Wot I Think: About That Level

By Kieron Gillen on November 19th, 2009 at 10:21 pm.


It’s bullshit, isn’t it?

The big problem is – like a big chunk of anything that manages to be controversial – the debate shakes down to “they shouldn’t be allowed to do this” versus “they should be allowed to do this” while entirely neglecting the more important “Is this any good?”

It’s not any good. It’s bullshit. It’s a lie. It means nothing.

In terms of craft, Infinity Ward are… well, joint top of their field. The idea of turning a progression through a linear, scripted environment into a storytelling experience had its moment of apotheosis with Valve’s Half-life back in 1998. Specifically, its opening. The first people to really grasp the implications of Valve’s innovations were Infinity Ward, in their previous life at 2015, whose Medal of Honour: Allied Assault was the first game to not entirely ignore Half-Life and hope the lessons would go away. They (with Valve) have had a duopoly on the form ever since. Everyone else is frankly, second best, at best. So while it’s easy to pick holes in the illusion of a scene of No Russian – oh! The shirts repeat occasionally! – it doesn’t change the fact moving through it is like walking through a living painting. It’s a clockwork machine. In the seconds I managed to step back from what was actually happening, I felt a lot like I did when playing its opening scene in a military base – as in, I was scared to look anywhere, because there was so much stuff happening everywhere. No matter where I lay my eyes, there’d be something I’d miss.

“No Russian” positions you as an undercover agent, trying to infiltrate an evil terrorist’s group. By doing this, you’re helping out at a massacre at an airport. You walk in. People look at you. Your four comrades open up at the crowd, and they fall. People run, cry and die. You walk slowly through the airport, slaying those who haven’t run. Eventually, a military response arrives via chopper. You fight them and then… well, spoilers.

It’ll be foolish to deny it doesn’t provoke a response. Of course, the level and nature of that response isn’t solely about the game, or even the person playing it. So, yes, merely talking to my friends, I find people telling stories of leftist political radicals and pillars of the community mowing down people while cackling while bar-room thugs dismiss it as exploitative war-porn. Like any work of human creativity, the seriousness you bring to the game impacts upon your experience. But it’s more complicated than that. People’s response seems to change depending on who you play with or in front of. It’s like an inverse of the ErotiSim reaction I talked about previously. Playing with friends, we all fucked around with the Sims. Playing by myself, I took the emotional turmoil more seriously. Conversely, with No Russian, with someone standing behind you and judging you, even the most sociopathic may feel a little twinge before pulling that trigger.

But it’s bullshit.

It’s bullshit because, like a whole lot of Modern Warfare, it’s bad writing. By which I stress, I don’t mean “the writer can’t write”. Because the real nature of writing in games (“Everything which appears in front of your eyes with which we create the story”) rather than the responsibilities of the word-dude (“Whatever you can write quickly on freelance which the team ignore and/or present badly”) is what matters here. As others have noted, the most disturbing part of No Russian is its context. A few seconds previously you’re involved in a high-speed James Bond chase involving snowmobiles. A few seconds later, you’re mowing down civilians. That tonal shift isn’t brutal. It’s laughable. At best, you’re comedy. At worst, you’re cheap exploitative trash. Modern Warfare leans towards the latter. You have to earn the right to shove an audience’s face in that material. Before it, Infinity Ward do nothing to earn it. Afterward, they do barely anything with it – by which you can read there is slightly more than “nothing” there, which I’ll get to eventually – to justify the leap of faith you’ve taken with them.

And then there’s the matter of realism… oh, shit.

Yeah, realism is a tricky thing with Call of Duty. It’s clearly ludicrous, unless you’re the person in Alec’s Wot-I-Think comment thread who somehow thought that 24 was a documentary or something. But it lives of the sense of authenticity. It wants you to believe in its techno-thrillerness, at least on its own terms. The problem comes when you introduce this attitude into something like five dudes strolling into an airport and opening up.

Because as accurately, as disturbingly rendered as the slaughter is, it’s not convincing. The beat where people try to surrender… yeah, that’s impressive analysis. People would assume they were taking prisoners, even if they weren’t. But the rest is simply ludicrous. Machine-guns are loud. People are gone the second they start firing. Anyone anywhere near doesn’t hang around. They certainly don’t find themselves hanging around to be gunned down in lobbies. Rent-a-cops with pistols – and fuck me, if you’ve been in a Russian Airport, you know you get guys with SMGs, not pistols, walking around – don’t charge guys with hefty-machine-guns. They get the people hanging around OUT OF THERE. And crucially, SWAT-or-local-equivalent response isn’t a wall of men walking slowly towards you with riot shields. It’s snipers on the rooftops taking down these psychopathic shits.

In other words, Infinity Ward have taken great effort to render a scene of a massacre which bears no relation to any massacre that could ever happen. It’s nothing more than that moment of revulsion (or, for those sort of gamers, excitement) when you open up on civilians. It means nothing human because it’s about nothing that’s human.

So it’s exploitative and pointless. But its real failing, ironically enough, is one of cowardice. Let’s assume you accept the warped reality of their airport slaughter. It’s their universe. Let’s roll with it. Well, the idea that you’re an undercover agent who can walk alongside your homicidal comrades without you firing a shot, without them realising or caring, is openly stupid.

(I’ve heard people say they take notice and call you a coward. I’ve played through it three times and not had it once. C’est la vie.)

For the level to matter – to be the true Jack Bauer ends-justify-the-means statement – you must be forced into joining in. You’ve got a chance to skip the level. Great. But to play the level, to accept it on its own terms, you must open up at those people. That’s the cowardice of Infinity Ward. They realised a level where you had to kill the innocents is more offensive than a level where it’s your choice… but choosing the latter is the single thing that stops it ever being some manner of effective artistic statement and rendering the whole thing laughably pathetic.

There is – AND SPOILERS ARE NOW – a twist to it, of course. Your terrorists comrades shoot you at the end and pin the attack on the yanks. Which, if you look at it, could be an excuse for them not caring that you’re not mowing down people with them. Except it doesn’t matter when you get shot, as long as they can pin the attack on you – so having someone who’s coming along and not helping is merely someone who could open up at them when their conscience cracks.

(Why you don’t just shoot this terrorist leader now that you’re close enough to him isn’t really explained. Why infiltrate the cell to stop an attack when you can just kill the ringmaster now?)

Part of me likes to think that the whole section – in fact, the whole game proper – is actually a statement that the blind following of orders leads to the death of the world. The one irony of the twist in the plot is never commented on in the game – that being, the Russians are entirely justified in being phenomenally pissed off. An American organisation knew there was a serious attack wiping out dozens of Russian citizens… and rather than warning, they sent a man to join the attack. They were complicit. You were complicit. Imagine what the US response would be to the tables being turned, and there was real evidence that a foreign government helped out a 9-11-esque attack on US soil to infiltrate a terrorist organisation. Throughout the game you’re forced into performing tasks which only lead to worse devastation, because you’re following fucking brain-dead orders.

You could see Modern Warfare 2 as the sister of BioShock – as in, mocking the player for being stupid enough to follow this linear string of events. Giving up your morality to a higher power and obeying those orders only leads to World War 3.

Well, you could if they’d only actually made their statement clear. As it is, it’s just a mess of sound and fury signifying jack-shit. The final half of Modern Warfare 2 is the sort of thing which Wikipedia entries were made for flicking through and catching up on. Clarity never hurts. Rambling purple prose sections about the nature of war do. If the above is actually what Infinity Ward were trying to say they should have made sure they fucking said it loud and clear.

That’s the most annoying thing about “No Russian” though. It’s not that the ideas are necessarily bad – I wrote a hell of a lot to defend Super Columbine Massacre RPG, after all. It’s that the execution is weak. If you’re going to do this, you do this. You make the move knowing that you’ve thought it all through. That you’ve considered everything. That you know what you’re saying and what it means. The sickening thing is that communicating simple yet powerful messages is what Infinity Ward have excelled at (Cross Ref; Call of Duty’s River landing missions, with you forced to progress with no gun due to Soviet supply problems). That clarity is missing. Instead, we’re left with a dumb shock.

That’s the problem. That’s what sickens me. It’s that they had the balls to try to do this… and they blew it. They fucking blew it. Anyone else who tries it will be living in their diseased shadow. If you want to try to do this thing you have a responsibility to do it properly, or not at all. Infinity Ward failed the medium and failed themselves with No Russian.

They’ve always cut levels which weren’t good enough, arguing for a concentrated, higher-quality experience. They should have cut this one. It’s bullshit and they should be ashamed.

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326 Comments »

  1. Railick says:

    That wouldn’t very vile Tei, that would just be silly and annoying. I had several true vile moments in Postal 2 where I felt like I was going to be sick and wondering what was wrong with me that I was enjoying the game and almost stopped :P then I reloaded the level and played it again BUT I didn’t REALIZE there was something wrong with me for enjoying it.

  2. Dyermaker says:

    I’m not sure I would agree with that. Postal 2 was a gimmick, something twisted throughout to appeal to adolescents, a one note joke. You could make the same claim of this level, I suppose, but there’s a lot more game here than just that. Granted, I haven’t played the whole campaign yet, but the consensus seems to be that there’s some great action setpieces that most will enjoy. People buying MW2 buy it for that, not the controversy.

    Basically IW tried something different, and failed, but the whole is a sum of its parts.

  3. Alex says:

    “And crucially, SWAT-or-local-equivalent response isn’t a wall of men walking slowly towards you with riot shields. It’s snipers on the rooftops taking down these psychopathic shits.”

    Post-Columbine, I thought the American police response to a live shooter scenario WAS to storm the building and assault the shooter. They still use snipers, sure, but I’m pretty sure they just charge the fuckers.

    A massive, well-geared assault mounted within minutes of the bullets flying? Bullshit. Just as it’s bullshit that you can sail a full invasion fleet across the Atlantic just because you spoofed their satellites. You’d think that someone like the British, or say….. the U.S. Navy would notice something like that.

    There is no realism in the COD games. It’s well-crafted adrenalized war porn.

  4. Dyermaker says:

    That last post was for Wulf, sorry for the confusion :)

  5. Spacegirl says:

    I am confused as to why this is AS important as every1 appears to be making it out to be.

    I think it’s just cause of the hype. I mean, remember the Assassinate Kennedy game? No? If yes, is this the first time you thought about it in forever?

    Is this because Modern Warfare 2 is the Biggest Game Now and tried something fairly controversial?

    Are you upset because it tried to make a strong point about a very hot topic and couldn’t decide between a dive and a cannonball and ended up in a belly flop?

    All of you are thinking too hard. None of the people who frequent this site (myself included) are the people that the writers are writing their story for. I think Kieron and others are assuming this game is trying to rise to something it isn’t.

    Who could expect the story and execution thereof to be anything more than middling? You would especially be sensitive to the storytelling shortcomings, Kieron, and this level’s apparent Extreme Pacing Flaw because you work in the comics medium and SO MUCH (imo at least) of good comic storytelling is hitting “beats” and pacing. That’s true for all stories really, but crucially true for comics. A movie can “wander.” A comic cannot. Yeah, compare MW2 to Garth Ennis’ work and it’ll come up a bit fucking short (Ennis’ Punisher may honestly be my favorite comic of all time.)

    However, no one knows who Garth Ennis is. Everyone, in America at least, knows the show NCIS. It is the top rated show in the country!! (My Mom “likes some of the characters”, ive seen it a few times and it’s pretty much like any other Acronym Show)

    It constantly plays goofy and loose with “real world” issues and military conduct. A major writer of that show is the writer of MW1 and 2!!

    NCIS is the highest Nielson rated TV show in America. MW2 is one of the biggest selling games ever. They do not in any way appeal to the “writer” demographic, ESPECIALLY not the “videogame journalist / comic book writer” demo! THAT’S ONE OF THE CRAZIEST DEMOGRAPHICS EVER!! Unpleasable! look at all the wacky games posted on this site!! ;)

    This is a Real World Example of what That Level really means. It happened last nite and is from my memory, but is fairly accurate.

    INT. TYPICAL SUBURBAN HOUSE IN NASHVILLE, TN.

    A group of white males are discussing Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 amongst themselves.

    Normal Musician Guy I Know : What about that level where you kill all those civilians?

    Me: Yeh there’s this level where you are disguised as a terrorist or some shit and kill a bunch of ppl.

    Friend Who Didn’t Know About This : sweet. <—–note the lack of exclamation point.

    Normal Musician Guy I Know : yeh it was one of the craziest things ive played.

    END OF CONVERSATION.

    Normal Guy played it, thought about it enough to think "it was crazy" and didn't really give a shit about anything else about it. It will forever be a really crazy moment in a videogame to him, and nothing else. Because that is all it is. A bizarre crazy moment in a very popular videogame.

    Conkur's Bad Fur Day? Manhunt? These are both fairly controversial games that Modern Society has basically forgotten. They'll show up in lists of "most controversial games" and I'm sure That Level will show up in those as well. Maybe that Bad Fur Day game is less controversial than I remember it, but I do recall a fairly big stink about it when it came out!!

    Modern Warfare 2 was never going to make an important statement. It's a shame it doesn't tell a better story than it does, but who cares?

    • DMcCool says:

      “All of you are thinking too hard”

      I’m sorry, this sounds horrible, but that phrase is one of the worst in our language and merits at least something of a retort.

      As is generally the case when people say that, the problem here is actually the person that made that claim isn’t thinking enough.

      Kieron Gillen is actually a rather clever chap, as are many people here. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that the sort of debate we’d have over this game doesn’t even resemble normal public discourse on the subject. Does that mean we shouldn’t bother?

      It is the worst kind of pompous pretention to assume that you are part of some sort of elite and only the experiance of a work of media/art by your peers matters. Shakespeare is not the greatest wielder of the english language of all time because he writes things that a special intellectual elite understand. He is brilliant because his work is universal, it speaks for humanity, for tragedy, for comedy.

      In the exact same way (But on the other end of the spectrum) that last scene in Titanic shaped millions’ thoughts on devotion and romance, films like LOTR instill in us a wonder for fantasy but also furtively strengthen the christian good-vs-evil dichotomic view of war in us. Rap music that glorifies violence and machismo decadance – you get the drift. Everytthing effects everyone, in small ways and sometimes big ways, if they notice it or not.

      The fact that Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is the fastest selling game in history, that “No Russian” is being experianced by an unprecedented amount of people, the amount of inevitable controversy behind it means that an awful lot of people will know how important that scene is for gaming. It was an oppertunity Infinty Ward made themselves and they screwed it up, achived nothing but shock value and, as you say, confusion – “that was a crazy level man”. They could have affected millions in a truly meaningful way, they didn’t.

      A rather seperate issue is the fact that from now on whenever the debate of “Mature Games” or maturity in games or controversity in games itself comes up, this will be the one example we all have to deal with. You can’t exactly ignore it, this was gamings chance to show everyone its grown up.

  6. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Girls? In space? NEVER!

    It’s important like any other game is. Which is to say, yes, games journalism and the media seem content to exist in a vacuum of sorts. Violence and controversy are not new. We’ve had our share of Carmaggeddon, Syndicate, Postal, Manhunt, GTA and whatnot. Predominantly, this happens because most people focus on the medium as a visual vehicule (ie., there was no controversy over the fact that you could poke eyeballs take out someone’s intestines in Planescape: Torment) and also, because these are mostly mainstream titles which get more press atention and potentially, more players will have access to them, leading to whatever subject matter in these games to be discussed more regularly. This isn’t necessarily a problem – although one should wonder why, when half a world was busy talking RapeLay, no one seems to have paid much attention to the implied rape of the main male character in FEAR 2 – and seriously, we need more discussion around the medium. We may not always pick the more interesting games or the more poignant, but it’s a work in progress. MW2′s controvery is only going to last a couple of months, and then it’s on to the next game, but some discussion is better than none.

  7. Spacegirl says:

    I think the most important question facing us today in the videogame world is will Mass Effect 2 have Dude-on-Dude?

  8. Tim says:

    @spacegirl Agreed, that’s way more important.

  9. Ohle says:

    This is really one of the main issues with narrative in today’s games, though — everyone has these grand plans to make games as impactful and thought-provoking as film or literature… but nobody’s really any good at it. There’s a complete and utter lack of realistic emotions and reactions. I have never been touched by a game the way I have by movies — several movies each year have some impact on me on an emotional level… but games? Nothing.

    If we can get some writers into this industry who can really understand story development and get a handle on how to control tension and excitement, we might have some good stories. But if, at the end of the day, we can’t let go of the “gameness” — i.e. your end goal is still to shoot the bad guys with a vast array of awesome weaponry — how can we possibly hope to really deliver interesting narrative?

  10. Spacegirl says:

    @ Diogo Ribeiro : yes I read that prior to my post, and it informed some of it.

    it manages to say a lot and very little at the same time. The main gist was “We knew ppl expected some intense stuff, and this is the intense stuff we came up with.”

  11. postmanX3 says:

    “(Why you don’t just shoot this terrorist leader now that you’re close enough to him isn’t really explained. Why infiltrate the cell to stop an attack when you can just kill the ringmaster now?)”

    I have been wondering this. Someone please explain to me. Really. I can’t figure it out. At all.

  12. nrXic says:

    Wait…you’re complaining about realism in a Modern Warfare game?

    THAT is bullshit.

    When ever, has the synopsis been accurate or realistic?

    If the levels that take place in various nations aren’t accurate or realistic…why expect a Russian airport to be?

    “It’s not any good. It’s bullshit. It’s a lie. It means nothing.”

    Why didn’t you say this sort of stuff when the game first came out? A reality of “Modern Warfare” is the sky high amount of civilian casualties it incurs. The ratio of civilian to soldier deaths is alarmingly high. We didn’t see it in either of these games. Why aren’t you complaining about that “lie”?

    The No Russian level was nothing more than an interactive cutscene. If you are going to question whether it is “good” or not you should judge it based on it’s purpose, which is to advance the story, rather than it’s historical accuracy.

    Because by that metric Black Hawk Down was a crappy movie, 24 is a bullshit show, and Modern Warfare is a shitty game.

    Nevermind how entertaining they are, let’s judge them on their realism…right?

    • Funky Badger says:

      Black Hawk Down was a *disgraceful* movie – which is different. MW2 would only be on that level if No Russian was set in Mumbai.

  13. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    @Spacegirl: I only read the interview after, but posting the link here wasn’t meant as a reply to you. Seeing the time stamps now, it may seem like that was the idea but it wasn’t.

    And also, I understand your point. It can be exhasperating to see certain games’ coverage swell up like this, to the point that everyone seems they have something to say. I can understand the minuses – ie., high profile game causes controversy, everyone wants to get on the attention train – but I wouldn’t discard the positive side-effect, though: that, for some, it was a game that cause a genuine response and people felt the genuine need to talk about it. I spent some time wondering if I should make a blog post about it for that reason, for instance – there are way too many sites, blogs, forums and whatever drowned by the topic – but if it had not moved me in any way, I would have kept shut (besides, no one ever reads my blog, I can be as trendy or archaic as I want, lol).

  14. ouslorrd says:

    This post is 100500% bullshit. It is.

  15. Tim says:

    I’m with Kadayi. MW may have been a little far fetched, but it was still plausible.

    You know why I read Rock Paper Shotgun? Because of this kind of writing. I want games journalism to take an intelligent stance(or take any stance for that matter) on this kind of thing. Giving every big budget title a perfect 10 does not count as taking a stance by the way.

  16. Michael says:

    “That’s what sickens me. It’s that they had the balls to try to do this… and they blew it. They fucking blew it. Anyone else who tries it will be living in their diseased shadow.”

    Good. They’ll look at how polished IW’s productions are and they’ll look at how badly they choked on that level and they’ll realize that real, proper, human story telling that actually affects people is bloody hard. It’s hard enough in books – a well developed medium. It’s scarcely been achieved at all in computer games. Ever. So if you are going to have a crack at it, don’t push all your chips in on the first hand – wait until you’ve figured out what winning is and how to do it, first.

  17. Miggs says:

    If you want pointless killing go play Postal 2! Where you can burn people alive and then pee on them to wipe the fire out!

  18. Andrei Sebastian says:

    The post is’nt bullshit at all in fact. (@ ouslorrd)
    Haleluiah! Finally some words of wisdom. It turns out I can count on RPS after all. I think I’ve basically bashed the living hell out of CoD6 by now in every forum or comment thread, the sad part is that it’s not so much bashing as it is strongly argumented critique.

    The reason behind this attitude and the most saddening fact that I seemed to nurture on this topic is that no other main game site seems to realise the failure of this scene/level, even less seriousness of such a failure. Even Anthony Burch, which I’ve followed in videos or articles for some time, lost some of my respect in the MW2 Rant.

    The fact that it sold 4.7 millions units in 24 hours is quite aggravating, and therefore (still)renders it relevant for discussion. “DMcCool ” Said it best: An issue is the fact that from now on whenever the debate of “Mature Games” or maturity in games or controversity in games itself comes up, this will be the one example we all have to deal with. You can’t exactly ignore it, this was gamings chance to show everyone it’s grown up.

    P.S.
    Did you actually saw how “the writer” looked like, seriously? I don’t know about you, but here in Romania we make fun of people that dress like that(white shirt with top buttons unlocked, really?) and have an avatar with stupid sunglasses to hide ugly eyes, probably smells of cheap cologne too. The fact that they considered at one point aliens(the irony is that outbrakes, viruses and chemical warfare would have been far more verisimile than the final plot they chose if done properly) speaks tons about their… wisdom.

  19. Andrei Sebastian says:

    Kieron bravely tries to find excuses for the game in the second part of the article and comes up with some very interesting theories, I did’nt even try.
    As much as I would love to believe the aforementioned, it is more than obvious IW were nowhere near such a concept.

    What I think basically happened was they got let’s say “scared” by the hype themselves – tried everything possible to make it all shiny, explosive, (ridiculously and stupidly) fast paced but in the process forgot to add substance, context, build up and tension.

  20. MadMatty says:

    Get over it

  21. whitebrice says:

    “It’s nothing more than that moment of revulsion (or, for those sort of gamers, excitement)”

    By ” those sort of gamers” you mean console gamers, right?

  22. Jerry says:

    No, I think he means gamers like my roommate who loved the airport level because he could kill dozens of helpless civilians, something he can’t do in real life because of the consequences. I.e., the same kind of gamer who plays Postal, Manhunt, or any other such controversial game….

  23. Barbellion says:

    There is a morbid fascination to any kind of violence in games. 95% of games are about killing stuff. Even the most thoughtful, well-paced and emotionally moving FPS is still about shooting stuff in the face. Valve are the masters of this, and also understand more than anyone about the inherent contradiction of playing the role of saviour whilst shoooting most things that moves.

    Witness the wholesale adoption of zombies as gaming’s current ubiquitous craze. It’s always been a popular scenario. L4D2 plays on both absolute carnage and small, human stories and creates something very special. The fact that all these Infected used to be people is both addressed and gleefully set about with a frying pan, even though the tragedies it tells of are more huge and horrifying than anything in MW2. If we didn’t find apocalyptic scenarios beguiling then there’d be no money in them at all. It’s an interesting dividing line – we can laugh at a zombie’s head bursting into jam because the context rules all. L4D and HL2 do not shy from the actual horror or the situation, and address it as thoroughly as a game with no solid plot can do.

    To denigrate the likes of Manhunt or Postal 2 (the latter of which is admittedly shit) as simply appealing to psychopaths who are only bound by a sense of consequence in the real world so rely on games for a homicidal fix is really quite dodgy. Most games are murderous. MW2 at least manages to interject a philosophically fraught question mark into the whole process of bursting people with bullets, and has if nothing else proved that context is everything.

    Kill all sons of bitches.

  24. Sagan says:

    I just heard, that you can’t kill civilians in the German version. I don’t know what happens, but I guess you just can’t pull the trigger in the entire scene.

  25. Down Rodeo says:

    About the implied torture, which a couple of people have picked up on – I would like to think that it’s not necessarily blindly accepted as the next step, as what *must be done*, I’d like to believe that it’s supposed to be slightly humorous (Ghost calmly sparking the wires from a car battery is at least a little funny) but also slightly unnerving. The sheer readiness that these men have, their willingness to cause someone pain until they divulge the information they want, is hopefully disturbing to the player. I know it was for me, it carries echoes of the midpart of MW1. Actually, I found that scene (Al-Asad’s safehouse) to be very powerful, and unnerving as I said before – as soon as Price finds out what he needs to know he disposes with the man’s life which presents the player with a moral “grey area”; yes he was an awful man who detonated a bomb but on the other hand to kill him so brutally in cold blood is not exactly what the war is being fought for. So that affected me quite a bit. It’s the same in the favelas, you need to find Makarov, undoubtedly this man who will help you get to him is evil (he’s shot and killed your driver and has endangered innocent citizens) but is torture the way forward?

    Of course, the writers couls have placed both sections in with complete seriousness, and the average gamer response could be one of “lol”, but I hope not.

  26. wintermute says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    Wintermute, you fail at Cultural Studies 101.

    Like Butler’ said: Context, context, context…

    Hmm? No sarcasm, what am I missing?
    Are you guys saying OMGTERRORISM is fresh and cool, while plain, old mass murder is so last decade?

    :(

  27. Risingson says:

    Just finished the level. It is not that bad, it is just too simple for having taken the risk of that controversial approach. Advance, you may kill some civilians, you make kill policemen. Advance. Kill other guys. Advance. End. Buh, after that crazy james bond level this is just too simple.

    Though I appreciated the VERY dark humor touch of all the planes being delayed.

    The game, for the little that I’ve played, has bettered some aspects of MW1, as the dreadful respawn, but the shock value isn’t here. But stop comparing this with Half Life 2, which is just too much of a masterpiece imho. And BTW, I really don’t think that writing has much importance here, but the level design.

  28. Demikaze says:

    I’d just like to say I agree completely. I mentioned in Alex’s thread the idea of making the scene more dynamic, giving you options on how to act, such as shooting over civilians heads to keep up the charade, or being forced to shoot an innocent by the terrorist leader – and you have the option right there to turn on the terrorists, or kill the civilian for the greater good, or perhaps try to give them a non-lethal shot that has the group think you’ve killed the person when you have not. Rather than simply have a binary choice, make it more emergent, you have to make decisions on the fly, forced into difficult situations in which you have seconds to make a choice. At the moment, you’re right in saying the whole undercover infiltration thing is a huge cop-out, but that didn’t have to be the case.

  29. Calabi says:

    The thing is games dont deal with player choices anymore, you must experience these fantastic stories they’ve created which are completely linear. You cannot say no, and who cares about emergence when we have such great stories and linearity as this, why would any one do anything else.

    Will we ever see games where players are allowed to make a single choice effecting choice I wonder.

    One other thing, pacing is a something which has been perfected in the movies. If you watch at least a few you will notice certain patterns, consistencies of what happens where. I wouldnt be surprised if they had computers which calculate the pacing of what goes where, but I’m sure they would have graphs, which denote emotional states, and not even a hack director would implement pacing like they did in this game.

    I find it funny that these games try and emulate movies in every way and yet they still cant even do the simple things right, and take the lessons that have already been learned in that arena.

  30. Jayt says:

    so THIS gets past Australian censorship but shooting zombies doesn’t?

    Ugh

  31. Longasc says:

    There are so many things wrong and dumb about the design and ideas behind MW2′s singleplayer mode that I would like to smack each of the devs one time for each copy of the game they sold. Because it is such a DISGRACE, really! :(

  32. poop says:

    I was sort of interested about THAT LEVEL until I saw how FUCKING GIGANTIC all the civillians hands are and it is now really distracting :O

    http://angryhosting-east.mirror.waffleimages.com/files/3a/3a00bd75c1cbdcaf61c242ef600bcb9f97121685.jpg

  33. Ninja says:

    You have quite a few grammatical errors there, Kieron.

    Fore-note: I played that level, they called me a coward when I didn’t fight the riot shield people and started firing at me (though on reflection it might be because I wasn’t right next to them). Then I got all the characters to glitch into a wooden crate, and they couldn’t get out. It was awesome. Unfortunately, there is an automatic death wall if you move too far ahead of everyone else.

    I agree that they should have cut the level, it doesn’t feel like it should be there at all. Timing in the story hurts this mission the most. I would have understood it being after the SSDD (or whatever level had the pit) because it’s the same guy. But the counter-argument is that this shock level happens way too early and would set people up with this ideal that the rest of the game would be a terrorist/miliatry bloodbath.

    There really isn’t much of a story with this level. All you’re “doing” is seeing terrorists kill people. And the game forces you to watch (or join in). Really. There is no point to this level (you die at the end anyways). If they wanted to fit this into the story, have Shepard talk about during one of the briefings, because (several people have told me they did this too) when I played through it the game kept on punishing me for killing Makarov. It’s not my fault I want to kill the bad guy and save the day.

    Makarov is right there, any person with a little bit of logic would realize it would make so much more sense to take out Makarov! The level description tells us that we have to earn Makarov’s trust. But the fact that his back is facing you the whole time (because the game will kill you if you move too far ahead of Makarov), makes me think he already has some trust for you. I mean, I wouldn’t let someone I didn’t trust watch my back if I was some powerful/psychotic ringleader. He obviously trusts you a bit. And considering that you’ve already completed the level objective before you even start, the level is pointless.

    I do have a feeling that if this rationalization had to be counter-pointed by IW, the reasoning would be that Makarov would be a “martyr”. However, that’s not necessarily the case. We know from Shepard’s monologues that Makarov strikes fear into the citizens as well as harming the Russian government. Shepard also notes that Makarov doesn’t fight for “any country or any set of ideals, he trades blood for money.”

    I’m pretty sure if the US decided to take him out at the Airport level, no one would be angry at the US (despite his organization [but that could be taken out pretty easily, considering how hard it was to get you to the Airport with Makarov]) for doing so. The US couldn’t be afraid of him becoming a martyr, since we know from the DOZENS of newspapers and other articles shown that all he has done is just strike “fear” and that’s all he does. Makarov kills for the fun of it (though it could be because of that guy from the last game’s son. If that’s the case, this connection has been poorly drawn out and is not a valid argument [because any evidence does not exist except for the one "for [whatever the guy's name was]” but I don’t even think that line is said by Makarov).

    It seemed like IW was trying to recreate the reaction that most people had in the level where you are crawling around after the nuke in CoD4, but failed miserably. Too bad they couldn’t even catch how poorly done No Russian was.

  34. theanorak says:

    Nowhere near finished yet but I did just get past the No Russian level. Found it rather obvious and a little irritating. I found the moment in the next(?) level where, having shot a guy in the legs, I left him tied to a chair with one of my “colleagues” making ooh-look-it’s-time-for-electrical-torture sparks with a pair of big alligator clips **considerably** more distasteful. Implausibly mowing down an airportful of civvies was the emotional moment, but systematic instinctive torture is such a non-issue that we just skip blithely by? Nice.

  35. Cooper says:

    Well said.

    I cringed when I first heard about this. For the sake of games a a cultural medium in any kind developers need to have the confidence to go -there- (wherever that may be).

    Leaving that to a bunch of Hollywood knock off wannabies makes me a little sick. Postal 2 is fine – it knows what it’s doing, and is rightly not ashamed of it.

    I never get the feeling that IW know what they were trying to do with this. Other than a marketing gimmick. For which they should be ashamed.

  36. Digital Gigolo says:

    ‘Remember – no Russian’.

    A defining moment in video game history. Modern Warfare’s unflinching depiction of civilian slaughter, brutal, uncensored and so very real, ranks alongside Stephen Spielberg’s Munich and Gus Van Sant’s Elephant as a stark reminder of the terror and mayhem that a few guns in the wrong hands can wreak.

    There’s no cartoon violence here to mitigate the horror. Death is violent and bloody. The wounded drag their broken bodies away from the gunfire, smearing the clinically white airport floor with their glistening innards. A pretty blonde props her bullet torn body against a wall, helpless, entirely at the mercy of the approaching terrorists. The woefully inadequate security guards manage to squeeze off a few shots before crumpling under a hail of machine gun fire. And the slaughter continues, relentlessly, at snails pace, forcing you to witness every atrocity in a dreamlike stupor. To progress you simply must collude in the carnage. There is no way to avoid it. Yes, you can choose to spare the few civilians who survive the initial volley of bullets. But the shielded riot squad must be killed if you want to continue. It’s a moral Catch-22.

    Think back a year. Grand Theft Auto IV. Early in the game you’re given a decision to make – a choice to assassinate either Playboy X or Dwayne. Who did you kill? Did you make the right choice? It’s exactly this uncertainty, prompted by your decision, that created the illusion of a profound turning point in the game. Deciding who to kill was distinctly harder than the actual act of killing.

    An interesting fact: Jesse Stern, scriptwriter for MW2, said, ‘every single person in testing opened fire on the crowd’. The overwhelming majority of us, when given the choice between active participant and mute bystander, chose to pull the trigger. No biggie, just pull the trigger. The police, after all, are armed – kill or be killed. Besides, it was part of their job description – protect the public. But the civilian with his hands held high in that naked gesture of utter helplessness was a guilty pleasure. Destroying the innocent. Total empowerment.

    It’s at this point that I started to feel a little sullied by the whole experience, a bit dirty.

    I had a choice and I chose to kill.

    That a first person shooter can provoke such profound emotion, can deal with such weighty world issues without resorting to adolescent absolutes, is a turning point. Modern Warfare 2 is the first video game that seriously attempts to understand a post 9/11 world. It’s a game that stands shoulder to shoulder with United 93 and The Second Plane as a chillingly effective exploration of terror in the 21st century.

    Jesse Stern sums it up nicely when he says, ‘I never really knew you could elicit such a deep feeling from a video game’.

    Well you can Jessie me old son. And you did.

    http://digitalgigolo.blogspot.com/2009/11/remember-no-russian.html

    • Andrei Sebastian says:

      You’re kdding, right? Basically you just represented how it should have been.
      Kieron enumerated all the reasons it is’nt.

  37. Soundofvictory says:

    I think overall the level is actually quite good. It leaves the player the freedom to play how they want to (as any good game should), while still guiding the player through a very specific path/sequence of events. There is clearly a purpose for the level as it sets up the events of the rest of the game. I don’t think there really needs to be a ‘set-up’ or explanation for it because it could reasonably be pinned on ‘Makarov is one of those Bad Men.’ Furthermore it definitely evoked a feeling as no other game has before it, which I consider a good thing. Sure there were plot holes throughout this level and the game which did detract from it, but these guys are in the business of making games. And I would like to believe (perhaps this is a bit too optimistic) that any narrative holes were begrudgingly left in order to make the game play better and thus result in more fun.

  38. sigma83 says:

    The major problem with the schizophrenia MW2′s plot has is that emotional resonance has no time to build. Compare the AC-130 Spectre mission in the first MW1. It’s insane-blow-shit-up-madness, but you’re in constant contact with the ground team, which you just were in control of. And then after that, you’re back to the ground team.

    There are some seriously bad-ass moments in MW2. The (spoilers obv) green-flaring of the white house was a great moment, as was most of the washington mission. The problem with that is that you get not a lot of the larger sense of the conflict.

    Again, contrast with MW1, where you felt like part of a larger invasion force instead of just being thrust into a pretty set piece. The opening montage of MW1′s Shock & Awe (which is probably my favorite FPS level of all time, although I have yet to compile a complete list of entries) has you flying into the battle in a troop helicopter. You watch the rest of the invasion force; tanks, jets, attack helis, all roll into the city, and your mission is humanitarian in nature; apart from the requisite blowing up of ground defenses, you spend the rest of the mission rescuing a pinned down Ranger chalk.

    And then, as you speed away into the sunset, triumphant, your escort attack heli gets shot down. In a scene that _never_ loses its power for me, the pilot radios Mayday Mayday as she plummets Black Hawk Down style into the city, where she is immediately swarmed by militia. What else is there to do? You rescue her, with suitably bad-ass manner: fight off her attackers, pull her from the wreckage and haul ass back to the chopper under heavy fire. You’re a big damn hero. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.

    Just as MW1 drew life from Black Hawk Down, MW2 takes blood from 24 and Generation Kill. Difference is, MW1 made me go ‘Oh this is some Black Hawk Down shit’ whereas MW2 made me go ‘Oh they’ve watched some Generation Kill.’

    TL;DR: No buildup = no payoff.

  39. sigma83 says:

    Postscript: MW2 never reached the MW1 levels of epicness. Crew Expendable? The execution of Al-Asad? Pripyat?

    It does some things better, but in fragments and bursts, not as part of a contiguous whole.

  40. Anomalous says:

    It’s possible you weren’t paying close enough attention, but they didn’t sail any ships. The whole point of hacking the ACS module was so they could fly thousands of planes across without being noticed until it was too late.

  41. Saucy Hotdog says:

    I’m sorry……..from a site that offers a reply function, only to be shown, “Wot you want to say” I’m not sure I can take your thoughts all too seriously!

    Anyway without going into a rant of how OTT you being with a false sense of intelligence, have you completely forgotten that this is a game?

    Maybe you should jump off your wee pedestal there and PLAY the game instead off trying to instil a political/personal/moral response from other gamers

    • Neut says:

      It’s just a game, it’s just a film, it’s just a book, it’s just a painting, it’s just a poem etc. etc.

  42. Demonir says:

    Kieron Gillen I agree with you completely. I am a Russian myself and this is a scene I was very offended…

  43. irony says:

    THIS article is bullshit.
    war IS porn … did anyone read newspaper???? did anyone knows what happens around the globe???
    leave the games for a while and watch the REAL world, and you’ll really feel ashame of your own government. this games are NOTHING new. i live in a country where i see violence almost every day, i play games, i play ‘no russians’ and i DIDN’T take a gun and open fire on my nearest airport.
    GROW UP! it’s just a game! or do you feel bad when you’re shooting nazis, or africans in re5 … or brazilians in mw2??
    i bet you Kieron: how many sisters do you harvest in your loved bioshock?

  44. Tom says:

    Another typically pretentious and over wordy pseudo-analysis by game journalism’s favourite self important wannabe philosopher kieron gillen

  45. Ian says:

    Saucy Hotdog is right on the money.
    Having put “Wot you want to say” shows you up for the shameless shams you clearly are. Use of the word “wot” tells us clearly you should only be allowed to talk about shaving your knuckles and breasts.
    Before we call the Angry Internet Men to get you for having the barefaced temerity to post on your own blog, please shut the site down immediately.

    Neither thank or curse Nuffle. You’ll get punished either way.

  46. Tei says:

    I know everyone can have a opinion. And that is good.
    But… I think I know something about words, I could be wrong, but here I choose to trusth my ability to detect quality. And this article is well written, is a good article.

    A old say was…
    “If I can’t attack what you say, I will attack your spelling”.

    The irony metter is high wen we see over wordy versions of the TL;DR type of comment with the words “over wordy”.

  47. ThunderDownUnder says:

    If you don’t like it don’t play it and go and stick your head in the sand. F&$K sake. Intelligent comments on a video game won’t make your e-penis bigger and it won’t make the “scary game producers” stop. Fact is whether you bitch about it or not they will keep making movies and games in this manner. The writers won’t go “OMG someone on rock paper shotgun thinks my work was controversial so I will stop now.” I live in Australia and it was allowed to be distributed here. Nuff said.

  48. Thomas says:

    So you’re saying that everyone should “get over” the fact that video games are failing to have emotional impact on the players? That it’s fine that the execution is so flawed that final result is “an interesting level”?

    Did you even read more than the first sentence? This isn’t about it being controversial, it’s about Infinity Ward wasting the potential that they had with this level. You should read the entire article before you offer a response to it.

  49. rutherford says:

    I’m glad someone else found the plot confusing and disjointed.

    And all to fit in an outrageous clone of WaW’s Reichstag too.