A modern phenomenon

Nov. 17, 2009, midnight | By Ava Wallace | 10 years, 6 months ago

The main feature on InfinityWard.com, the website of a popular video game developer, is a movie-like video depicting the horrors and aw-inspiring images of war.

Between the booming beat of Queen's "We Will Rock You," clips of destroyed cities and camouflaged soldiers wielding powerful weapons are shown. The images continue as the music morphs into Eminem's angry lyrics of destruction and battle, set to background music fit for a Hollywood thriller. But instead of a release date or the words "Warner Bros. Pictures," the minute and 28 second-long video ends with two green, digitalized words and a number: "Modern Warfare 2."

Photo: "Modern Warfare 2" sold 4.7 million copies in its first 24 hours. Picture courtesy of InfinityWard.com

Recently, most websites have at least one advertisement for the sixth installment of the "Call of Duty" saga. For the last two weeks, "MW2" has been one of the most popular trending topics on Twitter, at times more popular than "New Moon." Retailers are stocked to the brim with the game, and TVs across America are glowing with the grey, somber lighting of war. Groups of kids have been skipping school for all-day "MW2" marathons with friends. Some play alone, some play in groups and some play against people halfway across the world with the help of the Internet. Some play on computers, some play on game consoles, but there's a common theme that can't be ignored: everybody seems to be playing.

"MW2's" astronomical sales only reflect the buzz surrounding the game. "Modern Warfare 2" was developed by the video game company Infinity Ward and released on Nov. 10. "MW2" sold 4.7 million units within 24 hours of its release, according to industry publication Game Informer, the biggest video game launch in history. In comparison, the latest installment of another powerhouse video game franchise, Grand Theft Auto, sold only 6 million units within its first week.

The award-winning "Call of Duty" franchise began in 2003. While the first three "Call of Duty" games revolve around WWII conflict, the fourth installment, "Modern Warfare," broke tradition and focused on the present-day. Contemporary fighting, a new cast of characters and a new plot were introduced into the series. "MW2" picks up five years after the conclusion of original Modern Warfare, which ended after the main cast of soldiers killed a violent anti-American Russian political leader who almost nuked the East Coast. "MW2" allows players to travel from Afghanistan to Moscow to a war-ridden D.C., with grenades strapped to their jackets and without ever leaving their living room.

As it usually does, controversy may have fed excitement over this game. Disputes over the game's design and inclusion of graphic scenes that leaked (Infinity Ward later explained that players have the option of skipping said scenes) piqued players' curiosity and got people talking. Also, a few days before Nov. 10, Infinity Ward released a clip of a soldier form the game, voiced by Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, complaining about the frequency of random grenade attacks. While the clip, titled, "Fighting Against Grenade Spam," was meant as an advertisement, its acronym and therefore message caused uproar, creating even more buzz about the game.

Reviewers from a variety of publications positively fawned over "MW2," adding to players' anticipation as well as the legacy of "Call of Duty." The Times Online called the game "the best the industry has ever put out," and Game Informer referred to it as "Jaw dropping." The official website for Xbox 360, one of the many game consoles "MW2" was developed for, said that the game "was the most anticipated game of the decade," and gave it an overall 9.5 when graded on sound, graphics, presentation, game play, and lasting appeal. The site also mentioned that the technology the game uses is "groundbreaking."

Unlike so many products these days, "Modern Warfare 2" lives up to its expectations, as shown in its record-breaking sales. Controversy, great reviews and "Call of Duty's" history in the gaming industry created immense amount of hype and pre-release discussion that rivaled "Twilight's." "MW2" is as epic as a Hollywood movie and for some, is worth skipping school for. The game has made the legacy of "Call of Duty" even stronger and more influential in the gaming community. "MW2" had huge hype for good reason, and will probably be the largest grossing video game for some time. At least until Modern Warfare 3 comes out.

Ava Wallace. More »

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