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Activision and developer Infinity Ward redefined the World War II shooter genre with the release of “Call of Duty” in 2003. With “Modern Warfare,” they’ve attempted to bring the series’ trademark of intense combat, intelligent AI and unforgettable cinematic moments to the battlefield of today. The end result is not only one of the most exhilirating shooters ever made, but the new standard against which all other first-person shooters should be judged. (Yes, it’s better than “Halo 3.”)

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The single-player campaign tasks gamers with stopping a Middle Eastern terrorist organization threatening to launch a nuclear weapon. During the course of the 8 to 10-hour single-player campaign (you can run through it in less time on the easier difficulty levels, but do yourself a favor and play on either the Hardened or Veteran settings) you’ll play as both an American Marine and a member of the British SAS.

Missions range from protecting a crippled tank to rescuing a downed helicopter pilot, but they all feature the same hectic gunplay that will leave your palms sweating by the time you’re done. Not only has the enemy AI been cranked up to insane levels, but your squadmates more than hold their own in the line of fire. You’ll actually feel like a part of a fighting unit instead of a one-man army.

The single-player portion of “Modern Warfare” is about as good as gaming gets, but the multiplayer is even better. The variety and sheer number of gameplay modes is amazing. The experience system gives gamers a reason keep playing online. Leveling up in multiplayer unlocks new weapons, accessories and perks — special combat bonuses that increase your bullets’ penetration or allow you to drop a grenade whenever you die. Thankfully, the additional weapons and perks don’t seem to affect the game’s balance.

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If you’re a fan of the FPS genre, “Modern Warfare” is a must-have. The single-player campaign is a pure adrenaline rush and the best all-around shooter I’ve ever played. And the multiplayer has enough depth and customization to keep you busy for months to come. This a legitimate ‘Game of the Year’ contender.

Rating: 10/10
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Sugg. retail price: $59.99
Rating: M for mature