2009 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2


Developer(s) Infinity Ward
Publisher(s) Activision,  Square Enix
Director(s) Jason West
Producer(s) Mark Rubin
Designer(s) Todd Alderman, Steve Fukuda, Mackey McCandlish, Zied Rieke
Artist(s) Richard Kriegler (Art Director)
Writer(s) Jesse Stern
Composer(s) Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe
Series Call of Duty
Engine IW 4.0
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s) November 10, 2009, November 11, 2009 (Steam)
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, cooperative, multiplayer
Distribution Blu-ray Disc, DVD-DL, download

Liam:  I don’t think there would be much point me talking about this game as nearly everyone will be aware of how games like this work. Instead I want to talk about how Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was a brave game.

Don’t get me wrong, Activision weren’t exactly taking a risk commissioning Infinity Wards sequel to the very successful ‘Modern Warfare’. Nor is the game itself pretty brave considering it is essentially a level based shooter. The bravery, and indeed most of the criticism, was focussed onto one level in particular.

Everyone who has played the game is familiar with the level entitled ‘No Russian’ but for people who are not I will give you a quick run-down  In this particular level you play a deep undercover CIA operative infiltrating a Russian Terrorist group taking part in the terrorist attack on a Moscow airport. You start in a lift dressed in NATO armour with NATO weapons and you are told ‘No Russian’. The lift opens and you are ‘on rails’ walking through a busy airport while your companions proceed to gun down all the civilians in sight. You have the option to join them and shoot civilians or you can just walk through while they commit the massacre. This isn’t a quick attack, this is a full couple of minutes walking slowly, shooting unarmed people who are screaming, panicking and running away. Even for the most desensitised gamer it gives you a real feeling of unease which is exactly why I think this is brave.

Violence in video games is well documented. Games such as Postal, Manhunt, and Grand theft Auto look to directly sell copies by promoting over the top violence. The thrill of doing something which you wouldn’t dream of doing in real life drives the sale of these games.  Violence itself however has the potential to be used as a plot device. Games aren’t movies; they have many more skills at their disposal to create immersion. By drawing you into the plot, allowing the player to make moral decisions and having repercussions and feedback for those decisions you become far more involved with the story. This has been known for years and skilled game developers have been using techniques like this. I’m not saying that this was the most poignant moment in gaming history, games have introduced moral decision making not only before but better, for example 2008’s Fallout 3 has a fantastic moment where if you decided, you could eliminate and entire population of people by detonating a nuclear bomb all from the safe confines of a penthouse tower.

Modern Warfare didn’t need to do it though, it would have sold many copies and received a massive amount of publicity regardless, but it felt the scene was necessary in the process of telling the story. A brave technique, particularly considering Video Game violence is already under a massive media spotlight following a series of shootings in US schools and the decision to use an airport in a time when the September 9th attacks on America were still fresh in peoples mind was not a coincidence. With a medium like video games, designers must be allowed to push the boundaries on what we deem acceptable to create a more immersive narrative – for doing this in an ‘AAA’ title that did not need to take the risks, MW2 was a brave game.

Joel:  When someone says the three words “first,” “person” and “shooter” to me, images of Doom, Quake and the unbeatable Unreal Tournament spring to mind. Those are the games that, to me, not only stand out from the genre, but are some of the best games I’ve played. My laptop still has UT on it and I still play it pretty often. Goldeneye, as I’ve said previously was very good, but the control system for that was fairly rudimentary when compared with PC game rivals using mouselook, which Quake and UT did. But as with all things, they either evolve or die out and so did the genre. I’ll leave you to decide whether the modern equivalents of these demonstrate evolution or entropy, but I know which camp I’m in.

Young Joel started his career working in a small local computer store in his hometown. Mostly, he just sold PC’s he couldn’t afford to pensioners who wanted to use them for word processing, but every now and again, someone would come in wanting something a bit more interesting. There was the old chap who bought a computer so powerful we had to spend a good while sourcing the parts – So he could play Train Simulator – quite possibly the most boring game I’ve ever played: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK8zdtMpy2w  – But I had great fun building the machine.

Then there was the chap who wanted a “proper” gaming rig to play “proper” games on. He didn’t really know what he wanted other than the machine had to run the brand new “Medal of Honor Allied Assault” on the highest settings. So this was great for two reasons – I got to build a stupidly powerful machine AND I got to play-test it extensively on an FPS game. Not just any FPS game, but a brand new one! So anyway, some time passes and all the parts are in. I build the thing (IIRC it had a Voodoo 5 5500) – this was graphics card porn if you’re as old as me – and install the game. Fire it up. Crank it up. Initially I was very impressed, it was a lot more polished than UT and GLQuake, which were my staples at the time. So after maybe an hour of testing, I’d finished it. What a load of rubbish! It had absolutely no replay value either, as I quickly came to realise this through multiple test play-troughs.

That was when I went off the “modern” FPS. Sadly MOH became a massive franchise, as did its competitor: Call Of Duty. Unfortunately this was, in my humble opinion, the end of the FPS line. Clearly I was wrong… 1.6billion hours of logged online play can’t be mistaken, but I just can’t get into them anymore. But apparently, so I’m told by the legions of COD players, I’m a “fag,” so what do I know? I’m lead to believe that in America, this has a meaning other than cigarette. I was actually relieved to find the definition as constantly trying to figure out which end of me was alight became quite tiresome.

So where am I going with all this blither..? I haven’t enjoyed a pure FPS game since UT2004. Not even UT3 really and not for a lack of trying. I think by this point in the marathon I won’t care less whether I win at this or not. Liam will probably have an unconquerable lead margin by this point, so I’ll probably just run around like a headless chicken until I become a headless soldier.


1997 – GoldenEye 007

GoldenEye 007

Developer(s) Rare
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Martin Hollis
Producer(s) Martin Hollis
Artist(s) Karl Hilton
Writer(s) David Doak
Composer(s) Graeme Norgate
Grant Kirkhope
Robin Beanland
Series James Bond
Platform(s) Nintendo 64
Release date(s)
  • JP 23 August 1997
  • NA 25 August 1997
  • EU 25 August 1997
Genre(s) First-person shooter, stealth
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Joel: This here, is a significant moment in the marathon – not only is it going to bring us to the halfway point of our sojourn, but it is also the first game on a 64-bit machine in our list.

At the time this was doing the rounds, I wasn’t lucky enough to own an N64 – I think I was into PC gaming in ’97- things like Diablo, Destruction Derby, Carmageddon – but several of my friends had this, so I got plenty of exposure to it. Based around the lore of the GoldenEye film, the premise was that you, a certain Mr. Bond, are tasked with preventing a nasty criminal type using some crazy satellite weapon to destroy London, or something. Who played this in single player anyway? This was all about the evolutionary leaps made in the arena of FPS games by this beauty of a title. I don’t even like the Bond franchise, but boy do I love this game.  What’s it got that the other didn’t? well… it was the first with a zooming sniper rifle and the first with 4-way local multiplayer. Probably a few more things, but that 4-way local multiplayer was the big deal. One of the first proper “party games” I remember Many a night was spent squinting at a quarter of a 14″ portable TV and yelling at my friends rather than doing things normal people did, like, I don’t know, going outside. As I said above though, I didn’t get my hands on one of these until some years after their prime when I managed to pick one up for a tenner at a car boot sale, complete with a small selection of games, controllers and cables. This being one of the games I got. I was delighted to find it hadn’t lost any of its appeal and I had soon obtained enough controllers for 4-way action AND had a big enough telly to actually see it. That was possibly the best tenner I ever spent. Though the Dreamcast I picked up a few months back, also for a tenner, was pretty special.

So, to summarise, this is a great example of the FPS genre and I think, something of a portent. I wouldn’t call it “ahead of its time” but it definitely helped define things to come. Liam and I are both pretty decent FPS’ers, but I think I probably have more recent experience here.

Liam:  dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun dundedun dun dun dun DA DAAA da da da

I think when we first discussed doing this challenge for charity I think Joel’s first question was ‘So we get to play GoldenEye?’ For good reason too – GoldenEye has a special place in the hearts of people our age as it was the first time, barring j-cart games or people who owned a multitap, four players could play together easily meaning that everyone was involved. The wide array of characters (including Oddjob, who is BANNED Joel!) and massive selection of weapons really showed off the N64s capabilities as a new generation of console.

I always liked the N64, it looked very odd and the controller took some getting used to, but it represented a massive shift in gaming consoles. Going from the Mega Drive to the N64 in our challenge will be a huge jump.

I never owned a N64. I had a pretty decent PC (a 486dx4 100… not quite a Pentium which Joel loved reminding me of every fucking day) and for me, 1996 meant the start of online multiplayer gaming with Diablo, GTA, Red Alert and Quake playable over a dial up connection. PC gaming was going through a kind of renaissance so by this point and was far more content playing PC games on my own. It really doesn’t surprise me that this golden era of 95-97 spawned some franchises that are still (or should be!) selling millions of copies now… Diablo, GTA, Fallout, Age of Empires, Quake, Dungeon Keeper, FF7 and Warcraft 2 were all released on the PC over these 3 years.

I didn’t need to own a N64 to log hundreds of hours of GoldenEye though… everyone else I knew had one and loved to play multiplayer. Being used to the smooth scrolling and mouse look setting of the OpenGL powered Quake (why aren’t we playing Quake?) I found controller based FPS games clunky and inaccurate, luckily when playing GoldenEye 4 player you never got relentlessly targeted and the inaccuracy and clunkyness became part of the games charm. If it was a 4 player game I recon I can hold me own, but in a 1v1 without a keyboard and mouse I won’t stand much of a chance.