Here are several minutes of leaked gameplay from the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In the scene, the player takes the role of a terrorist as he and his crew invade and wreak havoc upon a civilian airport, callously killing waiting passengers and their families.
Disclaimer: No one outside of Activision has seen what happens before and after the scene, but I do believe that enough is shown to make some initial conjectures about the content.
Most of us at the studio recoiled and winced in disbelief when we watched this. If we were so affected, what the hell is mom going to think when she sees her kid gunning down innocents in an airport? What is the press going to think? Christ, Jack Thompson is going to have a field day with this.
From the official statement in response to the footage:
The scene establishes the depth of evil and the cold bloodedness of a rogue Russian villain and his unit. By establishing that evil, it adds to the urgency of the playerâ€™s mission to stop them.
Players have the option of skipping over the scene. At the beginning of the game, there are two â€˜checkpointsâ€™ where the player is advised that some people may find an upcoming segment disturbing. These checkpoints canâ€™t be disabled.
Modern Warfare 2 is a fantasy action game designed for intense, realistic game play that mirrors real life conflicts, much like epic, action movies. It is appropriately rated 18 for violent scenes, which means it is intended for those who are 18 and older.
If the goal was to establish the depth of evil and cold bloodedness of the villain, Activision has failed sorely. By having the player assume the role of the villain taking part in these horrific acts, they’ve consequently freed the conceptual villain of a portion of the blame, because now the murdered civilians are the result of direct actions taken by the player.
That’s an important distinction.
If the goal was to establish the depth of evil and cold bloodedness of the villain, why not remove the player’s ability to dictate or control the scene in any way? Activision could’ve easily used the very successful opening of the first Modern Warfare as an example, throwing the player into the role of the terrorist, allowing, at the most, the ability to look around the scene helplessly with the right stick as your avatar and his buddies lay waste to the innocents. That would’ve been horrifying to experience.
Or hell, place the player in the role of a civilian. Establish a scene â€” hugging your wife and children goodbye, tossing a soda into the bin, turning back to the flight status board â€” when WHAM, gunfire erupts. Do you run towards your family, unable to do a thing as they are gunned down, or do you duck behind barriers, scrambling for safety among the crowds, amidst the screams and the panic, as the terrorists nonchalantly walk though the terminal, killing all in sight? That would’ve been horrifying to experience.
The scene in the video? 100% gratuitous.
From the ESRB Rating Information:
The most intense depiction of violence occurs during a “No Russian” mission where players take on the role of an undercover Ranger: Several civilians are gunned down at an airport as players are given a choice to participate in the killings (e.g., players can shoot a wounded civilian that is crawling on the ground), or walk by and observe without opening fire.
The above quote certainly changes the circumstances. Rather than putting the player in the role of the evil villain, the player is undercover and along for the ride, accompanied by the villain, who is demonstratively evil. Whether the player chooses to follow along or resist the killings is entirely up to the player.
I like this scenario much better.