Believe it or not, there was a time when 'Call Of Duty' wasn't the biggest event in the gaming calendar - it took the series heading to the modern day for the franchise to go stratospheric.

2007 and 2008 saw the original 'Modern Warfare' and 'World At War' thrill audiences with their innovative gameplay and bombastic setpieces, but when 'Modern Warfare 2' launched in November 2009, there was no expectation for the game to explode the way it did.

When looking back on 'Modern Warfare 2', it feels like the moment 'Call Of Duty' finally found its niche.

The 'Call Of Duty' franchise became the franchise that could regularly go toe-to-toe with 'FIFA' as the biggest game of the year, and the mega-success of 'Modern Warfare 2' set it on the road to cultural dominance.

The gripping storyline, the multiplayer suite and the tabloid-enraging controversy were all coupled with a big-budget ad campaign that put Hollywood to shame.

With the new 'Modern Warfare 2' due out this week, we're taking a look at how the original game became a landmark moment in gaming history.

What's The Story, Morning Glory

Back before first-person shooters became glorified marketplaces, the campaign had a significant amount of work put into it and more often then not, were highly memorable.

While we're not saying the 'Modern Warfare 2' is a masterpiece of game narrative like 'Disco Elysium', it was a Hollywood-style blockbuster that invoked action films such as 'Red Dawn', 'The Rock' and 'Cliffhanger' to hook players in.

Campaigns in recent entries feel like an afterthought, and the 'Modern Warfare' saga felt like actual effort was put into it.

Ever since the first 'Modern Warfare' received praise for approaching the profound with it's famous nuclear explosion sequence, Infinity Ward went for a sense of escalation with the sequel, with a false flag terrorist attack serving as a pretense for Russia to invade the United States.

The kicker? The player was able to take part in the aforementioned inciting incident.

'No Russian' sees the player infiltrate the inner circle of an infamous Russian terrorist, and said terrorist carries out a massacre at an airport.

One of the most infamous moments in video game history

As it's later revealed in the game, the conspiracy was the idea of an American general who lost 30,000 soldiers in the previous game in the series and decided that America fighting a war on its own soil would create a generation of patriotic, battle-hardened soldiers.

The plot reads like a rejected Tom Clancy draft, but it was the events of 'No Russian' that gave the game a sense of cultural notoriety and moral watchdog panic not seen since the heyday of 'Grand Theft Auto'.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, known for his crusade against video games, said he was "absolutely shocked by the level of violence" of the game, and lobbied for the game to be pulled from sale.

Anyone with a basic idea of human psychology and marketing will be familiar with the concept of the "Streisand Effect" were attempting to hide or censor something only results in greater public awareness.

'Modern Warfare 2' was going to be a hit regardless of Vaz making a comment, but this unofficial stamp of disapproval from authority figures gave 'Modern Warfare 2' a forbidden fruit element.

The segment was discussed on Joe Duffy's radio show, religious figures denounced 'No Russian' as "sickening" and the game was at the centre of a rating row in Australia which created a debate surrounding censorship in the arts.

Just like how the films of Tarantino or the music of Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne caused moral guardians to clutch their pearls, gaming was having its own moment in the sun.

Players had a choice in their participation of 'No Russian' - they could mow down civilians and airport security, skip the segment altogether, or walk alongside the terrorists, not firing a bullet, as they carried out their carnage.

Video games, by their very nature, are an interactive art form, and the game doesn't explicitly pressure you into firing a gun in that level, nor does it offer you a high score like 'Space Invaders'.

Games like 'Spec Ops: The Line' or 'Papers Please' showed that you could tell deeper, richer stories within the medium of video games, and while 'Modern Warfare 2' handled it all the grace of an elephant in a canoe, the media blowback to the level spurred developers to tell more sophisticated stories.

Just 4 years later, the opening level of 'The Last Of Us' showed a child shot by a soldier, and it became one of the most striking moments in video game history, but it was directed and framed in such a way that it had emotional resonance.

'Modern Warfare 2' is best remembered for its 1v1 quickscoping matches on Rust (yes, we're getting there), but it helped encourage developers to be more tactful and graceful with their storytelling techniques.

Considering how video gaming became among the world's most popular past time over the last decade, with gaming-related revenue often running into the billions of euros and dollars, the media fury surrounding 'Modern Warfare 2' represented a watershed moment in gaming.

There had been previous controversies surrounding the content of games before 'Modern Warfare 2', but the intense media circus surrounding it felt different.

Infinity Ward took entirely the wrong lessons and escalated further in 'Modern Warfare 3' by showing the implied, off-screen death of a child in a bombing, but the genie could only be let out of the bottle once.

The last time the 'Call Of Duty' series occupied real estate on tabloid pages for its content was when former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega unsuccessfully tried to sue Activision as he felt his depiction in a 'Black Ops' game was inaccurate.

Gaming controversy now surrounds barely-disguised gambling mechanics in the form of loot boxes or games being released in an unfinished state with the hope of turning a profit on pre-orders, and it seems unlikely now that a game's content would ever be as controversial as 'Modern Warfare 2'.

Ready To Launch

The launch for 'Modern Warfare 2' was at the time the biggest launch in entertainment history, and extraordinarily, sales never slowed down.

When all was said and done, the game sold over 25 million copies worldwide.

The game set such a high standard for the series that a game in the series selling less than 20 million copies is considered a failure relative to the series.

A blockbuster marketing campaign for 'Modern Warfare 2' helped cement the game as the hot tech item of 2009, with an iconic television ad set to the Eminem track 'Till I Collapse' still etched in the minds of gamers.

The cinematic trailer showed what 'Call Of Duty' was all about - big, loud, bombastic popcorn entertainment.

Showing dramatic shots of Washington D.C. on fire, tanks rolling down familiar suburban streets and exciting battles in the hills of Afghanistan, 'Modern Warfare 2' brought the cinema experience home.

Within 24 hours of its launch on November 10th, 2009, 'Modern Warfare 2' became the biggest entertainment launch of all time, with the game making $400 million dollars.

Adjusted for inflation, 'Modern Warfare 2' made nearly $560 million in its first 24 hours, which is just $50 million shy of how much 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' made in its opening weekend last December.

When 'Modern Warfare 2' is mentioned among gamers, two things are invoked: the tiny map by the name of Rust, or the in-game lobbies being home to some of the most vicious verbal combat this side of 'Full Metal Jacket'.

Every legendary game needs a map or game mode that players can still recall over a decade later at the drop of a hat, and 'Modern Warfare 2' has a treasure trove of famous multiplayer maps.

The tight quarters of Terminal, the sprawling vastness of Wasteland, the spectacular cabin in the woods battles of Estate or the action movie chaos of Highrise meant that there was a map that suited your game style.

Gameplay in the original 'Modern Warfare' was best in class, but 'Modern Warfare 2' felt slicker, had more va-va-voom, and had a better interface that conveyed just enough information that it didn't overwhelm you.

Being able to choose your favourite killstreak before a level was also a great innovation, and the tension that came with racking up 25 kills so you can get your hands on a nuke is still as blood-pumping as gaming gets.

A strong fan community formed around 'Modern Warfare 2' almost instantly, and before long, the fans had come up with their own game modes such as dodgeball with the throwing knives or a game called "Michael Myers" where one player was allocated the role of a killer who was tasked with hunting down the other team.

Michael Myers felt like a playground game being transferred into the digital world, and the word-of-mouth factor with 'Modern Warfare 2' turned it into the must-play game of the year.

'Modern Warfare 2' also coincided with the boom in YouTube and with video capture technology becoming more readily available to consumers, and soon the likes of Machinima were able to make household names out of YouTubers within the community.

The notion of video game personalities being tied to one specific game existed long before 'Modern Warfare 2', but with the game enjoying such cultural notoriety, it served as a shot in the arm to the YouTube creator community.

The success of 'Modern Warfare 2' played a part in developing the infrastructure and culture that now surrounds esports, now a billion-dollar industry in its own right.

A reboot series started in 2019 which had a campaign and multiplayer suite that was as worth committing to memory as the lyrics of 'Aon Focal Eilé'.

It was the release of the Warzone mode in March 2020 that brought the spotlight back on 'Call Of Duty', and indeed the franchise is now riding as high now as it was back in 2009.

Of course, you still can't beat the classics.