2009 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

no_russian

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.

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