Boom with a view – Going MIA with COD 4′s brutal bombing

There goes the neighbourhood… and half the unspecified Middle Eastern country said ‘burb resides in. Forget going out with a bang. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare puts a nuclear full stop on its first act with an irradiating blast that destroys the city you’ve been toiling through in endless pitch battles for the last two hours. Oh, and it also kills your character in the most achingly passive, undignified fashion possible.

“Following directly on from a desperate rescue attempt, the explosion completely neuters your previous heroism”

The moment the shockwaves of a Russian nuke rip through the heart of the deliberately vague Arabic city is a sensory gut punch. It’s also a master class in pacing. Following directly on from a desperate rescue attempt (where your controllable military grunt Paul Jackson helps a fellow injured squadie ‘get to da choppa!’), the explosion completely neuters your previous heroism.

Death in COD has of course become depressingly predictable in the years since. Evil moustached man voiced by Lance Henriksen has shot me in the back, you say?! Catch me while I gasp myself into unconsciousness. Yet back in 2007, killing off a playable hero in such unexpected and unsentimental style had a huge impact. Especially when your sergeant’s final moments involve steering him achingly through nuclear-tinged detritus during his dying breaths. There’s no meaningful finale here; just death on your knees.

Amazingly, had former Infinity Ward head Vince Zampella had his way, the A-bomb aftermath would have been even more crushingly stern.Jackson’s curtain call initially included the soldier’s teeth and hair falling out. Championing an uncompromising brutality that chillingly sums up actual modern warfare, COD 4’s shock and awe send-off is as brave as gaming story-telling gets.