Of the five individuals you adopt as your character throughout the game, two of them are killed as part of the game's storyline. Sure, you do more than your fair share of killing, but it's not often in a game that your protagonists are subjected to same brutality in the narrative.
Where in most military games characters have about as much personality as their equipment, Modern Warfare actually contains people bordering on being likeable. Sure, it's no Bridge Over the River Kwai, but certain characters' sudden death gets a little, well, upsetting.
Warfare's language is predictably nationalized, but it goes to lengths to diversify the experience between fighting alongside fellow Yanks and pummeling terrorists with British compatriots. "Yeah! There goes our boys! Ooo-rah!" shouts an American Marine with all the authenticity we desire from our men in green. Token British exclamations like "bugger" come from the mouths of Captain Price and his SAS troops. It's a nice variation of narrative that keeps your interaction with NPC characters from getting too stale.
Speaking of camaraderie, the multiplayer component is one of the best to be found on Xbox Live. While playing free-for-all can be an amusing romp through the many war zones on offer, the meat is in the plethora of team modes at your disposal. I personally just can't get enough of team deathmatch; simple run 'n' gun antics are bestowed with added strategic depth in territorial spawn-point control and the use of bonuses such as helicopters and air strikes, which are rewarded to your arsenal in exchange for killing sprees. It rivals Halo 3 for its longevity and addictiveness, thanks to a superb RPG-class system that rewards your combat skills with unlockable "perks" and weapons.
Modern Warfare brings Call of Duty to the contemporary era, and does it admirably. The single-player campaign is cinematic enough to warrant a complete play-through, and the multiplayer action can extend the game's lifetime long enough to make it worthy of a spot on your shelf.
Bottom line: The best the Call of Duty series has to offer, Modern Warfare has pretty much everything you could ask for in a wargame. It stands up on the foundation of its fundamental gameplay elements but reaches excellence with an interesting narrative and engagingly visceral presentation.
Recommendation: Buy it.
Alex Hayter is a student and journalist living in Waterloo, Ontario. When he's not working on his university newspaper he is busy eating candy and blogging about videogames on cordweekly.com.