern Warfare left off, with the now-dead (you killed him at the end of Modern Warfare) Zakhaev proclaimed a martyr, and his Ultranationalists seizing control of Russia.

This time around, you mainly played as Sergeant Garry "Roach" Sanderson, a member of an elite counter-terrorism unit called Task Force 141. Soap MacTavish and Captain John Price from Modern Warfare also featured, and the action took in locations including Afghanistan, Russia, Washington DC and a Rio de Janeiro barrio.

Multiplayer

Modern Warfare 2 built significantly on its predecessor's multiplayer strengths, pushing the Killstreak system much more to the fore and giving players much more Killstreak rewards than before, with the ultimate prize (for a 25-kill streak) being the game-winning tactical nuke.

New multiplayer modes kept things fresh, and the fact that Modern Warfare 2, two years after release, still remains one of the most popular games online speaks volumes. And a new co-operative mode, SpecOps, was introduced, again to acclaim.

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A bitter aftertaste

Despite the phenomenal success if Modern Warfare 2, it emerged that all wasn't rosy in the world of developer Infinity Ward. Founders Vince Zampella and Jason West had a massive falling out with Activision (which, by then, owned the developer) in March 2010, and flounced out amid a welter of litigation from both sides (which is still ongoing) to set up a new developer called Respawn, which promptly signed a publishing agreement with Electronic Arts.

This left Infinity Ward in some disarray, with many staff leaving along with Zampella and West, and gamers questioning whether Modern Warfare 3 would live up to Infinity Ward's high standards.

But naturally, the company regrouped, and teamed up with another developer called Sledgehammer to make Modern Warfare 3. Meanwhile, alternative developer Treyarch upped its game considerably for 2010's Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Now, with Modern Warfare 3 upon us, the Call of Duty juggernaut continues to roll on, breaking box-office sales with almost monotonous regularity, while dominating Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. The Modern Warfare franchise begun by making history, and despite apparent recent setbacks, it continues to do so, keeping games at the focal point of pop culture in the process.

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