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The Entire Modern Warfare Story Explained

Released back in 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the underdog that beat out favorites Halo and Gears of War to become the most popular shooter in the world. If before Modern Warfare the CoD franchise was already big, afterwards it became the undisputed king of online shooters — at least until Fortnite showed up.


MW's online component is far from the only reason it became so successful. Unlike the previous games in the franchise, in which players were just reenacting actual battles from World War II, MW took a leap forward. Modern Warfare also introduced a completely original campaign for the first time in the series. 

The success of Modern Warfare spawned two direct sequels and a reboot in 2019. If you want to know the entire story and how the new game fits into the whole narrative, you've come to the right place.

The story begins with a bullet to the head - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Modern Warfare pulls no punches. The year is 2011, and the first thing you experience is getting shot in the head. He was the president of an unnamed Middle Eastern country, his execution the culmination of a coup by Khaled Al-Asad. The US believes this man is a threat to the entire region. 


That's not the only event endangering global peace. An ultranationalist insurrection has engulfed Russia in a civil war. 

We're then put in the shoes of the main character in the series: John "Soap" McTavish. He joins the multinational Task Force 141, and after concluding his training, he is introduced to Cpt. Price, who, after making fun of his name, takes him on his first mission. They are to inspect a freighter suspected of carrying a dangerous package. The mission doesn't go as planned: they are attacked and forced to escape, but not before securing the ship's manifest, which indicates Al-Asad is likely to have a nuclear warhead in his possession.

30,000 men in the blink of an eye - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

As a response for the execution, the US sends in a full-scale invasion to take down Al-Asad. We're now playing as Sgt. Paul Jackon, a US Marine who is sent to catch Al-Asad at a TV station during a broadcast. After getting in, they discover the broadcast is just a loop. Al-Asad is nowhere to be found. 


Later, Jackson is informed that Al-Asad is likely to have retreated to the capital city, to which the US troops are now moving. They raid the presidential palace, but Al-Asad eludes them once again. Command informs them that a nuclear attack is imminent. Jackson's team tries to evacuate, but the bomb goes off, killing 30,000 troops. Jackson only survives long enough to witness a massive mushroom cloud.

141 is told Al-Asad is in his safehouse in Azerbaijan. They raid it, and Al-Asad finally captured. Despite resisting interrogation, Al-Asad gets a phone call. Price picks up; just hearing the voice on the other side is all the intel he needs. Price immediately shoots Al-Asad in the head.

Hunting down the mastermind - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The voice belongs to Imran Zakhaev, the mastermind of the Russian insurrection, who Price was unsuccessfully sent to kill in 1996. He is also behind the entire Middle Eastern conflict. He started it to draw attention away from his plan to seize Russia. 


To get Zakhaev, 141 goes after Viktor, Imran's son, in order to extract information. Things don't go as planned. When cornered, Viktor kills himself before releasing any intel. To make matters worse, his death sends his father into a fit of rage. He seizes control of a nuclear arms facility, with the aim of launching a nuclear attack on the US East Coast.

141 manages to foil the attack, but not before getting caught by Zakhaev himself, who manages to kill most of the team and injure the rest. When all seems lost, Price gives Soap his gun, which he then uses to finally kill Zakhaev.

While Soap is being taken to a rescue helicopter, he witnesses paramedics desperately trying to save Price. The game concludes when Soap's injuries make the screen fade to black before Price's fate is made clear.


Modern Warfare 2 speaks no Russian - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2 begins in 2016, five years after MW. 141's apparent triumph at the end of the first game actually made things worse. Zakhaev achieved martyrdom in Russia, and the ultranationalists have used this to become more powerful than ever.


While the fully recovered Soap is on a mission, players are put in the POV of Joseph Allen, who has recently joined 141 as per the orders of General Shepherd. Allen is given a new identity and instructed to join Vladimir Makarov's group as an undercover operative. Makarov is a Russian terrorist and Zakhaev's former top man. Shepherd tells Allen that he will see terrible things, but that the ends will justify the means.

Makarov brings Allen and a small group of heavily armed men to a Russian airport, where they start killing everyone in sight in a mission that's Call of Duty at its darkest. 

While making a run for the escape vehicle before security forces arrive, Makarov kills Allen and leaves him behind. Later, Makarov intentionally outs Allen as an American operative. This leads the Russians to think the Americans were behind the attack.


Russia invades Washington - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

141 knows Makarov is behind the attack, so Soap goes to Brazil in an attempt to find information on his whereabouts. He learns that Makarov's biggest enemy is being held captive in a Russian gulag. Soap raids the gulag to find out Makarov's nemesis is none other than Captain Price. 


Meanwhile, the Russians retaliate to the apparent US terrorist attack by launching a massive surprise campaign to invade the US East Coast. Thousands of paratroopers come from the sky wreaking havoc. Players are put in the POV of US soldier James Ramirez, who fights off the invasion on the ground after witnessing the White House in flames. 

In Russia, Price agrees to help find Makarov but declares the US-Russian war a more pressing matter. He goes rogue, hijacks a Russian nuclear submarine, and detonates a ballistic missile in the upper atmosphere. The resulting EMP blast gives the US troops an advantage by frying all electronic circuits, thus making the Russian planes drop like flies. The invasion of Washington is stopped, but the battle is far from over. It's the US troops' turn to vow for revenge.


The traitor is revealed - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

141 knows Makarov can only be hiding in one of two places. Sgt. "Roach" is sent to raid Makarov's safe house, where he is betrayed and killed by General Shepherd, who is revealed to have orchestrated the events that led to the Russian invasion. He plans to use the war to become a hero and motivate young men to join the army.


Price is looking for Makarov at an aircraft cemetery in Afghanistan when he learns about Shepherd's betrayal. The place is then raided by Shepherd's forces, starting a battle between his and Makarov's men. Despite recognizing how big of a threat Makarov is, Price knows the US Army under Shepherd is an even bigger one. Price contacts Makarov directly, who reveals Shepherd's location. 

They then raid Shepherd's base and shoot down his helicopter before he escapes. When Soap and Price look for him in the debris, he surprises them both, stabbing Soap in the chest and beating Price in combat. Right before he gets to kill Price, Soap manages to pull the knife out of his chest to throw it at Shepherd, solving that problem in style. But even after Shepherd's death, the war rages on.


World War III begins - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Modern Warfare 3 picks up mere hours after the end of MW2. Price and the heavily injured Soap are now wanted men. The death of Shepherd not only failed to stop the Russia-US conflict, but it also allowed Makarov to escape and send his men after Soap and Price. Luckily, they are brought to safety by Nikolai and Yuri, Russian loyalists and friends of Price. These four men form the new 141.


Russia is now using its fleet to invade New York, but their efforts are thwarted when a Delta Force team code-named "Metal" hijacks one of their submarines and uses it to bomb the rest of the Russian fleet. Russia then stops the attack and finally retreats. 

Two months later, the Russian president announces that he will be signing a peace treaty with the US, which doesn't sit well with Makarov, who then kidnaps him and tries to kidnap his daughter. 

Meanwhile, the now-recovered Soap and his team try to prevent an arms deal by Makarov in Sierra Leone. They discover Makarov is shipping chemical agents for attacks across Europe, but they are too late to stop them.

The bad guys finally kill us - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Dozens of chemical attacks take place all over Western Europe, killing thousands. Right after the chemical attacks, Russia launches a land invasion in Germany, where the vice president of the United States currently is. Team Metal is deployed to Hamburg to rescue him.


The 141 go after the man responsible for the arms deal, a Somalian warlord called Waarabe. He mentions a bomb-maker named Volk, who Team Metal then captures with only a few hiccups along the way. Volk reveals Makarov is about to be in Prague.

Soap's team infiltrate the city and set up a plan to assassinate Makarov. Unfortunately for them, that's something Makarov was counting on. After revealing that he knew Yuri, he sets off explosives that were previously planted on Soap's vantage point, which forces Soap to push Yuri off the building and jump with him. After reaching the ground they are taken to a safe location by Price.

Soap is mortally wounded but manages to inform Price that Makarov knows Yuri before dying in Price's arms.


The character we've played as for the longest time is no more.

Finding Makarov - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Price interrogates Yuri. He reveals that he once worked with Makarov, but he left when he started using nuclear weapons to further his cause. He even tried to prevent the nuke from the first game from going off. Price believes him.


141 goes to Makarov's fortress and destroys it. They find plans for kidnapping the Russian president's daughter, which they relay to Metal. They try but fail to reach her before Makarov.

Metal and 141 join forces and attack Makarov's men to rescue the president and his daughter. They succeed, but only at the cost of the lives of Metal, who sacrifice themselves to allow for the extraction.

Russia ends the war, leaving only one thing to do: kill Makarov. Upon locating him, a heavily armored Price and Yuri attack the hotel Makarov's at. On the top floor, Price destroys Makarov's escape helicopter. After a short altercation, Makarov gains the upper hand. But Yuri shoots him; Makarov repays him by killing him. Price then tackles Makarov, strangles him with a cable, and breaks the glass they're standing on, causing Makarov to hang until he's dead. Price lights a cigar. Roll credits.


Modern Warfare begins anew - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Despite taking place years after the events of MW3, this is not a sequel. 2019's Modern Warfare is a reboot of the series, featuring a younger Cpt. Price, many new faces, and a completely new story.

MW takes place in the fictional country of Urzikstan. The story kicks off when a chemical agent is stolen from CIA officer "Alex" by unknown forces. This causes tensions to rise with the neighbor, Russia. To de-escalate, Sgt. Price is asked to help recover the chemicals. He's joined by rebel leader Farah Karim, who agrees to help if price agrees to overthrow the Russian general Barkov.


Price captures a famous terrorist known as Wolf, who might be connected to the chemical theft, which triggers an attack by his men on the US embassy in Urzikstan, where Wolf is being held captive. Despite Farrah's best efforts, Wolf manages to escape.

Farrah plans to ambush Wolf's men in the "Highway of Death," but both parties are attacked by Barkov. It is revealed that Hadir, Farrah's brother and second in command, is responsible for stealing the chemicals, which he then releases in an attempt to escape. Only Hadir, Farrah, and Alex survive.

Sibling warfare - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

A flashback shows Barkov's invasion of Urzikstan in 1999. He killed Farah and Karim's parents, then imprisoned them when they tried to flee the country. Revenge was only a matter of time. Farah fought until she became the rebel leader; her brother, well, he took a darker path.


In the present, Price and Farah attack Wolf's base and manage to kill him, but they fail to retrieve the chemicals and Hadir. The US declares Farah's forces a terrorist threat.

Price is informed about a possible attack by Hadir and manages to intercept a meeting, where he gets the confirmation that Hadir plans to attack Barkov at his chemical factory. Price successfully apprehends Hadir and is forced to turn him over to US forces, but not before he decides that he is going to put an end to Barkov. 

Price launches a rogue attack on Barkov's facility. This prompts Barkov to try to escape via helicopter, only to find Farah inside waiting for him right before getting stabbed and thrown off the plane to his death. With his detonator damaged, Alex volunteers to sacrifice himself to blow up the place.


A brave new old warfare - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

We can't tell exactly where the series is going next, but the next game in the new Modern Warfare series is likely to be somewhat of a retelling of the original Modern Warfare from 2007. 

In the post-credits scene, CIA officer Kate Laswell meets with Price to inform him about Zakhaev's intent to occupy Barkov's now vacant throne. We're also shown a man who is not identified but is likely to be Al-Asad, one of the main villains from the original game.


Price is given a name he'd asked for, which is provided by the soon-to-go-crazy General Shepherd from MW2. Price asks Laswell about creating a new task force. Though she is initially apprehensive, she ends up accepting. Price reveals the names of the people he wants to recruit to his new task force, and they are all familiar characters from the original Modern Warfare trilogy, including Soap Mactavish. The scene ends with Laswell asking Price about the name of the task force, to which he replies: 1-4-1.