So, I'm not really a Modern Warfare fan. Military shooters don't do much for me, and despite all the accolades it racked up, I really wasn't impressed with the first installment. This may seem like heresy of the basest sort to some, but the method of storytelling didn't work for me, and the action didn't, either. Going further, the "big event" regarding the detonation of a nuclear weapon didn't have a fraction of the impact on me that it seemed to generate with basically everyone I talked to. The entire thing left me untouched. Couldn't have cared less.

This morning on Twitter, I saw a link come in mentioning Modern Warfare 2. I don't really give a rip about it and I've been skipping over most of the masturbatory OMG-look-at-this-new-feature news on it, but this particular tweet was from one of my recent follows who I perceive as being a pretty sharp dude, and his basic reaction to this piece of news was essentially "holy shit." That in itself isn't usually enough to get me to click a link, but like I said, this guy has had some interesting things to say, so I checked it out.

My impression? Holy shit.

Before saying anything else, go ahead and watch it now:

It's about eight minutes long, but once you get past the first opening segment, I doubt you'll have a problem staying with it. (Hopefully it will still be working by the time you click on it. Allegedly, Activision has been going around the Internet trying to remove the video where possible.)

So, what's this all about? As this post is being written, details are still extremely sketchy. Some people say that it's an extra mode in the game, whereas some (like myself) are betting that it's a game-opening scenario designed to set the stage for the rest of the campaign, thus providing an extremely graphic form of justification for the military action about to follow. Either way, it's provocative to say the least, and that's putting it extremely mildly. Doubly so, since the player is placed in the role of the perpetrator—that choice in itself being worthy of an entirely separate blog post.

To be perfectly honest, I have to admit that I was quite taken aback. I think it's fair to say that I was actually shocked, even. That's some trick considering how jaded I freely admit to being, and how desensitized I think I am, being raised in the American culture of constant violence-and-sex-enriched media. There may even have been initial traces of disgust… possibly outrage. Over the course of my video game career, I think it's safe to say that I've ended millions upon millions of virtual life spans, but there was something different about this video. The realistic nature of the depiction certainly had something to do with it, but more than that, I think it absolutely taps into what has now become a very common underlying fear for many people- and, unlike certain phobias, fear of terrorism and large-scale violence certainly does have a basis in reality.

However, I'm not here to rail against the game or to make any sorts of accusations against the ethics or intent of the developers. Far from it.

Once past my initial response, my only thought was that I sincerely hope the game uses such powerful imagery for something other than fuel driving another testosterone-fueled, flag-waving us-against-the-inhumans FPS. What kind of message could be relayed or posed to a player after making such a powerful first impression? What kind of thoughts could be introduced, or what kinds of issues could be examined from such an unorthodox, uncomfortable viewpoint? As shocking as this segment may be (and I shudder to imagine the media's reaction once they get wind of it) as a critic who is absolutely in support of the medium’s maturation, I definitely see this as a huge opportunity.

Will Infinity Ward take a difficult high road and make the most of it, or will this sure-to-become-infamous segment of gameplay be seen as some sort of misguided sensationalism? No one really knows what its true function is, and the people already in the loop certainly aren't talking…

Read more on the Drinking Coffeecola blog.

Brad Gallaway
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13 years ago

Maybe the idea was to put the player in control of a complete atrocity merely to demonstrate just how crazy you have to be to feel good about it. But I’m sure every mainstream news source will insist the game “rewards” you for it.

Alex R
13 years ago

Yeah… I watched the video on my lunch break yesterday and it made me kind of sick to my stomach… At this point I’m merely wary. A friend wrote about it: and he is very optimistic. According to some of the commenters there, the player is an undercover CIA agent (which would also explain the ending). And according to Activision the segment is skippable, and taking into consideration what happens in the original game, and the fact that this is a huge secret, I don’t think this was added for shock value a la Rockstar Games or something like… Read more »