Boom with a view – how Call Of Duty 4′s brutal bombing changed gaming

call of duty 4

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 a blast that destroys the city you’ve been toiling through for the past two hours. Oh, and it also kills your character in achingly passive, undignified fashion.

Call Of Duty 4

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 masterclass in pacing. Following directly on from a desperate rescue attempt (where playable military grunt Paul Jackson helps an injured squaddie get to da choppa), it completely neuters your previous heroism.

Death in COD has of course become depressingly predictable in the years since. Evil moustachioed man voiced by Lance Henriksen has shot me in the back, you say? Catch me as 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 crawling through nuclear-tinged detritus during his dying breaths. There’s no meaningful finale, just death on your knees.

Jackson’s curtain call
initially included his
teeth and hair falling out

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