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Gaming: Modern Warfare 2’s Opening Level


Wikipedia fact: "It is the sixth installment of the Call of Duty series, and the direct sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, continuing along the same storyline."

Update: You can see the footage here.

Original Post:Low-quality footage of Modern Warfare 2’s opening level has leaked online (in French) and is already stirring up a bit of controversy (I won’t link it, as they’re being taken down pretty quickly).  I’m going to share my thoughts on it here, so be advised that this post contains spoilers for the first level.

The mission opens with a CIA briefing before thrusting you into the role of a CIA operative working undercover in some sort of terrorist organisation.  With a group of allies you emerge from an elevator into an airport and begin shooting at civilians (though this doesn’t seem to be taking place in the US).  The mission progresses through the airport with more and more civilians being killed, ending with a shootout with police (I think they were police anyway, it was too blurry to tell) and an escape, with your character being shot and left for dead when they presumably figure out you’re a spy.

On paper it seems almost specifically designed to shock the US by putting you in the role of a terrorist and committing airport atrocities, and Infinity Ward must have realised it was going to provoke a response even if that wasn’t their primary goal.  It’s certainly one way to one-up the opening to the original Modern Warfare, which had the player touring a city and witnessing all that was going on, but not actively participating.  As with the first game, it really does set up the villain and give you a look at why you’re trying to stop them, without resorting to cut-scenes.

Of course, it’s difficult to imagine that a CIA operative would even consider firing in that situation, let alone mow civilians down in large numbers, and it will be interesting to find out why he wasn’t able to warn anybody or get law enforcement to intervene.  Plotting to massacre a large number of civilians would seem to be pretty good grounds for an arrest.  If the agent really couldn’t get outside help then there didn’t seem to be anything stopping him just taking out his gun and shooting them all in the back, either while they were shooting with their backs to him, in the elevator or even the journey there.  The game really will need to justify the agent’s inaction (or even participation) here, or it will simply come across as being controversial for the sake of causing controversy.

In general though I do think games should be allowed to do this sort of thing.  The interactivity of video games allows them to put you into a role in a way that other media – which in general can present things from a terrorist’s point of view without controversy – aren’t able to, and really make you think about what it’s like to be in this situation, doing something so terrible to so many innocent people.  Games really do have the ability to be provocative in that way, as long as it’s handled carefully.  Context does matter, and until we see it in English and get a better sense of what is happening and why, context is something not available to us and it’s not really possible to see what Infinity Ward are aiming for here.  Still, it’s got everybody talking about the game even more than they already were, which probably doesn’t upset Infinity Ward of Activision too much.

  1. October 28, 2009 at 05:30

    As it happens, after publishing this article I went back to the video I’d watched and it was already taken down, so the link would have been dead even before I’d published it. Activision clearly don’t like that it’s leaked, even with all the extra publicity.

  1. April 6, 2010 at 22:39

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